Pockets of Fear

I’ve spent a good portion of this weekend in one of my pockets of fear.

I don’t stumble upon them very often, or at least not as often as I did during my first pregnancy, but when I do they are increasingly difficult to extricate myself from.

This fear is insipid. It’s like quicksand. The harder I struggle against it the most powerful it takes hold. I sink deeper and deeper until I can’t remember what it felt like to be free of the wretched stuff.

The idea that I might lose this little boy seeps into my consciousness, poisoning every moment with its terror. The randomness of stillbirth, the fact that I can never know if it’s going to happen to me, to him, to my innocent baby boy rolling playfully in my belly… it paralyses me. I don’t know how to work past it.

I try to tell myself that I would survive, even if I would never “be alright” again. I try to tell myself that this pregnancy was meant to be, that I was meant to know him even if it’s only for a short while, but the longer he is with me, the more intimate moments shared between us, the more panicked I feel at the prospect of losing him.

He is not only my son but my last chance at having a second child. He is my dreams forged of muscle, bone and blood. Sometimes it feels he is my everything.

Sometimes he feels like my everything, even though I have so much, and then I feel guilty for looking past everything else I have and only seeing him.

And then I unwittingly click a link to a blog written by woman who lost her son at 36 weeks. I try to remind myself that knowing of one more person this happened to does not make it anymore likely that it would happen to me. I try to list the countless people I know who never experienced a stillbirth, but their ranks are overshadowed by the tragic stories of the women I know of who lost their babies so late, only weeks before they were supposed to enter the world. Their stories loom so large, the shadows they cast reach for miles into the intangible distance.

I wonder if I should read about stillbirth, seek out stories specifically so that I can face my fears. When I was in an anxiety class at Kaiser, we were supposed to expose ourselves to the root of our anxiety. The woman with agoraphobia was tasked with sitting in Starbucks for 15 minute intervals. The woman who was scared her child would be kidnapped had to take her to the park for 30 minutes at a time, or allow her to attend a school field trip without chaperoning.

Maybe I should be reading more about stillbirth, so I can face the fear of it head on. I just worry that knowing more women’s stories will just make the shadows loom darker and longer, distorting the reality of how rare it is into something unrecognizable.

Ah anxiety, such a familiar foe. I recognize all of this so easily, it’s almost absurd how mundane, almost prosaic it feels, and yet it still commands me, its unwilling victim. I feel so weak that I’m as easily persuaded to play its game as I ever was, even when I can identify it’s trappings no matter what mask it wears. It’s like my brain is distracted by the shiny, bright colors of fear and I can’t look away even though I know it’s only a projection.

I want so desperately to focus on the now, to embrace this pregnancy for what it is without knowing what it will be. And so far, most of the time, I’m able to do that. Every kick still curls the sides of my mouth into a thankful smile. I will do my best to make sure the anxiety never steals that from me. No matter what, I will protect those tiny moments from its rancid grasp.

4 responses

  1. You know, the reason anxiety treatment has you face your fear is if your fear is something that is irrational or impairing your day to day life. In the example of the mother who could not let her daughter go unsupervised on a field trip, the mother was making sacrifices for her fear. Facing it helps you realize it is improbable. But in this case, I would argue that for us pregnant women to delve into stories of stillbirth is just a negative route to go. I mean, all it will do is provide us with more worries and fear. Instead, I say focus on positive birth stories and the positives of how well your pregnancy is progressing 🙂

  2. When I was pregnant my husband had to confiscate my computer for a weekend because I could not stop reading those stories. It helped get me out of the fear and refocused me on my main job: providing a healthy mind and body for my growing baby.

    I would stay away from facing your stillbirth fear by reading online stories. I think if anything this simply feeds the fear. This is a different fear than agoraphobia per se, which eventually does need to be dealt with in order to live a full life.

    It helped me to look at it from a different point of view: that at this moment, your baby is in one of the safest places he will ever be during the course of his life. Your womb is giving him life, warmth and comfort. For today, try to focus on those kicks to lead you out of the pocket of fear.

  3. I agree with the above, reading these stories won’t be facing your fears, just overwhelming yourself in the sorrow of others. I’d seek out…maybe a support group? Somewhere to help give you tools on turning your thinking into a more peaceful direction. You won’t be able to face this fear until your beautiful baby is born, that’s just all there is to it.

  4. I agree, too … reading the stories will only give you more dimensions to worry about. I think that the most important thing to hold on to is the reality that this pregnancy is different from any others … any of yours, and any of anyone else’s. You can never know what will happen, because it is to unique. And so you let it unfold, its own story, its own journey, as reader rather than author. Not easy to do.

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