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Instead of worrying about pregnancy, get productively busy

Instead of worrying about pregnancy, get productively busy

Q: We recently found out that my wife is pregnant. It will be our first child. This is usually joyous news, and while I'm elated, I'm also terrified. This is her third pregnancy; the last two ended in miscarriage. Both times, we were devastated, and while it's unspoken, I think this is our last shot at it. We're both in our late 30s and have been at it now for more than two years.

The problem is our combined stress. I am nervous all the time about the pregnancy, losing sleep, asking a million times a day, "Do you feel sick?" "Are your boobs sore?" "Are you tired?" etc., basically making sure she still feels pregnant. It's starting to get to her.

She is, of course, nervous too. She has experienced all of the pain and the physical manifestation of the loss. I was just there for the awful ride.

She believes, rightfully so, that I need to "be strong for both of us" this time around. Easier said than done, however, as every time she seems peppy, hungry or not sore, I fear the worst is about to happen — again.

Any advice so I can maybe at least fake some strength here?

Not so strong in D.C.

A: First of all, congratulations — this is joyous news. You're prepared for it to take a devastating turn, I understand. But expecting bad news will neither prevent the bad news from happening, nor make it hurt less if it comes.

Please remind yourself of this often, particularly when you're about to ask your wife how she feels. "Do you feel sick?" etc., isn't "making" anything "sure." You're merely finding out if she still feels pregnant, and that's a very different thing. Please internalize the obvious: None of your questions has any effect on the pregnancy itself.

And while that might feel like torture — i.e., helplessness to prevent the worst — try seeing it instead as liberating. You are under no pressure to make this work. It's not up to you anymore.

That frees you to concentrate on what you can do. You can buy and prepare healthy foods, keep up with the laundry, plan diverting (as in, distracting) things for you and your wife to do — catch movies or exhibits or games, hike local trails, see friends. You can take on house projects that aren't baby-specific but that would be useful preparations, like building shelves and cleaning out closets.

In other words, give yourself a definitive education on what you can and can't control, then put that education to work. Get your hands and mind occupied with something other than things beyond your control — among them, the minute-by-minute fluctuations of your wife's physical state — and help her do the same. If this proves to be impossible, then it might be time to get outside help with your anxiety, and grief.

Either way, you can get your spirit engaged in something more positive and productive, too. Say to yourself privately, and to your wife aloud, "We'll be okay" — because you will, no matter what happens with the pregnancy, as long as you take good care of each other through this.

Instead of worrying about pregnancy, get productively busy 02/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 3:30am]
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