by Christy Gualtieri
Just two days ago, my husband and I had been at the hospital for four hours, two large circular monitors strapped to my enormous belly. Behind me, a large computer screen read the numbers of my baby’s heartbeat, my blood pressure, and showed the spikes of my contractions moving at a steady pace. There was a TV in the room that played a few channels, and the light from repeat episodes of Law and Order: SVU flickered above us.
We’d decided to go to the zoo earlier that day with friends, and I hadn’t thought that the walking-blazing heat-combination would maybe kickstart the labor process, but here we were, staring up at the TV screen, waiting for the verdict of whether or not I would go home.
I’m not yet due with my second child – she’s due in about three weeks – and I haven’t yet really begun the process of getting things ready for her. (I don’t know when I was planning to start, exactly – three weeks minus two days?) But with the possibility that she would be arriving that night suddenly becoming very real, my husband and I rushed through plans in our minds. The rushing led to my anxiety ratcheting up. And in those frantic hours, I rolled out what I like to lovingly refer to as my “jump to conclusions mat.”***
It’s when I pick any number of scenarios and start jumping to the worst possible conclusion. So my sitting there on a hospital bed getting monitored led me to jump to the conclusion that I was definitely going to progress into real labor, which meant I’d be having a preemie, which meant that she’d be smaller than her brother/most other babies, which meant (obviously) a lifetime of teasing and humiliation because of her smallness, which would (again, obviously) mean a more difficult time being taken seriously at her job, which meant a lower probability of success at said job…and so on and so forth. When the nurse came in a bit later she took a look at the computer and asked me some questions, ending with “Have you had any genetic testing?” I had not.
“Okay,” she said. “I’m just going to show this to the doctor, I’ll be right back.”
I turned to my husband. “Why would she ask that?”
“She asked all those questions, and that’s what you got hung up on?” He shook his head.
When she returned, we asked her if she had seen anything worrisome and why she’d asked about the testing.
“Oh,” she replied, “We ask everybody that. The doctors just like to know.”
And so it goes. Dealing with anxiety is like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. It’s exhausting and overwhelming and does very, very little good. Maybe you’re the same way, in which case I’d like to tell you two things: 1) You’re not alone (although I’m sure you know that already, since millions of people the world over suffer from it); and 2) You don’t have to go that route. You can rise above the anxiety – use tools to dismantle it and stop it in its tracks. Your therapist can give you all the resources you need to face your anxiety and jump to the right conclusions.
Today, since I have apparently not gone into labor yet and life is relatively back to normal, I marvel at how easily swayed I was toward my anxiety in those moments a couple of days ago. But I wouldn’t have to wonder about it if I’d recognized it and got it under control.
I’ll work on it, hopefully in time for the real labor!
And if you suffer from anxiety, I wish you all the best, too.
Until next time, be well!
***If you have not yet seen the 1999 film “Office Space,” you should. It’s hilarious.
“It was a “Jump to Conclusions” mat. You see, it would be this mat that you would put on the floor…and would have different conclusions written on it that you could jump to.”
Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!