The Third Trimester Freak Out
I’m not sure if you will read this but even if you don’t, I’m hoping the act of getting my thoughts out will be therapeutic. I’m not even sure if it’s advice I’m looking for, encouragement, or maybe just someone to banter to. But after discovering your blog and spending many late nights sifting through pages and pages, I’ve come to respect you as a mother and a woman. Here goes.
I am 22 years old and almost 36 weeks pregnant with my first. This pregnancy was not planned by any means. I am engaged to a great man. When we found out I was pregnant, any plans for a wedding in the remotely near future were gone. I have one semester of college left. I took classes up until I was 30 weeks and then took a leave of absence from school. I plan on returning the following semester, graduate, and then get my teacher certification. Some days, I feel so excited/overjoyed/blessed to be given a little girl. So what if we weren’t “ready”? No one really is any way, right? And then my over analytical, cynical side shouts ARE YOU CRAZY!!!
I’m just 22 years old with so much I haven’t accomplished yet. And now I might not ever get to what I worked so hard for. I was the first in my family to go to college. I was proud that I would soon have a career, not have to rely on state assistance or work dead end jobs forever.
My fiance is great, he loves me so much and constantly shows me that he would do whatever it takes to take care of me, and now our baby girl. But he doesn’t make a whole lot. And I can’t help but feel worthless for having to depend on someone. We struggle financially now, with me working. And very, very soon we will be solely relying on his income. I will be a stay at home mom. As much as I can’t wait to be with my baby, sometimes the thought makes me cringe. Staying home (although it won’t be forever..It can’t be because we can’t afford it) is never what I wanted. I always said, it’s not for me. I will not be defined by my role as a mom and wife…that is how I thought. I guess on some level, I held myself to a higher standard (which is really embarrassing for me to admit…WHO DO I THINK I AM!?!) And now, in 2 weeks I will be home. Broke. And 100% financially dependent on someone.
I’m terrified. And I admit it, ashamed. I tell myself that it will work out, simply because it has to. This is a BABY we’re talking about! She WILL be taken care of one way or another. Yet I can’t stop consuming myself with these thoughts. I can’t help but be disappointed in myself. How could I get myself into this situation? We don’t have much support from my family and his family unfortunately lives in another country. We’re on our own. With just a few weeks until my due date, I do not want to welcome my girl into this world with such anxiety. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Oh, honey. I wish this advice column came with magical I SHALL NOW MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER powers, like the ability to plant money trees or see five years into the future. But alas, I am limited to the power of a laptop keyboard and my pre-existing ability to type a lot of words.
But while I cannot offer any concrete solutions to your very real, very practical and very understandable worries, I can tell you that you are not alone in having those worries, and in letting those worries rise up and consume your final weeks of pregnancy. Blessed special time, my ass. In face, I probably would have written a shockingly similar letter at the end of ALL THREE of my pregnancies. None of which happened 1) unexpectedly, 2) when I was 22 and/or unmarried, 3) when I was in school and/or facing unemployment. No, I was an old married lady [Isabel: Amy, I love you and let me remind you that you were not old] with a job and a husband with a job who went and got pregnant on purpose, and then proceeded to FREAK OUT during my third trimester about the havoc I was about to unleash on our lives. What have we done, what about money, what about time off, what about going back to work and what about, you know, THE BABY. Childbirth and sleep and breastfeeding and diapers and the grind.
So then you add a heaping dollop of guilt on top of that layer of simmering anxiety, because for some reason you think you’re being unreasonable. Or worse: Ungrateful. Because what kind of mother thinks like this, during the final weeks and months of pregnancy?
The true answer is, basically: ALL OF THEM. We all have these thoughts! And worries! And fears! The specifics of our situations may vary, but the truth is that anxiety is a very, very common symptom/thing/occurrence during the third trimester of pregnancy. Some of us fixate on finances, or the state of our relationships. Others might obsess over fears related to childbirth or bonding, while others toss and turn at night over career concerns. I want to stay home but we can’t afford it. I want to stay home but worry it will be a mistake. I don’t want to stay home but feel guilty about that.
Round and round it goes. And the thing is, these are all absolutely VALID things to be worried about! Having a baby is a big, huge bomb o’ change you’re about to drop into your life, and yet for some reason we feel guilty for not being…I don’t know, a fictional version of a glowing, perpetually happy pregnant lady who is not us.
None of this is to say that hey! Sure! Let those anxieties free to completely rule your life! Wallow in them! It’s pregnancy hormones and there’s no fighting hormones! I’m mostly hoping it will help to hear that you are not alone, and that most of us have been where you are, at least emotionally. Even those of us whom you may look at and think: What in the world are YOU freaked about?
It’s going to be okay. Yes, the future of your life has been diverted off the path you planned to take, but isn’t that just what always happens? Baby or no baby? Career goals change, wedding dates move, finances and fortunes rise and fall. People graduate with degrees in accounting and then suddenly decide to go to culinary school, to break off engagements and travel to India…or find themselves accidentally pregnant and oh, okay. Let’s figure out how to make this work.
You will not always be 22 and underemployed, and neither will your fiance. You have a plan and a path to graduation, and I have absolutely no doubt that you will make that happen, because you DO hold yourself to a high standard and that’s not embarrassing to admit at all. Your career aspirations are in a field (teaching) that is notably working-parent friendly. You will depend on your fiance for a short time and that’s okay because you guys are partners in a supportive relationship, not locked in some unhealthy ongoing competition for the upper hand. (Also because that’s just a common thing when you’re in a serious relationship in your early 20s and you’re both just starting out. Someone usually ends up getting a “real” job first, or someone else has more student loan debt, or one of you works in a field that requires more “dues paying” or internships while the other lands the five-figures-plus-benefits job the week after graduation.) You will take the time you and your daughter need to find your footing, and then you’ll get back to school, graduate and get your certification and your teaching job when you are meant to, when you can.
The biggest difference is that now you’ll be forging ahead with your plans and ambitions with an audience — a daughter who is going to respect the crap out her mother, once she’s old enough to look back and see the path you blazed.
And while it is true that none of the logistical and financial concerns will magically fade away the instant your baby is born…I promise that the anxiety about those things WILL face away once she is here. Because you will love her so very much, in a very REAL and non-hypothetical way, that the trade-offs of school/money/work will seem like such small potatoes, and completely worth it.
Photo source: Comstock/Thinkstock PhotosPublished January 28, 2013. Last updated March 27, 2018.