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The Third Trimester Freak Out

The Third Trimester Freak Out

By Amalah

Hi Amalah,

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.

Overwhelmed-Mom-to-Be

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 Photos

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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LKurin
Guest
LKurin

I’m the “old married lady who decided to get pregnant,” and only 15 weeks along and facing most of these same anxieties, so thanks for this letter and response, because I really needed to know I am not crazy! I’m 25, a college grad, happily married, my husband has a good job and I quit mine right before we decided to try and have  baby, so I fall into the “I want to stay home but worry it will be a mistake” category.   There are days where he comes home frustrated and depressed about his job, and the hunt for… Read more »

Anon
Guest
Anon

I just want to say, as someone who works with public assistance programs, that if you aren’t on assistance, please look into it! These safety net programs (all of which have various income thresholds in order to be eligible) are designed precisely for young families like yours, who need a little bit of peace of mind that the bottom isn’t going to fall out for them. At the very least, you should look into Supplemental Nutritional Assistance (SNAP or Food Stamps), as well as either Medicaid if you aren’t already on it, or your state’s children’s health insurance plan for… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

Thank you for telling us about these resources. Really appreciate it.

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

Yes, my children qualify for medicaid and WIC. Very helpful in relieving some of the financial stress.

Lex
Guest
Lex

Agreed! Medicaid for your child is also a HUGE help if you qualify, and it sounds like there is a good chance you will. I understand that due to your background, you may hesitate to accept state assistance, but there is no shame at all if you need it, especially since for you it will be temporary and you have a good plan to get off it. Being able to get good preventative care for your child without having to worry about copays, etc. is a huge help.

Sarah
Guest

Just like Amy said, NORMAL, NORMAL, NORMAL! I am 23 weeks pregnant with my second. With my first I had a very good job I HATED and my husband had a not so great paying job he loved. I thought I was not cut out to be a SAHM, because I had spent years getting Undergrad and Grad degrees. I worried about money, I worried about my baby loving me after being in daycare all the time, I worried about…well EVERYTHING. And It all worked out. Not at all in the way I thought, but even better then I could… Read more »

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

Freaking out just comes with the territory. Putting on my practical hat for a second when it comes to help. I don’t know your exact situation, but if you’re unemployed and not married (and your fiancé isn’t making much money), you will likely qualify for some help – Medicaid or CHIP for health insurance (for both you and your baby) and WIC – Women, Infant, Children. It gives you assistance to buy food for you and your child (milk, eggs, beans, formula, all qualify – and the local WIC can give you help with breastfeeding too). In fact, you’re already… Read more »

leslie
Guest
leslie

Oh my goodness, sweetie. It IS normal. The stress will not go away, but it will change. I am at the opposite end: I wish I’d had my first a bit earlier (@35), I was finishing a dissertation and getting ready to move across the country (with a six-week old baby!) to a new job, my husband remains unemployed because we live in a small town, though that means he gets to stay at home with our daughter all day (yes, I’m jealous most days). Managing the stress after the baby is born is hard. So hard. You learn so much about… Read more »

M.
Guest
M.

I would get legally married. You’re not worthless and once the baby is out in the world and you’re caring for her full time, that will be abundantly clear to you. You may be dependent on your fiancee to provide cash for the family, but you will be providing services of plenty of value (ask anyone who pays for daycare or a nanny). If things go south and you’re married, you may be entitled to alimony and it may be smoother to get child support. (I believe divorces in most states require a court case, whereas if you were single,… Read more »

erin
Guest
erin

oh how i needed to read this, leslie! i too am a FTM, 35, finishing a dissertation, and getting ready to move a long way away from my family, to Denmark, where my husband is from. our little lady is going to be here in 4 weeks (!!!), and while i am so excited, i am also in freak-out mode:  nestie and weepy, overjoyed and distracted, trying to get everything as-finished-as-possible before her arrival.   when we get to DK, he’ll be working and i’ll be home for a while, and THAT makes me nervous.  am i totally derailing my… Read more »

Heather
Guest
Heather

It’s hard to understand now before she’s born, but every time you look at your precious daughter, you will never regret the sacrifices you made to bring her into the world.  Becoming a SAHM for a time does not result in you losing your identify as a woman and a professional.  I struggled with that too as a professional with an advanced degree–but after being a mom for a while, I realized that the time your daughter is small is such a short season of life and will go by so quickly that it is a very small portion of… Read more »

IrishCream
Guest
IrishCream

Echoing what Amy and others have said…you’re depending on your fiance, but he is most definitely depending on you as well. If you weren’t going to stay at home and care for your daughter, you and your fiance would have to pay for childcare, so you’re holding up your half of the bargain, for sure! And yes, you will be defined by your role as a mom and a wife, IN PART. You will also, soon, be defined by the work you do outside the home, and all of the other things you do that make you unique. A baby… Read more »

Julie
Guest
Julie

Absolutely!  I’m almost 36 weeks with our third – a very planned/tried for baby and I’m completely freaking out as well. What will we do with older 2 (aged 5 and 3) while I’m in the hospital, how will they react, things were just getting “easier” – what were we thinking, etc. etc.!! These feelings are completely normal and like Amy said, I had them at the end of each pregnancy.  Add in the normal end of pregnancy discomforts, sleeplessness, and uncertainty (our first was born at 35 weeks – so from this point on every little twinge makes me… Read more »

Debbie
Guest
Debbie

Hi Overwhelmed!  I just want to say that your situation reminds me of an old friend of mine. After she finished her first year of university, she decided it wasn’t for her just yet and went traveling around the world. She met a guy, started living they had been together for only 8 months!  They got married before she gave birth, and although things were challenging for her and for them as new parents, they sorted it out. He found a good job, she was a SAHM for a while, and they had their second baby pretty quickly. That’s when… Read more »

Karen
Guest
Karen

I freaked out too at the end of my first pregnancy, was actually trying to figure out a way to keep the baby inside rather than giving birth. Totally irrational. I think Amy’s response is ok but insufficient. I’m sure it’s helpful on some level to hear that many moms have “pre-partum” anxiety, but if I were the OP, hearing that from moms who don’t have her life situation and don’t share her insecurities wouldn’t really put me at ease. I hear a lot of helplessness in her letter. Of disappointment and shame. That is different than the standard hormonal… Read more »

Paige
Guest
Paige

I’m at 30 weeks. My doctor knows I have a high stress level, and she keeps checking in with me about my anxiety level. I asked why – apparently anxiety during pregnancy CAN lead to post-partum depression. It doesn’t always, but it’s something to keep in mind. My university had a mental health program for new student moms – for something like $10 per visit, you could see a therapist about post-partum depression or other new-parent issues. It might be worth checking out what programs your university offers now, so you know what’s available to you should you need it… Read more »

Praxidike
Guest
Praxidike

I agree. Amy’s response is nice, but rather insubstantial. This woman needs concrete answers to her serious, understandable fears. It is going to be hard for her to go back to school with a new baby, especially given the financial difficulties. It doesn’t sound like she or the baby’s father have a big safety net. The financial issues are a HUGE hurdle and I was immediately concerned about this couple’s ability to maintain a home. I think that you should apply for WIC and Medicaid if you haven’t already. Will you be able to afford your rent? If not, do… Read more »

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

I just wanted to add – as someone who gave birth to my son at 26 with no friends who had babies – that the first few weeks/months are going to be incredibly difficult, especially if you don’t have familial support. My husband and I are married, our pregnancy was planned and we didn’t have any financial worries and yet there were times when I felt our marriage wouldn’t last. Since I didn’t have any friends with babies I was completely unprepared for the dramatic changes that having one brings to your relationship. Newborns are SO demanding. I remember my… Read more »

Amy
Guest
Amy

To piggyback on what Stephanie and others have said, do take advantage of the services available to you, which you and your fiancé paid into. In addition to food, WIC will provide breast pumps and other breastfeeding resources. http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/breastfeeding/mainpage.HTM If you live in California look into the parental leave program. You may qualify for it, and it’s generous! Most of all, as everyone has said, anxiety at this point is normal. This from a 30 something mom who walked into her bedroom in tears at 33 weeks with her second child because, omg, what did we do???

Eden
Guest

I think it’s totally normal. And ya know what? The fact that your going through this is a sign that your going to be a great mother. Your already putting your child first and thinking about her needs before anybody else’s. good job mom 🙂 My advice to you is to get involved in some groups such as la leche league, a local stroller strides, a library play date club, ANYTHING that involves other moms and babies. That way, when baby comes, you won’t feel alone, you’ll have people to go to if you encounter problems or people to ask… Read more »

Brittany
Guest
Brittany

Oh hello, Me From Three Years Ago.  Let me just tell you, everything is going to work out just fine.  You will get to go back to school, eventually.  You will have a career.  You will LOVE being a stay at home mom in the meantime.  Money will be tight, but you will get back on your feet.  I know because I was in literally the exact same situation when I was pregnant, and everything is awesome now.  Congratulations and good luck!

GradBaby
Guest

I just wanted to pipe in to say that I have been there – for me, I was 30, married, and in grad school. My hubs is self-employed with income going up and down and largely seasonal (and I help in the business) and I carry the regular ‘salary’ with my Teaching Assistant stipend, some school loans, and some tutoring. I also carry the health insurance. So, when I unexpectedly got pregnant two winters ago, I panicked. I was almost 30 so it was ‘time’ – and like the OP i figured knew that ‘no time is a good time’.… Read more »

J
Guest
J

Don’t forget Craigslist — you never need to pay full price for anything (except car seats).There are wonderful deals on there and it will help stretch your budget.

Leah
Guest
Leah

YES to Craigslist! The details of my situation are different, but I am 34 wks with our first and also totally financially dependent on my partner. Oh, the HORMONES, they are unkind. While they – like so many other things in life (and your situation in particular) – can’t be controlled, I find that the following things, while small, can help a lot. 1. Do what you can for your body. As a fellow beached whale, I know well the impulse to smack anyone who suggests voluntary physical activity. But do it, with your OB’s ok. Cut as much crappy… Read more »

Caroscape
Guest
Caroscape

According to Penelope Trunk, my second fave blogger after Amalah, you’re doing everything right!

http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2011/08/16/blueprint-for-a-womans-life/

MtotheC
Guest
MtotheC

Craigslist is a very helpful website for baby things, but consignment stores also often carry baby stuffs. My baby ran through sizes so quickly, so I sold a LOT of unused clothing to our local consignment store. Also, as other posters have mentioned, breastfeeding is mighty cheap. There are a bunch of books about it at local libraries. Plus baby and parenting books. As for baby food, I made all my own because it truly was easy and cheap. I would encourage you to look into it! As for diapers, there are a bunch of parenting websites that will email… Read more »

Kat
Guest
Kat

Great suggestions from Leah. And, OP, I hear you. My now husband and I got pregnant 3 months after we started dating. No, that is not a typo – 3 months. I did not have a stable job at the time (he did), and had just moved to a new area. My parents/family were furious with me, and I spent a majority of my pregnancy lamenting the lack of support from them and stressing about money/my brand new relationship/to stay at home or not to stay at home and so on and so on. It was very tough, and, I… Read more »

Autumn
Guest
Autumn

I was married and very financially secure through my DH’s salary, but I understand the psychological insecurity of not having your “own” money/income.  I was lucky to take 7 months off, but by month 5 I was starting to go a little crazy.  Look into a part time job just to get out and make a bit of cash.  Let daddy have some baby time, I tried to be too heroic as a SAHM those months. Please look into WIC, Medical assistance (or whatever they call it in your state) etc now.  The little bit of help you need now… Read more »

Martine
Guest
Martine

As the mom of a 15-month-old, I wish I was 23.  The energy difference between me at 23 and me at 29 is significant.  So even though you’ll have different challenges, at least you can take comfort in knowing that you’ll be able to handle the physical challenges of less sleep and more dashing around better than an “older” mom. 🙂

Kimm
Guest
Kimm

I am kind of feeling this way, even though I have more support, it’s at the end of my 2nd pregnancy, and I just don’t know how I’m going to handle 2 babies, my son will just turn 2 when this one comes. Being a SAHMom is a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I don’t regret it, I love the bond I have with my sweet boy. Being a Mom is so scary at first, but you get used to all it involves, and it sounds like your fiance is sweet and willing to help with… Read more »

Carrie
Guest

Oh, sweetie. It will be okay. At least, it will be *different* soon. We got married and had a planned pregnancy, then I quit my very stressful job early to avoid a stressful pregnancy (and since I planned to be a SAHM). At 7 months pregnant we bought a house to accommodate our future family, and two weeks later my husband lost his job. We were on unemployment, WIC, and medicaid – that’s what public assistance is for! There are times we all need a little assistance, and as a PP said, I paid into it in the past and… Read more »

Susan
Guest
Susan

I just wanted to add, I felt almost exactly like the OP but my anxieties didn’t magically disappear when giving birth. In fact it all went downhill from there FOR ABOUT 3 MONTHS. It took me some time to fall in love with my son but now he is the single biggest source of joy in my life, I love him more than words can say and he is he best thing that ever happened to me (this was an unplanned pregnancy as well). Anyway, i just wanted to say, don’t freak out if your worries do not fade away… Read more »

Annie
Guest
Annie

When my second child was born, two years ago, I stopped working. It felt so awful at first, having no income and quitting a job after working so hard in school to prepare for a career. I didn’t think I was cut out to be a SAHM. But you know? These have turned out to be treasured years. Your kids grow so fast, and are in school before you know it. Having some time at home when they’re little is such a gift. So I say if you have the chance, take the time to enjoy The Little Years– I… Read more »

Julia
Guest
Julia

your situation sounds pretty similar to mine, 3 years ago, with some minor changes (I moved to a different country to be with my now-husband, I was in the beginning of my studies rather than at the end etc.). And I can tell you, it is not only normal, but very helpful to feel like you do at this point. It will help you to keep up your goals, and work towards your degree, and then towards the job you want. I really don’t know what kind of programs are available to help you, as I am from Germany and… Read more »

Katie
Guest
Katie

It sounds like you have a plan, and I think with your focus you and your family will do wonderfully!

On a side note, the pop up ads are really starting to bug me. I love Amalahs advice column and check it regularly, and I appreciate the fact that ads bring in money and are necessary. On the other hand, I literally could not close out an ad on my iPad and had to refresh the page to get to the column. 

Felicity Marie
Guest
Felicity Marie

Oh, I have been there. 26 years old, getting ready to finally complete a year-long internship to grad school, when bam! boyfriend of five months and I discover we are expecting. Both of us were living on school loans and living across the country from our families. It was stressful. So, so stressful. Still is. I took a year off to stay at home with baby while boyfriend finished law school. Hated staying home for those 8 months, but… Now, our daughter is 14 months old. I’m a few months away from graduating, and working full-time at an internship I… Read more »

Amanda
Guest

Friend, I hear you! I was there, except that I was 27 and (just) married. Our pregnancy was a surprise, not unwanted but definitely sooner than we had imagined. All the way through, I dealt with feeling guilty for getting pregnant (as though it was all my fault), for pushing this new responsibility onto my husband, for creating extra financial worries, for not being able to get a job (we had just moved to a new state)… on and on. Of course this was illogical, but… hormones! surprise attack pregnancy!  It is so scary. And it stays scary with additional… Read more »