5 Ways to Survive a Difficult Pregnancy

a woman dealing with a difficult pregnancy

I waited for nearly seven years to experience one of nature’s most elite joys—being pregnant. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to struggle with infertility. I’m the oldest of five siblings. My spouse was the youngest of four. I babysat all my life and always adored all things family-related, so when I finally decided to try and start my own family I was totally flabbergasted to find I would not be able to get pregnant easily.

Many grueling and exhausting years into trying to conceive, three miscarriages, and one amazing adoption later, I finally became pregnant thanks to today’s intense but miraculous gift of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Just because you receive a positive pregnancy result, however, does not mean you have smooth sailing for the remaining nine months. Not even close! I had been pregnant three times before my IVF procedure, so I was realistic enough to know that the months ahead could be problematic. Perhaps because of my journey with infertility, despite my horrific bouts of morning sickness, gestational diabetes, and having to spend each of my pregnancies, including my first, chasing toddlers and young children, I always loved being pregnant. (No kidding!)

Most of my babies weighed in at nine pounds or more, so I really did have to learn how to manage a big load while caring for myself and my young family. No two pregnancies are alike, so if you’re faced with a difficult nine months, Mighty Mommy shares five tips that can help lighten your load until your precious bundle of joy arrives.

5 Ways to Survive a Difficult Pregnancy

  1. Be Accepting of Your Medical Condition
  2. Practice Self-Care Early On
  3. Plan Ahead
  4. Embrace Help
  5. Live in Mindful Gratitude

Let’s explore these tips further.

1. Be Accepting of Your Medical Condition

When you first learn you’re expecting, you will encounter a myriad of emotions—excitement, joy, anxiety, elation, hysteria, and everything in between. Because I had tangled with the journey of infertility for over five years, when I learned I was finally pregnant I literally sat in disbelief for days. It was one of the most amazing yet scary moments of my life.

By embracing the ebb and flow of how your body functions while pregnant, you can navigate your pregnancy journey with a bit more ease.

I didn’t honestly believe I was pregnant until those first waves of extreme nausea took hold. When they did I finally managed to accept that I was going to have a baby. Regardless of whether or not you’re under the weather with your pregnancy, the wonderful news is that this is all temporary, and better yet, the end-result for all your discomfort yields the best gift in the world—a precious baby! My morning sickness lasted all day long and for six months, not three. I was very fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with my OB/GYN who had weathered the infertility storm with me and was now one of my biggest supporters throughout my pregnancies.

For the many years I tried to conceive, I had very romantic and idyllic notions of how I thought I would feel when I was finally pregnant. Silly me—I thought I’d be glowing, fluttering around and eating bon bons for nine months. Little did I know I’d be vomiting night and day, exhausted around the clock, and end up taking insulin for a condition known as gestational diabetes (there went the bon bons).

I learned very early on that I had to be patient and accepting of how my body was going to handle my pregnancies. Once I did that, I freed up my emotional state and was better able to go with the flow. After my second pregnancy, I realized that for me, being pregnant meant “all-day sickness,” not morning sickness. I also learned to treat my gestational diabetes right from the get-go rather than waiting for the glucose screening, which typically happens at about 24 weeks of pregnancy. Just as I knew my first six months of pregnancy would challenge me most, I also found that months seven and eight would ignite unbelievable periods of high energy where I could make up for some of the time I was down earlier. By embracing the ebb and flow of how your body functions while pregnant, you can navigate your pregnancy journey with a bit more ease.

2. Practice Self-Care Early On

If you’re wondering how taking a little time for yourself can possibly make a difference when each day starts with early-morning retching and you’re sure you’ll never eat anything but saltine crackers for the rest of your life, think again! Though nine months can seem endless when you’re feeling lousy, you’ll be in your last trimester before you know it, and that’s when things start to get very busy for expectant moms.

Get into the habit early on—even on the days you’re throwing up breakfast for lunch—of finding rituals to soothe yourself. For me, it was a warm bath that helped revive me on even my greenest of days. As a writer, I always have a journal going, so for each of my pregnancies I started a journal and wrote everything and anything that was on my mind while waiting for my baby to be born. (I’ve tucked these away in each of my kid’s baby boxes for their future reading enjoyment!) Start carving out snippets of time just for you the minute you get that positive pregnancy test back, and it will become as much of a habit as brushing your teeth each day. Making self-care a priority can offer you some much needed respite throughout every stage of your pregnancy, but particularly when you’re having a tough go of it.

3. Plan Ahead

When you’re expecting your first baby, you have no way of knowing how your body is going to respond to this unbelievable miracle growing inside of you. It is simply mind-boggling to watch your body produce a small, incredible being. In fact, if you are struggling with a difficult pregnancy, watching your stomach stretch and expand and feeling your baby kick, rattle, and roll can definitely help reassure you that the end result is going to be well worth the temporary hardships you’re facing now.

As your pregnancy moves along, there are different things you can be doing to ease your burden. One such thing is planning ahead. I had no idea I was going to battle morning sickness for six months, so on the days that I did have some extra energy or the vomiting wasn’t so bad, I used that time to do things like go food shopping and buy in bulk so I could prepare meals ahead and freeze them. Since we adopted our first baby, I had a little one to care for while I was working full-time, so I paid my babysitter extra to stay and do some laundry, and other light housekeeping jobs for me so that I wouldn’t fall so far behind.

During my second pregnancy, now with a two-year-old and six-month-old in tow, I realized what I was in for. I took advantage of a grocery delivery service in our town and hired a young girl in our neighborhood to play with my toddler so I could tend to my six-month-old as well as myself. Paying for these two services was well worth it until I felt better later in my pregnancy. For my future pregnancies and with more young children to care for, I spent my first few weeks of being pregnant planning and organizing tasks such as meal preparations and finding ways for my older kids to be a bit more independent so that I wouldn’t have to ‘wing it’ when I was feeling so poorly.

4. Embrace Help

For some of us, it’s just not that easy to ask others for help. I know because I’m one of those culprits. I don’t know if that stems from being the oldest of five siblings (I was always used to being the second mom in our family) or if it’s just my Gemini personality, but for whatever reason I never considered it an option to ask for assistance at any point in my life until my first pregnancy.

In my episode about embracing pregnancy during motherhood, I share suggestions on how to cope with pregnancy at the same time as raising young children, and my favorite tip was to ask for help. Believe me, I didn’t even like asking my spouse for help—but that all changed when I was trying to manage our newly adopted baby’s 2 AM feedings, (I became pregnant when she was 12 weeks old!) navigate through wretched months of morning sickness, and work full time.

Something had to give before I collapsed. It was then that I had my husband take over the late-night feedings (which he actually loved doing), and then I took it one step further and asked my mother-in-law (yikes!) to come be with me a few afternoons when I returned from work. I quickly learned that hell wouldn’t freeze over because I needed some extra help and in turn, my husband and in-laws felt extremely useful. Make a list of those you can lean on during this trying time—neighbors, people from church (retired grandparents make wonderful, kind helpers), tweens looking for babysitting or mothers-helper hours, someone who might not be working right now and have a few extra hours to lend, even co-workers that might be able to run some errands for you.

You can get some instant relief by being mindful of the blessings in your life.

5. Live in Mindful Gratitude

Ironically, I believe my struggle with infertility is where I became a big believer in practicing daily gratitude. As disappointing and heart wrenching a period as that was in my life, it also put many things into perspective for me. I wanted something so badly that it nearly consumed me 24/7, but we knew that our ultimate goal was to become parents, and how it happened really wasn’t what was important. Once I changed my focus from pregnancy to parenthood, I started to view my life much differently, and I made it a practice to look for joyful things rather than dwell on what was lacking in my life. It was then that I started keeping a gratitude journal. That was nearly 30 years ago, and to this day I still keep a journal of giving thanks.

When you’re pregnant, especially if you’re experiencing one that is very long and difficult, you can get some instant relief by being mindful of the blessings in your life. My colleague Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, how of the Savvy Psychologist podcast, has a terrific episode on the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal and how to cultivate it that further reinforces what a healthy habit this is for all of us.

Writing these things down can really reinforce all the positives, and if you start tracking your gratitude now, while you’re expecting, once your baby arrives you will really have lots to jot down.

What has made your life easier during a difficult pregnancy? Share your thoughts in the comments section

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