Found yourself obsessing over what you can eat or what colour to paint the nursery? You’re in mum-to-be overdrive. But you’re not alone. Louisa Pritchard rediscovers her feisty pregnant alter ego
Seeing the blue line appear on the pregnancy test, I was overwhelmed with happiness at the thought of having my first baby. Subsequent thoughts, however, brought me straight back to Earth: what was I allowed to eat now? Did this mean I’d have to cancel my appointment for highlights at the hairdressers? Eek...
I’m (usually) a calm professional woman who works on a glossy magazine and juggles work with a busy social life. Yet the moment pregnancy hormones hit, my rational nature slipped away.
'The moment pregnancy hormones hit, my rational nature slipped away'
For nine months I obsessed about diet, prams, birth plans – you name it. I had a host of mini freak-outs. An invitation to a friend’s for dinner when I was six months pregnant led to me emailing a list of what I could and couldn’t eat, then refusing the tuna main as I’d had my ‘mercury quota’ for the week. Needless to say, I wasn’t invited back until after the baby arrived.
I became a diva
But once I was a mum, it did dawn on me that I’d been in diva mode… So now, at 19 weeks pregnant with my second child, I expected to be more chilled out. Who was I kidding? I’ve reverted to being a raging pregzilla– just last week I had a meltdown after unwittingly eating a fish pie with prawns in it. Prawns! I frantically Googled whether they would damage my unborn baby (answer: nope, so long as they’re cooked properly).
‘It’s common for pregnant women to go into this overdrive mode,’ says Dr Fiona Starr, consultant clinical psychologist. ‘It’s mainly to do with control – or lack of it – especially if it’s your first child, as you don’t know what is going to happen. The colour of the wallpaper in the nursery becomes important because it’s something you can control.’
READ: 7 WAYS TO HAVE FUN (AND STAY HEALTHY) DURING PREGNANCY
We know so much about what’s good and bad for us in pregnancy, but it’s easy to have information overload. A recent Google survey revealed the things women fret about in pregnancy; top of the list was whether they could eat prawns (see, it’s not just me!), while the most Googled question was, ‘Can pregnant women wear heels?’.
Feeling out of control
While for some mums-to-be, pregzilla mode is low-level – nagging thoughts that you should paint the nursery pronto – for others, the pre-baby tasks become overwhelming.
‘I hated the idea of birth being out of my control’, says Eleanor, 31, from Bedford, mum to Wylie, 17 months, and Purdey, six weeks. ‘I overcompensated by writing a ridiculously comprehensive birth plan and having a colour-coded list for my hospital bag. In the end, my labour did not go to plan and I only used five per cent of the things in my hospital bag. But the fear of the unknown sent my organisational streak into overdrive.’
This is all normal, according to Lisa Barnwell, founder of Me & My Baby Therapy Rooms. ‘I see phases in pregnancy – the honeymoon one of early excitement, then the flurry of panic in the second and third trimester,’ she says. ‘There’s a fear you’ll run out of time – and you don’t think about things rationally.’
Which explains why so many of us fixate on random things. This is made worse by first trimester cravings and changes to our sense of smell and taste. ‘The rapid increase in oestrogen makes your senses react more strongly, which can alter your behaviour,’ says Lisa.
'I became obsessed with clean floors'
Sarah, 28, from Bristol, mum to Adam, two, says, ‘I was obsessed with clean floors. I imagined nasty things hidden in our carpets that might somehow make me and my baby ill. I even had our white IKEA rug cleaned for £50 – it didn’t cost much more than that new!’
As for my own pregzilla persona, I’m obsessing daily about potential stretchmarks. But this time, there’s more to consider. I’m also doing meticulous research on double buggies and worrying about how I’ll manage bathtime with two children. I kid you not – this is what keeps me up at night.
‘With subsequent pregnancies, the uncontrollable issues can seem even bigger, as there are older children to worry about,’ says clinical psychologist Dr Christine Puckering from Mellow Parenting. ‘And if your first birth was difficult, this is likely to add to your fears.’
A certain amount of worrying is no bad thing, but if you feel stressed you should take a look at why you’re getting so anxious. ‘Trying to be ultra-controlling is a way of handling anxiety, but it’s not always the best way to diffuse it,’ says Dr Christine.
‘Eat healthily, look after yourself and be aware that you’re growing a new person,’ adds Dr Christine. ‘The tipping point comes if you are stressed about these things, which isn’t good for you or the baby, as stress hormones can pass through the placenta.’ The best way to alleviate this is to spend time with other mums-to-be and not take your situation overly seriously. ‘If you can laugh about it, this helps keep things in proportion,’ says Dr Christine.
Lisa agrees, ‘Take “need”, “have to” and “must” out of your vocabulary. All that you really need are nappies, milk and a few babygros. Take it back to basics – a lot of the extra stuff is really for you, not for the baby.’ Which is all true. So for the rest of this pregnancy I’m determined to relax and ignore my inner pregzilla – after I’ve found the perfect baby monitor, of course.