I was terrified of giving birth. I had no idea how I was going to get through it. My whole life, the sight of blood or even talking about bloodwork made me queasy. When we decided to have a baby, and then were unsuccessful for over a year of trying, I had to face my fears swiftly. We conceived within two fertility treatment cycles, but not before weekly bloodwork, a few trigger shots, and lots of clinical-ness. That is how I “got over” my fear of getting bloodwork.
During my pregnancy, I constantly pondered how it would all happen. Would I have to endure labor? Would I be brave enough to get an epidural? Would I have to go through surgery? Would I be okay?
The uncertainty definitely sparked my anxiety from time to time during the nine months. I had enlisted doulas to help me emotionally, educationally, and physically in birth. I also tried not to play “worst case scenarios” on repeat and had help from my GentleBirth meditations and affirmations. But when it came time to bring Dylan earth-side, there was this calm that came over me, this unconscious power that appeared within me. Something I realized had been there the entire time he was growing inside of me. I felt so proud. I felt so strong. I felt like a freaking badass.
That is the power I speak about, and that is the power that we all have. No matter how much my mind made me worry about the outcome of my pregnancy, the power within me knew what to do. I trusted my body and the consciousness of the baby to do what it needed to do. I had Dylan at 37½ weeks with no Pitocin, and I did have an epidural (and I am so proud of myself for not having an anxiety attack about it).
But then about ten days into motherhood, I was in constant debilitating anxiety and having intrusive thoughts. I somehow lost that power that was so present within me during birth; it seemingly drifted away without a sound. I was overwhelmed, overthinking everything, and over-contemplating the “worth” of life. I lost the control I had so desperately needed, and it was like the bad part of the movie before the happy ending, when you just want to give up. I truly didn’t know who I was — or if I was going to make it out alive.
Looking back, it was so irrational. But in the moment, it was so raw and real. My world had been turned upside down. I had accomplished so much I never thought I could have, but then just lost everything I had ever known to be true. All I knew was that I loved my baby — so much that I was in constant fear of losing him or myself. But it came out in such a backward way, such a way that made me believe that I was going to be the reason for the loss. It is the cruelest form of torture in the world. Our own minds know us best and can really hit home when things are imbalanced. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I needed treatment.
Eventually, I found that the power was still within me, but it was in a battle. It made me speak up immediately to get the help I needed and allowed me to give myself grace during this time. The darkness lasted about three months, but I was on medication and seeing a therapist when I began to feel like myself again.
When that power emerged again, it became a decision to be at peace with my motherhood and take back control from my illness. I had invested in myself to get through the limiting beliefs, societal expectations, and personal perfectionism. On the other side, the power had fully arisen within. Now I get to help other moms find theirs after they have been through their own battle.
I realized I held this power after my birth, but I know some births do not leave mothers feeling empowered at all. I think if we take a step back and truly understand what our bodies are doing when we are pregnant, that is when we can take hold and own this power that we all have.
Our bodies, without consciously thinking about it, grow a human life. We do not wake up and tell our uterus to expand or tell the fetus to grow thumbs today. It is a power and consciousness that is so much more intelligent than our conscious minds are. Pregnancy in our society is a list of can’t dos, a perception of a time where women are more fragile. When in actuality, it’s the time where we are most powerful. If we are able to home in on that fact and remind ourselves of it daily, we can move through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
Holding this power will not prevent postpartum mood and anxiety disorders from happening, but it will give you the courage and strength to ask for the help you need. It will always be with you and help you get back to the mom, woman, person you want to be. You don’t need great insurance to have it, you don’t need a lot of money, and you don’t need timing to be right – you just need to believe and feel it within you.
We are all capable of creating the life we want for ourselves, our families, and our legacy. However, it is important to know we do not need to do this on our own. We need support, community, and guidance. That doesn’t make you any less powerful or make the power any less real. Since I had this revelation, I have found so much of what I never thought I could do again within me. I have shared my vulnerability in my story across many platforms. I have conquered many fears of public speaking, knowing there is a greater good for the words to be spoken. I have invested thousands in my personal development, a business to move maternal mental health forward, and for campaigns to help raise awareness. Whenever I doubt myself and my purpose, or if I am “good enough” to carry this message, the power reminds me of all that I have done. Every time some thought creeps in about how I am a bad mom, that power redirects me to how much I care about being a good mom, and that alone makes it true.
This power is a mix of higher consciousness, grace, gratitude, courage, strength, and love.
All moms hold it, no matter their journey. We all deserve to know it and use it.
Nicole is a coach, speaker, author and founder of Postpartum to Powerful, an organization to support Mothers/Birth Parents with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, raise awareness, and create resources for the maternal community. After reaching out for help after the birth of her son, she decided to take what she learned and help other moms who suffer from similar situations. She is the mama of a 2-year-old boy named Dylan, a wife, Corporate Project Manager, Reiki Master, PSI NJ Membership Chair, Climb Leader, and Multi-Modality Practitioner in Training.