“I can’t have kids. I can’t do it.”
*This post is sponsored by Telemynd. A national mental health company dedicated to servicing military members and families. Their team of licensed therapists and prescribers are there to help you get the care you need. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
I am no stranger to anxiety, fear, and panic attacks, I think everyone who knows me is fairly aware of that. I am also no stranger to writing about vulnerable topics for the world to see. And today is one of those vulnerable topic days.
One of, if not the, greatest fears and anxiety-inducing situations for myself is this… having kids. Specifically on getting pregnant, giving birth, or just having a baby in general. Thinking about any of that used to send me into a spiral of panic.
If you follow me at all, or know me in person, I’m sure you’re aware that I am currently pregnant with a little girl. And if not then let me tell you, I am currently a little over halfway through my first pregnancy!
In order for you to understand where I am coming from with these written words we need to take a few steps back to the Fall of 2016, where the above statement “I can’t have kids, I can’t do it” originates. So let’s begin.
FALL OF 2016: VIRGINIA
Walking down the hallway of our apartment in Stafford, VA I had this immediate thought pop into my head.
“I can’t have kids. I can’t do it.”
I was 23, Brendan and I had been married around six or seven months, and he was going through training at The Basic School (TBS) at Quantico Marine Corps Base. TBS is a six month officer school that all marine corps officers have to go through. And let me tell you this ain’t an easy six months. The marines worked long days, 14-16 hours, and spent many weeks out in the field training. It was brutal for my husband and hard on the few of us spouses that were there.
Being newly married, basically becoming an adult, and what felt like being thrown into the shark infested waters of military life, let’s just say I wasn’t exactly handling it very well. At the time I think I handled it to the best of my ability, but thank God those six months are long over with!
During this season I was highly anxious, still experiencing weekly, sometimes even daily, panic attacks, and beginning to feel depression for the first time. I didn’t know how to manage those emotions, how to be married, how to do military life or who to call for a flat tire (which may have happened more than once).
As that thought about kids popped into my head I truly believed it. What I didn’t know would happen is that thought planted a seed and took root into the many crevices of my anxiety and fear. It led me to believe I didn’t want kids. That I wasn’t capable of going through pregnancy, handling having a baby within the throws of military life, and completely shut down the desire for it.
That fear told me I was too anxious to have kids. I even started to have nightmares about having kids. I also somehow believed that child birth was an outright horrible experience and I would die from it. I wish at that point I would’ve gone to therapy but never thought of that as an option.
In December of 2016 we moved to Pensacola, FL. We settled there for a couple of years, got our first dog, Kylo, and my husband graduated flight school. During that time in Florida that fear still existed. However, with a couple of years of life experience under my belt, and learning how to actually take care of myself and my marriage, that fear wasn’t really a pressing issue. My mental health became much better and the anxiety and panic attacks became almost nonexistent. That is, until we moved to California in 2019.
FALL OF 2019: CALIFORNIA
After moving to San Diego, CA in the spring of 2019 I sort of felt on top of the world. My mental health was great, I was working to get into great physical shape, hiking the beautiful trails of SoCal, and feeling pretty good with yet another transition.
Summer rolled around and along came with it were those pesky panic attacks. Then Fall came and my mental health struggles came back in full force and took a turn for the worst. During this time my anxiety was so bad that I couldn’t function during the day. I was experiencing daily panic attacks, physical illness, intrusive thoughts, trouble sleeping, and a bout with depression. I never thought I would get to the point of it being “that bad”. Unfortunately, now is the time when those fearful thoughts of having kids came back into play.
I specifically remember walking through Costco and seeing a couple of kids having a meltdown and starting to feel a panic attack come on. The fear was THAT strong. I felt like there was something wrong with me, besides the horrendous amounts of mental struggles, because I was SO afraid of getting pregnant and having a child. I never experienced baby fever and thought I was the only person at 26/27 years old feeling like this.
I mean shouldn’t I feel like I actually want them? Or even have a desire to one day have them? What is so wrong with me that I feel like this? This is what everyone around me is doing, it’s what all my siblings have done! People told me it was normal to be nervous or somewhat scared to have kids, I mean it’s a huge deal! But in the back of my mind I would think, “Yeah but is it normal to be THIS scared?”
I felt like I was going crazy.
I never mentioned even the smallest inkling of this fear roaming around in my brain to anyone. Because if it was never talked about in the open then it didn’t exist right? Not even my husband knew the extent of my fear on this topic. He was only aware that my anxiety was getting worse and I needed help.
This is a pivotal moment for me. I couldn’t handle how I was feeling and just knew I couldn’t keep living like this. This is the time when I finally accepted that I needed professional help. And boy am I glad I made that decision.
The first time I mentioned being scared of having kids was in my first ever therapy session. Verbalizing this was a good start to getting over this insane fear. However it didn’t go away in a couple of weeks.
This took months, years actually, to really sort through and get to the bottom of this fear induced thought and belief.
I had to sort through my health anxiety, the fear of being pregnant and sick all the time, the crazy fear that I would die during childbirth, that I would have to do this, have a child, on my own, and my fear of postpartum mental health being really bad.
My current therapist pointed out to me one day after talking about this that I only ever mentioned about ME going through this alone. Which is kind of insane because hello, remember my husband? Yeah, it was like my anxiety kicked him out of the picture entirely and told me I had to go through this alone. Crazy right?
It wasn’t until that day that I realized I DIDN’T and WASN’T going to do it on my own. I have a husband (who is currently stoked to have a baby), a great support system, and family that can help. It completely astounded me that I so hard core believed this fearful thought in my brain. I did eventually open up to my husband about this and he was completely supportive of everything I said and thought.
After a good couple of years I was finally able to pull that thought, that rotten, rooted belief wedged in the deepest meninges of my brain, out and plant a new one. One that is based on truth and NOT on fear. I prayed, I prayed hard. I talked, and talked, and talked about this in therapy, I spoke openly and vulnerably with close friends about it. Ultimately, I had to decide if that desire for kids was there or if it was just my anxiety in disguise. Even though it still is a huge, nerve racking thing, I am NOT doing it alone. I can be scared of this hard thing and still do it. I am CAPABLE of doing it. My anxiety just told me I wasn’t.
CURRENT DAY: SPRING OF 2023
After my husband brought up that he was ready to start a family, I gotta say, it threw me for a loop. I had really just gotten over this fear but then deciding to actually start to try and have a family was a whole new chapter!
My husband and I are really pretty good about discussing big and hard topics with open ears. We talked about this more and although it took me a few more months to fully jump on board, we decided to start trying. I went into this new season with the mindset of “Whatever happens, happens.” And for my anxious mind I think that was about the best thing I could do.
Funny enough my therapist told me that this, the “trying” part, was a science experiment. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Which made me smile and laugh, but also look at it with not so much stress. The day I took a positive pregnancy test sent me through a rollercoaster of emotions. As well as the following weeks as my hormones were changing like crazy. But the best part was telling our family on Christmas day that we were expecting. A little early, we know, but we were so excited.
Now here we are, the spring of 2023 and I am over halfway through this pregnancy. Some Days it’s mind blowing that we actually took this leap of faith and decided to start a family. I am still nervous about all the normal things, anxious about giving birth and what having a REAL little baby will be like for us. But I am also excited at the same time.
I mean the baby girl clothes are just too cute!!
I don’t know if I would’ve gotten to this point without going to therapy. Yes I have my faith and prayed so hard to figure this out. But having a professional, who knew a lot of my background, what my anxious habits were, supported me through my husband’s deployment, and more, really helped unravel and uproot that fearful thought. I am forever grateful for that.
If you are someone who is maybe struggling with certain things in life, trying to figure out hard seasons, or just need some support to keep you going I always highly recommend trying out going to therapy. A GREAT place to start is Telemynd.
Telemynd is an online telehealth service offering virtual mental health care coast to coast. They have many licensed therapists and prescribers who are ready and willing to meet you where you are at. They accept a bunch of different plans, including TRICARE and the VA! Youth counseling, family and marriage counseling, anxiety and depression, and other mental health struggles, you name it they are they to help you thrive in life.
Thank you to Telemynd for sponsoring this post, and providing wonderful mental health care to those who need it. Reach out to them today to schedule your first appointment!
THANK YOU to all of you who read this vulnerable post. I wouldn’t have a platform to write about all of these things if it weren’t for you guys.
Thanks for reading,
~Erin, The Short Wife