‘With every contraction I felt a pit in my stomach. I didn’t want to have him, I wanted the nightmare to end.’: Expecting mom struggles with anxiety during COVID-19, ‘I had to learn to let go’

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“Anyone who knows me would tell you I am a control freak. I must have things done my way or no way at all. Maybe it’s because I am one of four children and growing up was at times a madhouse. Or maybe because I struggled all through middle school and high school with body image and self-esteem issues. Regardless of where the root of my need to control things comes from, it’s something I have had to learn to let go for many years.

Control plays a strong role in our lives. I find if I am out of control and let things ‘fall into place,’ I put myself at risk of something going wrong.

Once I became a mother in November of 2017 to our boy, Benjamin, I found this idea of control was something that was challenged on a daily basis. No longer was I able to make a step by step plan for the day. My expectations of motherhood were way beyond anything I read in a book or blog post. It was something that was out of my control and took me by surprise.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

I had to learn patience, how to control my temper, redefine my expectations, and handle time management like a boss. Trying to raise a child is such a huge accomplishment and something I would never be able to fully explain. It’s both rewarding and a struggle.

Over time, my control felt like it was balanced and in a good place. I was getting the hang of things and going with the flow. So, we decided to try for baby #2. My mental health was in a good place and I had such a confident outlook on myself and my body image. I began blogging and sharing my positivity with the world on social media. It was a nice outlet for me as a stay at home mom where I could connect with like-minded women.

I started mentally preparing myself for the idea of having another baby. I started to plan out our lives and envisioned how life would change with another little human running around our home.

Things felt right. I essentially had this entire situation under my control and that was comforting.

After trying for a while, baby number 2 was scheduled to arrive mid-March 2020! We were overwhelmed with excitement and joy for the arrival of another baby boy. I was officially going to be outnumbered forever and I loved that idea. Our families were thrilled and couldn’t wait to meet our newest member.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

The greatest part of this was both of our families lived so close. We have so much family with us in Arizona so anyone could be there for us at the drop of a hat. We talked about how this baby would look and feel intertwined with all the other nieces and nephews we have. We talked about Christmas time and all the kids going crazy, New Year, Easter, and all the other holidays to come and watch our families gather.

I never expected the words ‘Coronavirus’ to send shivers down my spine. Never did I expect to be so terrified to step outside of my home. Never did I expect a virus to completely shatter my last pregnancy journey.

We watched the entire world lockdown in a matter of weeks leading up to our son coming into this pandemic world. I was being robbed of a lifetime experience I would never get to have again. Having a birth plan is obviously something not set in stone as things can go wrong and the plan itself can change. But for those of us who need a sense of control, we liked to have a ‘plan’ in place for the big day.

Times were changing fast. Social distancing became a very common phrase used on all media platforms. Every single news outlet was talking about this weird Covid-19 thing that was killing people. It felt like the world was under some kind of zombie apocalypse, and here I am 36 weeks pregnant and packing my hospital bag. Should I pack a face mask or hand sanitizer because hospitals are running low? Who would have ever thought that hospital bag essentials would include protective gear from a virus?

These times were so uncertain. No one really knew what this thing was or how it was evolving. No one could give us answers on the effects of mothers transferring it to their unborn children or how at-risk newborn babies were to this unnerving virus.

Everything we thought we were going to get out of this labor and delivery was changing with each passing day. Our maternity checkups were being limited. We were being told mothers were not able to have their birth partners in the labor and delivery rooms. My heart sank. I cried every day as we got closer and closer to our due date. I was beginning to dread being pregnant and wanted to turn back time with the knowledge I had about the world.

I was out of control. Nothing was heading toward a positive light and yet, here I was, as big as a house and ready to go any day. With every contraction I had, I felt a sickening pit in my stomach. I was afraid of the arrival of our sweet innocent boy. I didn’t want to have him and I just wanted this nightmare to be over. I broke down on the bathroom floor. Uncontrollably weeping because I was out of control and saw no light at the end of this very dark and unpredictable tunnel. Am I ready for the possibility of my son being swept out of my arms and placed on a ventilator? Am I ready for the possibility that I may never bring my son home? Of course, I wasn’t. No one can prepare you for the unthinkable.

Enough was enough. I wasn’t going to let this virus dictate my entire life. We made a decision as a family to do anything we could to protect ourselves and our sons from Covid-19. We decided to have a scheduled induction before things started to get too out of hand in Arizona hospitals. Nope, it wasn’t part of my plan but I knew at this point I was going to have to start being okay with being out of control.

Each day, new restrictions were being placed for expecting mothers in the hospital. One day, you could have your birth partner in the room. The next day, you could only have them in the room for 2 hours and then they must leave. Another day it was said you couldn’t have anyone in the room. Each day was different depending on the regulations of the hospital. I would open my eyes after a restless night of sleep hoping today was the day I would get called in for my induction and it would also be a day that allowed my husband to be in the delivery room.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

This was my last baby. This was my last pregnancy and I was looking forward to sharing this life-changing event with so many others. I pictured a room filled with familiar faces cheering me on as I worked through each contraction and powered through the pain of labor. I imagined my mother squeezing my hand and telling me I was strong and capable. I pictured my sisters laughing and joking around with me as the glorious sight of my downstairs was exposed for all to see. I imagined my husband kissing me on the forehead and giving me the courage to push that baby out. But, these wishes were so far gone.

I grieve the birth experience I didn’t get. The warm embrace of hugs and kisses we could have all shared in that delivery room. The photos and videos I desperately wanted as a memory I could one day share with my son. All these things were taken away from me and I felt cheated.

March 26th, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. I received a phone call from a receptionist at the hospital.

‘You ready to have a baby?’ In my head, I screamed. I was not ready to have this baby. I was terrified because I knew the safest place for my son was right here with me. Bringing him into this world would be cruel and unfair. We got lucky and landed on a day that allowed only one birth partner to attend. My husband was going to be able to meet his son first and I couldn’t have been more grateful.

Regardless of my feelings, I still wasn’t in control. We left for the hospital very eager, excited, and scared. I’m 39 weeks pregnant and about to bring my son into the world during a pandemic. I have zero control over what the future would hold for us. That sickening stomach pit was creeping back in as we found a parking spot and started walking toward the entrance. We were greeted by several nurses who wore protective gear from head to toe. Our temperatures were checked as we approached the sliding doors to the hospital. We were both cleared and told to follow specific instructions for checking in.

The hospital has an ominous feeling. Almost like we were in a horror movie and we were waiting for the killer to pop out and chase us. We just wanted to get in and get out as quickly as possible.

We finally got into our labor and delivery room after checking in and instantly felt some relief. We were alone and in our own little bubble of protection. We were assigned a nurse who was 100% ours for the entire delivery as part of their precautionary orders. She made us feel so safe and secure.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

After only 4 hours from start to finish, our son was born. Bowen Thomas Dingman arrived at 6:26 p.m. weighing 7 pounds and 3 ounces and measuring 19.75inch long. He was beautiful and most importantly, healthy. My mother and sisters were able to tune in via FaceTime as black screens were a part of our new normal. It wasn’t my ideal birth story but we survived it. I controlled what I could, and created the best environment for myself, my family, and my newborn baby.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman
Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

Unfortunately, we were not out of the woods yet. We still had to ensure the security and safety of this helpless infant from the pandemic that was still taking place outside of our room. Those mama bear instincts started kicking in as we desperately just wanted to go home and remain in quarantine as a family of four. Those first 24 hours were tough. We were on edge and so protective of our little man. But so much was out of my control and I had to embrace the fact that I couldn’t control this situation.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman
Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

Finally, great news! We get to go HOME! I’ve never been so excited to leave a place before. We packed up our entire room and signed whatever nonsense papers we needed and booked it out of there. With a newborn baby slung across my body and a husband whose hands were full of bags and pillows, we dashed to our car and headed back to our safe haven.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

We did it. We made it home and had no plans to go back. And so started another hard step in this pregnancy journey during a pandemic. We now had to cancel all of our postpartum plans with family. Our family will not get to meet our son. It’s possible he will be 6 months old before they get introduced. It’s possible he will be 9, 12, or 18 months old before our families get to be together again. This hurts. Knowing my mother will not hold her grandson killed me. My sisters will never smell that sweet newborn baby smell. My brother will never get to take a photo with his nephew when he was a baby. My mother in law will never be able to touch his little hands and feet.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

But I need to keep my head up. I need to stay positive and understand I can’t be in control all the time. I have to learn to let things go and understand not all plans are set in stone. I have to remember regardless of how hard this time has been on me and my family, things will get better. The world will recover and become stronger. And I will be able to tell my son he survived a pandemic. I will be able to tell him the story of how we beat the odds and he was a baby born into one of the most uncertain times in our history.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

In the end, the only thing that matters is we are here and we are healthy. What I could control was my ability to love and protect my child as much as I possibly could during this time. My fears and my strength to stay positive during this time is the true definition of motherhood.”

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman
Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kristyn Dingman from Peoria, Arizona You can follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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