Alex Vance and her daughter

How I Handled Prenatal Testing While Managing Clinical Anxiety

As a (self-proclaimed) seasoned mom-of-one (with number two on the way), I was all too familiar with planning outings with my daughter. I had a very specific blueprint for getting out of the house: Don't go out too close to nap time, always bring plenty of snacks, and keep the diapers handy. I was basically a pro.

Then came all of those prenatal doctor appointments to completely wreck my routine. I knew from my first pregnancy how important they were, so scheduling them was a necessity. But throwing a kid into the mix? The situation didn't exactly scream "convenience." Honestly, the thought of dragging my toddler to a glucose test sounded worse than choking down a syrupy drink that definitely did not taste like fruit punch.

Prenatal testing my second time around wasn't anything new, but heading to appointments with my two-year-old (when my husband wasn't able to join) was, to put it nicely, interesting. I did anything I could to keep her occupied. I strapped her in the stroller and played peek-a-boo while I was on the exam table. When she got a little bigger, I sat her on a chair and broke out the big guns—the phone and tablet. I tried scheduling appointments as early as possible to avoid her late-day meltdowns.

Of course, there were times when nothing worked. She would throw a tantrum on the germy floor, knock over something important at the nurse's station, or cry for absolutely no reason. The good news? There wasn't one person in that OB/GYN office who didn't understand. They've seen it all, and a fussy toddler at a prenatal appointment didn't exactly top their "most shocking" list.

There wasn't one person in that OB/GYN office who didn't understand. They've seen it all, and a fussy toddler at a prenatal appointment didn't exactly top their 'most shocking' list.

My uncooperative 2-year-old aside, here's what really got to me: anxiety. I've always struggled with it, but after my first daughter was born, it took on a whole new life form. The overwhelming dread, constant panic attacks, and rude awakening from postpartum OCD landed me in the hospital with a subsequent anti-depressant prescription.

Prenatal appointments during my second pregnancy didn't just focus on my baby, but also on my mental well-being. While any doctor will ask an expectant mother about her emotional state, mine went the extra mile because of my medical history. My anxiety and medication became routine conversation topics at each visit. I would answer questions about how I was sleeping, what I was worried about, and whether or not I felt my anti-depressant dosage was sufficient.

And then my doctor introduced me to what would become a staple of my second pregnancy: "worry time." Instead of shoving all of my anxiety aside, he asked me to take 30 minutes a day to do all the worrying I wanted. The reason? It's only natural to worry, and it's okay to let yourself sometimes—just don't let it consume you.

It's only natural to worry, and it's okay to let yourself sometimes—just don't let it consume you.

So, "worry time" became part of my daily routine. Sure, there were days when 30 minutes turned into an hour (or more). But the point was to give myself a chance to sort through all of my fears, from my toddler's constant tantrums to the prenatal appointment I had coming up. I would go down the list, thinking of ways to resolve each one (or at least calm my nerves about them).

I embraced one key mindset as I fretted about all of the poking and prodding at the doctor's office, dealing with fatigue while battling a toddler, or how many baby kicks I felt that day: Do whatever it takes to keep myself grounded.

Instead of worrying about an upcoming appointment, I sorted my thoughts on paper. I jotted down any questions I had and learned not to be afraid to ask them. (I'm almost certain "stupid" questions don't exist when you're growing a tiny human.) I took time each day to relax, even if it meant just sitting alone in my room for a few minutes.

Dealing with prenatal testing and anxiety wasn't easy, but "worry time," as simple as it was, provided some much-needed relief. It allowed my brain to dump out its worries like puzzle pieces, and it was up to me to put them together to form the bigger picture. It helped me remind myself that I was the one in control—not my anxiety, negative thoughts, or self-doubt.

After all, there was something way more important for me to focus on: the one-on-one time I had left with the little girl who made me a mommy.