Trigger warning: Mention of miscarriage
‘I don’t want kids’.
We’ve all heard it said and maybe we’ve even said it ourselves. What if that simple phrase was masking a deep-rooted fear of all things involved with pregnancy and childbirth? Tokophobia is a severe fear of childbirth and/or pregnancy.
This was the case for Clare Watson, founder of Nutrition and Nurture. While growing up Clare never thought about having her own family. Putting it down to a lack of maternal instinct, children were far from her mind. As time passed and friends and family started to procreate it became apparent that everything to do with the process held a significant level of fear, bordering on revulsion, for Clare.
“I didn’t like babies at all,” said Clare, “I felt really uncomfortable if I was near them and seeing a baby feed made me faintly nauseous. Any suggestion of spit-up or a dirty nappy and I was out of there. I didn’t even like being around pregnant women and would find any excuse not to be around conversations involving pregnancy and birth.”
Having convinced herself that she was most likely unable to conceive or carry a child to term anyway, Clare carried on with her life, achieved a successful career as a maths teacher and met the love of her life.
Then Clare fell pregnant, “I was completely, unspeakably, terrified. I didn’t know how to cope with the news. Secretly though, part of me, maybe, actually wanted to be pregnant. I was with someone I loved deeply and who would make an amazing father and I felt sad denying him that, simply because of my fear.”
Two days later a routine test told the couple they were miscarrying, “The emotional roller-coaster was surreal. From not ever wanting to be pregnant I ended up whispering to the little dot in my womb that it was okay if it wanted to stay. I was blaming myself and my fear for harming my baby. I was in complete turmoil when we went for a scan to see what was happening, but then the little creature we saw in the scan moved.” Their baby had a heart that was beating and was actually completely healthy.
What followed was a painful journey to acknowledge and accept Clare’s real fear and coming to terms with the extent of her Tokophobia.
“Over the next few months I had an unbelievable level of support and help. I had CBT counselling, one to one sessions with a special midwife, contact with the vulnerable women’s team, hypnobirthing sessions and hypnotherapy.” Said Clare, “Unfortunately I had to seek out all of this myself and it was pretty clear there was no existing pathway for someone like me, luckily the professionals I came into contact with were willing to improvise”
Then he was born, and everything changed for Clare. It wasn’t natural instinct taking over (or not completely), it was the result of months of hard work, tears and anxiety. “I allowed myself to love my new baby,” states Clare.
Breastfeeding generated a whole new emotional response for Clare, “my initial reaction was that no way would I be able to do that”. The fear of exposing her body as well as being so intimate with a baby was a massive barrier. Learning about the ways that nursing could help with bonding and post natal depression as well as the enormous physical and psychological benefits for both of them encouraged her to give it a go.
“When I say everything changed I’m not exaggerating. Breastfeeding and the related hormones helped strengthen my bond and I became extremely passionate about it.”
Since the birth of her son Clare has worked helping new mothers to bond and feed their babies effectively. “I trained to be a volunteer peer supporter through Cherubs and went on to work as an Infant Feeding Community Support Worker at Leighton Hospital. “I am now running my own business offering antenatal education and breastfeeding support. I feel my experiences have given me a real empathy for people struggling to adjust to parenthood or dealing with anxiety issues. It is ironic that I now spend all my time around or thinking about pregnancy, birth and babies!”
If you would like help to prepare for the imminent arrival of your child, to learn about breastfeeding and how to give yourself the best start or need support postpartum with nurturing your new baby, Nutrition and Nurture can help. Courses and support are available in group settings, one to one or online. If you have any questions or to share your story you can find Clare on Facebook and Twitter
Visit https://www.nutritionandnurture.co.uk/ for further information on evidence based support and training.
This is a sponsored article.