How I Recovered From My Prenatal Anxiety About Money

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  • When I found out I was pregnant, I was immediately terrified that I couldn’t afford a baby.
  • I started saving money, but a full bank account didn’t help. It never felt like enough.
  • The first step to recovery was learning about money through books and podcasts.

I found out I was pregnant one day before my birthday, in May 2020.

At the time, my fiancé had all but moved into my two-bedroom apartment in Andalucia and we’d blown the majority of our savings on trips around Europe that summer. Faced with a stunning reality I had not prepared for, I was a wreck — and my finances weren’t much better off.

To make things worse, not even one month into the pregnancy my now-husband, Ryan, had to move back across the Atlantic to the United States with his ship. We’re both in the Navy, and because my ship was not scheduled to go back for some time, I remained mostly COVID-sequestrated in my un-air conditioned apartment, alone, pregnant, and pretty broke.

When I look back at my finances at the time, I realize I was actually in decent shape. I had more than enough money for groceries, food, rent, transportation, and other incidentals. I had a 2000 Ford Edge beater that my husband had bought for around $3,000 several years earlier and though it often failed, I lived walking distance from a great mechanic.

But through my panic-stricken pregnancy lens, I could not see it that way. I told myself I could not afford a baby. I feared that I would ruin my future child’s life due to my lack of financial savvy and irresponsible spending, and that we would never have enough because we would always be trying to catch up.

I kept saving money, but it never seemed like enough

Persistent prenatal nausea kept me up most nights, and so did the worst-case scenarios I started reading on internet forums during those wakeful hours: What if my baby has special needs that I won’t be able to afford? What if I can’t afford daycare for him? What if he has food allergies and we have to buy a bunch of expensive gluten-, nut-, and dairy-free foods?

And so on, all before the first sonogram.

Mention the matching nursery furniture and the organic baby food and the Montessori daycare and I would spiral into a mode of self-loathing and anxiety that was difficult to pull myself out of.

I coped with that anxiety by channeling that energy into saving as much money as possible. It worked in the sense that I piled up a bunch of money, but it didn’t make me feel any better. I still felt like I lacked enough for my baby and I still felt unworthy as a mother.

These feelings and experiences fed into each other in a continuous cycle that made me feel terrible. Feeling like there wasn’t enough money made me anxious and in turn, that anxiety distorted my thinking and made me see the healthy five-figure savings I had built up by the time I returned to the US as “barely” enough, even though it was plenty.

Thankfully, being back with my husband and only states — instead of oceans — away from my family and friends helped me get some distance from my constant worrying and I turned my energy toward healing my relationship with myself and with money. This would take a lot longer than I thought (I am still working on this two years later), but dabbling in financial literacy helped me forgive myself for not having everything I thought I needed to support my family and to approach money from a place of abundance instead of scarcity.

Learning about money helped me take control

Two of the first


personal finance books

I read were “Smart Women Finish Rich” and “Smart Couples Finish Rich.” Those two are great guides because their author, David Bach, breaks down actionable steps toward wealth and financial peace that are not overwhelming and make a lot of good sense. Part of his process involves considering money goals and attitudes toward building wealth that go beyond the scope of many financial literacy books I’d skimmed in the past and it is written in an easy to understand, encouraging tone.

Later I read books like “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin, “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero and “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, which all made me feel more empowered to make good financial decisions for my family and less worried about what I wasn’t doing or what I didn’t have.

I also listened to podcasts and watched YouTube videos about building — and keeping — wealth. Overwhelmingly, my favorites have been The Mindset Mentor podcast with Rob Dial (and his inspirational Instagram account from him) and The Manifestation Babe podcast, which focuses on personal and spiritual development and offers plenty of solid financial and career advice, too.

Now, I focus on how much I already have

The biggest takeaway from my healing journey has been to let go of needing and focus on how much I already have, which is always way more than enough.

I’m no longer worried about the fact that I didn’t save enough to build a $15,000 nursery or afford a Snoo or any of those other baby gadgets that prey on the insecurity of new moms, because it is such an incredible blessing to have a room for my baby in the first place and to have people in our lives who were able to give us baby things we would have had to buy.

This shift took a lot of time, patience, reading, and time in my therapist’s office, but it was all effort well-spent.

Because pregnancy is such a transformative event, it can bring up extremely strong feelings, old insecurities, long-buried grief and unprocessed emotions. It amplifies the bad because of our human tendency to focus on the negative.

Sadly, much of this stress is self-imposed, encouraged by an influx of hormones and extreme bodily (not to mention lifestyle) changes. I wish I had known all this before I started. I’m not saying it would have kept the


depression

away, but it would have taken a big burden off my plate.