I realise that perhaps for a highly anxious person such as myself, having a baby isn’t the best thing to do. My anxiety has been pretty much life-long- my first recollection of having an anxiety attack was my mum going into hospital to have my brother. Knowing that she always came back sad from the hospital, there was no way I was going to allow her to go. Another early panic episode was when outside an old house, a taxi flipped because it was travelling too fast- my medic parents told me to stay indoors as they ran outside to check over the people inside the cab and I remember wrapping my arms around my then Bassett (Choti) and not being able to breathe.
My panic attacks start off pretty straight forward- I get tingling in my extremities (hands and feet) like I need to run or cartwheel away from my perceived danger. This then travels inwards to my arms and and legs (which I start to flex and stretch) and I start to gasp for air, beginning with yawning and over-the-top sighs. When I panic, I can’t think straight (obviously!) and I certainly don’t take in information properly. Today was such a case. It’s only now that I look back at it with hindsight that I can see what actually happened.
This was my first appointment in this pregnancy that I have had to go to by myself (cue alarm bells). My midwife had made lots of appointments for me to see obstetricians and psychs due to the losses and my past mental health and today was the first. I had to go and see the obstetrician at the hospital up the road. First I was seen by a lovely nurse, who told me I deserved a gold star for my urine sample and my blood pressure and then I sat there, in front of the empty fish tank, imagining I could smell the tiny bit of dank water that was lying still at the bottom. Finally it was my turn with the doctor, who was wearing the most beautiful outfit. She asked all the usual questions about what had happened so far, how I was doing and explained why the Time Team would be getting in touch (for those of you with a knowledge of British telly- sadly, this doesn’t mean that Tony Robinson will be excavating my uterus to check for historical evidence of cavorting elephants.) She also owned up that she felt that the CVS anaesthesia was purely psychological in her view (I bloody thought so!) After all the usual questions and the normal blank mind about what questions to ask her (got to start writing them down), she then wanted to have a listen to Blob’s heartbeat.
She couldn’t find it.
I think she poured on about a tonne of gel in the hope that there’d be a better connection but it didn’t make much of a difference. She sent me to drink some more as she thought she’d heard something but wanted to hear it more clearly. I left my bags in her room (BIGGEST FUCKING MISTAKE EVER) to run around trying to find a water dispenser that worked and ended up in ultrasound next door where lo and behold, I bump into one of my former teaching course mates whose wife is now expecting their second, three days after my due date! It was nice to see him, he’s truly a lovely guy and I didn’t feel like such a lemon standing there glugging back icy cold water (total brain freeze)- it gave a sense of normalcy to the panic that had set in.
Once I had drunk a lot of water, I went back thinking that I’d be able to go back in straight away but someone else was in there, meaning that I sat without any contact to the outside world in that bloody fish-less waiting room. My hand went instantly to my Jizo necklace and I sat there praying and rubbing it, feeling its big ears and tiny grooves, hoping that this wasn’t the end. After what seemed like an age (read five minutes), I was called back in.
There was still no clear heartbeat. I think she said that all she could hear was the baby moving around but to me I hear that as being the doppler was moving the baby around. Every now and then there was a slight sound of a heartbeat but for milliseconds, nothing substantial. The Dr didn’t seem to perturbed but said that she wanted to scan me to put my mind at rest as she didn’t want me going home and worrying about it. At the time I heard that she couldn’t find a heartbeat and that she wanted to scan me to make sure everything was ok.
See what panic does?
I walked in a daze through to the café in the hospital and sat at a wonky table outside to make the phone call to Paul. I told him what I thought had happened and he pretty much told me to stay where I was and he’d be there as soon as possible. Towards the end of the conversation, my voice started to crack and that was it, I had a few tears in the hospital café. Everyone was being really lovely on twitter- reminding me that it was perfectly normal to struggle to find a heartbeat at this stage (I think the Dr said something too…), I then saw that I’d received a message from work asking me about what time I’d get in- I texted my Head as I thought I might be a bit too teary to talk, didn’t hear anything so rang and no one picked up so I rang the main school office and spoke to our lovely secretary and told her that I was being scanned at one and that I’d try to get in afterwards. A few minutes after that, the Head rang. I was so worried that she’d think I was taking the piss- I mean it’s bad enough that she hires me and I get knocked up in the holidays before I start, let alone a high risk pregnancy that requires lots of appointments.
I needn’t have worried. She was utterly wonderful and even offered to be at the end of the phone during the scan if Paul didn’t make it in time. Apparently, one of her pregnancies was high risk so she gets it. As it got ever closer to 1 o’clock, I decided a loo trip and then a trip back to ultrasound’s brain freeze water was in order so I texted Paul to tell him my change of location and he dutifully turned up to ultrasound just as I was walking out, about to walk over to the fetal medical unit. After a quick kiss and me accusing him of smelling like beans, he held my hand as we walked over to FMU. It’s terrible that we both know women’s services so well! A lovely lady behind the desk took my notes and ushered me into a side room, which kind of made me think the worst… Good news doesn’t come in side rooms so panic rose even more. Right to the point where when I lay down to have the scan, I started retching to be sick… Just like I’d done two weeks beforehand at Tommies.
After a few minutes of being upright, the doctor started to examine me- in fact she exclaimed, “Well, I have never seen such a wriggly baby! This explains an awful lot! No wonder I could only hear movement noises!” The baby was flexing its legs and propelling itself off the walls of the placenta- seriously, it was bouncing off the walls! Arms and legs were flailing around, its back was curling and stretching- we had to wait for it to calm down and spin itself into a better position to see its heartbeat. Paul was wide eyed at seeing it bounce around so much! I was just relieved that things were ok. In seeing the doctor again, I got to ask the questions that I’d forgot to ask before- about headaches and taking paracetamol for them and my dizzy spells. She okayed the paracetamol straight away, saying that it is no more toxic to you when pregnant than when not and then checked my notes for my haemoglobin levels and laughed! Apparently, I’m definitely not anaemic!
We caught the bus back home (with the worst driver known to man- he didn’t believe in pulling over to the bus stops, just stopping in the middle of the road near to the stop) and slowly shuffled the 10 footsteps to our home. Both of us relieved and exhausted all at once. We’ve both fallen fast asleep this afternoon (mine might be due to an extremely over active baby).
So my next appointment is in two weeks on the 30th of July… Paul’s coming.