6

The moment where I shouted, “Help!”

Let’s get things straight, panic is nothing new for me. I have panicked since I was a very little girl about everything and if you have met me you’d probably laugh and say, “Don’t be daft! You are one of the most confident and cheerful people I’ve ever met!”

The thing is it isn’t that simple. I’m a bloody good actress- my coping strategy is to be a hard-working ray of sunshine and I’ve pulled this off for years. There is a level of professionalism too- I cannot allow my job to be damaged by my mental health as when working with kids, it’s never a good idea to have a panic attack mid-lesson with a group of 5 year olds. Today, that very nearly happened- thankfully, there were no kids around as I was on PPA but I sat at my desk and had a bit of a breakdown.

I think I’ve been cruising for a bruising for a while. For a start, I have meant to update here more often as I’ve hit major landmark dates but I’ve felt words slipping out of my grip. *ALERT* MAJOR SIGN THAT THINGS ARE BUILDING UP */ALERT* 28 Weeks has been and gone. 29 weeks, I didn’t do a bump pic. The scary Time Team meeting hasn’t been documented (five or six mental health care professionals/midwives/obstetric consultants in a consulting room and me. FUCKING TERRIFYING). The first NCT group this week where I was questioned on my breast feeding ideology…

My bounciness is also to hide my sheer level of paranoia as well. I have a wild imagination and am very prone to anti-fantasies. So what actually happens is not what I feel I have experienced at the time. A good example of this is my 14 week check with the obstetrician where she told me that she couldn’t hear a heartbeat and I needed a scan. The thing is what she actually said was, “I can’t hear a heartbeat but it’s because the baby is moving away from the monitor every time I press the doppler on your stomach. Don’t worry, even though I can see you are. We will scan you so that you feel more confident as I don’t want you to go home and panic about this.” To me, the lack of heartbeat was game over. So yes, what actually happens and what I think is the case are not the same thing!

Over half term, we started on the nursery. Bit of a disaster- the emulsion we used on the walls bubbled the paint underneath so we ended (read as Paul did the majority) up stripping the paint off. Even though Paul was here, we worked like trojans last week trying to get as much done as possible. This meant that we barely had five minutes together as we were running around like headless chickens trying to get everything done. If you follow me on instagram, you’ll know how far we’ve got- i.e. not very. I have a big box of stuff for the nursery- cushions, wall stickers, bumpers, quilts to start making it pretty but they are all wrapped in plastic waiting for a nursery that is a mile off being done. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather that I’d be in this pickle with the nursery and be getting stressed by the lack of progress than not be in the position of being able to start making one!

We were also going to go and get all the big bits for the Blobster with my mum from the dreaded John Lewis. I’ve written about my bad times with JL and coincidences with mcs and how much I hate having to walk through the fucking kids section to get into the cafe (those of you who have been to Bluewater will get this!). However due to the rush and my mum going on holiday, this wasn’t able to happen so still no pram/ cot/ changing table/ wardrobe/ changing bag.

During half term, we were also meant to go and see Blob for the re-scan after she went all shy at 24 weeks and didn’t want to show us her face. On Wednesday, at 9pm, I got a call from the clinic to say that the scanner was broken and they wouldn’t be able to scan me. They were very good and managed to fit me in this Saturday whereas normally they wouldn’t re-scan on a weekend.

My mum and step-dad have popped back down to Devon with Harvey, their springer, pointer cross. He’s very active and as I’ve mentioned before, Hattie, their basset, is very elderly and has dementia so isn’t really fit for going for cross terrain walks and long dinners in pubs. We’ve had her stay several times now- one of the times she taught Max how to break into other people’s gardens through broken fences (bassets are notorious Houdinis). My step dad dropped her off last Friday along with a beautiful free crib we’ve been given by a friend of a friend.

So the week didn’t start too badly. She went a few days without accidents and managed her tablets well and I started back at work on Monday. Got into work and found that the massive amount of work I had done for school had been lost. I had a meeting that evening with senior leadership and was utterly terrified that it would reflect badly. I told the head and whilst she wasn’t impressed, the people who run the online application explained to her that it had probably saved to my home browser (who knew that was a thing?!)- thankfully it was there when I finally turned on my computer at 10pm that night and I was able to save them all on word documents.

So Tuesday came around and after a big meeting to fill in more of the form, I then hotfooted it to Blackheath to make the first NCT group meeting (parent craft). I don’t think I had really allowed myself to process the thought of going to these sessions and found it much harder than I thought I would. It was quite overwhelming and difficult- all these smiling pregnant people (or so it seemed- remember, I am an unreliable narrator like Stevens in Remains of the Day) and their happy partners. After spending so long staying away from pregnant people as if they had the plague, I’m sat in a room full of them! Was also expecting to need to hit that cancellation before having to actually attend them. It also finished at almost a quarter to ten so very late when I’d been up at half five, done a full day of phonological assessments of Year 6 kids and that bloody form!

That night, Hattie got me up two hours before my alarm with her squeaking. I think she forgets what time it is and freaks when she wakes in an unfamiliar place. I went down and did the thing where you don’t interact with them and just do the thing they require and leave them again, so I opened the back door, let the dogs out, refilled their water and went back to bed. This was then repeated last night as well- so each night I’ve had about 3-4hours sleep.

This morning, it all just hit me. I came down to Hattie and she’d had several accidents. I felt groggy and the panic was rising- I struggle with body fluids other than blood. Blood I can deal with- guts hanging out- all that jazz but not vomit or wee. Poo is fine outside but not in the house otherwise I’m gag city. She’d only done a couple of wees but I struggled to clear it up and basically freaked out. How am I going to be able to cope with a baby who does nothing but cry, wee and poo all times of the day and night if I can’t cope with a basset with dementia?

So after Paul woke up and looked after me, making me a tea and getting me to sit down before I left for work. He asked whether I should be going in- apparently I said that I had an important meeting and had to be there rather than made any comment on how I was feeling. After saying how rough I was feeling, I had a wave of support from the gorgeous twitterati who gave me the facts about maternity rights and just generally cheered me on my way to work. I got in quite a lot later than I normally do, went to the meeting and was fine until I went into the art room and shut the door. Everything went very swirly and I couldn’t really work out what to do and I knew it was a panic attack. Before it got too big, I managed to search out the number for my midwife (a mental health specialist) who calmly talked me down. She asked me to ring Paul(I had no intention of ringing him-he had his own work to do), told me that she’d visit in the evening and that if it got worse, I was to go to A&E for an assessment. She also talked me into speaking to my Head.

I was terrified of talking to her. A few weeks previous, I’d been asked to go in and have an informal chat about all the days I’d missed through sickness (most were explained by maternity or the time she’d already agreed  for me to go to Canada) so I was worried about saying that I needed some time out. I needed have worried. I walked in, red eyed and shaking like a leaf-she was busy trying to organise learning walks with outside agencies but she instantly dropped that, sat me down and rang Paul. She then took me for a quick walk in the park to try and get my breathing calmer which did work quite well and she told me how awful her post natal depression had been. It was so good to hear that actually someone had made it out the other side and was a successful head with two healthy children. I felt a bit ridiculous making such a fuss and pulling people’s attention away from their work but both my Head and Paul kept telling me off for apologising.

Once we got home, I was banished to the sofa and made to rest whilst Paul bustled round with drinks, cleaning and turned on bad tv for me. He then sat with me for a bit stroking my hair and asking about what I fancied doing tomorrow (he’s taken tomorrow off too to make sure I’m ok), asking about perhaps getting things together for my hospital bag and organising what times he’d work on in the nursery. I then fell fast asleep and slept for a couple of hours solidly until I woke up shivering (all the windows and doors were open to dry the floors that Paul had washed!) about five minutes before Paul and Max came back from the woods. We then sat watching early Friends episodes before the midwife turned up at 5ish. When she came, Paul got busy making drinks in the kitchen so I could chat to her by myself. He then came in later and gave his view of what happened and said, “I’m so glad that Kirstie rang me and that I’m here to hear  some of what Sarah’s saying to you as I know she wouldn’t have said how bad she was feeling to me.” I felt really bad then. I try not to bother people with my level of crazy but I hadn’t realised that I’d been bottling things up so badly.

I also sobbed when I said how hard I’d found the NCT classes. My midwife said that she can do one to one sessions to alleviate my stress levels but I feel like I’ve owned up to my fear aloud now and Paul has heard it so he can help me in the next session and I can be a bit more aware of how I’m feeling. A little kinder to myself instead of trying to just bury everything.

So the deal right now is for me to be off work tomorrow to catch up with some sleep and ring the local mental health services to see what their phone assessment comes out as. I have a psych appointment as a result of the fucking scary mental health assessment last month next week and the midwife wants to check in with me to make sure I’m doing ok. If I’m not doing great by then, the idea is to start a course of fluoxetine to start to pick up my mood and make it a little easier to cope. Apparently it’s fine in pregnancy and if I breastfeed so no issues there.

I am feeling very grateful and am utterly overwhelmed by the love and support I’ve had from Paul, my twitter family, my Head and my midwife. I fell to pieces a bit today but everyone made sure I was glued back together pretty quickly. Thank you x

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1

Panic Stations!

 

Yes, this should be on every tube map.

Yes, this should be on every tube map.

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.