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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14

What is your problem?

I was going to start this blog with an apology but I’m not sure who it’s really directed to! Realistically, it is nothing more than a minor irritation at my inability to update here more often. Maybe I should apologise for the random confusedness of it all.

So, I am now at 24 weeks and 3 days gestation. There was a genuine relief that came with passing the 20 week scan with flying colours and I started to believe that there would be a baby at the end of this…sort of. I say sort of, as I don’t think it really hit until yesterday.

I’m going to have a baby.

There is going to be a baby in our house.

Paul is going to be a dad and I am going to be a mum.

It may seem pathetic to some but I’ve only ever really had three things that I’ve wanted in life:

  1. To be a teacher. (Eight years later, despite the odd wobble, I am still doing it.)
  2. To get married to an incredible man. (A week on Monday, it will be two years together!)
  3. To have a baby.

That’s it. All I have ever wanted. Holidays, cars, large bank accounts, massive amounts of exotic travel have never held anything over me. Just those three things and they are very close to coming to fruition. Whilst this makes me happier than beyond my wildest dreams and the level of gratitude for reaching this current point in my pregnancy is utterly earth shattering, I also feel helplessly frightened. I’ve come so far past the recurrent miscarriages that I feel very lost and confused as to what to do next. I’m used to losing my babies within the first 12 weeks and the thought of losing the one, who is currently kicking me, is utterly paralysing. To lose the baby now would be a stillbirth, not a D&C or cramps over a toilet bowl. I’ve felt this baby kick me, seen its heart beating and seen its skeletal structure. With all of the others, I never got to see those things and so obviously, apart from more time, I have a lot more invested in this one. Said it before but it is still true; I am waiting for someone to tell me that it’s all over.

Due to this belief, I didn’t really do anything. In fact, apart from writing lists and buying a triceratops rattle, I haven’t really done anything. Yes, I have booked and joined the NCT! That’s it though. Then I hear that others have started buying the important things or reading books. The reading books made me search for the best in baby books and I ended up with Mumsnet’s book (that I read cover to cover) and an Aussie one- Baby Love (or something like that), which told me not to read it cover to cover. The Mumsnet one had me crying with laughter over some of the quips left by Mumsnetters- one such classic was about how you should not try to dry your nipples with a hairdryer. Yes, if you have a fungal infection due to breastfeeding, do not take a hairdryer to your nipples as it may hurt. There were bits that I skipped, like co-sleeping- it  is a battlefield in our bed every night for both covers and space, let alone the thought that we would try to share it a third way, safely! There are things that I will definitely give a go, like breastfeeding as I’ve been brought up to believe that if you can, it really is best. There are things like slinging that I’d like to have a go at but given the fact that I have MAHOOSIVE boobs and a bad lower back, I need to do some more research into. It also made me realise that I really know very little and it’s all very well people saying that you learn as you go along BUT MY BRAIN DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT! I do research and weigh up pros and cons, not hope that it’s ok as you go.

So I’ve read a single book. That’s it. It’s also opened up more questions but I’m frightened of the fact that books like that are a bit DO THIS OR YOUR BABY WILL DIE/ BE AN ADDICT/ BE A BAG OF NEUROSES so I’m scared of reading any more.

As for the important stuff, my mum used to look after people’s animals in their homes whilst they were away on holiday during a break from nursing that she took whilst my brother was growing up. There was a house that we went to a few times  who had an empty plastic coated nursery. A heap of baby things in the centre of the room covered in plastic sheeting. The woman, whose cats we looked after, had lost her baby quite far along. That scene has stayed cemented in my mind for a very long time. The dusty plastic covered stuff waiting for the baby that didn’t come home from the hospital. I’m not superstitious about having baby stuff in the house- I don’t feel that having it will jinx things as I don’t believe in jinxes but it’s frightening as it makes it real. The baby clothes that I used to put on blinkers to be able to walk past, I now have to think about buying. I’m thinking about getting some of the furniture too- like the Moses Basket/ crib (another thing that scares me as everyone likes something different and something different suits different babies.) That makes sense to me- if Blob arrives early, it’ll need somewhere to sleep.

I currently have:

  • Red triceratops rattle
  • knitted booties
  • knitted cardi
  • knitted hat
  • a pack of vests
  • a sleeping bag
  • a bunny holding a comforter toy
  • a nightshirt (elasticated at the bottom for  easy nappy access)
  • A baby hat
  • some free stuff from Bounty

Everything apart from the free stuff and the rattle has been either made or bought by my mum. I haven’t even finished the henceforth known Bloody Rainbow Blanket. I have two more stripes to do but cannot bring myself to finish it. Car seats? Decorating the huge empty room? Travel systems? Nope.

I’ve left Twitter for a bit of a brain break too. Whilst I am so wobbly, I don’t think it’s a good idea to be somewhere that although incredibly supportive, can be incredibly cruel. I did get a load of notifications telling me to come back soon and not to worry, that I’d be a great mum.

That’s it. That’s what I’m so scared of. That I’m going to fail and be useless. When I said how anxious I was to Paul last night, he said that we weren’t going to be perfect and that’s ok. In my head, that’s not good enough. I’m not only waiting for the baby to be taken away from me but I’m waiting for someone to tell me that once Blob arrives, that I am an unfit mother.

Paul has just started to imagine us doing things with Blob. At the weekend, it was my niece’s birthday and on the way home we discussed how lovely it’ll be to do the cousin stuff with her (most awesome little girl ever). Also, the thought of going to the places we loved as children like the Natural History Museum. He sent me some photos of Downing street and Buckingham Palace today (from his lunch break), I said that it’ll be wonderful to be able to do that with Blob and then tried desperately not to sob. I’ve always thought whilst taking kids on school trips that I’d love to do it with my own child and now that it’s close to becoming a reality, it’s also very alarming at its closeness.

All in all, I’m glad that the midwife and the mental health team are next week. We’re also hoping to do a scan this or next weekend to see how Blob is doing. Might just make the bad voices inside my head shut up and settle down.

1

Self-induced lunacy

Yeah and add to that picture, unicorns, rainbows and marshmallow clouds!

Yeah and add to that picture, unicorns, rainbows and marshmallow clouds!

Hi my name is Sarah and I have an extremely over-active imagination. Not only is it over-active but it also imagines the worst case scenarios. Like a few months ago, I had to walk over to the cash point early in the morning to get some money out for the dog walker. At the time, there was this man who had escaped prison called the Skull Cracker as he like to mug people and cave in their skulls and obviously because he was on the loose in South East London, I would be attacked by him whilst I walked over to the ATM with Max. Actually no, the anti-fantasy was worse than that, I imagined Max being attacked or him attacking Max, after he attacked me. Obviously, this didn’t happen. The Skull Cracker was in fact caught later that day  but perhaps this shows you a little of how much crazy there is inside my head. 

If I receive criticism, it’s not that someone is trying to make me better. Criticism means that I am the worst person on this planet and don’t deserve to walk amongst the regular humans. I know that this should mean that I shouldn’t really leave the house due to nerves and a lot of the time, I don’t! However, I have learnt good survival techniques and if you know me, you’ll probably think that I am the most confident and bubbly person you’ve ever met. I would like to use the swan analogy but there is nothing swan-like about me! I do work very hard at hiding my fear of the world. I still Crimewatch narrate late night sole walks and dread meeting up with friends I have known for years. For example, I met up with friends from my old school last week- the day before and the morning of, I was panicking chronically! What if they actually hated me? What if I became that person who kept coming back to see old workmates when they had moved one (think David Brent in the Office)? Of course, I was being utterly stupid letting my brain get ahead of me- I was welcomed back with so many hugs and lemonades!

Obviously given my past successful pregnancies, I have come with some baggage to this one. Paul doesn’t let me wallow too much though which is possibly the healthiest thing ever. He listens to the crazy, then takes the piss and we both fall about the place laughing! Best medicine ever. I’ve been doing a bit of fear fire fighting today- I managed to book Paul and myself on the NCT course so we can laugh through the breastfeeding fails and huffing exercises together. This was a big anxiety as after all, will there be a baby? I think the hardest bit of what’s happening at the moment is that I now have to wait until the end of the summer for my next scan. When you’ve been scanned pretty much every other week, waiting four more seems like a century. I also bought some maternity clothes today and another bra (freaking H cup!!!). whilst things are becoming tighter, I could have probably gone another month or two if it wasn’t for the fact that all my clothes have either been eaten by Max or falling to pieces- like ladders in leggings, teeth marks in dresses. There are obvious reasons why I was scared to buy maternity clothes. I am starting to get a bump but it is very tiny! I mean, if Blob is doing ok in there, it’s about the size of a large orange right now and apparently in the next four weeks, it will do some crazy growth to being the length of a banana by the end of the summer holidays. This again is absolutely terror fraught. Anti-fantasy galore!!! 

I guess it doesn’t help when you feel a bit of a fraud and you’re waiting for someone to say, “I’m so sorry…” My imagination is beating me up right now! I just need to beat it back into a more positive shape.