You think of a lot of things when you’re trying to conceive. When is ovulation actually happening, the optimal timing, is it or isn’t it your month? And so on and so forth. Then it happens, that little stick telling you that in approximately 9 months time you’ll be responsible for another little human.
And this time, for me, one which has been coloured by antenatal anxiety from previous birth trauma. Something which I hadn’t even considered at the start of our journey.
Something which I didn’t even realise until further on in my pregnancy after an abrupt comment from a consultant telling me I would be delivered by 34 weeks. Followed by me moving hospitals and the best midwife uttering the words “we will refer you to the perinatal mental health team“.
Something which has had it’s peaks and troughs. Highs and lows.
The First 12 weeks
Until I met with my fabulous team at Sidra, I hadn’t really cottoned onto the fact that I was suffering from antenatal anxiety. Even with my husband asking me why I was focussed on the negative, I didn’t have an answer.
Instead I was busy obsessively checking of the toilet roll, analysing each spotting incident that occurred.
Holding my breath at every doctor appointment, every scan, expecting to hear the worst news.
Prodding and poking my breasts. Holding my breath each morning as I woke up waiting to see if I felt sick or not.
Never planning for the future, never imagining a pregnancy progressing to full term, to a baby. Then the 12 week scan. The heart beat, the tests coming back low risk.
The ability to breath. Until the next thing…
Second Trimester Anxiety
Over the initial hurdle, a viable pregnancy progressing with a Christmas due date. No problems, no issues arising yet that niggle still there.
The black dog of anxiety gnawing away at me, telling me to let it in. Swatting it away, squashing it down, telling myself it was all ok.
Until the day they told me he would need to be born at 34 weeks. Tears coursing down my face as I drove home to tell my husband. Googling the reasons, the why. Trying to understand the implications of having a section at 34 weeks, how small he would be. Trying to find situations of others who had had a uterine rupture going further. To a safer point.
All my fears rushing back, the what ifs snuggling into my ears. Snowballing out of control with all that could go wrong, would go wrong.
Seeking help, changing doctors, my first appointment. The relief of letting it all out – that it was ok to not be ok. The start of my perinatal mental health journey, to managing it, getting back in control.
The third trimester
Milestones whizzing towards me. Weeks flashing by, did I not just pee on that stick?
Hands on my bump, willing him to move, poking him, prodding him. Panicking that he hadn’t yet moved that morning. Holding my breath at each appointment still.
Will it ever go? The worry? The expectation that something will go wrong, has gone wrong.
The relief when he does kick, the panic setting in when he goes quiet after.
Episodes of reduced movement, hooked up to the CTG, watching the monitor. 40 minutes one day, two hours the next time due to an erratic heart rate.
Telling myself as it draws closer to the section date, I will be fine, after I will be fine.
37 weeks pregnant
The final hurdle. Date booked in for the section at 37+4 weeks.
A time, had my original hospital and consultant had their way, where I would have a 3 week old baby. One who would likely be in NICU, or special baby care.
Yet there I was, still pregnant, still growing, and still suffering with antenatal anxiety.
The final hurdle
I thought that I would become less anxious as we drew closer to the birth. I mean, I’m not sure why I thought that when my issues stem from previous birth trauma, but I did.
I assumed that my antenatal anxiety would focus around the upcoming c-section rather than the well being of our baby boy as it had been previously. That my holding my breath at each doctor appointment, expecting to hear bad news, would stop. The obsessive checking of the toilet roll. The google analysis of every symptom. That they would all be over and I’d be focused on my issues with the birth.
Except they weren’t.
I was still having a hard time with anxiety, spilling over into worry about this little one whilst he was tucked up inside me. Each morning waking up, hands flying to my bump, trying to remember the last time he kicked. Poking him, prodding him, breath held.
At the hospital, the doppler on my bump, breath held. Is he there, why haven’t I felt him yet? The black dog of anxiety sitting on my shoulder, still whispering worries in my ear.
The relief, followed by the anxiety over and over, a cycle of worry. Then the section date is looming.
The consent forms pushed across the table, what could go wrong. What if it did go wrong? Rare things happen, someone has to be that 1%, I know I was with a uterine rupture. What if it happened again?
Carrying on, so close, so close. My section date will be here soon, then the worry will be over. The dog will be back in his box.
Until then…. was that a contraction? Would I know? If it I was I need to go up… it couldn’t have been. Did he kick me yet? When was the last time he did? Is he ok? Am I ok?
9th December 2018
Then it was here. My section. Which couldn’t have gone better if I had written my ideal section birth plan (which I didn’t). Thanks to the fantastic team at Sidra.
Time to put the black dog away, time for the anxiety to leave the party now.
Except, four weeks in and I’m still waiting. I know that it took time to manifest, it’s going to take time to dissipate. Yet I can’t help feel disappointed in myself. My anxiety was linked to birth trauma, the birth is over, I am feeling fantastic in myself, my baby boy is here and healthy, why am I still feeling anxious?i
I don’t know the answer to that. I just know that I’m yet to be signed away from the mental health team, that I need to take time to focus on me, as well as everyone else. And that anxiety takes many forms for many people. I am not alone. But more than that – I am ok to not be ok.
And so are you.