I’ve always been an introvert, slightly socially awkward, and anxious about what could happen if…
I’m the person who gets somewhere early, because she doesn’t want to walk into a filled room on her own – but not too early, because being the only one in a room or at a restaurant table may mean you’re in the wrong place, which can lead to the former.
I’ve been through different stages of depression throughout my life, and have mostly, but not exclusively, found my way out of them without medication (sometimes your body needs a little help). Anxiety, however, is something that takes practice: changing your mindset to not worry ‘what if…?’ and act and react logically. The problem comes when you can be logical; you know the ‘correct answer’ but it doesn’t change the feeling of your heart pounding out of your chest, your stomach tying in knots, your breathing becoming shallow or your eyes welling up with tears. So, feeling like this at times of stress, or sometimes just because the day ends in ‘y’, is a rocky start to being a mum. As is the struggle to become a mum in the first place, and then the hormones flooding your body in preparation for D-day and all of the years that follow.
I loved being pregnant! Yes, I got sickness; yes, I got cravings; yes, I got cramp that meant I couldn’t walk for days, but I loved it. I loved feeling the movements, seeing the scans and hearing the rapid heart beat of our little miracle. But it is also a deeply anxious time. There were times when I worried because I couldn’t find the heart beat with my at home doppler (a reason not to have one), or hadn’t felt her move for a while – but then she’d get hiccups and all would be well. Or so I thought…
Hiccups, so many hiccups. Was this normal? Google will tell you that hiccups after a certain point in pregnancy could mean that the cord is wrapped around baby’s neck. A new worry! The midwife had said that it was fine. Hiccups are just hiccups. But what if she was wrong? What if my baby’s hiccups were the type Google described? What if she came out blue, and I would have known (because Google said so) and done nothing?
She didn’t come out blue – she just has a lot of hiccups.
My anxiety with travel and my job was too much towards the end of my pregnancy. With anxiety attacks at the weekends – I’m still not sure why then, when I was the most relaxed – the stress of dealing with people at work, and driving an hour and a half a day in the winter months caused me to take a slightly earlier maternity leave. No problem, right? As I was convinced Baby Girl was going to arrive early, I didn’t worry about being at home; work had me covered, and I gradually switched off. 5 weeks later, still no baby: I worried I had wasted my leave, let work down and should have stuck it out for a bit longer. My logical side said what the midwives said, what women at work had said, and what my husband said: “Enjoy this time, you’ll never have it again. You can get ready for the baby.” And I realised that getting ready for the baby meant mentally and emotionally, as well as having all of the washing done, the nursery ready (even though she won’t sleep in there for months), and the hospital bag packed. I can do tasks, but my mind was a different challenge.
Control is a big part of my anxiety, but I had trained myself to be prepared to lose control during labour – not knowing when, where or how it was going to happen – I had calming aromatherapy oil ready, was taking plenty of walks (for several reasons: 1) the dog, 2) the air, 3) to relax and 4) to get baby moving) and had made my birth plan as clear as possible with my preferences, my non-negotiables and what I was ‘prepared’ for should it need to happen.
3 days after my due date, the contractions started, and I was surprisingly calm. I didn’t tell my husband when they started at 12.30 am, instead waiting until 5.30 am when we were both awake. I was excited; he began to realise what was about to happen, and 3 days later, we were at out final destination. Yes, 4 days of labour (although it doesn’t count before 4 cm dilation apparently, and that took 3 days). It was after 3 visits to our local hospital, the ambulance to another hospital, the epidural, the hormone drip, and 5 different midwives that I was told I was ready to push. Panic hit. I didn’t know how to do that. No-one had prepped me for that. I had to get this long awaited baby out of me, and it was happening now. No time for the panic to take hold, I had a job to do – now.
I’ll skip the details, but she arrived and we spent 3 days in hospital to keep an eye on us both. It was comforting to know I had midwives and doctors around should I need them; it was not comforting having my husband leave at the end of visiting hours and it just being me. I had to keep this new life living, and apparently she did not want to sleep.
I had hardly slept for 4 days, and then was awake for each night in the hospital, trying to feed Baby Girl. My worry became that I would fall asleep while feeding her, and squash or suffocate her, so I walked for hours and hours, backward and forward on the ward. I sent growingly desperate text messages to my husband through the night, counting down the hours until he would be back on the ward with me and I could rest.
So, no sleep, new hormones, the most painful nipples thanks to Baby Girl being tongue tied, a constantly hungry baby and no husband allowed at the precise time I needed him. A rough start.
My midwife had already said she would keep me on her list for longer than normal, due to previous bouts of depression, and my confession to anxiety during my pregnancy. I, therefore, knew I would have plenty of visits, which were great when I got home, but it still left me with a lot of time where I had to keep her alive.
And so, this is what happened – not everyday, but these posts are some of my anxieties, concerns, questions and events that make me an anxiety filled mum.
Thank you @HonestMum for the #Brilliantblogposts
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