Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Anxiety & Grief

I was an anxious parent before Harry. I was an anxious parent before William was born! Every single niggle or strange pain would have me panicking.

Imagine how I felt when I was in labour with Harry and everything SEEMED to be fine, and my midwife came into the room and said "I guess it's time to have and check and see how dilated you are" four and a half hours after my waters broke. I had an epidural and catheter fitted so it was a struggle to position myself up the bed without the use of my legs. I was just in a nightie after my waters had gone as I had no use of my legs it would be near on impossible to get my knickers up and down for examinations. I whipped off the blanket covering my dignity for my midwife to see how my labour was progressing to be utterly horrified to see my legs, and the bedsheets, absolutely soaked in bright, red blood. "Oh my God" I said, wide eyed, staring at my Mum. "Look!" I was stunned. The midwife looked and said "oh I expect that is a little nick from when I catheterised you"..... wow, a little nick had bled a fair bit, I remember thinking. But she didn't seem bothered so my panic subsided. I carried on chatting with my Mum as the midwife left the room and was busying around, there seemed to be no issue about the bleed. Suddenly, a very concerned looking Matron appeared and said she wanted to examine me and see what was going on. At this time Harry's heart rate was fine. She examined me, and they disappeared. Nothing seemed to be of any real concern. My midwife appeared and explained she was going to place a clip on Harry's head to ensure his heart rate was monitored accurately. She did that, and disappeared again.
hen all of a sudden, a male doctor comes in and introduces himself and out of the blue I am being shown some emergency c section consent forms. Bewildered about what on earth was going on, I signed them. They explained that the bleed could be putting me at risk during the labour and the best thing to do was to just get baby out. I had really dreaded the thought of a c section. I think a lot of anxiety around the procedure is created in antenatal classes. They talk about the impact of the anathestic on the baby, and how the procedure can go wrong and there is a chance of maternal death. Sadly, my own mother had a dreadful experience with a c section when she had my brother, and to be frank all I could think of whilst I was wheeled away to theatre was "I hope that doesn't happen to me"... I also thought that my life was in danger but as I felt fine in myself I just said to Jamie "tell them not to worry about me, just make sure the baby is ok"... Then as we were wheeled up to the theatre I heard the tick, tick, tick, tick of Harry's steady heart rate slow down to an almost stop. I swear, the fear that pumped through my body at that moment will live with me until my dying day. I remember thinking "oh my god, that's not good, do something, someone!" and looking at the faces peering over me with the same concerned expression.
Anyway, the procedure was underway very quickly and after a lot of rummaging in my stomach (which was hideous and so uncomfortable, imagine hands fondling your organs, not nice - an epidural doesn't block the sensation, just the pain!) Harry was born and we were told it was a boy. No sound. Nothing. I remember thinking all would be ok as William was born blue with his cord around his neck and needed to be resuscitated but was soon crying and passed to us for a cuddle, once I'd been stitched up. This time we waited and waited, just being told our son was very poorly. And no real information.

This whole scenario was so horrendous and the stuff of nightmares, yet, at least once a day, I go over it. Step by step, remembering the exact feelings I felt throughout the whole experience. It has absolutely scarred me. The shock. I was not prepared for this at all. You always hear of very sad stories or hideous conditions or problems, but you ALWAYS just think that'd never happen to me, either naively or ignorantly.

The knock on effect now for me is that my parenting of William has been impacted. I am so fearful for William, any slight injury or illness and I am in a spin.
Since losing Harry I have had two memorable melt downs with William:
The first time was when William was in my bedroom, a couple of months after we'd lost Harry. I'd told him he needed a shower "cos he stinks" and had been teasing him and tickling him and being generally silly. He ran from the ensuite into the bedroom shouting "I stink! I stink!" and tripped over the door wedge holding the bedroom door back and went flying head first into the angled corner of my bed. Smack and crunch, and he bounced backwards. He didn't move. He was limp. I leaped forward and scooped him up, he wasn't responding. I freaked out. I started to feel my pulse in my head, and began to sweat and utterly lost my breath. It just so happened that days before the bloody cam belt had gone in my car so I was car-less and panic set in, in a big way. It was early in the morning, who do I call? By this time, he had cried loudly and in obvious pain but then he stopped crying and started to snuggle into me. I called my nan and said "Nan! Nan! It's William!" I remembered someone once telling me not to let someone who'd suffered a head injury to fall asleep. "Can you take me to the hospital? He's had an accident and he's not himself", Nan said to me "I've just got out the shower, I'll be right over"... How cruel of me to drag my 72 year old Nan out of her flat and with dripping went hair she rushed over to mine (thankfully just around the corner!!!). By the time Nan had got to me William had perked up a bit, and Nan felt like it would be a bit silly to take him to the hospital now. But I honestly was thinking "I can't lose another one" and just feared the worst. He was fine, just had a bit of a dent and a bruise for a few days. The second time William had a bit of a temperature, and seemed a bit warm and sweaty. I thought to myself that he was quite warm, but told myself to stop being the anxious mum and to let him get on with it. He was fine in himself so I left him. Later on, he started to get a bit clingy and cuddly. He was still quite warm on his forehead but when I put my hand on his back it was on fire! Such a lot of heat coming from such a little body! I took his temp and it was "high fever" on the thermometer, so gave him some calpol. A bit later on he started to cry a bit and suddenly went really floppy and non-responsive. I thought maybe I should take him to the doctors as the calpol wasn't making any difference at all, so called the doctors and they got me in straight away. The doctor knew all about Harry and what had happened and I said "look I am sorry if I am wasting your time with a toddler with a temperature, but I am very anxious after what happened with Harry" just as a sat down with William in my lap he was kind of dosing and acting really weird, the doctor took his temperature and said "you've done the right thing in bringing him in, we'd usually send you to hospital with a temperature like this but I think that might do you more harm than good, so just take him home and put him in front of a fan in just his nappy and if that doesn't work at bringing his temperature down then we might have to take him up to Exeter". I'd gone from being so worried in my own little ways to having my fears confirmed that things weren't looking good. My sister had a fit from overheating when she was a toddler and the doctor was asking if Wills had fitted, and that this was the kind of temperature they would expect to see fits but if he hadn't yet at this heat then he probably wouldn't. Panic, panic, panic. I was so afraid that something terrible was going to happen to my precious little man. A few hours after getting home and sat in front of a fan in just his nappy he started to cool down, and the doctors rang me that night, the following day and the day after to check on Wills. I definitely felt supported but I think perhaps I over-reacted due to my super high anxiety.

I read something a while ago about a lady who was teaching her class about bullying, and gave them a piece of paper and asked them to crumple it up into a ball, and then to try and flatten it out again, and to smooth out the creases. And said that is what it is like for someone who has been bullied, the scars may look like they have smoothed out but they never truly disappear.
A Lesson on Bullying
This is exactly what this experience has done to me. I have been crumpled and damaged to my very core, and no matter how I appear on the outside or how much I move on with my life, I will always carry the scars of Harry's death and the grief I feel for his loss with be with me forever.

Now that I am pregnant again, I have increased anxiety about this baby. I feel like getting through each day without suffering a massive bleed or cramping is a huge step. I met with my midwife this week for my "booking appointment" and I had to relive my pregnancies with Wills and Harry and I think she was amazed at how complicated my history is. While I know that I am going to receive a lot of extra attention this time around, I am also hugely aware of all the problems that can occur in pregnancy: early miscarriages, birth defects, stillbirths, prematurity issues... it's not the vasa previa that concerns me, it's everything else. I know so much now, maybe too much, but I am certainly not taking any of this pregnancy for granted. I have lost one baby and cannot bear to lose another, but will not be ignorant or naive this time around and will be informed and prepared to make the right decisions for my new little one.

1 comment:

  1. A great post niki, you have wonderful perspective and I'm praying for the safe arrival of your little one x