Until now, I don’t think I’ve ever sat down to write when I’m in the midst or aftermath of an episode of true anxiety and worry over Ella Jane’s safety. Honestly, there haven’t been too many of these, and far less than I expected going into this pregnancy. She has been so good to me by being consistently active that I haven’t had to panic too much. Until this morning, anytime I’ve felt that seed of doubt: “has it been too long since she moved?” I’ve been able to prompt her into an active period almost immediately by eating a piece of dark chocolate, pressing on my belly, or drinking something cold. Sometimes I swear she senses my question and just starts moving on her own – it makes me feel like we really have a special bond. Because I know the worst can happen at any time and there is no safe zone in pregnancy, those moments happen several times a week, but thankfully until this morning I have always had my seed of fear relieved almost instantaneously.
Then this morning happened. Ella Jane usually will have an active period first thing in the morning while I’m still in bed, and she hadn’t yet. So at 7:30, there I am, poking and prodding her and chugging water, and I even resorted to turning on loud music on my cell phone. It probably took 15 minutes to get a couple little squirms out of her, then finally a big kick. But those 15 minutes were torture. To be honest, I was crying and had convinced myself she was no longer alive, or at least was well on her way to her demise. I was panicking knowing I had a doctor’s appointment at 9:30 and thinking “do I go to the hospital 2 hours before my scheduled appointment or do I wait? If I wait and it’s too late to save her could I ever forgive myself?” I was already playing out in my head how the doctor’s appointment would go, and all the people who would say “I can’t believe this happened to you twice, I didn’t think that was possible.” I had already decided I would be done trying to have children, and if Erik was on board with that and willing to hang in there with me, we would just leave our lives behind and move to Europe and start over. I thought about the argument we would have about whether or not to try again or to adopt and how in my mind this must be a sign we shouldn’t have children, and what would that mean for our marriage? I mean, how does one’s brain even get there in 15 minutes? Especially with the great marriage and incredibly supportive husband I am so thankful to have.
But she moved. She squirmed and kicked somewhere between 6-10 times which is what my doctors have always told me to look for. You’d be surprised how hard it can be to know whether to count a big squirm as 1 or more…were those distinct movements? I usually opt for the conservative side. So that gave me the courage to get out of bed and walk the dog. Then I drank my green smoothie, which always gets her moving. It did this morning too, so I showered, moderately re-assured, and got ready for my doctor’s appointment. But on the way there and in the waiting room I couldn’t shake my doubts – were her movements softer than normal? Why didn’t the active period after the smoothie last as long as it usually does? And as I drank ice water from my water bottle in the waiting room – “why isn’t this cold water making her move?” Cue major breakdown as soon as the nurse took me back. Like sobbing, can’t tell her my name and birthdate, hysterical breakdown worse than even I was in my postpartum visits after losing Jacob. Thank goodness for her and for my wonderful doctor who said “let’s just do your non-stress test (NST) first so you can be re-assured.”
As soon as I got hooked up to the monitor and heard her heartbeat I breathed a sigh of relief. And she passed the NST with flying colors…as my doctor said “that was a really good NST!” So here I am, incredibly exhausted from the emotional energy I expended this morning, feeling her kick as I type, and knowing I have a healthy girl in there…at least for now. And also knowing more than ever how tough these next 19 days are going to be (yes, we are there, counting days instead of weeks until my August 14th c-section). I’m so thankful all is well today and that I worried over nothing, but things just got really real.
Honestly, this is a little more open than I’m comfortable being on the internet. When I write, I find myself trying to find some positivity to convey in my message. I’m not sure I have that in me today. While yes, it’s very positive that all turned out to be well this morning, I know I’m still facing a very anxious 19 days. And I’m very realistic that today’s reassurance won’t mean a lot to me the next time the doubt creeps in. But I’m sharing anyway because I just feel it’s important for any other PAL moms out there who might read this looking for some sort of re-assurance that their experience is normal to know what the tough moments really look like. I feel like I put on a good face in most of my posts and most days of my life, but sometimes it’s more important to be raw and honest even when it doesn’t come naturally.
At this point for me, I think the struggle comes down to trying to decipher what is fear vs what is intuition? Over the last few days I’ve felt this little nagging sense that her sleep cycles are getting more established. She is having clearer periods of about an hour where she just doesn’t move at all, but she’s every bit as active as normal in between. I didn’t even say that to my doctor this morning, but she said that their patterns often change at this stage of pregnancy when they are more neurologically developed, and I took that as confirmation of the instinct I’ve been having. And my gut has told me it’s a good thing and not something to worry about. But then there’s the doubt “am I just talking myself out of my anxiety?” “Am I being irresponsible not to worry more than I am?” And this morning, I could have sworn it was intuition, not fear, telling me she was gone. So I really don’t know the answer for how to tell between the two in this situation. Or how to suppress the fear and tune into the intuition. Maybe over the next 19 days I’ll figure it out and if I do I’ll definitely let you know. But for now it’s just an hour at a time, and remembering not to shame myself if I panic and that the doctors and NSTs are always there if I need reassurance.