• Allie Atkinson

Six Weeks At High Risk

Trigger Warnings

*Refers to high risk pregnancy and possibly baby loss*





In my previous blog post, (www.justonemama.co.uk/post/twenty-eight-weeks-and-everything-changed), I shared the weekend when we learnt our baby was considered to be high risk with Hydrops Fetalis. They were some of the worst days of my life, and the six weeks that followed were by far the longest. It's hard to say exactly how it felt to be in that situation, because I was numbed by the experience to some extent. The surreal feeling of it all.


This can’t be happening can it? Surely not.


This was combined with a contradictory feeling of it being inevitable. As someone who has probably lived with anxiety her entire life, events had always been underlined with that niggling feeling that something would go wrong. Something would ruin it, or taint it in some way or another. That's not to say that had happened continuously throughout my life, there have been many lovely memories made, but there was, and still is, always that feeling that I’m waiting for it to crash and burn.


I’d had one fairly smooth pregnancy and labour, did I really expect the second to be the same?


Was it really that much of a shock?


And I guess that way of thinking actually got me through those weeks to some extent. The acceptance that this was just what was meant to be.


THE STRANGE FEELINGS TOWARDS MY OWN BODY


When I look back at those weeks now, and the weeks that followed C’s birth, I see how much I became disconnected to my own body during that time, for a number of reasons.


Firstly, my body was no longer my own. Those weeks were filled with regular scans to monitor the baby. Hours spent lying on that bed, jelly on my bump, staring at the endless measurements of her tiny body being taken and waiting anxiously to be told what the plan was for the next number of days. My body was just a vessel to carry her, look after her as much as possible, which of course is a mama’s role in any pregnancy, but this felt different in some way. Less personal. Other people were making all of the decisions about my body and our baby. Obviously, I was asked for permission, but if it was what was needed for my baby, then it was what was done. Blood test, after blood test, after blood test. Amniocentesis. Steroid injections. It felt as though I was being pulled and prodded from all directions, and all of the tests still came back to the same conclusion... They didn’t know why this was happening.


There was one occasion when we were asked to attend an appointment with the neonatal consultants in preparation for C’s birth. We entered the room to be met by a panel of consultants. I mean it was like walking into a job interview to be met by the entire board rather than the one person you were expecting. And we sat and listened as the consultants discussed our baby and the plans, and considerations, and possibilities. The possibility she may struggle to breath after being born. The possibility she may become stressed during labour, possibly even stuck. The fact that natural birth was still preferable but we would move to a c-section if it was needed. I remember feeling like a fly on the wall. Like I was just observing others making decisions for me. Of course, I completely understood that this was necessary for the safety of our baby, and I am grateful for those wonderful doctors and the knowledge they share, but that didn't stop me from feeling a complete loss of control and scared for what our journey was going to be like. And then my role was discussed… monitor her movements for any sign of deterioration. By this stage, I had also been diagnosed with polyhydramnios (excessive amniotic fluid) which affected my ability to feel her movements. It was hugely frustrating to continuously be told that it was my job to monitor her movements when there was something affecting my ability to do that.


In conjunction with that, was the fear that my body was to blame. As I’ve mentioned previously, being unable to breastfeed had had a huge impact on the relationship I had with my body. And here it was again… failing to do what should come naturally. Failing to grow, and nurture and protect my unborn child.


What if I failed to detect her movements in time too now that my body was producing too much fluid?


Alongside this was the fear that I had caused this to happen.


Was it something that I did?


Did I eat something I shouldn’t have?


Did I do something that caused this harm to my baby?


These overwhelming feelings that it was somehow my fault bubbled under the surface throughout the pregnancy, the birth and the years that followed leading to severe anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. In fact, there are still times when they rise up and need to be settled back down, even after therapy.


And I remember wondering if other mums felt that way.


Did other mums blame themselves too?


I could find things to read about having a premature baby, which we knew our baby would be, but none of the books spoke about the impact of it on the mum herself.


FEELING IT WAS ALL ON ME


One of the feelings I remember being very difficult was the feeling of loneliness.


You know the saying that goes something like ‘You can be in a room full of people, and still feel alone’. Well for me, that was the last six weeks of my second pregnancy. My husband was there at all of the appointments, throughout every discussion and every test. There were doctors, lots of doctors in fact, and midwives, and nurses that showed us around the neonatal after our big consultant meeting. But none of them were actually living it the way I was. It wasn’t happening inside their body. It wasn’t them having rounds of tests, or them that was responsible for monitoring our baby’s movements. It was all on me.


Again, this is true in any pregnancy, purely by nature. The woman is the one that carries the baby, delivers the baby and sometimes feeds the baby. But in my first pregnancy, I never thought of it that way.I just accepted it. This was different. I can’t really describe why it felt so different, even writing this now, I’m wondering why it felt so much worse. Perhaps it was just the intense situation and the fear of the unknown. Perhaps it's that I find comfort in knowing that there are others experiencing difficult times with me and in this case, the other person could not share the physical responsibility. It was just not possible. No way of hiding from it, or delegating to ease the pressure. And that I found really hard both during the pregnancy and afterwards.


WHAT IF THE WORST HAPPENS?


When I remember attending the scans for my first pregnancy, I think of the nerves I felt as I read the posters describing how not every scan is a positive one, and I remember feeling complete empathy for any woman who walked into one of those rooms and didn't come out grinning as she clutched little squares images of the baby she was growing. I imagined those scans were the most terrifying moments for any mum-to-be.


And having been through them, I know that they are just that. But for me, it wasn't just horrible to be in that room. It wasn’t just when I was in that one appointment that I was informed my baby may not survive, or that there was something wrong with my unborn baby.


It was every time I thought about preparing for her birth.


Every time I saw baby clothes or bedding or any other baby equipment that we would need.


Every time someone spoke to me about my growing bump or the baby we were ‘growing closer to meeting’.


I found myself questioning what life would be like if the worst did happen. If everything was not ok. If it didn’t all work out.


What would life be like for us if our baby didn’t survive?


How would we break the news to everyone?


How would we break the news to our sixteen month old little boy who knew he was about to be a big brother?


And beneath all of this, was that continuous fear that everyone would blame me somehow.


And there were other occasions, when this possible reality kept invading my imagination.


Just before C was born, I was admitted to hospital for monitoring as I no longer could feel any of her movements, and opposite me on the ward were new mums with their newborns. A constant reminder that I may not get to experience those moments with my little lady. I helped parents strap their babies into car seats as they were getting ready to take them home, whilst fighting the thought that I may have to go home with an empty car seat and no baby.


Every day, everywhere, there were constant little reminders of what could happen, and the recurring question of what if the worst does happen. Yet I never really spoke of it, or at least I don’t remember speaking of it, just pushed it down and left it to sit there on the back of my mind and in the pit of my stomach for those long six weeks, and even after her birth.


TO OTHER MUMS ON A SIMILAR JOURNEY…


This was never going to be an easy post to write, or an easy one to read for that matter. There is no light hearted spin or bright side. It's tough. It's heartbreaking. It’s surreal.


But I wanted to share my deepest, darkest thoughts during those times because I wanted to let that mama know, (the mama who, just like me, is pushing all of those thoughts down and telling herself it's not ok to be thinking that way and all of her attention should be on the health of her baby), I wanted to let her know that you are not alone with feeling that way, and I get it.


It’s happening to you too. Inside of you. No one knows what that feels like.


And if that affects the way you feel about yourself, the way you feel about the future, the way you feel about anything, then from my experience, it's easier to accept it and go with it, because fighting it does not make those feelings disappear.


Allie xx