Revealing my crazy – psych update

Assuming I make it to our planned delivery date ~37/38 weeks, I’m over half way through this pregnancy with Jay. And I can feel my anxiety levels creeping up.

In the beginning, I was proud of how I coped. I took a logical approach, reminding myself that nothing could be done before viability (24 weeks) to change the outcome. I experienced almost zero pregnancy symptoms – I could simply ignore the fact that I was pregnant, and this is precisely what I did, as I let some hope infiltrate my life. My spirits lifted some.

Though at my 13 week appointment, my pragmatic ways flew out the window. My doctor tried to find Jay’s heartbeat with the Doppler, and it took her at least two minutes. But it felt like an eternity – it was enough time for me to visualize all the procedures I’d be undergoing. Tears streamed down my face as I began grieving another loss of a baby I already loved more than I thought I’d allowed myself to. And I thought about how I’d break this devastating news to the few we’d told.

But then she found Jay’s heartbeat. And I was so relieved and thankful. But the logic ship had sailed, as I leaned back on the table, unable to believe Jay was really alive, even as I listened to this beautiful sound. And my doctor understood, so she offered me an ultrasound, so my eyes could confirm what I should’ve been able to believe. But I knew intellectually I was being irrational, so I declined it only to rush back to her office the next morning begging for “an ultrasound to visually confirm presence of heartbeat.”

So that day Mark ordered a Doppler, which I’m acutely aware is worthless in so many ways given that Matthew died as I was attached to an effing medical grade fetal heart monitor. But upon its arrival, we started using it nonetheless. And at first we only used it maybe once per week as well as before subsequent appointments, to ensure that if we were to be told, “There is no heartbeat,” then at least we wouldn’t be surprised. (As if this would make it any easier.)

But then we started to use it every three days and then every two days and then once per day. And then, this past week, Mark went out of town, and I decided to start using it by myself. And each day he was gone my usage grew, until Mark returned to find me using it about four times per day, which is where we stand currently.

I use it each morning to ensure Jay survived the night, as I now know this is the time period during which studies have shown babies to be most vulnerable. I use it before heading off to work, to ensure Jay survived my morning workout and breakfast (as if these activities are dangerous). And I use it upon my return home from work as well as at bedtime.

But this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of my crazy…

Some of Dr. Collins’ research suggests women with low blood pressure are more susceptible to having babies with cord issues, though even he acknowledges this can’t necessarily be proven, as women with super low blood pressure have healthy babies all the time, and, conversely, women with dangerously high blood pressure lose their babies to cord accidents too. Also excluded from his studies are women whose babies survived potentially dangerous cord issues, as data on umbilical cord pathology aren’t collected upon delivery of healthy, living babies.

But the low blood pressure speculation is where the cluster fuck begins for me, as I have low blood pressure… So I’m engaging in all these scary thoughts and maybe (or maybe not) irrational practices that begin with the low blood pressure issue but end in some sort of far off universe. And my activities/thoughts usually involve things like this…

To try to increase my blood pressure I’m attempting to flood my body with fluids – mostly water and Gatorade, which is filled with sodium. But then I think about Gatorade not being organic, so I worry this will harm Jay, so I try to stick with primarily water. I drink two to three bottles of water each night, if I can, since blood pressure tends to drop during sleep. And the bottles have been a great way for me to track my water intake, but then I worry that the chemicals from the plastic bottles are leaching into my water, also harming Jay.

Apparently compression stockings can increase blood pressure too. So I planned to sleep in these beginning after Jay’s anatomy scan. (Though I actually missed a couple of days before starting this.) So for the past few nights I’ve worn tight yoga pants, but I’m not sure whether they’re tight enough, so Mark ordered me some medical grade compression stockings to see if these work better.

So I’m doing all these things, which may or may not be futile, freaking out at any sign of failure (yellow vs. clear piss, or my pants not feeling tight enough), wondering if any of my “mistakes” will kill Jay. And I flip my shit at a blood pressure reading lower than 110/70, even though there’s no strong medical evidence to suggest this isn’t okay.

Oh, and despite testing negative for all blood clotting disorders, I take a baby Aspirin each day to reduce the risk of some random, spontaneous clot killing Jay.

And I wonder what if I’m eating too many carbs or not enough protein or not enough vegetables, or what if I fail to maintain the proper weight to the pound? Will this kill Jay?

Or what if I wake up on my right side or on my back? Will this kill Jay? I don’t think so, but it didn’t stop us from placing a huge pillow barrier in the middle of our bed to stop me from rolling over again. But conversely, what if I’m the one person for whom left-side sleeping isn’t optimal – like what if left-side sleeping is actually the worst for me and compresses Jay’s cord in some way?

And I think about the kick count app I need to find. Is there one on the market I can use all day, every day? One that will generate graphs showing Jay’s expected movement patterns based on historical data and then flag any deviance from said expectations? Or will I have to invent something like this?

And, though I generally live only one day at a time, I’ve begun engaging in some forward thinking, because our doctor recently asked whether we’d like to get our delivery date on the calendar. And neither Mark nor I could even begin to pick a date. Because there are so many things to consider. And I think we’re both (irrationally) concerned about all of the potential, low-probability, scary consequences (mostly outside our control) of possibly choosing the “wrong” date, which is so weird, because I wouldn’t have considered either one of us to be superstitious prior.

But barring any unforeseen circumstances or repeat tragedies, heaven forbid, I’ll likely have an elective, scheduled C-section. Because all parties involved agree that any attempted natural delivery would end in a C-section anyway. (Because I’d be screaming for one at first sight of an inevitable variable deceleration in heartbeat.)

So do we opt for 37 or 38 weeks or 36.5 weeks or 37.5 weeks? Apparently white males are most susceptible to lung immaturity, but ~95% of babies’ lungs are ready by 37 weeks. But what if we go too early and he dies? Or what if we go too late and he dies?

And do we pick July (the month Matthew died) to hopefully bring some light to an otherwise sad month and to honor Matthew in some way? Or do we pick August for Jay to have his own month entirely? Do we have my doctor perform my C-section? Or do we have her father, who did an excellent job with my first C-section, perform this C-section too? (Depending on which date we pick, my doctor could be on vacation.) Does the exact date matter? Should it share similarities to the numbers included in 7/13/2015, or should we strive for dates that share no numerical similarities whatsoever?

Should I just check into the hospital at ~36.5 weeks for “pre-term labor” that hopefully doesn’t even exist and do round-the-clock monitoring until we’re sure his lungs are ready?

And then I stop myself, because Matthew died at ~33 weeks, and, at this point, we can only hope that we’re lucky enough to even get the opportunity to make these decisions and live out their consequences.

But I feel as though I’m walking on egg shells. It feels like a one-wrong-move-and-he-dies type of situation. I know this isn’t rational, nor is it true. But I wonder if I’m struggling with some feelings below the surface – I wonder if, deep down inside, the smallest part of me still believes Matthew’s death must have been my fault in some way, despite me not knowing in what way this would have been and despite the fact that I would have given my life if I knew this might have saved him.

But I can’t say it helps when, upon hearing the news of my pregnancy, I’ve had people attempt to assuage my fears by offering, “But this time you’ll know what to look for.” (As if I didn’t know before.)

I constantly swing on the pendulum between thinking that Jay will definitely die and that Jay will definitely live, though I usually rest somewhere in the middle.

The rational part of me knows that I’m receiving great medical care, but that so much is still outside of our control. The rational part of me knows that tragedy is statistically unlikely to strike again. The rational part of me knows efforts or non-efforts such as wearing compression stockings at night aren’t necessarily backed by science and seem especially ridiculous upon consideration of things like the frequency with which illicit drug users actually deliver healthy babies.

But I think all rationale disappears when you’ve landed on the wrong side of statistics before, and there’s so much fear involved as a result. All rationale disappears when you’ve experienced the living hell that is the first few days and weeks and months following something as horrific as losing your child. All rationale disappears when, though you continue to grieve and struggle so much, you’ve also worked so damn hard to claw your way out of the throes of hell, coming so far, eventually daring to dream again by choosing hope over fear. All rationale disappears when you’re acutely aware that you could land right back there at any given moment, and, if this were to happen, you’re not sure you would ever make it out again.

So all you can do is hold your breath and worry and engage in both rational and irrational thoughts and behaviors and hope and pray and wait. Tick, tock.

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26 thoughts on “Revealing my crazy – psych update

  1. My heart goes out to you. As I read this post, the further I got through it the more I hurt for you and while nothing I can say can take away your pain or fear, I’m praying for you to feel genuine moments of calm.

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  2. Oh, friend. I wish I had the words to make the anxiety/fear/crazy any better. I too, suffered from DAD (“Doppler Attachment Disorder”) in my subsequent pregnancy, and although many times it provided more anxiety than if I hadn’t used it, (those first static sounds are the stuff of nightmares…like actual nightmares we have lived…)the minutes where I could actually hear his heartbeat were my most hopeful in those nine months. Also, I was up to around ten doppler times a day, if it makes you feel any better. (With about four times for kick counts by the end…)

    I loved “Count the Kicks”. I had the ap on my phone and it would actually plot the kicks for you, keeping track of how long (minutes-wise) it took for the baby to get to ten. Then you could save and go back and compare. (The last three days at this time it took ten minutes, today it took 24, etc…) It helped me to see the plots there, to have a consistent routine when and where I counted. I also liked that it was founded by baby loss moms in an effort to increase stillbirth prevention. In the third trimester I actually carried a post-it with me everywhere and would jot the time whenever I felt a movement, just so I could tell myself I hadn’t imagined it…(talk about crazy…) but it helped. And somehow, I got from one day to the next.

    I won’t say it will all be worth it, because that never helped me, because I wasn’t entirely convinced that he would make it. A very big part of me was confident that my body would fail him again, just like it did her. No amount of scans or a doctor’s calming words could convince me then, I was my biggest enemy and I felt solely responsible for getting him here alive. I stand firm in my belief that those were the most difficult, bravest days of my life.

    Somehow, you put one foot in front of the other and you get from today to tomorrow. Just as you have every day since the day Matthew died. And the hope is that one day, you get to look back and be so, so very grateful that you did. These nine months are a blip on the radar of your lifetime, friend, and you can get through them…I promise.

    Keeping you in my heart now and always, girl.

    xo,
    Nora

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    1. Thank you so much – your comment’s bringing me to tears. It’s so hard. I keep saying that even if someone were to tell me there is a 100% chance Jay will live, I wouldn’t believe it. So I guess nothing can really make this easier. I love your post it idea – I want there to be an app for that specifically. I’ll check out the Count the Kicks app – it sounds like it’ll do what I want it to, though I wonder if it will let you seriously count like all day? Love you, friend. xoxo

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  3. Oh Mamma, I wish I was in a position to feel those fears but my heart also breaks for your fears. I can completely imagine myself feeling every one of them. I know there’s no point offering you logic when all you feel is fear. Just one moment at a time xxx

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  4. I love the way you write. You do such a great job of explaining/capturing the thoughts those of us who have lost babies go through. I’m sorry for all of the anxiety you are going through. It’s insanely difficult being pregnant after loss. I completely related to what you said about “one wrong move and the baby dies”. It’s like walking a tight rope for nine months. I carried my Doppler in my purse! Who does that?! 😜 We delivered Audrey at 37w5d. We had been scheduled for an induction at 38 weeks (the earliest my ob would let me), but went in for decreased fetal movement (we went to the hospital 3 times this pregnancy!)a few days early and stayed until she was delivered. The only complication to delivering her early was that she hadn’t developed a strong suck reflex yet, so nursing has been a challenge. At three weeks old she is starting to get the hang of it. I’ve been thinking of you guys so often! I’m praying for your peace of mind and that Jay will be delivered with no complications. I really admire how much thought you put into caring for your body and giving Jay all he needs.I truly believe he will come home with you, and what an awesome day that will be!!!

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    1. Thank you so much, friend, for these encouraging words. I’m pretty sure I’ll be carrying around the Doppler in my purse once I hit 24-28 weeks. Not crazy at all. I can also see myself going to the hospital multiple times when the time comes – it is better to be safe than sorry, and I’m so glad/encouraged to hear you just went anytime you felt you needed to. We need to get together soon – I need all the PAL advice I can get! I’m so glad to hear Audrey is doing well! ❤

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  5. I am glad you are able to write about your feelings and what you are experiencing. While it may seem "crazy" to others, continue to do whatever you need to do to get through even if it means wearing your compression socks and fetal monitor to work. 😉
    If it were me, I think I would pick the earliest date they gave me to deliver.
    I hope you are able to enjoy the moments of calm as you get them and they soon outnumber the "freak-out" moments.

    ps here is a recipe for homemade Gatorade in case you are interested
    http://wellnessmama.com/2575/natural-sports-drink/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I’m 100% sure the Doppler, or some other form of fetal monitoring, will be accompanying me to work very soon. And thank you SO much for this Gatorade recipe. I’m going to try it this weekend – it’s probably a much healthier alternative which will be more comforting! Thank you so much for your continued support – it means the world. xoxo

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  6. I was going to tell you that I adopted Nora’s method of writing down each movement on a post-it and carrying it around with me. It seems over the top but it really helped me. I would start to panic, like “oh my God, when did I last feel her move?” and then I would look at my post-it note and it had been like 3 minutes. Writing it down really helped my anxiety — and just like you mentioned, my husband would collect my post-it notes and graph the movements. I don’t think we learned anything from it but I think it gave him some sense of control –in a situation where there really is none. I blogged about it here: http://lovingandlosinglydie.blogspot.com/2015/08/chasing-rainbow_19.html

    Keep it up, mama. It got harder for me too. One day at a time. Sometimes one hour at a time.

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    1. Yes, one day at a time. Thank you for your kind, encouraging words. I read your blog post, and I can relate to EVERYTHING in it – thanks for sharing. I can especially appreciate the graph, being the accountant I am. 😉 I agree we may not learn much from it, but yes, maybe will provide me with some false sense of control that might be comforting.

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  7. Reading this raises my anxiety levels because it’s so freaking familiar. I also have low pressure and read what (very little) I could find on the potential link to stillbirth. It’s so hard when all you can think about is the possibility of one wrong move…

    If it were me, I’d prefer to have my kids each in their own month. But none of that will really matter if he’s just born alive. Sometimes I wanted to decide everything and sometimes I had to just ask my doctor to tell me what to do to get some of the pressure off me (that’s how I think I ended up not inducing early–which is NOT what I’m saying you should do AT ALL–your circumstances are different). I just mean that it’s crazy making and it’s OK to let your doctor make your healthcare decisions, if you can feel comfortable with that. Here’s hoping the next half of your pregnancy flies by.

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    1. Right – nothing really matters except him being alive and healthy. But since we get to pick the day, I have all these weird worries about making sure we get it “exactly right” (if this is even possible)… I do trust my doctor, and she does give us parameters and advice on what she thinks is best, but I also think picking the day is going to come down to a collaborative effort… I think she’d prefer 38 weeks, but she also acknowledges 37 isn’t too much riskier and that there are other factors such as the high stress levels involved… I’m thankful she’s allowing us to participate in the decision, as I’m not sure how I’d respond to one of those docs who just says, “Absolutely not before 39 weeks.” At this point, I’m glad she’s willing to take this collaborative, wait and see approach… Ughhh – it’s so hard – thanks for your encouraging words! I too hope somehow the days can fly. xoxo

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  8. Words don’t express my concern and flood of emotions, everything you feel can seem and is so real. Nothing I write on this response will do justice.

    I love “J” and you so.

    Only love.

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  9. I sooooo relate to your crazy! I’m with you! Although I didn’t really get too attached to my Doppler, I used it about once a week and I can’t remember when I last used it. I think I’ve almost gone the opposite passive direction where I feel like nothing I do will make a difference anyway.
    I can empathise with your deliberation about when to deliver. I’ve decided to go for an elective section for the reasons you mentioned. I’m going for 36+6, my doctor didn’t want me to go over 37 weeks but of course I’m worrying there will be complications from an early delivery. There are no easy answers!

    I think you’re doing great x

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    1. I totally understand NOT getting attached to the Doppler too, which is actually a more pragmatic approach, because what the fuck would it do to be so attached to it? Nothing, that’s what. Though I’m currently taking the small amounts of fleeting relief it’s giving me despite my knowledge that it’s a false sense of relief. I can relate to the passive direction too – that there’s nothing you can do anyway…

      It’s so difficult to decide when to deliver. We still haven’t picked a date. You are 100% correct that there are no easy answers. I so hope we can each deliver our boys at 37 weeks free from all complications.

      I think you’re doing great too, mama. xoxo

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  10. I’m so sorry for what you must be going through…I too have struggled with anxiety, but for very different reasons. I loved the line “the logic ship had sailed.” It perfectly sums up what those of us with anxiety already know, but struggle with. I think writing this blog is somehow therapeutic for you…at least, I hope. All the best and I’m sending good vibes your way!!

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  11. Yes to everything. I feel like I could have written everything exactly as you say it – the calculated moves, the precautions, the second guessing every action, anxiety, worry.

    I have low blood pressure too. The kind where nurses wonder how I’m still managing to sit upright when I get a reading. Overall my doctors didn’t seem too worried about it (although did ask me to eat a little more salt!), but I’ve read the same things you have and have been trying to figure out ways to keep my blood pressure up at night. I might borrow some of your totally not-crazy, but really useful ideas!

    Sleep seems to be one of my biggest worry areas as I also panic about the position I sleep in. I try to sleep on my left side, but inevitably shift to my back because of terrible hip pain. I wake up, realize I’m on my back, panic and roll back to my left, hurts too much, switch to my right, worry about that, switch back to my left, and so on. Now I’m searching for ways to alleviate the pain (I have tried a mini snoogle and a pillow between the knees); I’ve considered adding a foam mattress topper, sleeping on a futon in couch mode, sewing tennis balls in the backs of my shirts, sleeping in a recliner… sigh.

    I don’t have a Doppler… yet. But my OB said they would lend me one when I hit 20 weeks. So ask me about my Doppler addiction in another 6 weeks. I also have yet to feel any substantial or consistent movement, but the post-it note to count kicks is a good idea. And I’m totally on board with designing a data driven app to monitor and predict kicks/movements. Let’s do it. 😉

    So I know none of my comments were especially helpful, but I just wanted you to know that you are not alone. I think PAL just has it’s own brand of normal. I’m always happy to be a listening ear or a brain storming partner.

    Big hugs!

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one going so crazy, taking what seems to be some extraordinary measures. Though my doc assures me I’m actually not crazy – I’ll just do anything not for this to happen again (not that all is really within our control). So I think I found an app that might suit our needs, allowing us to count all day + electronically doing the post-it thing for us… It also graphs data patterns (though I think it could improve in this area). I haven’t started using it but will let you know when I do. I have an anterior placenta again so even at 20+ weeks don’t feel much movement yet either.

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  12. I wrote mantras. (Baby’s name here) will be born healthy and alive. I would recite them every time my mind tried to take a trip on the crazy train. (All day every day.) I wrote them down, folded them tiny and kept them in my bra where it would poke and stab me with reassurance of its existence. Pockets were too risky. Exhausting. All of it.

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