Looking Forward 

35 weeks pregnant

21 days until Sprocket’s arrival

I’ve come to the end of the school holidays and I was planning to return to work this week for eight days before officially taking my maternity leave. Pregnancy, it seems, had other ideas. 

I’ve been struggling with breathlessness lately and any form of physical exercise is exhausting me. Even loading or emptying the washing machine leaves me breathless and in need of a recovery period. It’s been getting steadily worse over the last few weeks and I’ve become really limited over where I can go and what I can do. A part of me has remained in denial that pregnancy can actually be this exhausting. 

On Thursday I took myself shopping, hoping to collect the last few bits for my hospital bag. As I walked around the shops I had periods where I was overtaken by breathlessness and would have to pause to steady myself. As I joined the queue in my third shop I felt overwhelmingly dizzy and faint and resorted to sitting down on the shop floor as I fought to get my breath back. The people around me did that ‘English‘ thing where they preserved my dignity by ignoring me. It was quite surreal because everyone went so silent, quietly observing me and hoping that ‘someone else’ would step in to offer assistance. 

Luckily there was a doctor in the shop who came to my aid. I was still weak and dizzy and she had me lie down on the floor as she checked my pulse, which was weak. After a while I tried sitting up but the dizziness kicked in again and I had to lie back down while they called for an ambulance.

When the ambulance arrived it triggered my anxiety as I began to contemplate that there could be something very wrong with me or the baby, and the anxiety exacerbated my dizziness creating a vicious cycle of symptoms and fear. The paramedic was fantastic and recognised that I was having a panic attack and had me employ some breathing exercises which helped to calm me down. 

Sprocket kicked merrily throughout my whole ordeal and he was my saving grace, reminding me that he was alive and well. 

As we arrived at the accident and emergency department I felt the panic rise within me once again. I hate the sensory overload of hospitals- a drunk man was shouting, there was an old lady with a hackling cough, an unconscious man being wheeled through on a stretcher, friends and relatives of patients wore concerned expressions and the medical staff appeared focused and serious. Patients looked sick, vulnerable, pale, fragile. I didn’t want to belong among the sick and the injured. It felt unsafe. 

I was deemed fine in the end. My blood pressure hovered on the low side, but after a series of tests the episode was considered to be ‘just one of those pregnancy things’ and I was instructed to rest and to drink more water. 

I’ve decided not to return to work this week and to officially begin my maternity leave. I think I would be pushing myself if I went back and for the sake of eight days and the prospect of another fainting episode, it’s really not worth it. 

The visit to the hospital yesterday brought up lots of fears about my impending stay in hospital. I have so many negative associations with hospitals and I’m not relishing the idea of going in for an extended period. I’m starting to feel anxious about the c section; what if there are complications? what if there is a problem with baby? what if he or I get sick? 

I find picturing the whole experience of childbirth anxiety-inducing. My own experience, whilst not horrific in itself, was such a torrent of sadness and distress. Parts of that memory remain so clear to me, like it was yesterday. I think memories work that way; the clearest ones are those you’ve had the strongest emotional reaction to. 

The other thing that taints my view of childbirth is the fact that I’ve lived through so many tragic birth stories through the eyes of my loss-mum friends. Our stories connected us but they have also created shadows over my own perceptions and ideas about childbirth. When I hear someone’s story my imagination transports me there; I see it and feel it and the power of such a tradgedy provokes an emotional reaction in me which keeps it lodged in my memory almost as though I experienced it myself. My mind is a bank of tragic pregnancies. 

Although all the worrying doesn’t really solve anything, I do think it’s important that I begin to consider the next stage and begin to allow myself to process the idea of a ‘baby’ rather than just a ‘pregnancy’. For some reason I’ll only allow myself to consider the negative aspects- the fears, doubts and concerns rather than any impending joy or happiness. I guess I’m trying to prepare for the worst and hope for the best? 

As we approach the due date, other people initiate conversations focused on the excitement of Sprocket’s arrival. I can’t imagine excitement but I can imagine relief. To be totally honest, I’m having a difficult time imagining him here at all, living and breathing. The prospect seems surreal. The baby that most mothers expect at the end of a pregnancy seems almost implausible to me. 

Incidentally, I’ve packed my hospital bag but not Sprocket’s. Maybe that’s not incidental. I didn’t need one for baby last time. It feels a like packing that bag is symbolic of being fully committed to the fact that he will come home but the prospect feels a little too good to be true. Even though there are only 21 days left I cannot envisage life beyond pregnancy. 

In the last two years I’ve spent 65 out of the 87 weeks being pregnant. Pregnancy is the familiar. A living, breathing baby is unfamiliar. I’m not totally sure that I’m connecting the two. I associate the kicks and the ultrasound images with my son but in some ways my ‘son’ feels like ‘a pregnancy’ rather than a real baby who can enter the world.

I still struggle to look at baby pictures and they fill me with a mix of sadness and jealousy. It still feels like something so beyond my reach. Can it really be possible that Sprocket will be here in three weeks time? 

My midwife asked if I feel that I have bonded with my baby. My answer was a difinitive yes. However, I now wonder if I have bonded with my baby as a ‘pregnancy’ rather than a tiny person who can enter the world. Its hard to merge the two. Maybe because the ‘pregnancy’ is unequivocal but a live baby isn’t. 

It’s hard to believe there are only three weeks left. It’s time to begin to let my eyes flit to the future and bravely anticipate Sprocket’s homecoming. It even feels difficult to say it with conviction; to use when instead of if. But say it I will and believe it I must.  

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