Something has changed.
It’s like a switch has been flipped in my brain and suddenly I’m no longer coping with being pregnant.
It started five days ago.
I woke up in the morning super congested with really bad allergies. My allergies have been really good lately so this attack came out of nowhere.
In the third trimester of pregnancy there is no safe or recommended antihistamine so I had no choice but to suck it up and solider on without medication.
By the time I had my morning tea break at work I’d already gone through more than half a box of tissues from constant sneezing.
My belly was aching really badly and every time I sneezed I was getting braxton hicks contractions. I was in a whole world of discomfort.
At lunch time my breech baby kept pushing her hands up under my gallbladder and I was in a lot of pain. I decided at that point I’d had enough suffering and went home from work.
For the rest of the afternoon I lay in bed sneezing and snoozing intermittently.
At dinner time my mother brought me in a hot cup of (decaf) tea and a piece of vegetable pie.
I drank the tea first as the baby had been quiet for many hours and hot tea is usually the fastest way to get a response out of her. Nothing.
Then I ate my pie, expecting that would kick her awake. Or at least kick her into kicking me. Nothing.
Getting a bit worried, I went to the kitchen and poured myself a large glass of lemonade filled with ice cubes.
Apart from the occasional cup of decaf tea I don’t drink anything other than milk or water so on the rare times when I do have fizzy drink the baby gets an intense sugar rush and bounces off my uterus walls for hours. Still nothing.
I went back to bed, lay on my left side and opened up the pregnancy app on my phone. It has a kick counter that I’ve only used once or twice because my super active baby doesnt need constant monitoring.
After almost an hour I’d still registered no movement despite the hot tea, dinner, cold lemonade, resting and even insistent prodding on my belly.
At 8.30pm I was suitably panicked enough to phone the maternity ward at the hospital.
“Paradise Private Hospital maternity ward, this is Kathy.” said the midwife who answered.
“Um hi…my name is Sadie, I’m a patient of Dr Eminem.” I started nervously. “I don’t mean to bother you but…”
Suddenly there was intense scuffling on the other end of the phone line.
“OH MY GOD!” shouted Kathy, right into my ear. “SHE IS HAVING THE BABY! IT’S COMING NOW! IT’S COMING!”
Then the phone went oddly silent.
Half a minute later, I was just about to hang up when another voice came on the line.
“Hi this is Jennifer how can I help you?”
“Um…” I said. “I don’t think it’s worth it. I can tell you guys are super busy…”
“Oh yes sorry about that.” said Jennifer. “Kathy had to rush off to help a patient give birth.”
As if that wasn’t glaringly obvious. I thought.
“Look I was just calling because I can’t feel my baby move. I haven’t felt her since lunch time. But don’t worry if you’re too busy.” I explained.
“How far along are you? Have you tried lying on your left side and drinking something cold?” Jennifer asked.
“I’m almost 35 weeks and yes I have.” I replied.
“Okay you’re going to need to come in immediately. Can you do that?” Jennifer asked.
It wasn’t the answer I was expecting but I agreed and told her I’d be up at the hospital within 20 minutes.
I went and explained to my mother that I had to go up to the hospital so she quickly changed out of her pajamas and came along with me.
By the time I arrived, the midwife Jennifer that I’d spoken to on the phone had already set up a room for me. They quarantined me inside in case my allergies were actually the flu, as they couldn’t risk the babies on the ward getting ill.
She hooked me up to a CTG machine, explaining the dual screen monitor.
“The red screen on the right is your heartbeat.” she said. “We need to track your heartbeat to ensure we don’t confuse it with the baby’s. The green screen on the left will show info about the baby.”
I could see on both the left and right screens my own heartbeat was registering at 97bpm.
The midwife then placed the toco (the toggle that reads the heart) on my tummy to monitor the baby. She moved it all around, trying to locate her. Nothing. No baby.
I watched as the mirrored heart rate on the dual screens slowly started creeping up.
“Where is she?” I asked. “Why can’t you find her heart beat?”
The midwife, concern creeping across her face, then started roughly pushing on my stomach. She was digging her fingers into my uterus so badly I wanted to scream out in pain but I kept my mouth firmly shut.
After what seemed like an eternity she cried out “Oh there’s her backbone!” and pushed the toco down on top of the hard lump she’d just located. The heart beat on the green screen jumped suddenly from 115bpm to 167bpm.
“Got her!” Jennifer said triumphantly and we both let out huge breaths of relief.
For a moment we watched as the baby’s heart danced between 150 and 170. The variation was good and meant the baby was healthy.
For the first time in hours I felt calm and started to relax. Jennifer seemed happy too and went across the room to fill in some details on my medical chart.
Suddenly the machine made a funny noise and just as we both looked over at it, the baby’s heart rate dropped to 90.
Mine was still 105bpm so the machine definitely wasn’t reading my heart beat accidentally.
Just as Jennifer started walking back across the room the baby’s heart flatlined for about 2 to 3 seconds before spiking to 205bpm.
“Oh my god what does that mean?” I asked in confusion.
“Um…Sadie…I know your baby is breech but did you want a vaginal birth or c-section?” she asked in reply.
“Err…vaginal?” I spluttered.
“I’m just going to step outside and phone your obstetrician.” She muttered before disappearing quickly out into the hallway.
Suddenly I started to panic. I wasn’t quite 35 weeks yet. Too early to have a baby. Even worse I hadn’t shaved my legs or washed my hair!
Then I realised something even more worrying.
I hadn’t brought my super organised hospital bag with me. I was yet to pack a bag for the hospital…
The midwife came back a few minutes later and said that Dr Eminem suspected the baby was under a little stress due to my constant sneezing causing contractions. He wanted me monitored for a few more hours to see if she calmed down before considering any other options.
The midwife gave me a buzzer and told me to press it every time I felt the baby move, to determine whether spikes in her heart rate were related to movement. The machine itself was also registering movement so we could compare and contrast.
Her heart didn’t drop to 90 again, but it did spike above 200 on several occasions.
What was really interesting is that 75% of the time the machine would register movement when I didn’t. Like you could actually hear her move on the machine because Jennifer had the volume turned up.
You’d hear this sloosh of fluid like someone moving quickly in water and her heart would spike and the machine would register a movement. But I felt nothing.
Jennifer was very surprised that a baby of that size and gestation could get herself into a position where she was regularly moving but I wasn’t feeling any of it. But she said that was clearly the case.
“Nothing like this kind of news to make you super paranoid for the next 5 weeks!” she said. “Now you’ll never know if she’s stopped moving or you just can’t feel it.”
In the end it took a few hours but the baby’s heart rate completely stabilized so the doctor phoned in again and okayed me to go home.
But it was too late.
The damage was done.
I am now terrified my baby is going to die inside me and I won’t know it.
The paranoid anxiety of my first trimester, where every little sign and symptom meant the possibility of miscarriage…it was back. And it was worse.
I am living my life on a knife edge. I don’t know how to stop this. I don’t know how to unflip the switch.
I’ve come this far and I’ve spent all my money on her nursery and medical care. I’ve carried her for almost 9 months. And she might die. And there’s nothing I can do about it.
I’m already not sleeping well at night because of my constant need to pee. Now I’m waking myself up at least four times a night in some kind of panic because I need to check if the baby is alive.
I know it’s still too early but I just want her out now. I don’t care about a vaginal delivery anymore. Just cut her out of me. Let her come out of me alive.
I live my life in a cycle now. The baby kicks or I get a solid movement and my anxiety drops to zero. The seconds turn to minutes as I wait. I wait. I wait. My anxiety rises. I wait. My anxiety rises again. I’m panicking, eating sugary food, prodding her. She moves or kicks me. My anxiety drops to zero and the cycle repeats itself.
You see the thing is, since that hospital visit her movement patterns have genuinely changed.
I don’t get constant movement anymore. She can easily go still for 2 or 3 hours at a time. Is it just that I’m not feeling her anymore?
People keep saying babies movements decrease when labour is close. People keep dismissing my fears.
The other thing is I’m doing this on my own. I know my mum is an amazing support to me but James is very uninterested in my fears and just tells me I’m crazy.
“God wouldn’t let your baby die now.” he says dismissively. “Everything you went through with IVF and miscarriages…there’s no way God will take this one from you. God will look after this baby for you. That’s how God works.”
I forget sometimes that James is from a religious family. Mostly because he has the tendency to act like a complete douchecanoe. I’m not from a religious family so I have no freakin’ idea about how God works.
I do have an idea about science. I do know that statistically 1 in every 135 babies are stillborn in this country.
You can spin that and say well Sadie that’s less than 1%! The odds are in your favour!
I would then remind you that when I got my nuchal scan results my baby’s risk of carrying a chromosomal abnormality was 1 in 20,000 and I got really upset because I’d heard it was possible to get huge numbers like 1 in 300,000 and I felt like my results weren’t good enough.
If I was displeased by 1 in 20,000 how do you think I feel about 1 in 135?
My other fear is postnatal depression and anxiety. Having my anxiety spike now at almost 36 weeks pregnant does not bode well for my mental health right after the baby is born.
Or maybe 9 months of stress and trauma and dealing with baby daddy dramas are catching up with me. Coupled with the intense hormone dump I was warned to expect in my final weeks of pregnancy.
Maybe this is to be expected? Maybe it’s okay?
I don’t know.
But I’m scared. I’m really scared.
I just want my baby to be safe and healthy and in my arms.
I just want to let out this breath I feel like I’ve been holding for the past 5 days.
Please let the next few weeks pass by quickly. Please let the baby be okay. Please please please let this time be my time and this baby be my take-home baby.
Please please please.