Pink or Blue?

Well, it’s scan day tomorrow (technically today). I’ve stayed up finishing a report for my boss because I doubt I’ll be able to sleep. I don’t know if I’m excited or petrified of the outcome! Everyone has been asking me to let them know. Not if it is healthy, but whether it is pink or blue! I think we are so focused on finding out what we’re getting that we forget the main objective of this scan is to check for anomalies.

For me, tomorrow is either going to provide relief and show me that all the worrying and obsessing about there being an issue was silly, or it will confirm my worst fears. I feel like I am already bracing myself for the news of a faulty internal organ, or a missing limb.

Everyone asks if you have a preference – boy or girl? No-one asks if you have a preference over a heart or lung defect, or perhaps a bit of fluid on the brain. And I don’t believe anyone who says they don’t care as long as it is healthy. Of course we all want our babies to be healthy. I’d like this one to be a healthy girl that’s all ūüėČ.

I’m not trying to be controversial. I’m just being honest. Practically, a boy would be the better outcome. My youngest is a boy so better for him to have a playmate than my 10-year old daughter who only entertains her little brother under duress. If I were a betting girl, my money would be on boy – science says that’s more likely. Given that I took the morning after pill within hours of doing the deed I know this little one was fertilised by some pretty fast little swimmers, and the fast ones tend to be the boy-makers. But, if I could choose, it’d be a girl. Mainly for shallow reasons – I love pink, and I’ve got some cute ideas for a girly nursery!

That said, I think there may be a deeper reason why the gender is important to me. You see, I failed with my daughter; my first born. When she arrived in the world, the last thing I wanted to do was look at her, let alone hold her. That feeling stuck around for 3 years whilst post-natal depression did everything ‘she’ could to tell me I wasn’t good enough (funny how I’ve always seen PND as a woman; a sniping, nasty bitch who stood in my shadow sneering at every move I made). I questioned whether I was ever capable of loving a child how you were meant to (aka how they do in the movies).

Then comes child number 2 – my boy. I never really thought I’d get on with a boy. I have no interest in boy stuff. But when my son was born my life changed forever. I connected with him the moment they laid him on my chest. I looked at his face and knew that I would never love another being as much as I loved him, for as long as I lived. I do love my daughter, but that was a relationship that took time to develop. My son had a headstart on her before he’d even let out his first cry.

So you see, I’m scared that if it is a boy I just won’t have enough love for him. But a girl? A girl would allow me a second chance.

Even writing that I feel stupid! The CBT does work after all! Logic says, “Hold on girl, you already had your second chance – your son. You’ve already redeemed yourself.” But that voice, the one that preys on every insecurity, she says “How many chances do you need to prove that you just aren’t good enough?”

A few weeks ago I’d have believed her. I guess I’m not completely convinced that I don’t. But I will not allow her to drag me down again. I am good enough. Maybe only just good enough, but good enough all the same. So let’s just wait and see what 8:30am brings shall we. Maybe life will teach me a lesson and this one will keep its legs crossed! Make me realise that not everything in life is within our control…

Perspective

Today I read an email from work on my Blackberry. It was from a lady I contacted for some help last week. She was responding to apologise for not replying sooner but that she had been off work for several weeks due to a family bereavement. Her son and his partner lost their baby at 38 weeks. 38 weeks! Can you imagine?

She won’t know that I am pregnant. Puts some of life’s stupid worries into perspective though doesn’t it! I cannot even begin to imagine how it must feel to go so far on this journey for it to end like that.

Whilst it puts some of my dramas into perspective, it has set off the insecurities about this pregnancy. And the over-thinking, over-analysing part of me can’t help but wonder if this is another sign. Just as I start to feel some hope about the new life I have created, found myself able to step inside a baby shop without feeling like the walls were closing in on me, dared to look forward to the next scan; BAM!! Another reminder not to get too excited because it might all be taken away from me yet.

Logic tells me “This isn’t a sign. It is someone else’s sad sad story, don’t make it about you.” But that other voice, the voice that hides in shadows, she says “That’ll teach you for getting ahead of yourself missy. I told you there’s no such thing as happy ever after.”

Heartbreak and temporary laughter

Today I made a decision that I may regret for the rest of my life. I have no idea what the long term effects of that decision will be, all I know is that this morning my heart broke; not completely and irrevocably, but enough for a sliver to break away and leave an empty space.

There are many types of heartbreak. I’ve felt a few of them, but have also been lucky enough to have escaped some of the worst kinds. For me, there is nothing more heartbreaking than loving someone who won’t be loved, or wanting to help someone who won’t be helped. It’s hard to make a decision to turn your back on someone when every ounce of your being wants to be there, wants to make it alright. Some of life’s smallest decisions can have the most dramatic impact, and today my decision to say “No” was one of those. I pray that ‘no’ doesn’t haunt me.

I have a nephew. He is 18. And he hasn’t had the greatest of starts in life. Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD at a young age he has worn the badge too proudly through his life. The conditions became a reason, an excuse not to have a better life. I could spend all night telling you about his life, his broken home, the failures of people both professionally and personally, those that should have been there but weren’t, those that were there but shouldn’t have been. I could tell you about a father that let him down, and when given the opportunity to help him change his stars, let him down again. I wish I could tell you all of that, and then tell you the part where he does indeed change his stars and mould a new life for himself. He’s not reached that part yet. Given his current path, I’m not sure he ever will.

Having no better option at home (which I might add is 300 miles away from my own), he asked today if he could spend Christmas with me and my family. He says he wants a family Christmas like we used to have, I’m guessing he means when he was young and still part of a stable family unit. That I even had to hesitate made my heart ache. But at some point over the last few years, my nephew has become a person that I don’t recognise. He is two people. The one he shows to me; funny and sweet, still a child at heart. And there is the one that I see on his social media pages, openly sharing his choices and habits with the world. He thinks that I’m too past it to understand the code words hidden in his comments. He talks a lot about his friend Mandy. Cute huh?! Except “Mandy” is street slang for MDMA or Ecstasy. I’ve had to unfollow him so that my feed isn’t constantly peppered with images of my sweet stoned nephew. Because of the untamed conditions, he is a loose cannon. Because of the drugs, he is a liar and a thief.

The nephew I wanted here for Christmas is in there somewhere. I know that turning my back on him when I was one of the last people he felt he could depend on is probably one of the worst things I could do. I have cried all day about the decision that I made. But I had to think about my family, and me and the baby. Whilst I do believe that he wouldn’t bring drugs into my home, I cannot risk it. Whilst I want to believe that his desire for a proper family Christmas would keep him calm, I cannot guarantee that the combination of him + Dad won’t result in the usual fireworks. My kids aren’t used to aggression or abusive language – I don’t want their bubble burst at Christmas.

For most of my life I have put the needs of others above my own. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Mother Teresa, but I have on many occasions made myself miserable for the sake of keeping other people happy. But I’m battling with my own demons at the moment, and I was just starting to feel like things were on the up. A Christmas on egg shells is not what I need right now – this baby has already had to deal with its’ share of stress. And so I broke my heart, and maybe I broke his? Maybe I’m over analysing the whole thing and he really doesn’t care? Perhaps I don’t give him adequate credit for understanding my decision? I don’t know. I just hope that this small decision, cemented with a tiny little word, hasn’t made him feel like I have turned my back on him forever.

I cried for the best part of today. Tickets to see British Comedian John Bishop could not have been more untimely. I went, I laughed. He didn’t fix my broken heart.

Darker Days

It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago I was enveloped in darkness and could not see a way out. My mother in law said earlier that she presumed I had been taking the antidepressants because I have seemed so much happier and brighter. The truth is, I stopped taking them before they had a chance to work.

Before I go on, I feel I should say here that I do not advise anyone to go against the advice of their GP. You should discuss your medication with the medical professionals and trust them to get it right. I know I sound like a hypocrite, but I had my reasons and I am ‘lucky’ in that having suffered with depression on and off over the years, I know myself pretty well. I also know that if I’ve got this wrong and I start to feel one iota of how I was feeling, I will accept I got it wrong and get right back on the track my GP had planned for me.

You see, three weeks ago I crashed. Hit rock bottom. Broke down. However you want to describe it, I was a mess by the time I dragged myself to my doctor. One of the most debilitating issues I was dealing with was an absolute obsession with death. The lack of control I felt over my life had taken a life of its own and made me think about how little control we have over our own mortality and that of those we love. I hadn’t felt any movement from my baby, and began to worry that was a bad sign.

The day I told my children about the baby, I searched the Internet for an image I could show them. I made a huge mistake and searched “15 week fetus”. Why did I choose those words? Up to then I’d always used “fetal development” or “baby” in the search. Yes, you’ve guessed it. The search engine returned a number of images of lifeless bodies clearly lost during varying stages of pregnancy. Luckily my kids didn’t see it. But those images will never leave me, and from that point I became overwhelmed with fear that my baby was dead. I was walking around with a dead body inside me. And when I wasn’t worrying about that, I worried that I would die, I would give birth to a dead baby, my baby would be healthy but I’d lose one of my other children. Me and the kids would be fine, but my husband would die. Nuts right?! Looking back it’s easy, but at the time I felt like there was no point in looking forward to anything. What was the point in taking any joy from my life if it was going to end badly one way or another?

Every expectant mother has similar fears. Maybe not on that scale, but I would bet every mum-to-be will worry about the health of their baby at the very least. That is perfectly natural. But when those thoughts start to spiral, devour every other thought you may have, and change the way you may normally act or feel, then you know it’s far from natural. I saw everything as a sign that my worst fears would be realised. Every sad post on social media sites. Every news story. Every picture of a disabled child. Every bloody solo magpie! I took to the sofa, and I decided there was little point in going anywhere else. And that’s when I realised I needed help.

When I started this blog, I decided that one of the most important features of my updates would be candid discussion of my innermost thoughts and feelings. It is important to me that I feel I can share my craziest thoughts and my most miserable moments without fear or shame. And that’s why I shared this with you today.

More importantly – I feel different now. Just 3 weeks later and those feelings have passed. Yes I’m still apprehensive about the anomaly scan next week, but only in a normal way.

Whilst I completely trusted my GP and believe the risks of taking antidepressants to be lower than drinking alcohol in pregnancy, the fear of the potential impact on the baby from taking the pills only added to my crippling fear that my baby would not be healthy. I was able to logically think things through and decided that the pills were causing me more anxiety than I already had and it was better to stop. But, they are still in my bedside drawer. And I have told my husband, so that he can make sure that if I start to crash again, he is there to make sure I get myself back on the path my GP planned.

I fear I’ve made this sound too easy. Please know that if you are in the same position and have had these feelings; you are not alone. Find someone you can talk to about it, professional or otherwise. If you have a pregnant friend, sister, wife, and you see them unhappy, don’t always brush it away as ‘hormones’. Be there. Listen. And help them to get help.

The Strong One

Today I had a moment of weakness when a strongly worded email from a client sent me reeling. I was in a meeting with two colleagues and could not do anything to fight back the tears. They were lovely and supportive, but what one of them said really struck me; “Come on, this isn’t like you!” And I realised how few people have ever seen the real me. Because the person who cries when she’s knocked off course, that judges herself by extreme expectations and that always doubts whether she can do it, really is me.

Is it a good or a bad thing that my work colleagues (well most of them) are completely unaware of the real me? Does it mean I am able to successfully function in spite of my real self? Or does it mean that I am a fake? An actress? A swan, gliding gracefully on the surface but paddling furiously beneath? Does it even matter?

I don’t know the answer. I don’t know why I err towards hiding that side away. Is it to protect my colleagues or myself? Is it shame or consideration that keeps me well hidden?

The only thing I will say is that my initial response to my colleague today was “You will have no respect for me now.” Her response? “I think I respect you now more than ever.”

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know…

Sometimes it is easier not to talk about how you feel when you are feeling low. Especially when you feel like you are on the up, and someone late to the show asks how you’ve been feeling. I was asked today if I’ve been ok because the person thought I might have been a bit down. Why when I’m starting to feel more positive would I want to go back there?

Not only that, but there are some people who are just not equipped to deal with the truth that you might tell them. They have their own demons, and your story would only make them worry or bring them sadness. So, whilst I am normally a huge advocate of talking talking talking, today I chose to smile and say “I’m fine”. It wasn’t a lie; today I really am fine.

The Lying Game

Sometimes it’s easier to tell a lie. “I’m fine thanks” is a good one, not many people see past that. You see, when people ask you how you are, they don’t really want to know. They don’t want to hear that you spent the day in your pyjamas, curled up in a corner of the sofa trying to drown out the thoughts with insipid daytime TV. And they most certainly don’t want to hear it if you are pregnant. What they want to hear is gurgles of joy about movements and mittens and ideas for names.

So what do you do if you don’t want to talk about it? You can play along with it, gush about how wonderful you feel and how excited you are, and then pay the price. Because the constant pretence is exhausting. And that is why we often hide ourselves away – because that way we don’t have to talk about it, and we don’t have to find the energy to pretend.

Tonight I told a lie. To my best friends. When one asked me if I’d felt any movement yet I said I hadn’t. Made sure the conversation had nowhere else to go, and moved on to other things. I have felt the baby move. Not a lot, but enough to know it is there. To me those movements are a silent form of communication between me and this little life inside me. I’m not ready to share it (I suppose I just have). It is not a source of excitement for me yet – it is the baby’s way of telling me he’s there, and I’m not quite ready to answer him.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Day 1

Well, what can I say? Today has been a tough day. ¬†Got to my appointment about half an hour early so had to sit in a waiting room thinking for half an hour longer than would ever do me any good. ¬†But, if I’d left home any later I know I would have been anxious about being late, not finding a parking space, getting lost, blah, blah, blah! ¬†Damned if I do….

Anyway, bearing in mind I thought I’d reached this kind of emotionless nothing kind of stage, imagine my surprise when I’m bawling my eyes out to a complete stranger within minutes of starting a conversation. ¬†Clearly not as numb as I thought, but then you should be prepared for that. ¬†It is a mixture of stress and relief to know you have finally brought yourself to a place where you can bear your soul to someone who might actually be able to help you.

How do I feel now? ¬†Hard to say really, and it would be unfair of me to paint too much of a picture right now when it is early days. ¬†The jury is out for the time being. ¬†What I will say is that the counsellor gave me some real food for thought. ¬†For example, after talking a while about my obsession that something is going to go wrong with me or the baby, she asked me why I was so convinced something was going to go wrong…

Me “Well, it would be just my luck wouldn’t it”

Her “Why? Are you generally an unlucky person then?”

Damn it!! She had me. ¬†I can’t¬†really think of anything that would suggest I am an unlucky person, except that I haven’t won the lottery yet… Now, that doesn’t mean that suddenly I can’t be allowed to feel the way I feel because I have a good job and a nice house and two beautiful healthy kids (remember what I said about Robin Williams?) ¬†What it does mean is that whilst my thoughts and feelings may feel very real to me and are having a real effect on my life right now, it doesn’t make them logical or right. ¬†The CBT is designed to help me work that out.

I’ll share one more thing with you (not because I am holding back, but because I can’t possibly cover 90 minutes of convo in this blog, and in fairness a lot of it is a blur). ¬†It is something she said about my fear that I am not connecting with this baby because I don’t feel anything; I don’t feel pregnant. ¬†After talking a while about my last 2 pregnancies she drew a very clear distinction between pregnancy 1 and 2, and this one. ¬†Both pregnancies were different, but both were a bit of a rollercoaster, physically and emotionally. ¬†This one (apart from the fact that it is happening at all!) is passing by with very little drama. ¬†I’ve not felt ill, the scans have been normal, screening results good, etc. ¬†Ok, so I haven’t felt any movement yet but there’s no guarantee I would at 18 weeks, and the scans and the midwife have confirmed it is in there and its heart is beating. ¬†She made me think about something. ¬†Instead of feeling nervous that the lack of movement means something is wrong, that I’m not connecting to the pregnancy because of some underlying force, I should think about the fact that I may just not be feeling much at the minute because this pregnancy is moving along nice and calmly and apart from the growing belly and ridiculous breasts (sorry) I really wouldn’t know I was pregnant. ¬†I should be thinking myself lucky…

Realising that I may just be focussing on the negatives (my GP calls it automatic negative thoughts – ANT) is one small step to getting better. ¬†But I’ve got a hell of a long way to go before I can start turning those thoughts around. ¬†Hopefully the therapy will also help me to understand why I have a tendency to think the worst, and to think that I somehow deserve for the worst to happen.