I suffered my first panic attack when my Aunt died 6 years ago. I’d never had one before then and I didn’t know what was happening. It was at her daughter’s wedding 3 months after she’d died. They played her song and I felt like my chest was going to explode. I couldn’t get my breath and my breathing went so rapid I was flushed and scared. I ended up sat outside on the cold concrete – terrified what was happening.
It happened quite a lot in those early months but after a while I learned that I could control the attacks by sitting on a cold surface and allowing my body to calm down. It became more manageable and eventually they stopped.
When I fell pregnant though, they were to resurface.
I was terrified when I initially found out I was pregnant and just sobbed – big fat tears about the worry that lay ahead and whether this baby was going to survive. At this point, panic attacks weren’t part of the journey.
I’d had a number of scans at St Mary’s during my miscarriages, all leading to the “I’m sorry it’s bad news” line we were accustomed to hearing. Our first scan at 7 weeks was terrifying and as soon as I was called, a panic attack started. I was in a hospital where nothing is a cold, concrete surface so I just had to ride it out and try to fix it with mind over matter. I managed to calm myself but felt completely terrified throughout, and at each subsequent scan.
Part of my coping mechanism to deal with the constant anxious state I generally feel is Reiki. Since February I’ve been seeing a practitioner on a fortnightly basis to help with it and get rid of the negative energy. I truly believe that the “witchcraft” (as Scott calls it) completely helps with my ability to cope. I’ve also found I’ve become a little more OCD about things. I talk to magpies, say “Hello” and ask how the family is (yep, I’m in full on nutter mode in the car). On baby appointment days I make sure I wear exactly the same jewellery as I did at the first appointment as I feel it’s brought me good luck (at the start I wore the same dress but I got over that one quickly). But as the pregnancy progressed and each scan was positive, I slowly relaxed. My daily Dr Google checks of “is this normal in pregnancy” stopped and I slowly felt I could relax a little more and enjoy pregnancy. When I Googled in the past, I’d focus on the negative stories – I’d be convinced that I was with those people and couldn’t see all the other positive responses. However now, anytime I Google anything, I focus on the positive and think “yes, why not, that’s me”.
Scan’s, for the time being, have been less traumatic. Due to my history, I’m having more scans but they tend to be on either the antenatal unit, or from now on, the Rainbow Clinic in St Mary’s. Just having scan’s in another area and not associating the room with our previous losses really makes it so much easier to handle them. Of course our 20 week scan will be in the ultrasound department but I think I’ll handle it….hopefully!
I’ll just say a bit about the Rainbow Clinic* as they are incredible. The clinic is funded through Tommy’s and deals with women who have suffered stillbirths or neonatal deaths. I work closely with the team in my day job so they’ve taken me on to provide that reassurance throughout my pregnancy (something I’m certainly grateful of). Despite their area of work, it’s a remarkable clinic. Staff are extremely friendly and as soon as you go in, you are put at ease. My treatment is currently under Dr Heazell who is wonderful and talks you through everything. After the scan (and hearing our baby’s heart beat fill the room) he explains what the data is he has taken from the scan and how that fits to what they would expect (we get to see lots of graphs). They do a lot of investigation on the placenta and blood vessels that supply the uterus to see whether everything is normal. Thankfully I have a wonderful placenta (good job really cos I’m giving it to them as a parting gift when I give birth). They do pick up a slight irregularity with one of my blood vessels but they’re not overly worried at this stage. Apparently your blood vessels change as you become pregnant – one has fully changed but the other still has to catch up. This is going to be checked again at 23 weeks – this is the point at which they would have expected the change to have happened). Thankfully I’m in the right place for this kind of monitoring – at least we know and can keep our eye on it.
I read a post somewhere where the woman said she found her coping mechanism in pregnancy after loss was to wake up each day and think “I’m pregnant still today so I’m going to enjoy it” so I took on that mantra. Each morning I survey my growing tum and am thankful I can still enjoy it. Let’s face it, I’ve got 22 more weeks so I need to remain upbeat and get on with it – no point in feeling anxious all the time!
I’ll leave you with a pic of our most recent scan – here’s my lovely placenta 🙂