Sunday, 1 April 2012

Pregnant daze - A preamble to my kids' birth stories

I didn't enjoy all of my pregnant days. The first 5 months of Sosi's were horrible.
I quit drinking and smoking when I found out I was pregnant, and had a demanding job. So even if physically the pregnancy was fine, what with withdrawals and the stress of work and the stress of starting a family (realisation of the magnitude of having a kid etc) and my pre-existing depression, mentally I was a mess.
So much that, when I started having passing thoughts about abortion and/or suicide, I realised I was not well and needed something to change. I wanted this baby. Work was going to be the thing to change. I sought help. And instead of handing in a maternity leave form, I handed in a resignation form accompanied by a doctor's certificate. It was tough, I really loved my admin job in a publishing company (organisation and books, two of my great loves...), but I had to think about my mental health.
It took me a bit over a month, but things did get better. I did lots of gardening and got lots of fresh air and ate when I was hungry and rested when I was tired, I read lots and pottered around lots and enjoyed lunches out.
I had a very leisurely last trimester and I could start my journey into motherhood happy and recharged and full of enthusiasm.

I got in tune with Sosi while she was still "on the inside", I had all the time in the world to pay attention to the baby in my tummy and I started to understand her then, before she was even born.
And when she was born, I looked at her and thought "there you are". I already felt like I knew her. Like I'd always known her.
baby Sosi is a couple of minutes old

When I was pregnant with Casi, I had Sosi to look after. She was a toddler. She was busy. She was stubborn. It wasn't always a smooth ride. Even if she was relatively easy, I was pregnant... tired, exhausted, emotional etc. So towards the last trimester, I was over it. The tummy was weighing down more than it did with the first pregnancy, I was tired beyond measure, couldn't keep up with Sosi etc etc. Any woman who's been pregnant while looking after a toddler knows exactly what I'm talking about!

I'd also had an "episode". Sosi was still waking up a couple of times at night (one day I'll elaborate more on that). One night I as a bit exasperated by the frequent wakings, and I said something to her. And as I was talking, I realised the words that were coming out of my mouth were not the same ones that were in my brain. All I could hear were jumbled sounds. I thought I was having a stroke. I cried out for Dan, and I tried talking frantically, I tried slowly saying "can you understand what I'm saying?", I was trying to tell him I thought I was having a stroke, but my brain had forgotten how to say the word "STROKE". I knew that I knew the word, I knew what the word was, but every time I tried saying it I could hear that I was not able to speak it clearly. I heard myself through the tears "I can't remember, I can't remember how to say it". Dan saying something like "it's ok if you can't remember, you can tell me in the morning". No, damn, I need to remember the word now, there might not be a morning.

It was terrifying, feeling trapped inside my brain and not being able to speak my thoughts. What a perspective that has given me now.
I was both very lucid and also very sleep deprived, I was scared for my life and scared that I wasn't able to communicate what was happening to me. It felt like I was trying to start up an old car and the engine is making noise but just won't start.
Then suddenly, I remember myself thinking "if it's a stroke, my face and arm will start going numb". The engine started.
So I started paying attention to my face, and started moving my arm. And slowly I managed to utter a full, albeit very slow, sentence "Dan, can. you. UN-DER-ST-AND me? It might be a stroke". And things slowly went back to normal. Slowly all my words came back. Slowly I could hear and understand the words that were coming out of my mouth. Slowly I started calming down. Little Sosi gave me a big cuddle.

During that state of confusion, I thought that was it, that I was going to die. But when things went back to normal, my full rationality came back, and I had to choose our next move. I thought there was no point going to the hospital at 3am, I was not having a stroke and probably wasn't going to die during the night, and I was sure I wouldn't be getting proper medical attention at that time. So I decided we should all try to sleep then see what to do in the morning.

Turns out Dan could actually understand my words, but that I was saying some things repeatedly. The word that was always clear was "UNDERSTAND", apparently I said it over and over and over again.

I spent the next day at the hospital, waiting and waiting and waiting and being examined and talking to doctors and nurses and more doctors and more nurses and doing more tests... Sosi and Dan were there, from 10am till 5pm, bless him, he managed to keep a 21 month old kid entertained in a hospital all day long! Lots of walks, lots of explorations, TV, toy room, cafeteria, they did it all.
In the end, it was established with the doctors that I should have a CT scan and possibly an MRI. I had the scan that evening and was given the all clear. They couldn't figure out what had happened to me, but excluded that it was life threatening.
But, if there was an embolus (free-floating blood clot), I could be at high risk for stroke during intense activities. Such as running. Or lifting weights. Or giving birth. So an appointment for the cranial MRI was set for a few weeks later (3 weeks before my due date).

I really didn't want to have the MRI, I read lots about it and was still unsure whether it was perfectly safe for the unborn baby. But I didn't want to run the risk of having a stroke during Casi's birth.
I had the MRI, and I was so anxious during the long scan, and I could feel Casi move inside me uncomfortably (it was loud), but was then given the all clear. Which also meant I could give birth at the Family Birth Centre as I had planned.

8 months pregnant. I don't have many photo of my growing belly in that last trimester
Life went back to normal. More or less. Something was changed in me. Or maybe that episode was the apex of the change that had been happening.
In brief, I couldn't bear being pregnant anymore. I was so busy with Sosi, and so tired, and I hardly ever felt Casi move inside me, and at every antenatal check up it was a relief hearing his heartbeat because he moved so little I wasn't sure he was still alive. I was so anxious. I was an emotional mess.

baby Casi is a few minutes old
So when Casi was born, I was elated the pregnancy was over. When he came out crying, I was happy he was alive, I was happy he was out, but I didn't have the surge of emotions I had with Sosi. I looked at him thinking "I don't know you, I don't understand you". I was almost detached, as if this wasn't my son and this was a baby who'd come out of someone else's body. Maybe that was Nature's way of helping me face some tough times that were to come. Because at 2 weeks of age, he had to be admitted to hospital. And that was the real test.
little Casi in neonatal intensive care 


  1. What an emotional time that must have been! Although not having anything like that happen to me, I hated being pregnant both times. The WHOLE time. It was very depressing and a very bleak time (especially when you think you shouldn't be feeling like that). Thankfully I now have both my beautiful kids who just make it all worthwhile. Oh, and I had the toddler while pregnant thing too, so I know what you mean! Having Casi in intensive care must have been unbearable!! xo

  2. What an emotional roller coaster! I'm so glad it all turned out alright for you.

  3. What a journey into motherhood you had! Definitely understand being pregnant with a toddler!

  4. I can't believe I haven't commented on this one??!! I know its months old, but I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading it. I didn't realise there was so much MORE to your birth stories that I didn't know. I'm so glad it all turned out okay. But what a journey! x