**usually i re-read and edit what i write but i’m just writing this one free. i need to get it out and i don’t care about spelling, or grammar, or perfection.
there’s so much i want to say and i don’t know really where to start and i remember reading once, or someone maybe telling me once, that you just start where you are and work backwards if you have to.
so here goes.
im sitting here, hot tears dripping down my face that i just can’t stop. just so you don’t get alarmed, everything has been okay in the end. we’re all fine. but still, i’m so emotionally drained that i just need to sit here and write it all out.
i haven’t told you but a few weeks ago, as I was in the bath with ella, she accidentally fell onto my lower stomach and fell hard. it was deep and i throbbed with pain for a little while. i should have got it checked out then, should have just made sure the baby growing inside me was fine, but i have always internally eye-rolled my way through paranoid mothers’ anxieties over these little things. i didn’t want to be one of those mothers. truth is, i think i also just didn’t want to know. i couldn’t bear the thought of losing this baby. i’m sad to admit it, but it’s so much different this time. ella’s conception was absolutely unexpected and i was shocked for a large part of my pregnancy and it’s not that i didn’t want her, it’s just that i didn’t feel attached…didn’t feel all consuming love for her until a day or two after she was born. i hadn’t had that guttural lurch yet, that experience of growing a second heart and having it beat inside the body of your child. i couldn’t possibly know. not until i met her. not until the love affair began. not until i became a mama. so, i was relaxed during my pregnancy. i never, not once, worried about how i was measuring, or how she might be doing. not really. it’s not that i didn’t care how she was doing, or that i didn’t care about her, it’s just that i wasn’t that attached. i didn’t know what it felt like to cradle your own child in your arms, breathing in their baby scent, barely making out the traces of their lips and eyes and tiny button nose because hot tears were pouring down your face. because i didn’t know, i wasn’t desperate for it. i wasn’t so worried about things which might go wrong. i wasn’t frozen with paralyzed thoughts of what-if-this-is-taken-from-me.
this time, i’m already in love. without laying one little eye on her, without touching her or feeling the softness of her cradled in that nook of my neck reserved only for my babies, i’m already so attached it’s almost painful. because i know. my heart has already been changed into one that is a mother’s, and my protectiveness of this baby growing inside me is so fierce it’s almost ridiculous. (i refer to the baby as her but we don’t know yet, just a hunch.)
for the past week, i’ve been hit with the worst virus i’ve ever experienced. turns out every woman and her cat has too, it’s been doing the rounds. i had deleriously high temps and head pain so severe i’m sure some horrible person was drilling red hot knives into my temples. i shaked and coughed and cried myself to sleep and all the while i lay there whispering, baby please be okay. just ride this out with me. hang in there. i love you. i love you. stay with me. Among the sickness, there was a day i felt the first kick, although it was such a slight flutter – only perceivable to me because i’d been pregnant before. but it was over as quickly as it had come and i started wondering if it was in my head. i starting panicking again about the fall ella took on me and the bad fevers i was having and if maybe my virus was something worse. that maybe my baby’s heart wasn’t beating inside me after all.
a friend who i confided in told me just to get the baby checked, not because she thought anything would be wrong but for my own piece of mind and she was right of course, i should have, but still i didn’t. until this morning. late last night i felt as though i was dying. i hadn’t felt the baby move again for days, and i had reached my breaking point of being able to cope with the sickness that gripped me. my friend had just texted in to say there had been a virus outbreak from the local show i was at two weeks ago and that it would be best if i just got myself down to the doctor.
in that moment, i entered that mother territory where paranoia and panic took over any reasoning. i was pinned to the bed, sweating with sickness but i asked joel, between fits of tears, to call the midwives at our hospital and get some advice, or at least some reassurance. they reassured, yes, but said i should really see my gp as soon as possible to get myself and my baby checked out.
yes, of course i should. just book the damn appointment rachel. stop being so ridiculous.
and so there i sat this morning, for an hour and a half in the waiting room, watching other people getting fed up with the wait time and storming out, bargaining that i’d wait all day if i had to as long as i got to hear my baby’s heart beat. i closed my eyes, head throbbing, hands on my tummy willing a kick, a flutter, anything. Time passed slowly. And then, my name was called and I was greeted by a warm man with kind eyes who took me into his office and told me to sit down. He opened my file and made comforting chit chat and past the formalities he looked at me gently and said, “So, what can I do for you?” I rambled my way through the details of my virus, through the fall ella took on me, through the drugs i’d been taking for my sickness, through the virus outbreak i was worried i had, and as my voice caught in my throat i ended with, “but really, i just want to make sure my baby is okay. you’ve got that heart monitor thing, right? i just need to hear my baby’s heart beat.” We talked some more about the symptoms i was getting and he took my temperature and blood pressure and checked out my ears and chest and reassured me that it was a sinus infection which should be managed fine with a few drugs and some steam inhalation and time. he was thorough, this doctor. he was calming and genuine and knowledgeable and he could have told me magical unicorns come out and cover the world in happy love dust while we sleep and i would have believed him. Finally, he told me to climb up on the bed and that it was time to check the baby over. The moment i simultaneously feared and was desperate for. The gel was placed on my belly and i barely felt how cold it was. i didn’t realise it at the time, but i held my breath for those long, long moments the stick glid over my tummy, searching, seeking, changing positions to pick up any sound.
And then, there it was, the whoop, whoop, whoop of my baby’s heart beat, and all i could do was close my eyes and shake with tears. Whoop, whoop, whoop. Strong and beautiful and quite possibly the sweetest sound i had ever heard. “That’s all I care about, ” I whispered to this poor doctor, who suddenly had to deal with an emotional hot ball of mess in the form of a pregnant woman before him. “That’s all I care about.” He smiled at me in a way I’ll never forget and – I’m sure it was just for my benefit – he rattled off some number and said, “Perfect heart rate. Your baby is strong and healthy.” And i wept some more because i finally felt like i could breathe again. I loved this baby with my whole entire heart at that moment.
it’s ridiculous, the paranoia and worry. i know that. but no longer do i judge the people who experience it over the people they love. i’m not a worrier by nature but i love my kids something fierce and the thought of losing them terrifies me. I place my whole heart within their survival, because when they survive, I survive, and that’s just how it feels to be a mother.
Today, I am grateful for these two little souls who are mine – and for a kind, sweet doctor who dealt with my greatest fears and vulnerability in the way i needed.
Today is a good day.