N and I went for a scheduled ultrasound yesterday. It wasn’t totally necessary, but my placenta was low at our 20-week anatomy scan so it was a good excuse to just check on things. I won’t bury the lede: everything is fine and normal and I do not have placenta previa (my placenta is 8 cm away from the opening of my cervix which is plenty far and nothing at all to worry about).
I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with just dropping the information bomb about our loss when we go into appointments like this. I’ve found that if we’re going to get the extra care or concern that we need, it’s best to leave the guessing out. Ultrasound technicians rarely know a patient’s background, so I just came out with it when we walked into the room: “Just so you know, we had a second-trimester loss last year so we’re always pretty nervous for these things.” The technician, Carlos, was kind, friendly, and professional. The ultrasound itself was quick, though, and I couldn’t see the screen while he was doing it. When it was over he made a point of bringing us the report in the waiting room and telling us with a smile that everything was normal.
All of that seems pretty reassuring, right? It probably should be. And I thought it was until later last night. (I feel like this is a running theme for me — the discovery of my not-okayness coming later on in the day after digesting a day’s events.)
He asked me more than once about her movements. He said she was pretty relaxed in there. Something is probably wrong. I’m not feeling her move enough. I know she’s alive right now, I know I feel her moving, but something must be wrong. Why did he ask so much about her movements?
Later in the evening, I tearfully described my fears about the appointment to N who remembered things very differently than I did (and in a way that I should — and am trying — to trust). He reminded me that Carlos asked about movement before the ultrasound even started, and that the two other times I remembered him asking about movement were actually just two parts of the same comment, “When is she most active?” and after my reply, “She’s pretty relaxed in there right now.” The thing is, I wasn’t being negative or looking at the appointment judgementally. I legitimately remembered the appointment being much darker than it actually was, which is a bit scary to me.
Strangely enough, I was more anxious about this ultrasound than our anatomy scan at twenty weeks. For that one I had somehow convinced myself that if we got a bad diagnosis again and went through what we did with Odin, I could do it. I would give birth and meet my baby and it would be worth it, because I would choose Odin over and over again and go through it all again to hold him. That probably sounds pretty insane, but it got me through that stage. For this ultrasound I didn’t know how to feel. Everything has been so normal so far that I can’t help but think about all of the potentially bad things that could still happen. Being a part of the infant loss support community makes everything that is, in reality, pretty rare, seem so much more common. Lately, I have been more anxious, generally, than I’ve ever been in my life (can you tell?) and this general feeling of dread and impending doom came with me into that room yesterday, even though I didn’t recognize it at the time. The ultrasound image we got of baby girl isn’t a good one. It’s actually pretty creepy. For some reason we didn’t get to see her whole silhouette like I imagined we would. He just showed us her head and face. I imagined feeling reassured by seeing her okay in there, but it just didn’t happen the way I thought it would. But again, my memory of what we did see on the screen is much darker than what happened in reality. N reminded me that we saw her hand pop up and give a wave. And that, although she looked a bit squished, we saw her profile and her nose and it was cute. We may have even “awww’d” a bit.
Our friends have a collection of multiple images from their ultrasounds. Literally a dozen pictures of their baby before she was born. We have nothing for this baby. The hospital where we go for ultrasounds doesn’t give out images like the regular clinics. This time we took a picture on our phones of the screen but the picture is disturbing. It’s just her face and she looks like a ghost; her eyes look like black holes. What if this is all we’ll ever have?
I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this or not, but I’ve been doing a mindfulness/CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) course through the maternal mental health department at the hospital where Odin was born. It’s two hours long, once a week for 8 weeks. It’s been challenging, but helpful. I’ve gained new perspective on thought patterns and how they relate to depression and anxiety. My biggest takeaways so far have to do with self-compassion (probably the hardest part for me) and really starting to believe and remember that thoughts are not facts. I haven’t been super diligent about meditating regularly, but there was a study done recently that shows that all you need to do to gain benefits from meditation is a 9-minute practice a day, which seems pretty doable. If it seems like I’m a mess, it’s because I probably am right now. But it doesn’t mean that I’m not working hard not to be a mess. It’s just that this is hard. PAL is not for the faint-hearted. I am grateful for all the support I have and also for this forum, which helps me work through and process what I’m feeling. And maybe you’re reading this and relating to the mess. If you are, I’m glad you know you’re not alone.