Thursday, 30 May 2019

No-one likes an anxious Agatha

When I was in primary school I had a tamagotchi named Roo; he was, despite being marketed as some form of electronic pet, I guess the closest thing I had ever had to a child at that time and I cared for him as if he was. Until one break time when I went to check on him. Looking back at me from my school tray was a bleary animated graphic of a tombstone on Roo's screen. Roo had died. For a nine year old child who had recently lost her grandfather, the death of Roo was nothing but a trigger into a whirring pit of dark thoughts.
Feeling loss is something that, unfortunately, our family has had more than it's lifetime supply of. Grieving is something that I feel darkly familiar with and while it's horrible to feel it, I've gone through it's mental processes a few times over and come out the other side more experienced. Fearing or anticipating loss feels like a different ball game, however. When I became pregnant, anxiety and fear grew like a disease in my head and it's something that hasn't ever left.

I pissed on approximately 11 pregnancy tests within the first week of finding out I was pregnant and this didn't slow down throughout the first trimester. I imagined that inside me was a lone egg wobbling around in an egg box and so I became worried about the smallest things pushing on my belly. I genuinely felt like TIGHTS were going to end my pregnancy. I was counting down the seconds until the first scan so that I could finally take a breath and stop panicking. I remember trying to distract myself from that whirring pit of dark thoughts and I focused on the mottled, stumpy hands of the nurse as she squeezed the jelly onto my stomach, so slap dash, like it was the 200th burger she was preparing that day. Seeing Rivers tiny frogman body writhing around on the screen was just as elating as they tell you it's going to be and it gave me the reassurance I was craving - firstly, that there was actually a baby in there and I hadn't just taken it too far with the digestives and secondly, he was fine.

He was fine.

Except now all I did was worry I would kill the little frogman. I worried I would fall down any steps I came into contact with or eat the wrong sort of fucking cheese. I worried that the dog would jump at me and somehow impale me with his 2cm claws and immediately kill my baby. Nothing eased my worry because my worries were ridiculous and I couldn't tell people that they were genuine worries because then I would just be the crazy pregnant woman that everyone talked about when I walked out the room. We had a gender scan at 16 weeks and I can honestly say it was the first time I've cried in reaction to seeing a willy and it still isn't the smallest one I've ever seen. Now we knew he was a boy and Jason no longer had to lie about being happy with a girl and everything was fine. The twenty week scan came and went; all his organs were cooking away perfectly like a sweet baby omelette, he was the perfect size and my pregnancy continued to be textbook.

Except all I did was worry he would die.

Leading up to the birth, I went heavy on my research and smashed through about 20 episodes of One Born Every Minute in a straight run. I was fully prepared for anything that was going to happen to me/leak from my body and I was convinced that once he was here and I could hold him, I could stop worrying. Nothing in childbirth is predictable and everything can change in a heartbeat but I got the birth I wanted; I was in the water and didn't have any intervention, it was just me and him. And it fucking terrified me. My recollection of birth is a bit muddled but amongst the waiting and the surges of pain and the shitting myself (Jason likes me to mention this highlight at every opportunity) I remember worrying he wouldn't be alive. When he came out, there was a long delay before he cried and I think the relief upon hearing him finally project a noise was enough to make me shit myself again (I didn't. Lightning doesn't strike twice). Childbirth, no matter how well or badly it goes, is a TRAUMA and I was just so glad he was here and he was fine.

Except now all I do is worry. I worry that if he's not with me he'll choke or fall or drown or be crushed or be stabbed or be burnt. Even trusting Jason, his father, his BIOLOGICAL FATHER to look after him alone was a real challenge for me. If I have to leave him with someone, every irrational fear I can feel will enter and won't exit my head. I have spent many nights unable to sleep, panicking that he will be in a car crash if he gets driven somewhere by somebody else. Me being unable to leave him has prevented Jason and I going out on countless occasions but thankfully he's been the most understanding and supportive person in the world and has never pressured me into leaving River when I'm feeling anxious about it - usually because the compensation for a missed date night is Dominos and Netflix aka the dream.
Feeling like this has in turn made me feel so much guilt. There are so many women who go through baby loss or fertility complications or birth complications - things that would warrant this kind of worrying and protectiveness and I've often felt like a fraud who has no reason to be so anxious. But I guess if I feel it then I feel it and no amount of reasoning or guilting is going to change it.

Every parent worries about their child to an extent but I'm fairly certain I'm well above average on the worry scale. The anxiety I feel when I leave him is painful for me and I'm hoping it'll become easier to cope with as time goes on. But for now, I'll still dread opening up that school tray at break time.


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