Anxiety At Large

hello-my-name-is-anxiety-1I haven’t updated you guys about surgery scheduling or anything else recently because I’ve been battling the anxiety monster. Like, we are in a full-on boxing match over here. And I’m losing. I’ve never kept it secret that I struggle with anxiety. I see a therapist, I visualize, I go to acupuncture weekly, I do yoga (when I’m not being a sloth). All of those things help. They keep it under wraps most of the time. But sometimes, man. Sometimes it’s rough.

Right now is one of those times.

Having to leave the hospital sans surgery two weeks ago really freaked me out more than I realized. It’s been looming over me, and the thoughts are spiraling: Will I get through it? Will something terrible befall me? Will it ever happen? Will it keep getting rescheduled until the end of time? Does that hospital have bad juju?

I was able to get the surgery rescheduled for this Thursday. This was a week earlier than what I had originally thought, so I was happy. Right around when I found that out, I started getting post-nasal drip, which is usually the tell-tale sign of a cold for me. Eff, I thought. Are you kidding me? Doctors really don’t like to do surgeries when patients have a cold. They like the immune system to be tip-top, and they want the airways to be completely open. This makes sense, obviously. So then it became a waiting game of will-I-get-sick-and-have to-reschedule-my surgery. And the anxiety just went downhill from there.

I went to the doctor yesterday because I having some chest tightness and achiness. I figured it was just from the post-nasal drip, but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t something more sinister, especially since I have asthma. The doctor listened to my lungs and said they sounded completely clear, but I seemed to be taking longer to exhale than normal, so he figured I was having a minor asthma flare up. He thought this, and the post-nasal drip (that’s such a gross term, by the way. Sorry for repeating it 65 times in one post), were caused by allergies. He said I had no swollen lymph nodes or anything else to indicate that I was sick. Lettie has a cold right now, so I am skeptical of this, but I really am not having any other cold symptoms. He put me on a “burst” of steroids to help with the asthma. He said I should be good to go for the surgery as long as my lungs still sounded clear on Thursday. He sounded really confident about this. So I felt better. For like 2.5 seconds. The steroids seemed to be working. I still had major PND (Does that sound less icky? Maybe a little.), but my chest weirdness was gone.

But anxiety, it doesn’t give a sh*t what doctors think.

I texted Dr. V. (my surgeon) after my appointment to see if the steroids were fine to take before surgery. He said they were. I then talked to him today. He asked me about my symptoms. I told him the tightness in my chest was gone, but I still had my friend PND. He said if I have any trouble breathing we should reschedule. I assured him I didn’t have any trouble, and he agreed that I sounded fine. He told me to call him tomorrow to check in.

After that phone conversation I worked myself into a panic attack. I somehow managed to get my work done, but I was freaking out all afternoon. I called Tim and could barely keep it together. He was all, “What? That convo with Dr. V sounded fine. It sounded like things are pretty much a go. It also sounds like he cares about you, which is a good thing.” All true, but I was out of control at this point.

All afternoon I felt burning hot. I was sure I had a fever. But when I finally got home and took my temp it was 97.6 degrees. No fever in sight. Then I could feel my chest aching again. Was this from the post nasal drip? Or from the anxiety? My guess is anxiety, but what if it wasn’t?

And so on and so forth.

Logically, post nasal drip is not a reason to reschedule surgery. I know this. And even if it does get rescheduled, so? It’s not the end of the world. I mean, I’d really prefer to not have this procedure looming over me anymore, since it triggered the worst case of anxiety I’ve had in years. Still, it’s not a reason to freak the eff out.

But anxiety doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t listen to reason. It doesn’t care.

It’s mean. It’s a monster. And some days it wins.

Hospital Ultrasound Today

Yesterday I started experiencing ovary pain, more on my left side than right. I emailed the nurses at my clinic to ask if that was weird (I didn’t think it was considering I’d recently pumped my ovaries full of drugs, but wanted to double check). They said that my doctor wanted me to come in for an ultrasound this morning. So I did. Everything looked the same. Baby was still off to the left. She pointed out the gestational sac, the yolk sac and then the embryo. I didn’t see a heartbeat, but I think at 5 weeks 5 days it’s probably still too early. Everything was measuring as it should be. My ovaries were large, but not filled with fluid. She said the pain was likely just my ovaries still being enlarged. But then she said that she wanted me to go to the hospital to get scanned with more high-tech equipment since the baby is eccentrically located. She said that she still doesn’t really think anything is wrong, but that she wants to be cautious and get a second opinion.

Woo boy. The hospital scan is today at 2:30. Ugh. I’m nervous. I could really use some good thoughts/vibes/prayers/juju around 2:30 today if you can spare it.

On top of this, Lettie was puking all night last night, and I have a cold and a UTI. So I’m just in general feeling exhausted and freaked out. Shit’s feeling ominous right about now.

Fingers crossed that whoever does the scan agrees with my doctor and sees nothing to worry about! Gulp.

Another Day, Another Hospital Stay

Last Monday, I rammed my abdomen into the corner of a table. It hurt, but I wasn’t doubled over in pain or anything. I decided to call the midwives, just as a precaution. The nurse there told me that I needed to go to the hospital to be monitored.

So off I went. I was laughing about it as I left, saying that I’m so clumsy I’d probably be at hospital every three days for a fall.

Ha freaking ha.

I arrived at the hospital around 3 p.m. Once I got hooked up to the monitors, they saw that I was contracting every three to five minutes. And that Baby’s heart rate was dipping slightly with each contraction. Because these things could be a sign of placental abruption, they decided to keep me overnight. They also wanted to make sure I wasn’t in labor, so they checked to see if I was dilated. I was, but only 1 centimeter.

Twice the next morning, once around 6 a.m. and once around 7 a.m. the Fish’s heart rate dropped for a couple of minutes each time, which obviously is not good. The doctor came in and told me that I might have to deliver before I left the hospital. But first, more monitoring. They also rechecked my dilation and it was still holding steady at 1 cm. So that was the good news—I wasn’t going into labor, at least not on my own.

But, um, holy shit.

They officially admitted me at this point and moved us to a (much more comfortable) private room. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink. I was hooked up to monitors and an IV. There was nothing do but chill.

As one hour bled into the next, I found myself analyzing the rhythms of my daughter’s heartbeat. The sound changed depending on how close to the monitor her heart was. Sometimes it sounded like a galloping racehorse, hooves barreling down a track. I loved this one because it made me feel like she was strong. Sometimes it sounded like a crazy six-beat cadence. One-two-three, one-two-three. This is the one I heard the most often. I realized at some point that I had started putting words to this cadence, like calming chant or a mantra: I-love-you, I-love-you.

And that’s how we passed the night. Tim asleep in a lounge chair. The Little Fish beating away. And me drifting in an out of consciousness in the comfort of her heartbeat.

I-love-you, I-love-you.

In the morning, they proclaimed that she had done so well on the monitors for 24 hours that it was safe to take her off for a while. I was so glad to not have those monitors strapped to me anymore, but I missed the sound of her heart.

They eventually let us go home that afternoon, with strict instructions to come back should I experience any pain, bleeding or contractions every five minutes for longer than an hour. For now, the baby would stay safely inside of me. This was Wednesday.

Fast forward to Thursday. Around 12 p.m., I started having contractions again. I have them a lot, so I didn’t think anything of it. Around 3, they were still going strong, so I decided to time them. They came every five minutes like clockwork. But still, this wasn’t out of the ordinary, so I gave it a while. Five hours later, they were still every five minutes, so I put a call into the midwives. She was like, “I’m really sorry, but you have to go back to the hospital.”

Back to the hospital? Sure, why not? After monitoring me for two hours there, the doctor said her heart rate was dipping again with each contraction. She suspected I had a small tear in the placenta that was causing this. She basically told us that I was on the fence—things weren’t looking bad enough for me to deliver a premature baby, but not good enough to let me go home. She suggested a growth scan in the morning to make sure the Fish was developing normally. If she was small, it could be an indicator that the placenta wasn’t providing her with the nutrients she needed.

So we passed another night. Tim sleeping, this time in an upright chair, and me listening to Baby’s heartbeat.

I-love-you, I-love-you.

In the morning, a new doctor came in and said they wanted to transfer me to labor and delivery to do something called a contraction stress test. This is where they give you Pitocin—a labor-inducing drug—until you get four contractions in 10 minutes. If the baby’s heart rate doesn’t dip at all during these frequent contractions, that means the placenta is giving her adequate nutrients and she’s deemed good to go. If her heart rate drops, that means delivery the same day. Apparently, this is the gold standard of testing. If the baby passes it, they feel confident that all is well.

Tim and I looked at each other, horrified. Labor and delivery? Pitocin? We’d both heard scary-ass things about Pitocin. What if it threw my body into real labor? What if it hurt? What if it hurt the baby? What if we had to give birth to a premature baby? What if, what if, what if. Two different doctors came into talk to us and answer all of our questions. They were great, but I was still scared.

Fortunately for me, the nurse they assigned to us was awesome. She wheeled me into labor and delivery, hooked me up to Pitocin and did her best to calm my fears. She talked to me the whole time. Even though my contractions were more intense with the Pitocin, I was laughing with the nurse and Tim, so I barely even noticed. The doctor also poked her head in to see how I was doing. The whole thing took maybe 45 minutes and Baby passed with flying colors! Not a single dip in the heart rate to be had.

Once they were sure the Pitocin was out of my system and my contractions returned to their normal level, they let us leave. The doctor said it’s likely that I might contract every 5-6 minutes for the rest of my pregnancy. She basically said that frequent contractions are normal for me, and to stop timing them. As long as there is no bleeding or water breaking, don’t come in for contractions unless they hurt so bad I can’t talk and am clutching Tim’s arm in pain.

We’re back at home again. I hope the next time we’re at the hospital it’s for real. I hope the next time, we get to meet our little girl.

The last few days were crazy. Plenty of fodder for an anxious mind, to be sure. But I’m not going to let myself go down that road. Nope. I’m choosing to believe that everything will be ok. And I do believe that. I’m strong, Baby’s strong and I now have a lot of confidence in the amazing doctors and nurses at the hospital.

And I’ve heard Baby’s heart. I know it intimately now. Its fierce little beats assure me that this tale will indeed have a happy ending.

I-love-you, I-love-you.

Broken Record: Anxiety, On Repeat

The Anxiety Monster
[image credit]

35 weeks. Still anxious.

I have to get real here for a moment: I’m really struggling.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some peaceful spells since I last posted about feeling anxious. But the last few days, whew. Doozies.

On the one hand, I have less to be anxious about than I did just a few weeks ago. If the bambina comes now, she’ll likely be totally fine. That is amazing!

But for some reason, that’s not helping me much. I keep imagining worst-case scenarios in my head. Every time I hear of a stillbirth, it puts me in a bad place for days. Mind you, I do not seek out these stories of tragedy, but a few make their way to me all the same.

I cannot imagine losing it all this close to game time. The thought terrifies me.

An anxious mind is a scary place to be trapped in.

Does this sound dramatic? Anxiety is very dramatic. That’s one of the things I hate about it. I dislike drama queens and when I’m anxious that’s what I feel like—a big, ole drama queen.

I’m trying to work my way out of it. I started doing a visualization adapted from Julia Indichova. It goes like this: imagine your worst fear. Think of an image associated with that fear. Watch it be engulfed by fire and a then huge flood of water (how’s that for drama, eh?). After you’re satisfied that the flood and fire have obliterated your worst fear, you visualize yourself taking three steps forward. Then you imagine a successful pregnancy, a smooth labor and holding a healthy baby in your arms. Tim and I have been doing this together. So far it’s not helped much, but I’m hoping that after time and repetition, it will.

I’ve also started talking to the baby more. Today I told her about all the different seasons and what I love about each one. This really helps a lot in the moment. It reminds me that the baby is here with me now and she’s just fine. And it makes me happy to think of all the things I’ll get to watch her experience for the first time.

So I’m working on it. But the fact is that I want to hold this baby in my arms so much I ache for it. I want to know that she’s safe. I want to see proof of it with my own eyes.

And yes, I know, I’ll worry about her even after she’s here, etc. etc. But that is a bridge I’ll cross when I get to it. Baby steps, people.

So tell me. If any of you felt anxiety at the end of your pregnancy, what helped you? Or if you had a non-pregnancy-related anxiety bout, what tricks guided you through it?

And even if you have no pearls of wisdom to offer, I’d love a shout out of support. I could really use it right about now.

Until then, I’ll be taking it one day at a time…

30 Weeks: Anxiety City

I thought the worrying was supposed to let up after the “dangerous” first trimester. No? Ok, but then definitely after a healthy 20-week ultrasound. Still no? Well, for sure after that first baby kick.



If anything, I’m more anxious during the third trimester than anytime before. Why?

I have no idea.

If anyone wants to psychoanalyze that, take your best shot. It makes no sense to me. It’s the final stretch. Everything has been going smoothly up until this point. The chances of something bad happening are rare.

Yet. I worry. And worry.

And worry.

And I am exhausted from all of the worrying.

The cycle of “what if” thinking is unrelenting. I’m flying across the country this week. What if something happens during the flight? I haven’t felt Baby move all day. What if something’s wrong? I’m having tons of Braxton Hicks contractions. What if I’m in premature labor? Oh my gosh, I’m so worried about everything. What if that hurts the baby? And so on and so on and so on.

I’d love some wine. Or a Xanax. But alas, it’s not in the cards right now. I’m trying to fight the anxiety by going to therapy and acupuncture and doing things that relax me, like reading and watching bad TV. But none of that seems to be working lately.

I guess the only thing to do is to power through and attempt to beat back the anxiety monster with a stick. Stay back, you nasty little thing!

On a much lighter and more awesome note, I had my first of two baby showers this weekend! Tim’s mom, Eileen, threw a shindig for Tim’s side of the family on Sunday. It was wonderful to be around so many people who were so excited about the Little Fish’s arrival. Eileen even made Baby a beautiful quilt! She also periodically sent pictures of the party to my mom so she could feel like she was there. How thoughtful is that? She’s pretty much the bees-knees, that Eileen. Check out some pics below:

There’s A Monster At The End Of This Book was my favorite book when I was a wee one. Eileen gave Little Fish Tim’s copy of this book from when he was a kid. She’s been saving it all these years!
Me and Auntie Meg
Tim’s aunt and cousin made a beautiful baby scrapbook.
Each page of the scrapbook had a coordinating book that went with it. This was the “daddy” page.
The quilt! Baby’s going to love staring at all of those colors and patterns. Look at the happy expression on Eileen’s face!

And finally, here’s the requisite 30 week pic. Kind of hard to see that belly with all of the black.

Stop It Right There

Don't even think about it.

I’ve joked or hinted about this before, but I don’t think I’ve ever really laid it out there: I struggle with anxiety. Like, a lot.

I spent quite a bit of time last winter being anxious about all sorts of things. While I was happy in my new marriage, everything else felt a little off. I was unhappy with my job. I was worried about an enlarged lymph node in my groin. I wasn’t getting a period. I was drinking way too much and eating too little. And because I was too skinny for my body type, I felt uncomfortably cold all the time. So what did I do about all of that? I threw my energy into calorie counting to make sure I maintained my slim physique. Naturally. It seemed logical at the time. I basically focused on that one thing and let all of those other concerns grow into big, giant monsters. I was the epitome of passive.

Then I don’t know what happened. There was no ah-ha moment, no light shining down from the sky, but one day I decided that enough was enough. I called a therapist and set up an appointment, I visited an acupuncturist and I made a vow to go to yoga more often. I got a biopsy of the questionable lymph node (it turned out fine). I saw a specialist about the missing period. I took charge of my life again. Phew.

But what scares me is how quick I got to that bad place and how hard it was to leave. Anxiety totally had me pinned and hog tied before I even realized something was amiss. Anxiety is a sneak. All it takes is one unchecked thought to start a spiral of badness.

Which is why I must be vigilant. I need to stop the anxious thoughts before they get out of control. There’s many ways I attempt to do this. Sometimes it’s as simple as visualizing a stop sign when the first thought creeps in. Sometimes I read a book. Or go to yoga. Or snuggle with my dogs. I’ve by no means perfected this nip-it-in-the-bud technique, but I’m getting better. Because I’m not going back to the place where I was last winter. I refuse. There is too much wonderful life to live.

So here’s my question to you. What do you do to stay calm when things feel overwhelming? Do you have any tricks up your sleeve? I could always use a few more in my arsenal.