Miscarriage at 9 weeks: what to expect

Okay, first off, I will say that everyone’s miscarriage experience is going to be unique to them, and I am by no means telling you what should happen or how you should feel. But I know that when I started miscarrying, I was hunting the internet for descriptions of other peoples’ experiences in an effort to somehow arm myself against what was going to happen to me. So I am going to share this day-by-day description of what happened to me physically, in the hopes that it helps someone.

Day 1: Some brown ‘spotting’ in the evening – a few sort of strands of pale brown that came away when I wiped.

Day 2: Morning: Some medium brown discharge when wiping. A splotch of it, about 3cm in diameter. Late afternoon: some small black/red sticky congealed bits, and a bit of fresh red blood in with the brown.

Day 3: Morning: More stringy/gloopy black/red stuff when wiping. Much larger strands. Had scan at EPU which confirmed 6 weeks growth rather than 9 weeks. A little fresh red blood after the scan, maybe dislodged by the internal scan? Then in the evening, some mild cramping, quite a bit of brown blood (needed to change a sanitary towel a few times during the day – not soaked, but enough blood to warrant changing after going to the loo), a feeling of bloatedness. (I went to watch my brother play a gig in a city an hour away from me on the evening of this day, and was totally fine.)

Day 4: Morning: passed a 2p-sized clot of red/black stuff in the toilet. Then some more brown blood. Some more black goopy stuff in the evening. Blood mostly brown.

Day 5: Blood dark red, more like a period. Not lots. Mild aching feeling on and off. A little more goopy stuff.

Day 6: At about midday I had cramps that weren’t terrible but made me think, ‘uh-oh’, so I went and took two ibuprofen. Then (thank god) my son went down for a nap, and I spent the next two hours moving between my bed and the toilet. During this time I experienced lots of rushes of wet red blood, which felt a bit like I was wetting myself, and which because they were quite big and fast managed to overshoot my pad a couple of times and soak through my knickers and trousers – even though my pad wasn’t saturated every time, it just wasn’t big enough to catch where the blood was running to, if that makes sense. Fortunately I had put a towel down in the bed. I changed my pad about three times in two hours – it was only totally saturated once, the other times it was just messy enough that I wanted a new one. Spent quite a lot of time just sitting on the toilet, bleeding into it, and occasionally feeling clumps of stuff slithering out. The clumps were jelly like, blackish purplish red, and some of them were quite big – like 5 or 6 cm across. When I wiped, more clumps of stuff came away. I inspected everything that I could but couldn’t see anything that looked like a sac to me.

After a couple of hours of this, my son woke up, so I had to go and play with him and I was able to. I just sat on a towel (good job too because I had another little rush of blood which went through my leggings in a couple of spots!). I did squat a bit too; I felt that that would help stuff come out of me. About three hours after the big bleeding started, it all tailed off again. The cramps went away. I was still bleeding in the evening but it was just fresh wet red blood with a very small amount of clots, and there was not loads and loads of it any more.

Also, to add: I was barely in any pain the whole time. I used to have HORRIFIC period pain before I had my little boy, but I have had about 10 periods since having him and haven’t had pain with them since. I do wonder if this would have been a lot more painful if I’d gone through it before having my son, as giving birth seems to have done something to me in that I no longer have painful cramps.

Day 7: I dropped my son off at nursery while wearing a night-time pad, and bled through the pad and my trousers AND the fricking towel I had put on the car seat to protect it, so the car seat is now a bit stained! Thankfully I had a long coat with me so I managed to rush in and out of the supermarket to grab a load of maternity pads. Went home and put on maternity pad and completely soaked it in less than 2 hours, and passed more clots (at this point I phoned the GP). It slowed down again but I continued feeling quite a bit of pressure in my pelvic area so felt wary that it might start up again.

Day 8: Had some cramps in the early morning, got worse when I got up around 6.45am. Went down for breakfast but couldn’t face it. Took two ibuprofen (only my second lot since it all started so I think I may have got off lightly). Lay in bed for about 45 minutes, cramping in waves and breathing through the cramps. Felt like the really bad period pains I used to get in terms of intensity, although I didn’t feel much pain, just the intense sensation of cramping. I guess it was rather like the contractions I had in labour, too. Because of this I went to the toilet, convinced I was going to end up pushing out the sac, but I didn’t. Just a more fresh red blood, and a couple of extremely small clots. For a couple of hours afterwards I did experience some light dizzy spells, but I had eaten ‘breakfast’ (a couple of digestive biscuits, some toast and a jam doughnut – classy) late so that may have contributed. Had the dizzy spells worsened I would have rung the doctor.

Day 9: Quite a bit of red blood all day, having to change towels fairly regularly – I would say this was more akin to the start of a normal period. Blood is quite slippery, as if mixed in with discharge maybe? Switched back to ordinary sanitary pads from maternity.

Day 10: Went back to EPU for scan to see how it is progressing. Blood this morning was bright red and still like heavy period. The scan showed no sac/pregnancy, but still a thick lining and ‘something’ sitting on the cervix waiting to come away. I think all the prodding with the internal scan stimulated things to get going again, as I started cramping in the car on the way back from hospital, and just lost a couple of pretty large clots in the toilet. Switched back to maternity pads!!!!

Day 11: Like a heavy period. Dark red blood.

Day 12: Like a medium period. Red blood, some browny.

Day 13: More of the same.

Day 14: Passed a couple of very small clots when wiping after bowel movement. Dark brown blood, like the end of a period.

Day 15: Pale brown spotting. Switched to pant liners.

Day 16: Minimal pale brown spotting.

Day 17: Minimal pale brown spotting.

I then had 9 days off before… a period! My first period after the miscarriage was definitely not normal. It was dark brown to begin with, then red, with a few small stringy clots. It only lasted four days, and wasn’t anywhere near as heavy as normal – but I guess my body had had barely any time to build up lining since the miscarriage.

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Embracing the miscarriage

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Image ‘Krapfen mit Puderzucker’ from Marco Verch on Flickr via CC 2.0

At some point, when it’s all over, I will do an informative blog post about what happened and what to expect if you miscarry at this stage. At the moment, though, I’m 8 days in and it’s still happening. I think it has begun to tail off a bit… But then again, I thought that yesterday and then went and dropped Squidge off at nursery and had a blood-loss catastrophe that went through my night-time pad, trousers, towel I had put down to protect the car seat, and of course wrecked the car seat.

Should’ve sat on a bin bag. I see this in hindsight.

Anyway, thank the stars, I had a long coat with me, so was able to dash into the supermarket and load a basket with maternity pads, night-time pads, pregnancy tests (for checking that the pregnancy hormones are going down as they should), and a five-pack of jam doughnuts. Bless the lady on the till, who looked at this frankly weird array of items on the conveyor belt and said nothing.

Obviously bleeding copiously through several layers of fabric is not ideal. However, I do generally feel that I’m coping pretty well. You know, I went to that concert on my own, and I went to the aftershow party, and also I cooked dinner for seven people the other day after spending half the afternoon losing loads of blood and oogly looking tissue (don’t worry hygiene fans, I did wash my hands thoroughly before getting to that veg prep). Mind you, I do realise that I am lucky in that I’m not finding it particularly painful, and that so far there don’t seem to have been any complications.

I’m also lucky that I don’t feel too sad – somehow, I have accepted it and I am completely okay with it. I don’t know if this is my body’s self-defence mechanisms kicking in and detaching me from the experience so that I don’t totally crumble… But I don’t think that’s the case. I think that I have just genuinely got it all in good perspective. Firstly, and most importantly by a country mile, I’m already a mum, to a lovely little boy – lucky, lucky me! Secondly, I know I can get pregnant, and quickly at that, so this is very unlikely to have been my last pregnancy. Thirdly, I know of a lot of people to whom some horrendously crappy things have happened around babies, and none of those things are what is happening to me right now. Fourthly, there was clearly something wrong with the baby which has caused a spontaneous miscarriage, so that trite little phrase ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ truly does apply.

Also – and these might sound like awful things to say, but I’m thinking them, so I’m going to say them anyway – we have some renovation work happening on the house and it would be much less stressful to have a newborn after it is completed rather than in the middle of it all; and I am working on a novel and this will mean I have at least a few months more to finish it. OBVIOUSLY I would rather we had had a lovely healthy little baby in November, regardless of unfinished kitchens and unfinished novels, but that’s sadly not going to be the case, so I am searching for every shred of silver lining in this little cloud.

I feel so grateful for my gorgeous supportive friends who have all called and texted regularly the last few days to check in on me, my loving little boy who came and gave me kisses this morning when I was having bad cramps and had to lie down, and my husband, with whom I hope to make another beautiful baby before too long. And in a weird way, I’m grateful to be having the experience of miscarrying, because now I might be in a position to support other women I know who this might happen to in the future, and it also has made me sharply aware of what a bloody marvellous gift my son is. I’m sort of embracing the miscarriage. It’s working for me.

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway… during a miscarriage!

So this week, I started experiencing some brown spotting at 9 weeks pregnant. I rang the midwife, who said to call back if it turned red. It turned a bit red. And there were a few small black clots. I called back, and she booked me in for a scan the next day.

The scan revealed a pregnancy of 6 weeks. There was no way that my dates were wrong, because of how long ago I took a pregnancy test, but unfortunately the hospital protocol meant that the nurse couldn’t confirm it was a pregnancy loss, and she booked me in for a scan the following week to check if there was any growth. She also wouldn’t discuss miscarriage management options with me, because that would happen at the next appointment.

I went home and started bleeding a bit more, and losing some (sorry) blackish gunky stuff.

And then I was in a quandary. My brother was playing in a big concert that evening, in a city an hour and a half away from us, and I was supposed to be going on my own (sort of – friends would be there, but not seated with me) to see him. I had planned to drive to my friend’s (an hour away in slightly the wrong direction) and then she was going to drive us both to the concert. I had planned to stay at hers that night and drive home in the morning – ironically, to a midwife appointment, which I now had to cancel.

But I was exhausted, and worried about the hour’s drive to my friend’s house. And then there was the not knowing what to expect – what if the miscarriage started properly and I ended up being at the concert in pain?

I dithered so much that I missed the window of opportunity to catch a lift with my friend. My only option now was to catch the train up to the city, and book a hotel for the night, as trains wouldn’t be running after the concert finished. This would be expensive, and I am not earning much money at the moment.  And how would I get to the hotel after the concert? I didn’t want to have to walk through the city at night alone – something bad might happen to me. So now I was worrying about pain and expense and tiredness and rapists and murderers and I couldn’t think straight and I couldn’t see what to do for the best, and I just wanted someone to tell me what to do!

I asked my husband, and he said to stay at home and look after myself. ‘But,’ I said, ‘I really want to go and see my brother play. This is a unique concert and I won’t see him do anything like this again.’ So my husband said to go. Just book a hotel and go.

I texted my brother (who knew about the miscarriage by now) and he said he would walk me to the hotel, so that was another worry cancelled out. So I got into a decent outfit and threw a bit of make-up on, packed a light bag (we’re talking T-shirt, knickers, toothbrush), kissed son and husband goodbye and rushed off to the train station.

It was amazing. It was so much the right choice for me. I got to see my brother doing his thing up on stage, and he looked so cool and relaxed and was so fantastic. He dedicated the last song of his set to me, which took me by surprise and made me a bit weepy, but also put an enormous grin on my face because I just felt so loved. I went to the aftershow party, and hung out with the other musicians… I did actively think, ‘This is a pretty weird thing to be doing while having a miscarriage.’ And it was weird. And kind of darkly funny.  And totally okay, because it was the right thing for me.

My brother walked me to my hotel (through a crowd of autograph hunters, just to add to the surrealness of the situation) as promised. I got to my room and sank into my beautifully clean white sheets. The cramps were ramping up a bit, and my belly was a little bloated and tender. I will admit to you now, I did consult Dr Google on whether or not a bloated belly during a miscarriage was normal (okay, so I had visions of me bleeding internally and dying alone in the hotel room overnight). Dr Google was semi-reassuring. I was still anxious about having some kind of medical emergency though. So here is what I did:

  • I moved the hotel phone as close as I could to me on the bedside table, and I checked which number I had to dial for reception (0), and I checked that I would know which button that was in the dark (bottom centre).
  • I texted my husband and told him the name of the hotel I was staying at, and the room number, and told him if he hadn’t heard from me by 9am the next day to get someone to check my room.
  • I set my phone alarm so that I wouldn’t accidentally sleep past 9am and freak my husband out.

Then I turned out the light and went to sleep.

I did not have a medical emergency. I did not bleed out in the night. I had a lovely, restful, uninterrupted sleep, and then I got up and had a lovely hot shower, and then I went into the city and had a lovely coffee and a pain aux raisins while I handwrote some thoughts and feelings about the experience of miscarrying.

I am so glad that I did not let my fear hold me back from seeing my brother. I am so glad that I did not let my fear stop me from enjoying a night in a hotel room all to myself. (I am also really glad that I did not properly google what to expect from a miscarriage before I decided to get on the train, because in all honesty if I had read some of those stories beforehand, I NEVER would have planned to stay in a hotel on my own!)

So far the miscarriage hasn’t been too bad. I was kind of prepared for it emotionally because I had felt so few symptoms of pregnancy that I felt in my bones something was wrong. And physically, thus far, it’s mostly been like a really weird period. I am aware that it is likely to get worse, and that there will be some horrid bits – but now that I’ve read up on it, I feel prepared for that. I also feel that I know what the difference is between a miscarriage bleed that can be dealt with at home and one that requires a trip to A&E. Obviously, Dr Google can be very bad for people with health anxiety, but used judiciously she does provide you with knowledge, and I find that for me, knowledge is usually power.

I feel like I understand my anxiety much better now, too. I know why I’m finding this miscarriage fairly easy (there will be a reason for why the baby didn’t grow that has NOTHING to do with me – I was not responsible, I was not in control, it could not have been my fault),  and I know what will be difficult for me in the future: if I get pregnant again, not spending every other second worrying that I’m going to miscarry again. But that’s okay; I will cross that bridge if and when I come to it.

Mostly I’m pretty proud that I’m handling this calmly and, although I am sad, I have the whole thing in good perspective.

Pregnancy update: 5 weeks

At the moment, I don’t really feel pregnant. I don’t feel sick, I don’t feel tired. I don’t have any physical evidence that I am ‘with child’ except for three peed-on sticks hidden in my dresser drawer. I have to get those sticks out and look at them every couple of days just to reassure myself that I am not making this whole thing up.

I’ve had a few symptoms. At about 4 weeks I had a few dizzy spells over a couple of days and felt really tired. At about 4.5 weeks my boobs felt weird and heavy for a day or two. I’ve been smelling stuff a lot more vividly than usual. I also went through a few days of experiencing desperate, insatiable hunger. But now I’m at 5.5 weeks, all those symptoms have gone! Poof! I think it’s quite common for women to feel totally normal at this point in pregnancy (and I didn’t throw up once when I was pregnant with my son) but it’s making me feel really fraudulent!

Unsurprisingly, I’m also already catastrophising. What if I have a missed miscarriage? What if the screening results are bad? What if I get cancer while I’m pregnant? (Yep, honestly, my brain went there already.) Now, I know these thoughts are likely to be because my hormones are out of whack and my anxiety is up and my brain’s trying to scramble for control over a situation I can’t really control. I also know that they’re not that crazy – lots of people have thoughts like this in early pregnancy. I was spiralling out of control worrying about things earlier today, and I just told myself: Stop. If something bad happens, you will deal with it. Until then, you don’t need to do anything at all.  Sounds obvious – to cross a bridge only when you come to it – but sometimes my overactive imagination needs reminding that it is only that: imagination. Not reality.

I’ve decided to have a Harmony test, which screens for Trisomy disorders (Downs, Edwards and Patau Syndrome), at around 10 or 11 weeks. Last pregnancy we had one at 14 weeks, after receiving ‘low risk’ odds on the NHS that didn’t actually seem all that low to us (about 1:1000). We found it extremely reassuring to have the more accurate screening test done, and we have decided that this time we would like it done as early as possible. My mind has obviously already gone to: What if it’s a positive result? But… Bridges. Cross when you come to them, yes?

Struggling to hide my pregnancy from the in-laws who I live with. For those who haven’t read earlier in the blog, my husband and I and our son have bought a house jointly with some of his relatives, so we are living in a four-generation household. At the moment we are all sharing a kitchen and meals together, which means I am frequently being offered wine that I have to turn down! It also means that my in-laws bore witness to my ravenous phase a few days ago, and are probably also noticing my heightened anxiety around kitchen cleanliness (I’ve got a bit of a fear of getting food poisoning while pregnant). I think my mother-in-law may already have guessed. We are considering telling them soon, just because trying to hide it from people we live with is an added stress. And also because I think it’s important not to keep the first trimester a total secret: if something went wrong I wouldn’t want to grieve in silence.

In between all the worries and the wonderings, though, it’s been magical to just take the odd minute to rest my hand low on my belly and think about all the amazing biology going on down there. To envisage the first scan in a few weeks’ time. To imagine being heavily pregnant again. To run baby names through my head, and to imagine my son’s face the first time he meets his baby sibling. I’ve been crying over pregnancy announcements on YouTube – such a good way to waste time on the internet! – and wondering how we might tell our loved ones about this burgeoning new life. Happy times to come – fingers crossed.

Here we go again…

On Friday morning last week, I took a pregnancy test. My husband and I had made the decision to try for a second baby in the middle of Feruary. My period was due either that day or the day before, and I’d had no sign of it.

I hadn’t told my husband that I’d bought a test. He is far more laid back about these things than I am (there’s a surprise!) and his opinion is that one should wait for one’s period to be a few days late before ‘wasting’ a test. COME ON, HUSBAND! Who has that kind of willpower?! (Clue: not me.) Anyway, to avoid arguments, I had smuggled the test into the house a couple of days before under my gym sweatshirt, and hidden it in the bathroom.

Thursday night, I slept badly. Although with my first child, I fell pregnant straight away,  I didn’t have a lot of hope that the test would be positive this time round, because we hadn’t managed to do an awful lot of the obvious at the right time that month. I woke up at 3 am and was tempted to test, but thought it would be too early and that the hormone in my urine wouldn’t be strong enough. I tossed and turned until 5 am, then crept out of bed, leaving my husband sleeping, and went to the bathroom.

I really surprised myself at this point by getting the shakes. You know when you’re really excited and you’re kind of trembling and your mind is pinging all over the place? I could barely open the pregnancy test! Anyway, I peed on the thing, and then watched as the colour washed over the test window and the control line showed up. The rest of the test window faded to white. Three minutes ticked by, and my excitement died down. Negative. Not pregnant.

However. I couldn’t help but remember that with my first pregnancy, I threw away the test after the three minute window because it was also negative. Only… It wasn’t. Something made me fish it out of the bin two days later, and now it showed a faint positive line. I tested again that day, and I was definitely pregnant.

Now, I know full well that you’re not supposed to look at the tests outside a certain time frame. This is because, I think, of something called an ‘evaporation line’ where, as the urine dries, you can get a greyish line where the positive test result would be. However, upon re-reading the pregnancy test instructions, I saw that you were supposed to throw the test away if nothing had shown up after 15 minutes. So I figured I might as well wait a little longer before going back to bed.

And at around seven or eight minutes, something started to appear. I spent a lot of time squinting – was that a line? Was my imagination playing tricks on me? I took a couple of photos on my phone, just to be sure… And in the meantime, the line kept becoming more obvious… It wasn’t a strong result, but the test was definitely positive.

I crept back into my bedroom, and my husband asked where I’d been. I fessed up, and he gave me a kiss. He’s not one to get excited before time, and he was very cautious with our first pregnancy, but it was lovely to share that happy moment in the dark of the early morning.

It’s a funny thing, knowing that you’re pregnant but not really feeling anything yet. I have had a couple of brief dizzy spells, which I experienced early on in my previous pregnancy. And yesterday my boobs started to feel a bit… I don’t know… heavy? I’ve been reading through the notes I made on my pregnancy last time, and I know that at 6 or 7 weeks the nausea was only barely present, and I still wasn’t feeling pregnant at all. So I guess I’ve got a few more weeks yet of wandering around feeling TOTALLY NORMAL yet with all this AMAZING STUFF (potentially!) (hopefully!) going on inside me!

One of the things that’s different this time round is that I know a lot of what I’ve got to come. I know about the way my body will grow and stretch and ache. I know how hard it will be to find a comfortable sleeping position. I know about that weird breathless feeling I’ll get when I bend to try to get my shoes on when I’m heavily pregnant. I know that the birth isn’t likely to be the beautiful, connected-to-nature, candlelit water birth that I dreamed of last time round. I also know that life with a newborn can be pretty fraught (although I don’t know what it’s like when you add a toddler into that mix…)!

I did lie in my bed the other night feeling a genuine sensation of vertigo. Like I was  stepping off a precipice, and there was nothing I could do about it. I’m more scared this time than I was last time round, because I’m going into it with my eyes wide open. Yet, strangely, I’m more calm, too, because I know more about pregnancy and babies. And knowledge gives me control. And control is extraordinarily helpful for my anxiety.

I didn’t keep a diary of my thoughts and feelings last time round. I think I was a little superstitious about it – afraid that if I committed my heart to paper, I would be tempting fate. All I have now are posts I made on an anonymous pregnancy forum. I’ve copied and pasted them into one document, and I’m so grateful for those written-down scraps of my pregnancy – but they’re not as honest or as thorough as a proper diary or blog would have been. So, this time round, I’m going to do my best to make the time and space to sit here and record my whole experience of pregnancy. And yes, it’s early days, and something might go wrong – but you know what, if it does, then I would probably benefit from having an outlet for that, too.

Wish me luck!

An anxiety victory!

IMG_4520Hello everyone,

It’s been yonks since I wrote, yet again! This is partly because I have had an awful lot of freelance writing work on – which always takes it out of me more than editing – and partly because we are gearing up for our Big House Move. There has been a lot of packing happening in Casa Squidge!

The house move happens to coincide with the end of my talking therapies sessions: my last one is next Tuesday. I’ve been working on an Exposure and Response Prevention hierarchy to try and reduce my anxious responses / rituals to certain situations. My goal for the end of the sessions was to be able to clean out the chickens on my own, without my husband helping me, and without having to strip off all my clothes as ‘contaminated’ and take a shower afterwards.

To be honest, when I set that goal, I felt like it was pretty unattainable. At that point I was freaking out about salmonella on a daily basis. It was occupying a lot of my thoughts. I didn’t like Squidge or other children being out in the garden – I was worried that the chickens might somehow infect them with something. I hated going in the chicken run. I felt so dirty afterwards. I felt like the soles of my shoes and the palms of my hands were sort of glowing in my mind with all the bacteria they might have on them. It’s a weird way to describe it, I know – glowing – but it’s the best approximation of how I felt.

As I worked on my anxiety, I got a bit better with going in the run. I was able to go in and check on their food and water without getting worked up about it. In fact, somewhere around August, I was doing so well, that I figured I could just have a go at cleaning them out by myself.

This was a very bad plan.

I tried to ‘protect’ myself with a dust mask, but it didn’t fit properly and kept falling down, and also made my glasses steam up so that I couldn’t see properly. I broke a couple of eggs accidentally while I was raking out the straw, leading to a horrid sloppy yolky mess. I ended up hyperventilating, crying, shaking – oh god, it was so bad.

I went back to a lower rung on my hierarchy – letting my husband doing all the cleaning out, while I put in the clean straw afterwards.

Some time after the failed attempt, I spoke to my father-in-law about how hard I was finding looking after the chickens. He suggested that I buy myself a boiler suit that would protect my clothing, that I could just take off when I was done and chuck in the washing machine. This was a bloody brilliant suggestion. I bought one. Now I just had to summon up the courage to use it.

Well, this morning, I did it. My husband was out. Squidge was asleep. I got into my boiler suit, my gloves and my welly shoes. I let the chickens out of their pen to roam free around the garden, and I then I went into the shed and I got out my garden fork, rake and brush.

I monitored my anxiety levels the whole time. And you know what? I didn’t actually feel anxious at all. I felt a bit excited, actually. I took all of the old straw out of the hutch, and then I swept it out thoroughly. I didn’t have a scarf over my hair and I didn’t feel worried that it wasn’t protected. I put in some fresh straw, I topped up their feed, I scrubbed out their water dispenser and refreshed the water. I raked over the wood chip in their run.

Just as I’d finished, Squidge had woken up and I could hear him crying in his cot upstairs. I stepped into the laundry room, peeled off my boiler suit and put it straight in the washing machine. Then I washed my hands and went upstairs in the exact same clothes I had been wearing under the boiler suit, picked Squidge up, snuggled him, and got on with our morning together.

It’s funny. I found it so easy to clean out the chickens today that I can’t really see why I was such an anxious, hyperventilating mess just a few weeks ago. I almost feel like I can’t possibly have felt so awful – which makes me see how hard it can be for people who don’t suffer from anxiety to understand the behaviour of people that do!  But that was me. I really did feel that horrendous. And I have worked really damn hard to feel as confident and as calm as I felt this morning.

I’m not saying I’m fixed! I’m still worrying about things. But I am noticing A LOT how things that would have bothered the hell out of me before, aren’t bothering me now. Things like – the other week, I found grit in my bottled water. Previously would have immediately panicked: What if it’s poisonous? I should stop breastfeeding Squidge until I am sure I’ve not had any ill effects. What I actually did was did a quick Google to see if anyone else had experienced the same thing, then emailed the company a week later for their thoughts on what it could be (OK, still maybe a bit more of a reaction than your average person, but not unreasonable). The company said it was just mineral precipitation. Problem solved; no sleep lost.

I feel really good about myself and I feel really proud that I will be able to go to my final counselling session next week and tell my lovely counsellor that I achieved my top goal in my ERP hierarchy. Go me!

Facing a fear

IMG_4425I am afraid of going for walks in the countryside on my own.

Does that sound strange?

Here’s the thing: I like the idea of walks in the countryside, very much. In fact, I imagined I would do a lot of this on maternity leave. Me, baby, sling, trees. Muddy boots. Breastfeeding in a glade. Birdsong. Fresh air. Goodness.

What actually happened, was every time I thought about going out on my own for a walk, I also thought… But what if someone attacks me? What would happen to Squidge? And so, rather than going for a romantic walk in the woods, I would take Squidge to the boring old reservoir where there are always loads of dog walkers and I would feel safe.

Yesterday, though, I decided to face my fear.

We’re right on the cusp of autumn here at the moment, and the weather was this invigorating mix of heavy rain and sudden sunshine. As one rainstorm eased, I bundled Squidge in the car and drove him to a local nature reserve. We parked up, I wrestled Squidge into his waterproof coverall, popped him in the pushchair, and set off into the woods.

It was really beautiful.

But.

I probably spent the first ten minutes worrying about being attacked, and what I would do, and how I would protect Squidge, and wishing that he was old enough to be able to understand that he needed to run away and hide if I was attacked. Then I worried about, if he was old enough to run away and hide, how he would know that it was safe to come out, and how anybody would find him. No, I’m not even kidding. I was walking through the woods on this stunning day, with dripping leaves and starbursts of sunshine overhead, and I was running through unbelievably unlikely and distressing scenarios that couldn’t even happen right now because Squidge isn’t old enough.

Then we came upon a glade with a load of little log stepping-stones, and some rather enticing-looking sticks, and I freed Squidge from his pushchair. He ran around brandishing sticks that were bigger than his own self, and I took a few photos, and then he put one of the sticks in his mouth and I worried about that.

I worried about quite a few things in the woods, truth be told. Fungi and bacteria and ticks and strangers. BUT. Here is the key thing. I did NOT let it stop me from enjoying my time with Squidge. We jumped across the log stepping stones (well, I ‘jumped’ Squidge on his behalf). We chased each other around the glade. I pretended to be a big flapping bird to make him giggle. We crossed a little bridge and back again. Squidge spotted hawthorn berries and got terribly excited because he thought they might possibly be something good to eat, and then terribly cross because I wouldn’t let him eat them. We (OK, I) imagined ancient people walking through here with their children. I worried some of the time, yes, but I also spent a good portion of the time feeling very at peace and happy.

We actually didn’t see another person the entire time we were in the reserve. This is partly why I was nervous about it, of course, because I know it’s quite isolated (no-one can hear you scream etc. etc.) – but there was literally NOBODY else there. It was just us. Me and Squidge. Nothing to fear but fear itself.

I felt really good after that walk. I pushed Squidge in his buggy for the last 40 minutes or so, and he fell asleep to the rumbling of the wheels on the woodland path. It was great exercise for me – I got up a really good pace – a good experience for Squidge, and a much-needed break from the house for both of us.

When I got home, I switched on the radio. The news headlines were all about the jailing of the murderer of Ellen Higginbottom, an A-level student who was killed in broad daylight at a nature reserve earlier this year.

I will be honest: this brought me up short. That poor girl. I felt like it was justifying all the fears I’d had to begin with. Yes: there are bad people in this world. Yes: sometimes they prey upon defenceless women in remote places. Yes: this could happen to me.

But, I don’t know. If I lived my life according to reducing all risk, I wouldn’t ever get in a car. I wouldn’t go to London, and I wouldn’t go on the tube. I would barely leave the house. Somewhere, at some point, you’ve got to draw a line and say: OK, so this has some risk attached to it, but the risk is low. Do I want to live my life without ever having this experience, just because I am afraid that something might happen? What kind of a life is that? What kind of a life is that for Squidge?

So, at some point soon, I will be going on another walk. I will probably worry about it. But I will do it. Because I don’t want to live my life in constant fear.