Every day seems to be dedicated to something, doesn’t it? I spotted on social media that today (or yesterday by the time that this posts) is ‘National I Am In Control Day’. It caught my attention, so I thought it was worthy to talk about this week.
Control in Stillbirth
Control in baby loss and pregnancy after loss is a very elusive concept. When, without warning, your baby dies inside of you the world has literally stolen all control from you. It doesn’t make sense, and renders you powerless in an instant. I will never really understand how Leo could have died, whilst I slept. How can that be possible? Why didn’t I know that he was in distress? How could I, his mother, not have an ounce of control in that situation?
Yet, we did regain control in that situation. We had to find the ability to give Leo the birth that he (and us both) deserved. To welcome him into the world, and care for him for as long as we could. We were able to make decisions on how we created the three days of memories, that were to serve a lifetime for us. Decisions on post-mortems, funerals and headstones. Those were our decisions, and represent the ways in which we had control in the situation. Giving parents that ability, when you are cruelly stripped off it, is so important at that moment. It continues today. We control the ways in which we let Leo dying affect our lives. Some aspect of that is harder to do, than others. But ultimately, we can still have control.
Control Breeding Anxiety
Our relationship with control is absolutely what breeds our anxiety. You are suddenly very aware of how little control you actually have over the essence of life. As a result, your mind believes that anything could happen, at any moment. This powerlessness makes even the most mundane tasks anxiety filled. No one really knows what is going to happen in the next moment. That fact is no more or less true because Leo died. But it is now imprinted to our core. The vulnerability of life. It will never, and can never, be forgotten.
Making a decision to get pregnant again is making a decision to sit side by side with that awareness. You need to understand that ultimately, you are not in full control, and you need to be somewhat okay with that. Yet, you need to be able to look at the situation and find the ways that you can hold control. If I couldn’t find any aspect of control in this situation, I don’t think I could cope with the amount of anxiety and guilt that it would create. I am a self-certified control freak. Over organised. A planner. Impatient. Balancing all of this in pregnancy after loss and grief is probably one of my biggest self-challenges.
Control in Pregnancy after Loss
I think this is particularly significant in early pregnancy. Its so isolating, and there isn’t a great deal that anyone can do for you. I hated it, its a limbo land, and you end up feeling incredibly lost. You have to learn to just breath in a sense of calm, and accept that you can’t fully control the outcome, but you can control your approach to it. This is why I have put a lot of effort into crafting the right team to look after us. Its why we’ve sought the support of specialists three hours away. Why we visited the Maternity Assessment Unit in a planned and safe way, before our first panic visit. Why I have, and still am, considering every aspect of labour. Its looking at a situation that ultimately I cannot control, and finding ways to reclaim an ounce of it.
There is also so much pressure to remain in control of monitoring Magpie’s wellbeing. I think this is what creates a lot of the anxiety over movements. I am the only person that can really assess his wellbeing on a day to day basis. No-one else can determine if all is well, or if it is not. I am the one who needs to separate anxiety from instinct. That’s a lot of hold. You arm yourself with a wealth of information, re-read it constantly, seek advice. You have to be your own, and your baby’s, advocate. That’s the role of a parent after all. But, you are always aware that you didn’t manage it the first time round. Balancing the lack of control you had for the one who died, whilst trying to gain it for the one that is currently living is a hard place to be sometimes.
Week 25 of Magpie
Week 25 sits us in another limbo land. We are in the bracket of weeks 24-28 in regards to the advice for monitoring movements and what to expect from the hospital should we attend. Whilst it isn’t a huge difference, its feels like we aren’t pregnant enough still. Soon, they will be able to monitor using CTG monitoring, and give us a far greater indication of Magpie’s wellbeing. With that, comes greater reassurance. Not complete reassurance, but greater nonetheless. Right now, all they are ‘able’ to do is listen in and assess a heartbeat. As someone who likes to be armed with information to feel in control, I have a sense that this extra, prolonged monitoring will equip me with a greater level of trust in Magpie.
I often feel like this little 25-week-baby has a lot of pressure placed on him. He can rarely do right. He isn’t moving enough, or in the right place, or with enough strength, or for long enough, or perhaps he’s moving too much! I appreciate that he cannot win, and I need to give him some flexibility. I’ve come to realise though that my own activity levels directly influence how in control I feel. We had a busy birthday weekend – massively enjoyable with great memories made. Yet, with this comes lots of walking around and general busyness. This makes it difficult to feel as focused on Magpie’s movements. I’ve really felt the downfall of that this week, trying to recoup from a weekend away. I need to make a conscious effort to plan my time with this in mind – again, more control seeking.
As a result of the weekend, we did have another visit to the Maternity Assessment Unit. Magpie was noticeably quiet for far too long. Whilst he picked up on the way to the hospital, I was glad that we went before I fell into the spiral. Our thoughts go there within the space of a few moments. You start mentally preparing conversations and blog posts in your head. Despite this, I managed to control my physical anxiety. All was well, but it has been a challenge to build up that trust again, and is still taking me time. Reflecting on our second late night visit though – we did have control in that situation. Magpie wasn’t moving, and we were able to ask for help and seek the reassurance. Its important to recognise that, I think. To help balance out this crazy life we call Pregnancy After Loss.