We had a scare recently. At a wedding in California, for seemingly no reason at all, I went into preterm labor. This already difficult situation was complicated by multiple factors, the most pressing of which were at the time I was only 26 weeks along, and separated from our toddler and our home by a few state lines. After spending a nervous and uncomfortable night in the hospital, and running just about every test in the book, I was given a medication that brought my contractions to a stop, and then sent on my way, with no clear understanding of why this had happened or if it would happen again. Two extremely nerve wracking flights, and a 3 hour trip in the car later, I made it home all in one pot-bellied piece. A few days later, I followed up with my midwife who confirmed all was well, and suggested I proceed with my pregnancy as if it were completely normal, because at that point in time, medically it was.
Except it didn’t feel that way.
Instead of being able to take a deep breath and relax in knowing everything was fine, my body buzzed with nerves. Every muscle twitch, every movement was analyzed and questioned to the point of madness. Are the contractions coming back? Is this time the real deal? Is the baby still alive?
Now if this is where you are shaking your heads and saying, “It could have been worse,” please know that I understand this. Even in the thick of it, I could see the discrepancies between how I was feeling emotionally, and the probable outcome as good test results came back, and the night wore on with baby being a no-show. It all could have gone so, so very differently, and so tragically wrong, and trust me when I say I felt absolutely stupid for feeling the way I did.
But man, even now, I am having a hard time letting go of the fear.
Hearing the nurse tell me in the hospital the NICU was ready for us if we needed them sent chills down my spine. Listening to her explain how she would start the baby on steroids if things continued down the path they were initially going, I actually let out an audible groan. Not a groan like a frustrated patron who has been waiting on their check for too long, but a guttural, uncontrollable, I-might-break type of groan, the memory of which still gives me goosebumps. Because at that moment, more so than ever before, I was completely and utterly terrified.
The fear of potentially losing my unborn baby elicited a response so powerful and all-consuming, that a few totally fine, contraction-free days later, telling me to carry on as if everything is normal almost feels like an insult. Casually suggesting I should be happy because everything turned out okay feels insincere and dismissive. Maybe everything on my labs said I was fine, but my head and heart feel so shredded and profoundly shaken, I don’t even think my husband can fully understand.
But perhaps the worst part of all is knowing I am actually the one in the wrong. Because medically I am fine. And the baby is fine. And everything worked out fine. And I should be thankful for the care I received, and take solace in knowing that if the baby did show up, they were prepared to give him the very best shot at surviving. Yet even as I sit here thinking through all of this, my head still spins with panicky what-ifs.
My best guess is soon enough my head and heart will calm down and equilibrate, leaving me in a better place to process what happened — and more importantly, what didn’t. Even in this jumbled place I hear how whiney I sound, and how misaligned my focus is. But I also know some of you will get this. And maybe, just maybe, we can help each other get comfortable with our new normal, as abnormal as that may be.