I've always been aware of what PTSD is. My uncle, who fought in Vietnam has always had a problem with the 4th of July when the fireworks start. And I've heard him tell stories decades after his experience about having nightmares and waking up feeling his surroundings to make sure he's not in a military bunk. I've heard other, less personal stories, and I've always felt so bad for a person who's had a terrible experience that they can't escape from.
When I had Sadie, there were a lot of social workers who checked in on me to make sure I was doing okay. And at one point, one of Sadie's therapists mentioned something about moms who have gone through similar experiences to mine having some PTSD. I didn't doubt it...but I hadn't really experienced it either. I mean, every once in a while, I look back at pictures, or I think about seeing her in that isolet so helpless, or even when the neurologist told us she'd be a vegetable. And those memories make me sad.
But yesterday, I experienced PTSD in full effect.
I laid in bed yesterday morning NOT feeling my baby move (like he usually does in the morning...he's pretty active most all the time, actually), and I started thinking. Bad idea. Questions were running through my mind like, Did I feel him move at all yesterday? I can't remember. Does he usually move at this time of day? Is he not moving because he's asleep, or is something wrong? And I spun myself so into a frenzy that I had to get up.
I didn't know what to do. I remembered having the same thoughts about Sadie around this time... and looking back, I was probably right. But it was my first time being pregnant, and I had been reading someone's story on Baby Center about how she went into labor, delivered a dead baby, and came home to an empty nursery. I thought I was over-reacting. Was I? Or was Sadie sick and REALLY not moving? And if I talked myself down, would I be making the same mistake?
What if the same thing was happening to this baby? And I ignored it again? And then we repeated the experience? What if I have some crazy virus in my body that attacks my babies? What if I have some mutated gene and it's going to effect all my pregnancies? Or what if I was just being crazy and there was nothing to worry about? (this, of course, is what I wanted to believe)
I told Brian about my crazy fears and I started crying uncontrollably. He's so rational. He said, eat something, drink something, lay on your side. And that worked a little, I felt him move...but not a lot. He asked me why I was thinking this...did I read something? Did someone say something to put these thoughts in my head? No. And that's what maybe scared me the most.
Finally, I decided I would call the midwife and just talk to her. But first I had to flub my way through the answering service. Poor guy could probably barely understand me. If it had been a weekday I would have just called the office and asked to come in and hear his heartbeat...but it was Saturday. Luckily, the midwife knows my situation, and she didn't act like I was crazy (even though I admit, I was borderline hysterical at this point). I said, "maybe this is silly, but can I just come in and hear his heartbeat? I know I'd feel a lot better then..." She told me she's already at the hospital (I learned later that when she's on call over the weekend, she just lives at the hospital since her house is kind of far away), so come in and we'll do a non-stress test and hook me up to the monitors and make sure everything is okay. That made me feel better.
Brian elected to stay home and NOT feed my crazy. Plus, someone had to watch Sadie. So, my friend Laura, who lives down the street came. I am so so so thankful I didn't have to go by myself. I was NOT in the right frame of mind to do anything alone.
We got there, and they hooked me up to the External Fetal Monitor. They found his heart rate right away and it was normal. I sighed a HUGE sigh of relief, and, even though I felt a little silly, I was glad to hear him in there... but he still wasn't moving like normal, I thought. I didn't care though as much at that point, because I could hear his little heart beating.
The midwife came and said she was glad to hear a strong heart beat, but she wanted to see some accelerations. These are basically movements. I guess when he moves, his heart beat accelerates for a moment. They wanted to see that before they unhooked me. So, they brought me some ice water and immediately he responded. I would feel him move and I when I looked at the monitor, sure enough, his heart rate would jump up 25-30 beats.
Finally, the midwife suggested I go have an ultrasound. She ordered a special one called a bio physical profile, which they often do on women who are considered high risk. I was told that they look for 4 things: tone (a floppy baby can indicate that something is wrong), breathing patterns, movement, especially flexion of the arms, and the amount of amniotic fluid I have. She told me that if there had been any indication that something like this was needed for Sadie, it might have been caught early that she was sick. That made me relax a little... so if whatever happened to Sadie happens also to this baby, this kind of ultrasound can see that, and something can be done to get him out right away.
I told her, I was feeling better, but that I can't promise I won't be back next weekend freaking out again! That's when she suggested doing this non-stress test and ultrasound twice a week in the office from here on out. I guess that's routine if you're high risk, or fit into a category of which includes having a previously stillborn baby. I said that doing these twice a week would make me feel better and that even though I don't fit nicely and neatly into their high risk category, I am definitely on the fringes.
Anyway, they took me to ultrasound and my baby looks healthy and great, so I was sent home. Of course then the baby was his usual roly-poly self for the rest of the day... but now I know he's fine. And I can relax a little...until the next time.
The conclusion? You can't know if you have PTSD or not until you're in a situation that mimics your original traumatic experience. Oh, and maybe I am just a little bit crazy.