An Early Morning Panic Attack

Imagine this:

You are nine months pregnant. Just days away from your due date. Days. Things are getting real. This baby is real to you. You love her. You want her. You are waiting for her, and have been for what feels like a lifetime. You are ready to hold her in your empty arms. One morning, long before your alarm goes off, you awake. You wait to feel her move in your stretched womb, as you do every morning. But she doesn’t. You poke your belly. Again and again and again. You roll from your left side to your right. Poke, poke, poke. You roll from your right side to your left. Poke. You sit up, cross-legged, on the bed. Poke, poke. Jiggle, jiggle. But there is no baby movement, no sign of life, and you feel the anxiety rise in your chest. You pray, silently, and try to convince yourself your baby is sleeping. But logic melts into panic. You wake your husband. You tell him you’re scared. You’re whimpering as he puts his hand on your belly and tries to talk to your unborn child, tries to wake her himself. It doesn’t work.

You leap out of bed and pace the floor. “I’m scared. I’m really, really scared,” you say, taking fast, shallow breaths in between each word. “She always moves when I need her to. I’m scared. She has to move.”

You run into the living room because your bedroom has become a prison. You tell your mom, who is asleep on the couch, that you’re scared. That the baby isn’t moving. What if she’s already gone? “Honey, you know she’s okay,” she says to you.

“No. No, I don’t. Babies do die. They die all the time.” You’re pacing again. Panicking still. More pokes to your belly do nothing.

Suddenly, your husband is next to you. He asks where the doppler is. It’s in the minivan, out in the torrential downpour that has been going for a day or more. He puts on his raincoat and braves it while you sink to the ground. You are crying, and crying out to God. Your prayers are no longer silent. “Please God,” you wail, doubled over. “Please let my baby be okay.”

Your husband returns with the doppler. You spread the gel on your belly and turn the doppler on and there is only silence. You can’t find a heartbeat, no matter how many times you try. Granted, your panic prevents you from making an honest effort. You need to hear the thump, thump, thump now. You need to feel her kick now.  You do not have a second or any energy to spare searching and waiting. You are losing it. You have nearly lost it.

“I have to go to the ER,” you say, but you don’t move. You can’t. If there’s no heartbeat, you don’t want to know. This horrible doubt and fear is somehow better than that awful truth.

With your mom watching in silence on the sofa, your husband tells you to lay back. He puts both hands on your belly and waits for your baby to move. She doesn’t. He talks to her. You roll to your side and you both wait some more. There is a subtle change in your belly and your husband asks, “Was that her? It felt like a shift.” You aren’t sure. You put your own hand at the top of your belly. You think you maybe feel something again. But it’s not enough. It’s not a guarantee.

You sit up. You all wait. And then there, right there, is the nudge of an elbow or knee as your baby rolls over and you cannot deny it was her. She is alive. She is okay.

And suddenly, you are in your mommy’s arms, sobbing. Because you are so relieved. Because the terror you felt is still so real. “I need her,” you say. “I need her here now.” And the tears just go on and on and leave you exhausted all day long.

Friends, today at 5:30am, that was the scene at our house. Not pretty. I wish I could say I am being melodramatic, but this was exactly the state I was in this morning before sunrise. It was horrible. Horrible. I really was, somehow, convinced that our Skittle was dead. Knowing that she has been a little quieter over the last week or so, coupled with the fact that she just would not move no matter how hard I tried and that never happens, led me into a tizzy of uncontrollable panic. I have not felt that much fear in maybe forever.

I am not proud of my mental breakdown, but I’m not ashamed of it either. I know it is part of the infertility and miscarriage package. At least, it is for me. It irritates and baffles my mom and my Honey, but I have accepted that this is what it will always be like for me. I know what it’s like to lose a baby, even if it was early in pregnancy. And I have known and heard of many others who have suffered a great deal more. I am always aware that pain and loss do not discriminate. They can happen to anyone at any time. They can happen in the final hour, just when you think you’re safe. Babies do die, in- and outside of the womb, and it’s awful and no one is protected from that. I have learned how to handle that reality for the most part, but as we get closer to welcoming Skittle, I find myself growing scared and anxious once again. Losing her now, when she is perfectly whole and ready to be born, would kill me. And I am never far from imagining the worst.

Today’s experience has left me feeling very vulnerable. So vulnerable that I’m almost ready to agree to an induction. My OB has mentioned it. All I have to do is give the okay and then Skittle will be here. It’s not what I want for us and yet, it’s hard to wait right now. I don’t want to live through another moment of fear like the one I had today. I just want my baby girl here, safe from all harm, and I’m growing more impatient with every minute that passes. These final days are harder than I ever thought they would be.

14 thoughts on “An Early Morning Panic Attack

  1. Oh honey, I am so, so sorry. I want to normalize this for you…I want to share a story from a women in my birthing class who was 40 weeks pregnant going through the same thing. Or rationalize it for you…of course she’s not moving as much, there’s no room! But really, that panic is real and oh so powerful. It deserves to be respected. And so I am so sorry! But. It will be over very soon. Your baby IS ok. And you are lucky to have a wonderful husband and mom who will support you even when they may not quite understand.

  2. This happened to me on several occasions during the end of my pregnancy. It is so scary. I am hoping that Skittle decides to make her appearance soon so that you don’t need to be induced. I can’t believe you are so close to meeting her! Praying that things go smoothly and you don’t have to experience this type of panic for the remainder of your pregnancy! xoxo

  3. This happened to me too. In fact, reading your post brought back all those memories so strongly-I wasn’t expecting that. I started having a panic attack just remembering those horrible feelings. I hope that she comes soon. Praying for you.

  4. Oh my goodness Cassie 😦 I teared up reading this and feeling your panic. There’s nothing anyone can really say that will make this better. I really hope your Skittle finds it fit to come into your arms soon. *hugs*

  5. God, it never goes away, does it? I am 14.5 weeks and just pulled my doppler out of the back of the closet (I reserve it only for emergencies), because my uterus looked and felt less full of babies than yesterday. Which of course is not a thing. I teared up reading this, too, because the love is so beautiful and strong. And because the fear is, too.

  6. That so real to me bc I was like that constantly all of June and July. Waking in the middle Of the night and in a panic attack until I felt her…it’s awful, just awful. Constantly kick counting, dopplar checks, belly nudges etc. hang in there….

  7. On days when my baby is quieter/stiller, I have definitely had moments of fear until I finally count those 6 kicks/movements. It’s hard not to panic and imagine the worst, especially when you’ve been through pain and loss before (whether that’s the pain of being convinced it would never happen for you and worrying that maybe it’s still too good to be true, or the pain of having lost a pregnancy/baby). Sometimes I feel so helpless while she’s on the inside, whereas I feel like I can protect her better once she’s in my arms. Maybe that’s naive too though. I doubt this worry for your child ever goes away. I hope you feel comforted now though and that the panic is never quite so real for you again!

  8. How terrifying. I know I had a few moments of panic, but nothing that bad. I’m so glad she finally woke up before you got to the ER! This is the hardest part. You’re so close now. Thinking of you and hoping your time comes very soon.

  9. Oh, how scary! I’m glad everything is okay, but the panic in those moments is just devastating, and it’s clear in this post that’s exactly how you were feeling. I hope the days left until her arrival are filled with calm and peace.

  10. It’s so scary when you can’t get the baby to move- I was on a plane on Friday and realized I hadn’t felt the baby in hours. Was it because I was running around doing things before getting on the plane or was it because something was wrong with the baby?? When I got up to use the bathroom I jiggled my belly which didn’t do a damn thing. I was completely freaked out the entire plane ride but couldn’t do anything. Thankfully, the baby started moving when I got off the plane, but I was nuts the entire flight.

    Glad everything worked out. Hopefully skittle comes out soon!!

  11. I actually induced my firstborn for the same reasons. I told everyone it was for work reasons. Scheduling. Convenience. But the truth is it was out of sheer fear. My OB offered to induce and I thought that if I said no and then she was later stillborn, then I would never forgive myself for not getting her out while she was still alive. I’ve never told anyone that before–not even my husband–and it’s been ten years. Having said that, when I really did have a baby that was in SERIOUS trouble earlier this year, and the only way he could tell me something was wrong was to stop moving completely for several hours, I actually told myself that I was simply overreacting. I figured my anxiety was getting the best of me. But I finally went to L&D and it turns out something was wrong. He was pulled out of my belly one hour later via emergency c-section and was found to have lost 3/4 of his total body blood volume already. I was told he would’ve died had I not gone to L&D for the decreased movement. Thankfully I did listen to my instincts (or rather God’s loud whispers), and my baby is now a healthy 6 month old (two blood transfusions and months’ worth of iron therapy later). In any case, I’m so glad Skittle moved!

  12. This is me… everyday. i feel the panic. i grab the doppler. sometimes i nearly breakdown completely. i told my mom i need this baby out before i lose my mind. I’m more nervous now than ever. i almost never fall asleep for fear of when i wake up.

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