Today has possibly been the most challenging so far. Firstly, I barely slept after my panic attack in the early hours and secondly, I was still questioning the events of the previous day.
The drive to the hospital was long and my husband and I sat mainly in silence. I could feel the emotion rising within me, like a volcano about to erupt. As we entered the maternity reception area, I looked round at all the excited expectant mothers, smiling and chatting contently. My nose began to fizz, my throat tightened and I could barely speak as the receptionist called us over. She beckoned me not to speak. She recognised us and told us to wait in the waiting area directly in front of us, and the doctor would be with us shortly.
It was the same doctor that had performed that fateful scan just 5 days prior. She looked different. Her hair was tied back and she naturally did not meet us with the same bouncy “bonjour” as she’d done the first time we’d met.
I cried from start to finish. Big heavy sobs. As I signed the form, I felt I was signing my baby’s life away, and my tears dropped onto the paper before me. She explained the whole procedure again and asked did we still wish to proceed on Wednesday. My insides twisted and my heart ached. No, I did not wish to proceed on Wednesday. Nor any day. I never wanted to proceed. Because the minute I did, I would have to face the harsh reality of saying goodbye to my baby. And I never wanted to say those penultimate words.
When she phoned to check that we could go ahead that week, I silently prayed the person on the other end of the phone would say no. So I could hold onto my baby and the miracle of pregnancy for that little longer. Alas, they were able to fit us in, and so she arranged for us to go straight to the anaesthetist.
I sat in the corridor for the anaesthetist with my face buried behind my folder, now bulging with scans and paperwork and information. I cried like I had not cried before. I was unable to control it. Tears and snot. Snot and tears. Big exasperated sobs. The receptionist bought me some tissues. I knew not if she knew my reasons for crying, but she nodded gently at me, as if to say, “Go on girl. Cry it out.”
My husband asked if he could put his arms around me, however still full of disappointment from the previous day and despair from today, I shook my head. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to scream. Deep down I knew a hug was probably just what I needed, but I felt like I was in a bubble. A bubble where no one else could understand my pain or my fear, yet a bubble of protection and safety almost, free from anymore hurt. I wanted to cocoon myself in that bubble and not let anything penetrate its walls.
The anaesthetist spoke too fast. One French word flowed into the next, and I listened intently but I was unable to understand her completely. She asked for my weight. I never said my weight in front of my husband, and I didn’t know my height in centimetres. She asked if I had my card containing my blood group. I explained I didn’t as they didn’t issue them in England and was about to explain that I knew my blood group anyway. But she cut me off and began a lecture on the differences in democracy between England and France. That it was us who should pursue a card with our blood type on in case we, or worse, our children, may ever need a transfusion. There was mention of the Pope and Brexit before she finished with a stern glance at us both. I felt like a naughty child at school and felt guilty for insulting her, albeit non intentional in the slightest. She explained that an epidural, should I wish to have one, was not a decision to be taken lightly as it carried great risk. She then went on to explain exactly what an epidural was and how it was administered. I tried to tell her I had epidurals with both of my son’s, so was aware of what to expect, but she insisted on making me sit, with elbows tucked in and shoulders down whilst she lifted my top and felt down my spine. I turned to ask her a question and she forcefully pushed down my shoulders and said I couldn’t move during an epidural. Again, I felt like a naughty school child, being told to sit still. She quite happily announced that my back was fine for an epidural, before politely and bizarrely, full of smiles, saying goodbye.
We had to go straight to the laboratoire for a blood test (prise de sang). They filled three bottles with my blood. I tried to lighten the situation by cracking a joke about losing weight after all the blood she had taken. The nurse smiled and said sometimes she must take 15 bottles of blood! Fifteen!!!! What is she – a vampire?
Feeling completely drained, we made our way back to the maternity reception. We signed more forms regarding insurance (mutuelle) and agreeing we had been given all the information we needed for the upcoming week. The receptionist provided me an information leaflet which I will scan and attach to this post at a later date. It may be of some use to others, god forbid, in my same situation. I was given an appointment for 8am on the Wednesday to take the tablet which will prepare my body for labour, and then given a pink slip with my admission to the maternity ward, that Friday at 8am. My “prise en charge” would be a Dr Cano, who sadly I have not met to this date. I am hoping she is as lovely as the doctors and midwifes I have met so far.
Again I sobbed as I handed the pink form in to the lady at the main reception. She is the same lady who had booked me in for my first scan and subsequent other “happy” occasions. She said nothing, but as I was about to leave she placed her hand on mine and whispered “Bon Courage”. The tears continued as I left the hospital and returned to the car. I could see people trying not to look, but failing massively. Once in the car, I breathed. A long rescue breath, followed by an almighty sigh. I was relieved that was over. Yet now I had the task of getting through the following days without allowing the fear and anxiety get the better of me.
I busied my afternoon making my children’s favourite meal of spaghetti bolognaise for their return home. I also bought them both little interactive puppy toys which they adored and played happily with right up until bedtime. They even took them to bed, and my eldest said, “Mummy, I had the best afternoon ever and I love my little doggy.” This meant so much to me. I just want them to feel safe and know that even though Mummy isn’t quite herself at the moment, I love them more than ever right now.
I really don’t know where I’d be without my boys. I lost count of the kisses and cuddles I had from them this evening alone. And although they are aware of the impending week ahead and what it means to them, I admire their ability to play and laugh as normal. It is a beautiful gift and one which motivates me and keeps me from being consumed by the darkness. This week will probably be the hardest I have ever had to face, but I am so fortunate that my blessings in life completely outweigh my losses or hardships. Every time I look into my son’s beautiful faces or hear the words, “I love you Mummy”, I am reminded of how truly blessed I am.
The reality of it all? There is no greater medicine than unconditional love.