Shortly after giving birth, I felt incredibly weak and faint. I could barely move my limbs and felt like I was going to pass out but my blood pressure was fine and the doctor did a neurological exam which I had no problems with. I think it was just a combination of the pain relief medication, extreme exhaustion and the trauma of losing my baby. I was convinced that I was dying, having never felt like that in my life. I even said goodbye to Simon! After being sick a couple of times and then some tea and toast I began to come round.
The feeling that I am going to die hasn’t completely gone though. A pain in my tailbone becomes bowel cancer. An ingrown hair under my arm is breast cancer. A headache is clearly a brain tumour. My latest concern is cervical cancer so I have booked in for a smear test even though I’m not due one until next year. I can’t stress enough how unlike me this health anxiety is. The old me (the real me!) was almost too relaxed about everything. Nothing would go wrong, everything would work out fine. Something would need to be hanging off before I would visit the doctor! As a psychologist I would say that I had an internal locus of control.
An internal locus of control means that generally I felt that life was in my control – that if I did everything I was supposed to do, things would go my way. This was mostly how my life had been before losing Isobel.
Isobel dying despite me doing my very best to keep her nourished and healthy destroyed my sense of control. Now I know exactly how fragile life is. I know that healthy babies can be starved of oxygen and die, days before their due date. If this can happen, of course I can die too.
Last week Simon was a little late home from work and his phone was going to answer machine. I convinced myself that he had been in a car crash and had been killed. I could picture it. I worked myself in to a total state and was crying when Simon calmly walked in the door on his phone! I have gone from being the person who ridiculed others for their catastrophic thinking, to being the catastrophiser myself!
I am especially worried about my parents dying. My dad turned 70 this year and my mum is 66 so I guess it’s not unreasonable to be concerned about their health but I never was significantly concerned before. My big worry is that they will pass away before I have another child/children and they will never get to meet their other grandchildren. I see the amazing relationship my parents have with my niece and nephew who have grown up with loving grandparents and I’m jealous that my children (if there are to be more) are less likely to have that due to the age of my parents.
One of my best friends has just recently gotten the all clear after breast cancer treatment. I did not let myself think that she would die but when I got the news that her surgery had been successful I wept and wept with relief. I was so happy for my friend, her husband and her family but also selfishly for me – that I would not have to face any more loss.
I have told everyone I know that they are forbidden to die. I have told them I could not cope with losing anyone else. However in my new view of the world, I know that anything could happen to someone I love at any time – and it’s terrifying.