"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Not so "phantom" Kicks

I'm convinced that the second best thing about being pregnant, and making it to at least the second trimester, is feeling the baby kick.  (Naturally, the best thing about being pregnant is the whole human being growing inside you thing.) 

Baby kicks are one of the not-so-insignificant-things you miss out on in adoption.  The biological mother has the baby in her womb.  Fortunately for us, we know that our adopted son's older biological brother talked and sang to him while he was in the womb. 

This baby that I'm carrying now, his oldest brother has named him or her "little apple."  Little Apple gets hugs and kisses from the big guy most nights.  And biggest brother talks to him pretty regularly.  Plus, even when someone's not using my anterior abdominal wall as a megaphone, Little Apple hears us talking all around him.  When he comes into this bright new world, he'll likely have some recognition of our voices. 

Little Apple kicked hard, for the first time several weeks ago, when his littlest big brother stepped on his head.  Neither Mommy nor Little Apple liked that much. 

Yet, it was a thrill for me. 

As you know, I've experienced real baby kicks with my first pregnancy, sometime around 20 weeks, which is pretty common.  In my second pregnancy, I thought I felt her kicking but lost her at 16 weeks which is about as early as you might feel a baby kick, so those sensations may not have really been her. 

After that, I had the sensation of "phantom kicks," for which I've named this blog (see my first explanation of this via blog, here), with some regularity.  As I explained back then,
Much like phantom limb pain, a pain an amputee feels after he looses a limb, I imagine this sensation has come to me, and others, as a subconscious reminder of what once was.  Although I'd never heard the term before I started using it, you can do a google search and find other moms, those who've lost and those who haven't, who use this phrasing to describe similar feelings.
My memories are fuzzy now, but I believe I had phantom kicks through most of the five pregnancies I lost.  I was embarrassed about this, ashamed really. 

I knew they couldn't be real.  It was too early for them to be real.  I didn't even tell my husband at first. 

I knew they weren't hallucinations.  That's one of the funny things about being a physician, and a patient.  I think I can say with confidence that I'm not a hypochondriac.  But having an abundance of medical knowledge definitely influences your thought processes when you do have medical symptoms.  For instance, when I had my first flare of Rheumatoid arthritis, I knew pretty quickly what the possibilities were.  I hoped for a viral migratory polyarthropathy but knew with the stiffness, that a chronic disease was more likely.  Unfortunately, I was right.  When it comes to mental health, however, the medical knowledge that you know in your brain is even harder to interpret. 

As a general rule, I don't suffer from anxiety.  I'm on the care-free side of the spectrum.  Things that probably should worry me, generally don't.  Rose colored glasses; my daddy's daughter.  Call it what you want -- it goes back to that whole excessive optimism blog I posted recently ;).  All this to say, that when I began to suffer from anxiety, which was triggered from grief over multiple consecutive miscarriages, I didn't recognize it at first. 

I felt crazy... and yes, I know that's a word we shouldn't use when talking about people who suffer from mental health problems.  But, since I'm talking about myself here, and trying to be honest, that's how I felt. 

I didn't want to admit it.  I didn't understand why these little bursts of panic would hit me like a small train, over trivial things.  I think I've explained this before, but most commonly, my version of panic attacks would occur when someone would ask me if I was pregnant, or if we "wanted more kids," or when someone would tell me their miscarriage story.  My heart would race and I would feel claustrophobic.  I couldn't get enough air.  "This is irrational," I would tell myself.  And no rational ME would step in or take over.  Once I got outside, I could breathe a little better. 

Then the baby would kick like crazy.  He or she would go nuts in there.  And that would make me smile, or it would make me cry.  But either way, I would usually start to calm down.

Phantom kicks came at other times too, when I was driving or doing nothing.  They felt like real baby kicks.  Even when I wasn't pregnant, sometimes I would get them.  But they made me worry that I had a psychiatric disease.  As a physician, I knew that they weren't equivalent to a hysterical pregnancy.  I was pretty sure they weren't hallucinations. 

At some point along this continuum, I told my husband. 

Near the end of it all, the first time I met my therapist, I told her. 

That's when I told her that I was also thinking about blogging.  She encouraged the blog as a therapeutic journal and suggested Phantom Kicks as it's name.  It seemed like a perfect fit!  Bravely, I began.   

When I got pregnant this time around, I started having phantom kicks around 8 weeks. 

I started having real kicks between 15-16 weeks.  They came slowly, irregularly, and usually only when a 25 pound toddler stood on Little Apple's head.  I was craving more.

Now, I have these lovely kicks every day.  What a delight!  They are the best.  They make me smile, no matter what I'm doing when they come upon me. 

I'm not sure who woke me up first this morning (a Saturday) around 0540.  Was it the toddler cooing on the monitor, or the baby in my womb kicking my iliac crest?  I couldn't be mad at either of them.  All I could do is smile. 

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