Believing My Doctors When They Tell Me I’m Fine

… is easier said than done.

This week I managed to freak myself out about what turned out to be (probably) nothing.  And fortunately I have kind and understanding doctors who tried really hard not to make me feel like an idiot.

For a while now I’d noticed a sort of come-and-go pain in my lower right abdomen.  I know, I know… round ligament pain.  But see, I’ve had round ligament pain in both pregnancies, and this feels different.  My round ligament pain has always been really classic: sudden intense pain/cramping when I cough, sneeze, or get up after sitting down for a long time.  It also tends to be correlated with activity levels.  This is different: totally uncorrelated with activity, and in fact most noticeable after a long day of sitting at my desk.  Also, it’s extremely localized — if I push on one particular spot on my belly I can feel it radiating through my abdomen, in a completely different way than my round ligament pain radiates.

So naturally I went to Dr. Google (big mistake), and then I read that localized, one-sided abdominal pain can be a sign of appendicitis (which is no more common in pregnant women than in the general population, but is harder to diagnose in pregnant women and can cause miscarriage and stillbirth) or placental abruption (which I’ve already had one of, which means that I have an order of magnitude greater risk for a repeat than a woman who’s never had one before).  I’d been feeling it for long enough that I’d mentioned it at my last prenatal visit — my doctor told me it was probably just a different sort of round ligament pain and that I shouldn’t worry about it, but didn’t say any more than that.  I spent several days worrying myself to exhaustion about my placenta and my appendix, and then finally inquired with my MFM through their messaging system.  I got a message back saying that I should make an appointment, which I did, and then I hyperventilated until it happened.

The doctor checked out everything, told me she agreed it wasn’t round ligament pain but that she was quite sure it wasn’t anything dangerous for my pregnancy.  She said the location isn’t where my appendix would be, and she did a quick ultrasound and said the baby and placenta looked great.  Than she looked me in the eye and said very slowly, “Everything looks fine.  Don’t.  Worry.”  At which point I nearly burst into tears, because that’s so much easier said than done.

I will say one thing for my freak-out this week: there’s nothing that gets you to appreciate a pregnancy like the fear that you might lose it (again).  Thinking concretely about the possibility of losing this baby made me realize that I actually am far more bonded to him than I realized.  He’s a part of me, even if I don’t believe it much of the time.  He’s my son, even if he doesn’t make it out alive (although I hope he will).  I’m so grateful that he’s OK so far.

My freak-out also made me realize that I’m still having trouble dealing with the anxiety of this pregnancy.  I am not normally a hypochondriac, I swear.  I usually go to doctor’s appointments assuming I’m fine, and nod happily when the doctor tells me how healthy I am.  Not so in my apparently normal and healthy pregnancy during the last 15.5 weeks.  Pregnancy after loss still occasionally turns me into a quivering pile of jelly instead of my normally calm, centered self.  Somehow, I need to find a way back towards that equilibrium.

Part of the difficulty is that my poor experiences with healthcare providers during and after our daughter’s death caused me to lose trust in the medical establishment.  I saw the dark, uncertain side of medicine up close and personal for the first time in my life.  I’d seen it from a distance with my aunt’s cancer, but I’d never personally been in a situation where doctors just shrugged and told me I’d experienced a “lightning strike,” or did things that I afterward found out were poor judgment or just plain mistakes.  Even though I’ve since found new doctors whom I trust more, particularly the MFM team who are part of a department with an international reputation and always reassure me with their thoroughness and knowledge, part of that lack of trust still lingers — and it doesn’t help that I know that even my amazing MFM doctors couldn’t have predicted or prevented my daughter’s death.

How can I ever find my way back to trusting my body, trusting the medical establishment, trusting pregnancy?

For now, I’m reassured by having my concerns addressed directly: by seeing on ultrasound that there’s no bleeding around my placenta, by hearing that the pain is not coming from anywhere near my appendix, that it’s probably just one of those strange musculoskeletal things that just… happens sometimes in pregnancy.  In my first pregnancy, that would have been easy to accept.  This time, it’s harder.  But I’m working on it.

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12 thoughts on “Believing My Doctors When They Tell Me I’m Fine

  1. My Perfect Breakdown

    I don’t think anyone expects you to be laid back throughout this pregnancy (and if they do, they should be knocked over the head because they have at least a few screws loose). Honestly, a freak out here and there, or every other day for that matter, is 100% okay! And I’m glad your medical team was there to support you and reassure you that your little guy is doing well.
    And, I have to mention one more thing, you said “I actually am far more bonded to him than I realized” – this is awesome! You know, if it took a scare to get you to this place, then I think it’s almost a twisted kind of good thing. He is your son, you are literally bonded together right now and it’s great to hear that you are mentally getting closer to him! I desperately hope that he continues to do well and that he makes it out alive. 🙂

    Reply
    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thanks so much — it’s helpful to know that you think it’s normal for me to be a little bit crazy in this pregnancy. 🙂 So far things are going well, and I need to just hold onto the good stuff and remember that this is a different pregnancy than my first, and there’s no reason to expect that the outcome will be the same. But that’s easier some days than others. 🙂

      Thinking of you and hoping you’re doing well!

      Reply
  2. sewingbutterfly

    Glad things are going well. I always keep an eye out for your updates. And even though we are strangers over the internet, I breathe a sigh of relief when I see your son is doing well. I hope the drs and nurses continue to be supportive and to be honest, the nurses would probably rather you come in and it be nothing than for you to ignore something potentially serious. Glad they are reassuring.

    Reply
    1. lyra211 Post author

      It’s so sweet of you to keep tabs and keep sending good wishes my way. You sure don’t feel like a stranger over the internet anymore. 🙂 You’re right, my doctors and nurses have always reassured me that it’s better to come in and get checked out if I’m worried than to sit at home and panic. I’m glad they’ve been so accommodating and supportive. And yes, things are going well so far, and that’s a huge relief. Thanks so much for all your support!

      Reply
  3. mrswhitworth

    Good for you for calling and getting that appointment set up! I’m glad that things continue to look good. Those freakouts are totally warranted given what you’ve been through and it seems like your doctors are understanding of that. Last week (week 17) I experienced my first freakout too and was comforted knowing my doctors understood and were willing to see me and calm my fears. Pregnancy after loss is extremely difficult as I’m learning very quickly. Thinking of you and hoping things continue to go well!!!

    Reply
    1. lyra211 Post author

      Oh, I’m so sorry you had to go through a freak-out last week too! I’m so glad your doctors were helpful and reassuring — it’s good that you’ve got good people helping you through this pregnancy. I’m so glad that you’re continuing to do well, and making progress in your pregnancy! It sounds like you’re just a couple of weeks ahead of me — I bet we’re going through a lot of similar feelings at similar times. Here’s hoping for boring, uneventful pregnancies and bouncing February babies for both of us!

      Reply
      1. mrswhitworth

        Thank you! And yes, I can imagine we are experiencing those exact same worries and feelings. It’s hard to believe that I will be 20 weeks on Sunday. Sadly this is the time I’m feeling the best physically but terrified for the next two months. I’m trying really hard to be in the moment and thankful that everything is going well. We had the anatomy scan done last week and all is good with our little guy! 🙂 I really hope that this week is treating you well and that your worries are calmed. I am wishing you all the best and can’t wait to hear more updates!

  4. Hannahah

    I really relate to this – I know we’ve talked about it before, but sometimes it’s so hard to trust the medical establishment. We are taught that doctors are experts because science. And I love science! But there’s a lot that doctors don’t know, and a lot that they have to assume. They try different things, and sometimes those things work and sometimes they don’t.

    I hope that it gets a little easier for you, this pregnancy. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be, to stop yourself from thinking that every little thing could be a major issue. I am so proud of you, and love you muchly!

    Reply
    1. lyra211 Post author

      I am so proud of you and love you muchly as well! I’m also super duper excited for you and can’t wait to hear how things go as you start with your RE! It is hard to trust the medical establishment (and you’ve been through more than most), but the crazy thing is that we don’t have a lot of choice, other than educating ourselves and making sure we understand the science behind what our doctors are telling us. It’s kind of scary, really — makes you realize that everyone is just fumbling around a lot of the time, hoping the stuff they do will work.

      Lots of love. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Wifey

    I’m glad everything turned out to be ok! It’s one thing to know something in your head, but your heart is a different thing. That’s always my trouble. My brain tells me things are normal, but my poor beat up heart can’t help but worry.

    Reply
    1. lyra211 Post author

      Yes! You’re absolutely right — it’s a total brain/heart divide. My brain even sort of knew that the things it was worrying about were improbable, but the stakes were just too high for me to not freak out about it, if that makes sense. 🙂 Hope you and the squirrtles are doing great — I’m always excited to see your updates!

      Reply
  6. Karolina

    Hi there, my name is Karolina and I’m really inspired by your story. I’m currently going through my own infertility journey (I’m in the TWW after IUI #2). I’m part of an infertility support group on FaceBook, part of which is a weekly podcast series featuring women at various stages of their fertility journey, check it out here: http://beatinfertility.co/. I’d love to talk to you about being a guest on the show. I think it would be so amazing for others to hear about your experience. If you’re at all interested, please email me and I can send you more details. All the best 🙂

    Reply

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