During my pregnancy I went to many different types of medical appointments to see doctors, nurses, midwives, mental health workers. There were a few weeks near the end of the pregnancy where I had appointments three times per week.
It took a long time to work out who was actually helpful and who had no idea what to do with me and just couldn’t comprehend the idea of me not being thrilled that I was pregnant.
Many of the appointments were advertised as being mental health appointments but they all came down to one thing.
What was I doing to prepare for the baby?
Was I looking after myself so that they baby would be healthy?
Was I eating and drinking the appropriate things?
Had I been shopping for baby clothes yet?
The baby, the baby, the baby.
I turn up at one such appointment, expecting someone to be at least vaguely sympathetic to what I’m going through. Instead, before I’ve even sat down the consultant bombards me with questions about the baby.
“Baby is moving, yes?”
“Baby is kicking lots?”
“You are happy that baby is moving frequently.”
He hasn’t even introduced himself or told me his name.
He never does.
It becomes clear that actually this appointment is not about trying to support me and my fragile state of mind. Once they are satisfied that the baby isn’t in any immediate danger from me and my frazzled brain they then start taking my blood pressure and carrying out other physical checks.
To check on the progress of the baby.
I appreciate that much as I don’t care the medical team have a duty to make sure the baby is healthy.
I understand that.
They just don’t have to do it now.
I saw my midwife three days ago and I’m having a scan next week.
Why can’t this one appointment not just be about me?
About how I feel completely out of control.
How I’m terrified of my own thoughts and actions.
How my mind has become a black place that I couldn’t find any way out of.
How I crave the release of the sleeping pills the doctor had prescribed.
How I wonder what would happen if I took all of them and all of my anti-depressants at the same time.
How I fantasise about abandoning the baby as soon as it’s born and then running away where no one would ever find me.
How I plan to end my life with as little upset to anyone else as possible.
How I don’t think anyone would really care; that my death would just be an inconvenience involving the police and paperwork and minimal funeral arrangements.
Physically I am fine.
That’s not what’s important right now.
Why can’t anyone see that?
The midwife announces that she needs to listen in on the baby’s heartbeat.
I feel sick.
Why would she do this to me?
What exactly does she think she’s going to gain?
At this point I’m in pieces, too wrung out to even cry properly. Instead the tears just run down my cheeks and I hand my head, powerless to stop them but not wanting this woman to see.
I don’t want to listen to the baby’s heart beat; I could barely even think of it as a baby, never mind my baby.
I can see that she’s not going to take no for an answer. I’m too emotionally worn out to argue or protest I heave myself up onto the couch, lay back, try to get comfortable and lift up my top.
I brace myself.
I don’t want to do this.
“You shouldn’t cross your legs when you’re pregnant” says the midwife.
Do you think I actually care?
Does it look like I care?
Has everything that I’ve tried to tell you in between racking, overwhelming sobs made any impression on you at all?
Am I not worth even listening to?
If they don’t care about me then I refuse to care about this baby.
I briefly entertain the thought of shouting “I don’t care at her” like a petulant child. Maybe an outburst like that will show her that I need help, not my blood pressure checking? I decide it probably won’t; she’s more likely to tell me off for shouting and disturbing the baby.
Wordlessly I uncross my ankles, feeling more than ever like an incubator. That I only receive care because I am pregnant; for the sake of the baby but not for me.
The midwife puts the probe to my stomach.
The distinctive swishing, throbbing pattern of a heart beat on ultrasound fills the room.
It is the only sound.
The midwife smiles widely, trying to catch my eye.
I stare up at the ceiling.
I can see her trying to attract my attention, convinced that if I will just co-operate like any other mum-to-be I will be delighted by the sound of my baby’s heartbeat.
It’s NOT mine.
It can’t be.
The midwife listens in for far longer than is necessary. I have no idea what she thought she was going to achieve.
Did she have so little understanding of mental health issues that she thought I would snap out of it if she found the right trigger?
I know that mental health is complex and difficult and sometimes downright disturbing but did she even try to understand?
I feel like I’m being forced into a box that I don’t fit in.
Why don’t I fit?
Eventually she gives up, pursing her lips as she packs away the probe and hands me some tissue to clean up the gel.
She’s not impressed that I’ve failed to respond, as though I’m doing it on purpose.
She’s so sure that she knows best.
I don’t care what she thinks.
I’ve grown so tired of trying, of struggling to be the glowing expectant mother that I’m supposed to be that it’s simply easier to just not care.
To ignore the growing bump as best I can and hide from people who would comment on it.
To ignore the baby isle in the supermarket.
To shut the door on the half-finished nursery and refuse to go inside.
If people can’t bring themselves to care about me; that the idea of a pregnant woman who doesn’t see how she can ever love her unborn child is too horrifying and repulsive to even consider, never mind care about then I can’t bring myself to care either.
I can’t care for myself if other people won’t help me, never mind attempt to care for a baby.
I don’t care.