Here is a photo of me on Christmas Eve, feeling great and happy to be pregnant FINALLY. Who knew what the next 12 hours would bring.
Have you heard the one about a woman who walks into a church and gets a concussion?
It's a classic.
Unrelated, on Christmas morning I walked into a church for xmas mass at 9:30 am with the in laws and then fainted about 40 mins in. I smacked my head twice on the stone floor and then I got a concussion. Hilarious, right?
On this particular Christmas morning around 10am, my husband/pew buddy headed off to the loo mid-sacrament. We had just been sending funny selfies to our best friends and cracking jokes to each other. (We aren't much of the solemn church-goer types.) Literally, nothing out of the ordinary was happening to me health-wise. But as soon as he left, I suddenly felt hot and strange (in the strangest of timings) and I was sitting alone on the end of a pew.
I sat in the limbo between wooziness and losing my hearing (I liken it to the moments just before hyper-drive in star trek and the stars stretch and make lines as time seems to pull and slow down whilst the spaceship is deciding to stay or go...*cough* nerd.). I was trying to ascertain where I was at health-wise for maybe 15 seconds or 2 minutes...I started losing sense of time...
I haven't fainted since I was about 16 and that was due to the fact that I had just had lots of blood drawn after fasting for over 12 hours. Basically, I don't faint often. I had eaten that morning. I had had enough water. I actually had been feeling quite good (70%!) for the last three days which was a first for me this pregnancy. I wasn't exerting myself at all leading up to fainting. I was not winded. I was not changing altitudes (standing up or sitting back down.) I have absolutely no idea why I fainted.
I also didn't know which direction this would go when I met this unwell fork in the road sitting alone on that pew bench. But when I came to with about 6 faces above me, I instantly understood what had happened. I had 'gone to space' (verbatim what I said when I woke up) via fainting. I was crumpled on the floor alongside the pew in the front of the church and my head HURT. I mean, really really hurt. I wasn't sure why at the time. (Spoiler alert: it's bc I smacked it twice...once on the knee bar and then once on the stone floor.)
I had to be carried out into a side wing of the church by my husband and brother in law (I think??) where a kind church-going doctor helped talked me through the next stages of my concussion. That involved lots of throwing up and checking to make sure I wasn't bleeding aka that the baby was ok. After hearing it would be a THREE + HOUR WAIT FOR AN AMBULANCE (wtf is that) my mother in law kindly drove me to the hospital at a rousing 15 mph pace so I would stay conscious and well to A&E (to the Americans reading: that is the emergency room.)
After a 2 hour wait, I met with a doctor who had to consult with other physicians as he desperately wanted to scan my head for any haemorrhaging but didn't feel confident risking the radiation exposure to my baby as I was pregnant. He was confident the baby was ok as I could feel it moving voraciously and I had not had any bleeding. THANK HEAVENS. I had never known relief until this moment. But he did say that if anything changes that it would be "mom over baby" and they would intervene to save me first. (!!) And that made me cry. Suddenly a huge gush of emotions cracked open inside me and spilled out. And that overwhelmingly protective (though helpless) instinct caught me off-guard.
After much deliberation, it was decided that I would stay an additional 2 hours for observation to make sure I didn't throw up again, lose consciousness, go to sleep, show any strange signs of behaviour, bleed from my ears/nose etc. The doctor departed to get me some paracetamol for my massive concussion headache and upon consulting with more doctors, he returned to tell me he needs me to stay for 12 hours. Not ideal but KEWL. Xmas day party. 12am discharge at earliest. We were led to the CDU (Clinical Decision Unit) at Kingston Hospital where I would spend the next 12 hours with hourly checks and no sleeping for the entirety of Xmas Day. Shortly after settling in and mentally preparing for our brand new Christmas Day plans without friends or family or puppy, the Doctor came for another check in and notified me he wouldn't sleep well tonight unless he was strict and enforced a 24 hour observation time.
Oh. I would have to spend Christmas night alone in the Hospital without my Rupert. The reality of this head trauma aftermath instantly zoomed into focus.
Suddenly all the sounds around me were turned up to full volume. Voices paging "Doctor Andrews" blasted over the PA system. An older woman in the room next door was asking when her ride would come repeatedly to anyone walking by. The beeps of the blood pressure machine were random and screeching. Anonymous neighbours howled out with pain. I felt exiled. And powerless. And tender gratitude as the baby was safe and sound yet angry at my body for doing this to me. And scared bc I didn't know if I was ok. Why did this happen? I burst into tears again.
My husband and I tried to make lemonade out of lemons of our final Christmas together before baby arrives by putting up one of our phones with a Christmas tree photo illuminating the sterile room and playing Christmas music on the other. We ate Christmas Dinner together on the plastic hospital bed tray. We spooned in that single bed and tried to be as close together as we could. Rupert made jokes in between the tears I shed (a la Michael Scott: "Hey ashley what is the difference between a man with a concussion and a woman with a concussion? The difference is BOOBS!") and we both felt the palpable fear of the unknown in the air. The on caul nurse was in and out every hour to check my blood pressure and test my eye responses. Soon it was time for him to head home for the night and I was left on my own. After forcing myself to stay conscious since the concussion, part of me was terrified to go to sleep that night bc I didn't know if I would wake up. But I did fall asleep easily and soundly and was relieved when I found I able to wake up again. I was woken up by both the new patients entering the ward (some in hysterics, some chattering away to no one in particular, some in silence) and by the en caul nurse every 3 hours during the night for routine checks. I passed all the tests and once we hit 12pm on Boxing Day, I could be released by the Doctor en caul. I was so grateful and relieved and elated.
I was able to walk out of the A&E unassisted back through the waiting room and out the front doors, seeing the injured and sick and bleeding people on Boxing day and my heart just hurting for all of those stories that were interwoven on that day. And as we approached our car, grateful to be alive and together, I saw a 30-something year old man absolutely sobbing in the front of the A&E entrance. I don't know the specifics of his story, but I can imagine. And that makes my heart hurt and stomach churn. That will always stay with me.
Christmas Day was singlehandedly the most emotional and intense 24 hours of my life. I also had a few realisations. The first is how desperately I want to be the mother to this baby. That caught me quite off guard. After having felt almost no maternal instincts or really much other than anger, sickness, and apathy during this pregnancy...it hit me as hard as a bus. This brute will & desire to protect, nurture, birth, and care for this baby was overwhelming. It nearly knocked the wind out of me. I also realised the amount of anger I had been feeling towards this stupid pregnancy glow myth and that I had never felt so alone in my whole life until being pregnant, and at this moment specifically. I have never met or heard of another woman who has fainted during pregnancy let alone had a concussion from it although I have been reassured countless times by health professionals that it "happens all the time." (wtf. Why don't we talk about this more!?)
Anyway, I am on the mend and feeling almost all the way recovered from my head trauma which is great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great
Lol jk. Bad joke. I am just trying to laugh after something so traumatic presented itself. But I hope I am getting better soon. I started writing this roughly a week after it occurred on New Years Day and it took about 5 hours that first go because my head was still woozy. I am not 100% well yet. I am still moving slow and tbh I am scared to venture out into London on my own or walk the dog in hyde park in case I faint. Can you imagine doing that all alone. It would literally be the worst. But I am trying to move carefully and mindfully and hopefully I will get through the rest of this pregnancy with as much grace as I can muster.
I am so grateful baby is ok. I am so so grateful.
ps, here is a photo of me in the CDU smiling to keep from crying on Christmas Day 2017.
I really had hoped I would have been able to describe my pregnancy as 'graceful' but at least I am able to pick my dates and eat them too. Dates like the food, not like the calendar. Anyway, here is my journal at 4am one snowy London morning... xo Ashley