The art of doing nothing
Pre-eclampsia sucks. It sucks even more, if, as in my case, pre-eclampsia creeps up on you, unwittingly, ten days after giving birth. As a result, I was stuck in hospital for two nights. But at least my impromptu stay probably saved my Better Half from coming home to find me collapsed in a heap on the floor. So I owe a big thank you to (1) serendipity (long story) and (2) Prof. Mark Johnson, Natasha Singh, the anaesthetists (part of the long story) and midwives at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital.
Once I was home, I was forced to rest and do absolutely nothing. The one thing I was allowed to do was to walk from my bedroom to the living room and back again. Lounging around is something I’ve only ever dreamed about. Except that when it came about for real, I found it difficult. I mean, really difficult. So for those who are faced with the task of doing nothing, here are some tips:
If the phone rings, don’t answer it. Don’t listen to the ensuing message, either, because ultimately it will involve you having to action something (in my case, a Back Office request from my Better Half.) This applies to emails and texts too.
Ignore the ring of the doorbell. Inevitably, it’ll be Jehovah’s Witnesses wanting to discuss why you don’t believe in God over a cup of tea. Clearly, it’s all right to answer the door if someone’s delivering you flowers. Or chocolates. Or carrot cake.
When I sent a happy-clappy text message to my piano teacher, she took it to mean that I was back to normal and demanded to know when our next lesson would be. If you really need to communicate with the outside, always play up the drama.
Post baby but pre- second hospital visit, I got an Apple Watch. Aside from telling you the number of calories you’ve burnt, the steps you’ve travelled, the distance you’ve covered, it also ‘reminds’ you to get up if it senses you’ve been lounging around too much. Last week, my Apple Watch near exploded with the number of times it was nagging at me to get up. I nearly exploded too, the number of times I was ordered to get up. I was about to destroy the thing, but seeing as the watch was a well-meaning present from my Better Half, I thought better of it.
Because you’ll never get another chance to watch them.
Hearing about people doing stupid things will only make your blood pressure rise – not a good thing in my case.
Because it’ll make you want to slit your wrists.
Do wax lyrical on how you feel so rested, but that you need more rest. In the Boheim household, complaining of boredom as a result of doing nothing is like opening up a Pandora’s Box of Back Office tasks that need to be fulfilled before the week is out.
Because it’ll be rubbish. Actually, don’t bother doing anything creative at all, even after you’ve recovered.
This post is an exception to the rule as I’d like to raise awareness of post-partum pre-eclampsia. I for one had assumed it only occurred during pregnancy, not afterwards. In addition, I’m not necessarily someone you’d consider to be at risk: while I may complain to my Better Half about my muffin top, I’m definitely not obese. I’ve no family history of pre-eclampsia. I’m fit, and apart from my obsession with carrot cake and chocolate, I’m reasonably healthy and my blood pressure has always been normal. The only niggling thing is my age. I had a couple of other things going on too – gestational diabetes and elevated levels of ‘bile salts’ in my blood stream. Both were managed during the pregnancy, child#3 was fine and post delivery, I was all fine.
The point is, though, that in the aftermath of childbirth pre-eclampsia can go unnoticed or misdiagnosed. In the UK, post birth, the community midwife visits you a couple of times. On both occasions, I was focused on the health of my little one. The pain in my lower back, my headaches, the fact that I was feeling so out of it, were, I thought, repeats of how I was after I had my other two children, so I didn’t really think to mention them. As stated above, my diagnosis of, and subsequent treatment for, postpartum pre-eclampsia came by chance and a spot of luck.
So for those who are expecting, or have just given birth, for the partners/husbands/carers out there, what follows below are some warning signs. Equally, be warned: many of these symptoms could be related to other factors too, for the simple reason that a woman’s body goes through a lot post the arrival of a little one.
(1) Excruciating headaches – imagine having your head crushed in a vice. Note, however, that headaches could be a result of a number of factors, including, hormonal changes, the side effect of an epidural/spinal anaesthesia.
(2) Changes in vision … although after a few sleepless nights, everything will looked blurred.
(3) Sky-rocketing blood pressure – yet even so, if your blood pressure has been normal, would you really notice signs of hypertension?
(4) Swelling face or limbs … with all the drugs that were pumped in me during the birth, I looked like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. It was the same with my other two births too, so it seemed like nothing unusual and as a result, not something I would have raised.
(6) Excess protein in your urine … but tell me this: when are you going to check your pee? But: if you find it difficult to spend a penny, that could be a symptom too.
(7) Lower back pain … around the kidneys … and pain underneath your ribs too.
Professor Mark Johnson and his team are, among other things, working to try to understand the causes of pre-eclampsia as part of their research into the health of expectant mothers and preventing premature births. Funding for this research comes from the charity Mark and a group of founding donors established: Borne. The charity’s ultimate aim is to prevent disability and death in childbirth and create lifelong health for mothers and babies. More information can be found on Borne’s website: www.borne.org.uk.
So here is a very gentle plug: 50% of any royalties generated through the sale of The Silent Children will be donated to Borne (registered charity number 1067412-7.) Even if you hate the book, hate fiction, hate my writing, please buy a few copies, and then some more, for the simple reason that you’ll be helping a very valuable organisation.
Until next time!