Today I turn twenty nine.
I'm standing at the start of the last year of my twenties and wondering what it will bring. How will this decade be sealed? I'm feeling a lot of trepidation.
And the reason is this: now Ada is 17 months old, the idea of having another baby at some point is being floated.
And while I want another baby one day, the thought of ever being pregnant makes me physically recoil, fearful, scared scared scared.
Fear is a constant companion of mine at the moment. It wakes me up at night with visions and dreams of what might be's- emergencies and chaos and baby loss and grief. Thoughts creep up on me and take me places I don't need to go. I hardly realise I am letting myself go there until I snap back to reality, wondering why there are tears on my cheek. My gut feels heavy with worry. I feel lightheaded and lost and oh-so not brave.
I feel like I am spinning out into a person I am not- anxiety riddled and on the edge. A few months ago common sense won out and I took myself to my doctor.
I sat in the room with my GP who is probably my age. I cried and cried, spilling out my fears and feelings. It was a rushed appointment and I left feeling very unfinished, but he did suggest I might have PTSD and that medication and counselling might be helpful.
Post traumatic stress disorder- the very opposite of bravery.
When Ada was born I was brave.
When she was in hospital for 7 weeks I battled on day by day, I focused on her and I was brave.
When she came home so small, and still with medical issues, I carried on, I was brave.
But now? Now I am not brave.
My body recoils, and wants to flee at the idea of ever being pregnant again.
The thought makes me vomit, gives me nightmares, makes me desperately wish we didn't want another baby.
I battle daily- who will win out? Will fear win? Or will I be brave and let our family expand, however that may end?
Will I stick to how things are, or take the risk, (the hugely terrifying, feel like I want to die risk) and chance pregnancy again?
I've been to see my obstetrician about what could happen in a future pregnancy. I want numbers, and percentages to soothe me and take away my fears.
But the facts are these:
The chances of having more miscarriages is high. The chances of having another premature baby, another emergency situation, is about 1 in 5 to 1 in 10. Not high, but not low either.
The numbers are not enough to talk me out of having another baby, or to reassure me that it will be easy.
Instead I will have to be brave.
When the time comes (and it is not yet, please don't wait with baited breath) I will need to walk bravely every day, every hour, even seconds at times.
I have come to realise that bravery is not just a huge act of fearlesness, but the small quiet steps forward. The trudging steps, dragging my feet, but moving none the less. Bravery is saying yes when you want to say no. It's believing that whatever may happen you will be ok. It is repeating 'I am brave, I am fearless' and maybe half heartedly starting to believe it. It is turning to the constant and tiring fear and saying 'no more'- even if no more only lasts for two minutes.
It's knowing that the risk (oh my gosh the risk) is worth taking, to chance happiness at the end.
It's been amazing recently, as I've shared with other women around me, opened up about the crushing anxiety I feel, how common this is. Other new mums dealing with depression and anxiety- women who I would have never guessed struggle with this. It has given me great comfort to know I am not alone in this and that others have 'been there, done that' and come out the other side.
So, here I stand. I'm a visual person, and when I see today, my birthday, I imagine I am standing in a desert, with a fuzzy horizon. I look forward and can see shapes and objects but I cannot see the detail of what might be. And so, I decide to put one foot in front of the other, take it one step at a time, and walk into what twenty nine has for me.
As I walk I speak out:
"I am bigger than fear, and fear will not conquer me.
I. am. brave."