Where the heart is

So my due date has been and gone – sorry to disappoint all my family and friends in the States, but it turns out that America, Liberty and Sam (as in Uncle) will have to go back in the name bank for next time! (I was also briefly tempted by “Americus”, as per the name the heroine gives her daughter in Where the Heart Is after giving birth in a Walmart. It’s also a film starring Natalie Portman. I must admit I have a special fascination for this story as living in a vast, reasonably-priced department store is something of a fantasy of mine…)

I went for the 40-week check up at the hospital in the morning. We installed the car seat and loaded my hospital bags and pillows into the boot – after what happened with Elly I was hyper-aware that they might find something and keep me at the hospital, so we wanted to be prepared. How the midwife laughed when we told her we’d brought everything with us… but there was a moment, quite a bit longer than a moment actually, when I thought with rather perverse satisfaction that we’d been justified in doing so.

Everything was fine, with the exception of my heart rate. I expect I tempted fate by lying awake the night before thinking about as many America-related names as I could…

where the heart is

To give some context: my pulse had first been measured as a bit high (100 bpm) at my 31-week doctor’s appointment. She asked me to ensure that the midwives checked this at my next hospital visit, which they duly did, only to discover it was 80 bpm. Still on the high side, but well out of the danger zone. This was followed by my 38-week appointment back at the doctor’s. It was 100 bpm again! We decided to blame this on the sauna they call a waiting room at the surgery. I’d been sitting there for 20 minutes or so, slowly baking (I would have gained more brownie points if I’d said I walked briskly to the surgery, but I thought it better to be honest…) Again, as I had no other symptoms such as palpitations or breathlessness beyond the usual levels, she left it for the midwives to check out.

In the pleasantly air conditioned antenatal room I asked them to check my pulse. To my shock, they told me 120 bpm! Which is really fast – 2 beats per second. I denied all the usual symptoms and also assured them I didn’t feel nervous or stressed – although I suppose I could have had some kind of subconscious stress that was reflecting itself in my heart rate. Having spoken to the obstetrician, the midwife took a blood test to rule out anaemia and thyroid issues (which can apparently accelerate the heart rate…) and obtained a referral to cardiology for an ECG.

ECG stands for electrocardiogram, and it is a straightforward, painless test using electrodes stuck to various parts of your body that measure the rhythm and activity of your heart. I was worried I’d suffer an electric shock and made the doctor promise me faithfully that I wouldn’t feel anything! It was all very efficient, and in a few minutes we were back in the antenatal area handing the results to the midwife. Ironically, even though I’d clearly been anxious in the cardiology department, my pulse had dropped to 80 bpm – a third less than it had been earlier! All seemed a-ok. Calling up later for the blood results, they were normal too.

Having been sent home, bags in tow, I reflected that perhaps I just have a higher than normal heart rate anyway (they’d asked me what my regular rate was, but I didn’t have a clue) which has been exacerbated by the pregnancy. However, according to the NHS, “most adults have a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm).” So 80 bpm sounds all right in that context and I won’t feel too bad about not being at athlete levels of fitness.

All in all it was interesting to have such a focus on my own health – throughout the pregnancy it has always been about checking the baby’s heart rate and constantly asking the question “is the baby ok?” For the first time I had to consider my own medical situation, and I’m sure Elly will agree that it is considerably less scary to think there might be something wrong with me rather than the baby.

So I’m going to forget about hearts for the moment and concentrate on not giving birth in Walmart – given that we live practically next door to a huge 24-hour Asda, it is not entirely out of the realms of possibility that my waters might break in there at least!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *