Inside me there are two wolves — one is my heart and the other one is a baby

Anais Gschwind
6 min readJul 24, 2023

I first noticed my heart doing weird things in the middle of last year. I wouldn’t be doing anything really but my heart would be racing along for no particular reason. Sometimes it would be a few minutes, sometimes hours, sometimes days. I didn’t think much of it, only that it was strange and uncomfortable.

I showed up to a GP a few times and mentioned it. In one case I was dismissed, told it was likely anxiety. Another one ordered a holter monitor test that tracks your heart beat over the course of a few days. There were no ‘events’ during that time and I didn’t go back to receive those results.

Like anyone who has experienced complex chronic health issues, I am reasonably used to inclusive results and no recourse to action.

I have learnt to tuck my discomfort away and manage things for myself. Physical suffering has often been anathema to me. Perhaps my inner teenager still rules my psyche but emotional suffering has forever held more appeal, more worthiness of analysis and attention.

For a while there I tried to ignore those racing heart beats and kind of got on with things.

We moved to a new city and I thought I’d give the doctors another go as the episodes kept happening. I showed up reluctantly to a new GP and told her the same thing. Likely anxiety, she said and referred me to a specialist who would ‘put my mind at ease’ and confirm it was nothing. I strapped on a holter monitor again for a few days… and again nothing happened. Well, nothing with my heart that is.

In other news, I was pregnant. It’s no secret to anyone who reads my ramblings that we’ve toyed with the idea of parenthood for sometime. Actually being pregnant with an intention to have a baby was something else entirely and a situation I associated with other people. It took some time to acclimatise. I am still acclimatising. And my heart was still doing racing things.

I happened to go to the GP (for something completely unrelated) on a day when my heart was racing. A nurse popped me on an ECG and was very excited when ‘we caught something’. I put my shirt back on and the doctor told me I had to go to the ER. I complained I had to be at work in a few hours and argued that there was no point in sitting around in a waiting room all day.

When I arrived at the desk at the ER the triage nurse asked me lots of boring questions and then popped my finger on the little heart monitor thing behind the desk. His face pulsed with panic and he came out the front to feel my pulse in my neck before asking me to meet him at the door and walking me to the resus room. I was impressed that I’d skipped the line.

They hooked me up to the ECG and the doctor started telling me about a drug called adenosine. As someone else shoved on the oxygen mask the doctor said ‘only a few people have died from this drug when their heart didn’t start again but if that happens you’re in the right place for us to take care of you.’

I was thinking about Cal still driving around looking for a car park outside the hospital. The doctor said ‘most people say this drug feels like the worst thing in the world but don’t panic it only lasts a few seconds’ and he held my hand as they pumped it into my vein.

I didn’t die but they kept me around for a while to make sure. It was the first of what would be many many trips to the ER for a shot of adenosine and a convival exchange with the staff.

The last time I visited, one of the nurses told me she’d really like to try adenonsine. Then she showed me the instagram profile of a weird burger place in Melbourne that makes buns that look like cartoon bunnies. She said she loves food and her kids will really love visiting when she takes them there on holidays soon.

On another occasion, in a rare encounter with a cardiologist, he and some medical students took a look at my ECG and declared I had Wolf-Parkinsson-White Syndrome.

Apparently this is a condition you’re born with. The extra electrical pathway in my heart that lends itself to launching into uncontrolled Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) had been laying dormant for over thirty years. The main (but extremely rare) side effect of SVT, which is that racing heart sensation, is sudden cardiac death.

I don’t often get scared of real things. I am afraid of things like the dark or walking into rooms full of people I don’t know. I’m not scared of cuts or illness or regret or fulfillment. I have spent my life so far imbued by the arrogance of youth — by the sense that my physical shortcomings or failings may be overcome by sheer force of will or active avoidance.

But now there is a baby in there growing alongside the wolf that lives in my heart.

On the day of the 20 week scan I was at the hospital all day. The physicians — a power duo of a young woman and older man — waited til 3.30 pm in the afternoon to drill me on all my existing health conditions. I was tired and hungry and emotionally distraught after hearing the latest results that involved another new minor complication.

‘Watch her’ said the doctor to my husband when she thought I could not hear her as I talked to the other one, ‘watch her for signs of post-natal depression.’

It wasn’t until later that I wondered why the woman had felt right to whisper to my husband rather than trust me with her opinion on my own health.

Pregnancy seems shrouded in such sacred mystery — both the tragic and the divine. There’s the whispering and test results, the obscure numbers and scans and millimeters and rules and risks wrapped up in graphs that only the professionals are deemed able to translate.

Conversely there’s the baby showers and presents, the colour schemes and prenatal yoga, the calm birth classes, the sense of empowerment and the right to maternal grounding and ultimately the birth of not only a child but a woman born again.

Like most things that look really good from the outside, I always harboured suspicions about the glowy aura that surrounds pregnancy. Now I wonder if mothers are just people who had babies or if, like the prophecy would have us believe, mother is an identity which is become, subsumes all else and makes all possible.

I wrestle with the wolf but I remain, simply woman, not quite mother and curious and apprehensive about what lies ahead. Perhaps I’m just not used to fear but now I am scared…

Scared that even before birth my body is not a sacred enough vessel to carry a life comfortably — certainly not with a glowing aura. Scared that I myself am not built for the task, unable to protect a baby from the racing heart. Scared that I will judge myself as harshly as I have judged others or even my own mother.

For one so deeply committed to feeling discomfort in silence, I am all of a sudden so eager to offer an honest answer to ‘how are you feeling today?”

And while every person, pregnant or otherwise, loves to offer thoughtful advice (“Everything will be better now/then/soon/sometime that isn’t now”) or offhand encouragement (“Oh I loved being pregnant, hope you do too!”) what is rarer is foundational respect that each and every woman who is pregnant deserves to feel herself unique in this moment despite the universality of pregnancy and the many that came before her.

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