Tag Archives: pregnancy

The final countdown

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So we’re really here. 38 weeks pregnant and our little one could arrive any day. 2 more days at work before maternity leave, and 2 weeks until that magical due date.

It’s a weird old time. I thought I’d be veering wildly between ‘so excited I can’t sleep’ and ‘so terrified I can’t breathe’. But actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

I’m sad. After months of anxiety at the beginning, in the last 10 weeks or so I’ve finally learned to love my bump and to be excited about this pregnancy. Just in time to not be pregnant anymore. Now, I know that the whole point of pregnancy is to have that little bundle at the end – and I know that’s going to be brilliant; but nonetheless I’m going to be sad not to be pregnant. We’re really not sure if we’ll do it again, for reasons of our own, so it’s possible that this is the last time I’ll experience pregnancy. Me and the bump have had a unique bond that (selfishly) I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Like a secret club of two, with clandestine nighttime meetings and secret handshakes (well, maybe not handshakes but definitely bum wiggles and kicks). I’ve enjoyed our little journey so I’m letting myself feel sad so I can say goodbye to the bump before the next stage.

I’m worried. This baby will change everything – not just practically but for us as a couple. I know we’re tough enough to weather the change. I know we love each other enough (yuk, vom, I know) to make sure we communicate and stay in love, and make time for each other. But nonetheless, we won’t be the same. Spontaneity is going to be harder for a while – no more last minute trips to the pub. We can’t be as selfish with our time – it’s not all about us anymore as a twosome, but about our family of three. And yes, practically we will be tired, we will find it hard to be on time and to see everyone we want to and to function and to get all those niggly jobs around the house done.

I’m excited. I can’t wait to see if we’re having a boy or a girl. Just imagining if the baby has my husband’s eyes, or my nose, and what their personality develops into gets my heart pumping and makes me all emotional. We. Are. Having. A. Baby. It’s like a self-belief mantra I have to repeat. A teeny tiny part of me still doesn’t quite believe it’s going to happen and when I realise it is, I can barely contain myself!

I’m actually not that scared. Physically, this baby is coming out of me. One way or another it (and I) doesn’t have a choice. So I don’t see any reason to be scared. I can’t keep it in there (nor would I want to), and no matter what happens it’s going to hurt. But I’m going to have great care, from great midwives, and great support from my husband and my mum. In the grand scheme of my (hopefully) long and happy life, a day or two of pain with such a wonderful outcome is completely worth it.

So there we are. Depending how long this baby wants to cook, the next blog post might well be a birth announcement. In the meantime, rest and relaxation are the order of the day with a few lunches with friends thrown in for good measure. Bring it on baby, we’re ready for you!

Bend me, I won’t break

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Bend me, I won’t break

I think we all have moments when we worry about our physical abilities – after an accident or injury, after too many drinks (!), when pregnant, when especially tired. For the most part, these are well founded fears – our brain’s way of keeping us safe and uninjured. But sometimes, they’re the result of unfounded or exaggerated anxiety and recognising these worries as different to the reasonable, justified ones, can be tricky.

As anyone who has read the blog knows, I’m currently pregnant. 31 weeks pregnant. Pregnancy is a time when you absolutely have to be careful and aware of your body and how you’re feeling (please note this careful disclaimer to avoid a horde of angry midwives at my door). However, I think sometimes we can get so caught up in our anxieties (particularly when we’ve suffered prior complications or losses), that we miss out on opportunities to get stronger, healthier and better prepared for what’s coming.

I’m one of the worriers.

After two previous early miscarriages, and despite a normally good amount of common sense, I was terrified of everything. Eating the wrong thing, lifting too much, sneezing too hard (completely serious), passive smoking, exercising.

Now, all of these things can absolutely be a danger to a pregnant woman and her unborn child (except the sneezing thing, that was just daft) but they also all require a bit of reason.

Food guidance is there for a reason, and it should be observed. But it should also be understood. The risk of getting food poisoning from soft cheese or uncooked meat is the same as it’s always been. You’re not necessarily suddenly more likely to get it. The danger is, that should you be unlucky, the damage will affect more than just you – it can affect your baby too. I followed everything my midwife told me – ensuring that I stuck only to her advice (not the forums online filled with fellow unreasonable worriers, not family, not friends). This served me well and quickly quelled my worries. It also meant I could eat medium rare steak.

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When I was about 18 weeks pregnant, I picked my friend’s little girl up without thinking – she had no shoes on and we were popping out to say hello to my husband, who was waiting in the car. Picking her up was the logical thing to do. As we later drove away (having deposited my little friend back to her mum – we’re not child snatchers), I turned to my husband and said, anxiety stricken, with crazy, manic eyes and a wobbly voice, “I shouldn’t have lifted her, should I?!”. To which he held my hand and sensibly replied, “Mums with more than one child all over the world continue to pick up their toddlers throughout pregnancy. Stop panicking, you’re fine.”

I have very little to say about passive smoking, except that walking behind a smoker on the street once or twice during your pregnancy will not have an impact. Something I had to convince myself of, despite being a normally reasonable person.

And now, exercising. For any Sex and the City fans out there, I had a Charlotte moment. I panicked that any exercise would somehow pull the wrong muscle, causing my comfy, cozy womb to become a dark, dank cave that any self-respecting baby would quite rightly up sticks and leave. So despite recently starting Pilates and enjoying it, I stopped the moment I found out I was pregnant…just in case. It was only upon reaching 24 weeks that I decided I’d be brave and try the antenatal Pilates class instead, something I could have done weeks earlier. I checked with my midwife, who told me any strengthening exercise run by an individual who is trained in supporting pregnant women, would be a great thing to prepare me for birth. 7 sessions later and I absolutely love it.

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So I guess what I’m trying to say is, of course there are times in our lives when we feel more fragile, more vulnerable, less sure of our bodies and their capacity to continue to support us. But you know what? As long as you’re sensible and listen to medical advice; 9 times out of 10, the things we’re most scared of sit within two categories: Utterly ridiculous, or exactly what we need.

And to my fellow pregnant women – it’s OK to be frightened. But you’re not a fragile, delicate crystal, you’re a diamond – tougher than most grown men, and doing something absolutely incredible with your body.

Be brave, try that exercise class, get involved in decorating the nursery, eat that steak. You are so much stronger than you know.

Weirdly and wonderfully ‘with child’

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Weirdly and wonderfully ‘with child’

Pregnancy is such a odd time. Millions of women have written or spoken about ‘the things no-one tells you’, so this is just general rambling about some of the very weird (and often wonderful) things I’ve experienced since being pregnant.

1 Random touching

This one’s well documented, but I have had the most bizarre selection of people just stroke my stomach without so much as a ‘how are you?’.

If I encountered someone who told me their eye surgery had gone well, I wouldn’t stroke my hand over their eyes in a ‘go to sleep’ style movement; nor would any other sane person. And yet, apparently, baby bumps are exempt from this general rule of touching etiquette.

I’m certain all mums feel the same, but I’m incredibly protective of the bump. It’s precious, and ours, and (and this is, you’d imagine, the most obvious point) part of my body. Please ask before you reach out to touch it (particularly if I barely know you in the first place). And if I say no, regardless of how well you know me, please accept that it’s based on how I’m feeling, not you.

2 Friendly faces

Since being noticeably pregnant, people have been so kind. I dropped my parking ticket the other day, but before I could begin the slow descent (and inevitably difficult ascension back to full height), a random stranger had picked it up for me with an understanding smile.

Various retail staff have asked when the baby’s due and finished our transaction with a ‘congratulations’ or ‘good luck’.

People smile at me more – pregnant women in particular have been very un-British and actually made eye contact and started conversations in waiting rooms. It was a little disconcerting at first, if I’m honest.

3 Everyone knows better

As first time parents, we’re under no illusions – we have lots to learn, and no matter how organised, we’ll never be ready for the huge change that’s coming. Nonetheless, we didn’t emerge from an alien pod only days ago with no knowledge of the human family.

We’re certainly not too proud to ask for help or advice, but when we describe the midwife’s most recent observations/guidance, we don’t expect a random relative or friend to launch into an unasked-for and opinionated diatribe about how the midwife is wrong. They are, of course, human and susceptible to mistakes, but they’re also the experts.

Every pregnancy is different, everyone’s medical history is different, and guidance and advice changes annually – my midwife knows both me, our baby, and the up to date clinical guidance best.

4 Sticks and stones

Your throwaway observation that ‘Ooooh I was much bigger than you by this point, haven’t you got a small bump?’ brought me to tears later that day. It weighed on my mind, had me googling like a good’un, and worrying that my much-wanted baby wasn’t growing right. All this, despite knowing from regular midwife appointments that things are right on track.

I know that nothing is meant maliciously, but just think about the impact on an anxious, tired, hormone-ridden first time mum before casually declaring that their pregnancy is noticeably abnormal (in your humble opinion). Instead, tell them they’re looking good, ask how long they’ve got left, share your funny pregnancy stories.

5 Love and understanding

I recently went on a hen weekend in Liverpool. When we originally booked the weekend, I wasn’t yet pregnant. So despite loving the bride and wanting to be involved, a part of me was dreading being away from my husband for the weekend, and worrying about being boring and sober and tired, and a big fat burden on the other girls.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Women I’m close to but also women I’d never met before picked my suitcase up to carry it upstairs, gave up their seats, and checked on me. One of my fellow bridesmaids made sure soft drinks and mocktails were part of the activities she’d planned so I wasn’t left out, and I laughed and chatted and thoroughly enjoyed myself all weekend.

My point is, my worrying was unfounded. Throughout my pregnancy people have understood that I’m tired, not judged when we leave a meal/gathering/party earlier than we would have done a few months ago, but also continued to treat me like me.

So I guess, in summary:

  • Don’t touch me without asking (this is, you’d think, an obvious request)
  • The world is kinder than you think
  • Trust your instincts (and your midwife)
  • Be sensitive in your observations (and pregnant superheroes, try not to get too upset about clumsy comments)
  • Your people/tribe will always understand

 

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A muddle of emotions

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A muddle of emotions

I feel like this should be an official collective term, like a gaggle of geese or a murder of crows. Official or not, a muddle of emotions is how we’ve been feeling lately.

Our muddle is partly fuelled by hormones, tiredness and huge life changes coming our way. But it’s also fuelled by other people. People who unwisely don’t heed the previously mentioned hormones. Here are some silly/ignorant/just plain mean things that people say/do which have made us even more muddley.

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Ignorant things people say

Perhaps it’s because of our previous experience. Maybe for those beautiful, happy pregnancy announcements which don’t follow a loss of some kind, people aren’t so stupid. For us, most people were kind, thoughtful, and understanding that we weren’t dancing on the ceiling. But one or two were just gobsmackingly heartless (whether intentional or not).

One person genuinely asked ‘Is it real this time?’…I know. There are no words (well, there are but I won’t repeat them on this public forum).

Mistaking cautious excitement for full-steam ahead spotlight time

Here’s the thing. I’m a talker. I love being social within my own little groups. But generally, I’m an introvert. Time at home in our bubble is vital to my energy levels, ability to function, and avoidance of grouchy, snappy comebacks at people. This is something I’ve learnt to embrace as I’ve got older. We are much better at turning down invitations when we know we need to. Our time at home is as protected (if not more so) as remembering key family birthdays. And that’s what makes our situation difficult.

At 24 weeks, we’re now cautiously excited. We’ve bought stuff for the nursery, I’ve bought maternity clothes. I have a rapidly expanding football shaped bump that won’t be ignored, and a teeny tiny kung-fu artist to remind me they’re growing inside me. We’re happy to talk about the baby. But that doesn’t mean we’re comfortable with discussing every last aspect of it just yet, or rolling out the parade and party poppers. We need to take the lead. Some days we’re over the moon. Others we want to quietly get through without a panic attack.

It’s ours to celebrate

Now that we’ve reached this cautiously optimistic stage of pregnancy, we’re proud of it. It feels like a huge achievement that we’ve made it this far, after our experience last year. That means I proudly wear the ‘baby on board’ badge on my coat, even though I don’t do the daily London commute. It means that when we’re asked how far along we are, what our due date is, whether we’ve found out the sex; it would be nice to answer for ourselves before overenthusiastic family and friends jump in for us. I completely get that family and friends are excited too. But please, after everything, let us have this for us. This baby is ours, ours to celebrate when we’re ready, ours to protect and ours to get used to.

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A thank you

I want to finish this by saying that I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I completely understand that a lot of what I’ve ranted about above comes only from a place of love and excitement by those we love. We love you all too, and we’re so grateful we have you all.

We just need you to understand that (like all first time parents) we’re a little overwhelmed. And when you top that off with our anxiety, our utter disbelief that this is actually happening, and our introvert personalities; well, you’ve got a pretty muddled couple of people.

To those who have somehow seen through the muddle, the ones who’ve discovered the perfect balance of excitement for us, and space for us to breathe. The ones who’ve remembered the painful milestones related to last year, referenced them with a simple ‘I love you’, and let us move on. The ones who’ve given us plain facts and honest truths when I’ve asked daft pregnancy questions; and who have quietly drip-fed baby clothes, nursery paraphernalia, and recommendations at a pace we can manage. Thank you for accepting us as we are, muddle and all.golden-letters-thank-you-design_1095-240

 

Dear baby…

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Dear baby…

Dear baby,

We’ve been so scared, your Mummy and Daddy. Last year was sad for us and you have been so very precious from the moment we found out about you.

Every milestone has felt like a huge achievement – you’re already the thing we’re most proud of and the most valuable thing in our lives. Mummy is a big worrier anyway, and she’s lost sleep, cried, refused to get excited (don’t be offended please, Mummy was just trying to be brave). She’s been the opposite of her normal self – so pessimistic and cautious. But now, halfway through your stay in Mummy’s tummy, we’re slowly letting ourselves smile and mean it. We’re talking about names, thinking about what we need to buy for you, how to decorate your room. You’ve become a part of us – you’ll make our family of two (plus Archer, your fur sibling), a family of three.

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But there are a couple of things you need to remember to help Mummy and Daddy be brave:

  1. Keep growing – get big and strong and ready for this big bad world you’re joining. Stay healthy and safe in there.
  2. Take care of Mummy – your kicks and roly-polys are already starting to provide reassurance to Mummy. It’s your way of saying ‘Hi there guys!’ and it’s  brilliant.
  3. You are not a rainbow baby – some people might talk about you as if you are. You are not. We will always be a little bit sad about what happened before you took root and decided to make Mummy your home. But it has nothing to do with you. From the moment we first saw that little nugget on the screen all those months ago, you started a whole new chapter for Mummy and Daddy, and we love you for it. Your job is not to fix us, your job is to simply be wonderful, beautiful you.

We can’t wait to meet you, to get to know you. We know we’ll be tired and grumpy and that it’s going to be hard work getting used to you, but you’re going to be worth every second.

All our love, already and always,

Mummy and Daddy xxx

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Love and laughter

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Love and laughter

So it’s been three weeks since our awful hospital stay. 23 days since the ultrasound room, 21 days since the day of pain and loss. 24 days since I last remember feeling genuinely happy and hopeful. Since the weekend that broke our hearts and stole our hopes and dreams. During that three weeks there have been a lot of tears, a lot of ‘what if’s, and a lot of politely smiling while people fumble through inappropriate question asking and platitudes. But in the last few days, something miraculous happened.

Drying the tears

You see, today, it’s been exactly 5 days since I last cried. And more than that, over the most recent weekend, me and my husband laughed, we took the mickey out of each other, and we felt…..’normal’. Neither of us is naive, we know that there will still be bad days – the next pregnancy announcement amongst our friends and family, the due dates of our lost babies, and (when it’s time) the next pregnancy for us. But for now, we’re starting to heal.

A slow process

Don’t get me wrong, the happy you might see for a day, an hour or a minute is not as it used to be. There’s still a permanent dull ache in my heart that doesn’t go away. For my husband, he’s angry that it can’t just happen for us as easily as it seems to for our friends and family. No matter what’s in our future, we’ve both fundamentally changed and nothing will erase these experiences from our hearts and minds.

Every single conversation brings up a momentary ‘what if’ that hurts. Some mornings I feel like my very biological make-up has changed and I’m now made of lead or stone. Everything is just so heavy. There are random moments – in the office, at home, with friends – when an emotional wave washes over me out of nowhere, and it feels like my heart physically sinks into my boots.

I still ask questions out of the blue of my husband “We’re going to be OK aren’t we?” or “I just want us to have a baby – what if we can’t?”. I’m the woman out of comedy sketches, desperate to hold my own little one. Only it’s not so funny anymore. But this sadness doesn’t keep me in bed anymore. It doesn’t immediately generate tears. I acknowledge the ache and the heaviness, and force myself up and out into the world.

Take care of you

I just wanted people to know that it does get better. Life going on feels like the worst thing in the world when you’re in that ultrasound room, receiving that heart shattering news. You just want everything to stop – the whole world to acknowledge the immense pain you’re suddenly feeling. But actually, when the world keeps turning and you realise you have a life to return to, it’s a positive thing. It’s healthy, and necessary, and like it or not, just what you need.

Just be careful with yourself. You’re understandably fragile and no matter how many good days you have (and you will), you still need to listen to your body and your heart. If you feel like telling someone at work what’s happened so that they stop asking about your ‘lovely tan and holiday’, do it. Their awkwardness is their problem. You lost a child. If you get home from work and need to go straight to sleep because just ‘being ‘has exhausted you, curl up and do just that. If you have one too many glasses of wine with your best friends and suddenly realise your miscarriage is all you’ve rambled on about for an hour, don’t feel guilty. Your friends love you and understand that they have a vital role in your recovery.

You’re grieving, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You’ve suffered a huge physical and emotional loss. Take care of yourself and your partner and you’ll suddenly realise you laughed today. And it’ll get better.

 

Heartbeats and hopes

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Heartbeats and hopes

“We’re very sorry but we can’t find a heartbeat”, 9 words that will ironically, stop your own heart for the briefest of moments. I can say this with certainty, because it’s happened to us twice now. In only four short months we’ve lost two babies. And yes, I’m aware that biologically they weren’t babies – one was no more than a cluster of cells, the other was a ‘foetus’ – the ugliest of words to describe something so incredibly beautiful.

But to us they were our children, our first children, and now the children we’ll never get to name, to tease, to watch grow up, to tell off and to lose sleep over. From now onwards, my medical notes will say ‘Two pregnancies, no babies’. They’re the reason we’ll never get excited about a future pregnancy, and the explanation behind the inherent change to our naturally hopeful and happy personalities to cautious, cynical and bitter ones instead.

I’ve ummed and aahed over whether to share this publicly – it’s incredibly personal, and laying our hearts and personal pain out there for all to read is a big decision. But as a couple who has now suffered through the pain of 2 miscarriages and found that the only balm are the testimonies and case studies of others who’ve felt the same, it seemed important to share our story.

Number one

The first time was early – some bleeding at home, a fruitless trip to A&E where I was told to go home and see what happened, an early scan to confirm my body had done its job by itself and got rid of our first baby. We were sad, we woke up in the night and held each other but we bounced back – not everyone knew. We could survive the ignorant and unwitting enquiries about when we’d have a family because we still believed we would.

Number two

The pain of number two is still raw – it was only a week or two ago, but the situation was horrendous. Following our first experience, we paid for an early private scan at 8 weeks. All was good, the heartbeat was strong – we got photos of our little blob and told only some immediate family and very close friends. The consultant assured us that after hearing a heartbeat at 8 weeks, the risk of miscarriage was only 2%. We should try to stop worrying. And we did, we let the hope creep back in. We were still careful but we booked our 12 week scan, I attended my first midwife appointment.

The 12 week scan rolled around. Nervous and desperate for the reassurance we both needed, we walked into the room to meet our sonographer. After muttering under his breath that “It’s too small” “Hang on, no, very small”, I knew something was wrong. “I’m very sorry, there’s no heartbeat” he said with very little sympathy or emotion. The screen showed measurements at 8 weeks 3 days – only 3 days after our first scan. Neither of us spoke, made a noise, cried. We just stared and nodded. So inherently British, I’m even pretty sure I said thank you. He called a colleague to confirm, took us to the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) and a kind nurse took us to the quiet room to discuss our options.

Unwanted options

None of the options was ‘preferable’ – I’m not a clinician so I won’t go into details, but they’re essentially surgery, tablets (at hospital or home), or let nature take her course. Due to fly on a much needed holiday the next day, and given that in four weeks my body had failed to do its job so far, we ruled out the natural option. Our fragile hearts and minds just couldn’t sit around, go to work, smile and get on with life knowing we were waiting for the pain and an end to it all. I’ve never had surgery, never had an anaesthetic so we ruled that out too. Tablets it was, and taking the course in hospital throughout a day seemed the most efficient and safe way to do it. We rang our friends, postponed our holiday and told them to go on without us. We rebooked flights for a couple of days later hoping all went to plan.

I’m not sharing everything here, but it was a day (and overnight stay) filled with pain, tears and blood. A day I’m certain I couldn’t have survived without my husband to hold my hands as contractions took over, to wipe my tears, kiss my forehead and tell me I was amazing, and he was so proud of me. And my mum, who spent the entire day rubbing my back, hugging me and telling me it was OK to be angry, to sob, and insisting I ask for pain relief when I was trying to be brave. Both were struggling to watch me in so much physical and emotional pain and obviously, my husband was experiencing the same loss I was; but between them they provided the strength and love I needed.

Looking forward

This isn’t an advice post – if you’re going through this right now, I am so so sorry for you. Every experience will be different so I’m no expert – just don’t do it alone, accept help and hugs and don’t try to be brave. You need to grieve and feel everything  to move on when you’re ready.

For us, we’re stronger than ever. Our silver lining is that this didn’t tear us apart, it made us more sure of our love and partnership. The nights when I’ve woken him up sobbing he hasn’t shushed me and made me go back to sleep. He’s hugged me, turned the lamp on and put Family Guy on the TV because he knows I need distraction, and that sleep isn’t coming.

We haven’t lost all hope – two miscarriages are sadly quite common and the NHS don’t investigate why until a couple has 3 miscarriages. We’re hoping we don’t reach that number, but for now, ours is not to reason why. We need to heal. We still hope to add an extra number to our little family but if we don’t, we know we’ll survive.

When we’re ready we’ll try again but I need those we love to understand that it won’t be congratulations and excitement – we don’t need advice to stay positive because frankly, it ain’t gonna happen. We are going to need to stay cautious and cynical. It’s the only way we’ll survive this again. Please accept that and leave us be until we can let ourselves believe it’s really going to happen.

Without wanting to sound like a really miserable awards ceremony, thank you to everyone who sent messages, personal stories to give us hope, and flowers, chocolates, prayers and love. To our friends we (eventually) joined on holiday, thank you for reminding us it’s OK to smile – we didn’t need to sit at home wearing black and wondering where we went wrong. Your love, easy company and laughter has been a huge part of our initial recovery and we’re massively grateful for all of you.

There are no words to thank my mum – thank you isn’t big enough. I love you – it was an awful experience but I’m incredibly glad I had you by my side.

To my husband, I’m sorry we haven’t got our happy ending. I’m sorry our short marriage so far has been so incredibly difficult. Thank you for being so brave and strong, for suffering with me and talking and listening. Thank you for opening up, for taking care of me, and letting me take care of you. We’ll get there, and if we don’t, we will always have each other.