(Over) halfway

Well, I’m officially almost 21 weeks pregnant (well if you go by my calculations I am 21+1 but hey, what’s a couple of days between friends). I’m now getting the quizzical looks – “do you think she’s eaten too much or is she pregnant?”.  As I type it’s 6.30am and I’ve been awake for an hour with hunger pains so the former could be true.

I’ve learned a lot on our journey so far – lots I never wanted to learn but equally, those experiences have brought us to the point we are today – me growing this teeny little new life and actually coping with the day to day grumbling of being pregnant without having a breakdown. So here’s what I’ve learned so far.

  1.  No matter how much you think it’s plain sailing, a spanner will get thrown into the works.  So this was a lesson we learned on holiday. I was content and comfortable being pregnant. I was 17 weeks at that point and there was nothing to indicate anything was wrong.  One our wedding anniversary (yes, typically) I had a small bleed. Nothing too major, as soon as it started, it had stopped. But it made me realise just how fragile this whole thing is – still.
  2. Miscarriage will taint any future pregnancies you have.  Although we’re past the major danger point in this pregnancy, I still can’t fully relax and enjoy pregnancy. I do still have odd moments when I worry that something is wrong. Scans still stress me out (although now we’re in the rainbow clinic it’s getting easier as there’s no association with loss there for us).  But I’ll never fully relax and be carefree.  Now I worry about premature birth, still borns, cot death. Having known people that have been through the first two, it’s certainly something on my radar. I’ll never completely get over these thoughts but, with the help of Reiki, those negative thoughts creeping in are fewer now!
  3. Piles aren’t reserved for birth. Nope. So I’d gone from shitting through the eye of a needle to being so bunged up it hurt. Going to the loo was torturous and it felt like I was giving birth each time. And yep, the piles were there too. Not just sore, angry piles, they were the type that decided they’d bleed (a lot) and have you shitting yourself (literally) that you’d pushed the baby out!
  4. Everyone wishes to share knowledge. From the well meaning friends to colleagues at work, everyone has a bit of advice for you. Whether it’s what classes to do to prepare for birth to what pram to buy, people want to tell you all about their experiences. I fear constant baby chat is making me a pregnancy bore. I try my hardest to talk about other things (I draw the line at talking about gin…..I miss gin) but everyone wants to steer the conversation to baby.
  5. People talk about your boobs…..a lot.  One of the most common questions everyone asks is “are you going to breastfeed?”.  For the record, yes, sort of. We’re combination feeding so hubby dearest can play his part (although I hear now that he needs to wait until after a month to start his bottle duties so he’s on nappy duties the first 4 weeks).  But everyone seems fascinated by your tits!  It’s become the norm to talk about them. “How are your nipples – are they bigger?”, “do they hurt?”, “blimey look at the size of them”.
  6. Hospitals can be sticklers for protocol (when it suits).  We really wanted a gender reveal where our family found out whether we were team pink or blue at the same time as us. In theory it should have worked but hospital protocol wouldn’t allow (bear in mind this is the same hospital that told me to catch our foetus on miscarriage 3, not sure that’s in the guidebook).  They’re not allowed to write down the gender, they won’t even tell the cleaner and get her to write it down (of course I asked). So we now know!  Miserable bastards!
  7. Babies have no concept of time.  This is a recent lesson I’ve learned. I started feeling proper kicks about a week ago. They were sporadic and very gentle. But not now. Our little one decides that, when I’m in an important meeting at work, needing to focus and concentrate, it’s going to give me a swift hard kick in the foof!!  Not just a gentle “mummy I’m awake” prod. No. A monumental drop kick in the fanny!  But it’s lovely, of course it is. I just wonder what the hell the people opposite me think when they see my face.  And of course, there’s the 4.30am kicks too….let’s not forget those. The ones that make you so happy your baby is moving, you can’t get back to sleep.
  8. Gaviscon is your best friend.  You expect that heartburn is confined the the third trimester. No, of course it’s not. From about week 18 I’ve had constant, Gaviscon glugging heartburn.  Probably doesn’t help that my hate of sugar has now subsided and it is slowly creeping back into my diet. But it’s there, constant. If the old wives tales are true, I’m not giving birth to a baby, I’m giving birth to a gorilla.
  9. Pregnancy doesn’t make me a hormonal monster (surprisingly). Yep, of course I’ve had times when I’ve cried at everything but based on what others have told me, they turned into the exorcist when pregnant (something I was fully expecting to happen to me). I’ve been completely surprised that I’ve not turned into a massive tw*t and made my husbands life hell (or so he says). I had one monumental breakdown that I put down to fear mixed in with hormones in the first trimester. I was a complete cow to my wonderful, placid husband and, at that point, would have accused him of being Sadam Hussein – I was that insane!  Thankfully, and according to his reports to the midwife, I am bearable and I’m not a nightmare (I don’t doubt his pals get another story but I don’t care)
  10. Nothing else matters. I’ve found recently I’ve really got no focus. I have to work hard to care about some of the seemingly petty issues in work and life.  But I don’t care. My headspace is taken up with concentrating on growing this wonderful little merger of the two of us. And nursery decor. And breast pumps. But nothing else seems to matter and it’s hard to feel passionate about things.

So now I’m on the slippery slope to the end. I’ve got less time being pregnant (hopefully) than I have been pregnant. We get to meet our little one in 4 1/2 months.

Anxiety

I suffered my first panic attack when my Aunt died 6 years ago.  I’d never had one before then and I didn’t know what was happening.  It was at her daughter’s wedding 3 months after she’d died.  They played her song  and I felt like my chest was going to explode.  I couldn’t get my breath and my breathing went so rapid I was flushed and scared.  I ended up sat outside on the cold concrete – terrified what was happening.

It happened quite a lot in those early months but after a while I learned that I could control the attacks by sitting on a cold surface and allowing my body to calm down. It became more manageable and eventually they stopped.

When I fell pregnant though, they were to resurface.

I was terrified when I initially found out I was pregnant and just sobbed – big fat tears about the worry that lay ahead and whether this baby was going to survive.  At this point, panic attacks weren’t part of the journey.

I’d had a number of scans at St Mary’s during my miscarriages, all leading to the “I’m sorry it’s bad news” line we were accustomed to hearing.  Our first scan at 7 weeks was terrifying and as soon as I was called, a panic attack started.  I was in a hospital where nothing is a cold, concrete surface so I just had to ride it out and try to fix it with mind over matter.  I managed to calm myself but felt completely terrified throughout, and at each subsequent scan.

Part of my coping mechanism to deal with the constant anxious state I generally feel is Reiki.  Since February I’ve been seeing a practitioner on a fortnightly basis to help with it and get rid of the negative energy.  I truly believe that the “witchcraft” (as Scott calls it) completely helps with my ability to cope.  I’ve also found I’ve become a little more OCD about things.  I talk to magpies, say “Hello” and ask how the family is (yep, I’m in full on nutter mode in the car).  On baby appointment days I make sure I wear exactly the same jewellery as I did at the first appointment as I feel it’s brought me good luck (at the start I wore the same dress but I got over that one quickly).  But as the pregnancy progressed and each scan was positive, I slowly relaxed.  My daily Dr Google checks of “is this normal in pregnancy” stopped and I slowly felt I could relax a little more and enjoy pregnancy.   When I Googled in the past, I’d focus on the negative stories – I’d be convinced that I was with those people and couldn’t see all the other positive responses.  However now, anytime I Google anything, I focus on the positive and think “yes, why not, that’s me”.

Scan’s, for the time being, have been less traumatic.  Due to my history, I’m having more scans but they tend to be on either the antenatal unit, or from now on, the Rainbow Clinic in St Mary’s.  Just having scan’s in another area and not associating the room with our previous losses really makes it so much easier to handle them.  Of course our 20 week scan will be in the ultrasound department but I think I’ll handle it….hopefully!

I’ll just say a bit about the Rainbow Clinic* as they are incredible.  The clinic is funded through Tommy’s and deals with women who have suffered stillbirths or neonatal deaths.  I work closely with the team in my day job so they’ve taken me on to provide that reassurance throughout my pregnancy (something I’m certainly grateful of).  Despite their area of work, it’s a remarkable clinic.  Staff are extremely friendly and as soon as you go in, you are put at ease.  My treatment is currently under Dr Heazell who is wonderful and talks you through everything.  After the scan (and hearing our baby’s heart beat fill the room) he explains what the data is he has taken from the scan and how that fits to what they would expect (we get to see lots of graphs).  They do a lot of investigation on the placenta and blood vessels that supply the uterus to see whether everything is normal.  Thankfully I have a wonderful placenta (good job really cos I’m giving it to them as a parting gift when I give birth).  They do pick up a slight irregularity with one of my blood vessels but they’re not overly worried at this stage.  Apparently your blood vessels change as you become pregnant – one has fully changed but the other still has to catch up. This is going to be checked again at 23 weeks – this is the point at which they would have expected the change to have happened).  Thankfully I’m in the right place for this kind of monitoring – at least we know and can keep our eye on it.

I read a post somewhere where the woman said she found her coping mechanism in pregnancy after loss was to wake up each day and think “I’m pregnant still today so I’m going to enjoy it” so I took on that mantra.  Each morning I survey my growing tum and am thankful I can still enjoy it.  Let’s face it, I’ve got 22 more weeks so I need to remain upbeat and get on with it – no point in feeling anxious all the time!

I’ll leave you with a pic of our most recent scan – here’s my lovely placenta 🙂


*https://www.tommys.org/our-organisation/what-we-do/our-research/research-stillbirth/rainbow-clinic