So it’s been a long, long while since I wrote a blog, but I have recently felt the need to share some of my recent experiences throughout my pregnancy, which honestly, have not been particularly nice.
As a woman, one of the hardest things we do in our lives is go through pregnancy and labour. Those women who make the conscience decision not to have children have to go through relentless questions about why they don’t want children and be patronisingly told that they will probably change their mind one day; I sympathise with you. And for those women who want children, but for many reasons cannot have them, my heart goes out to you.
But this blog is about some the difficulties of pregnancy. This is my second pregnancy; my first consisted of 25 weeks of daily vomiting, not being able to eat anything, months of leg cramp and back ache, sore boobs and constant exhaustion. Those were just the physical aspects. The hormones were crazy and my mental health suffered drastically due to some so called friends taking it upon themselves to decide what the right and wrong thing to do during my pregnancy were; we are no longer friends.
Apart with my close friends, everything becomes about being pregnant; every conversation you have with colleagues and associates is about pregnancy and babies and all I’m thinking is “this isn’t my only job”. But instead of conversing about work, films and the weather, I spend my time updating them about how far along I am, expressing my tiredness, nodding and smiling when they say “WOW you’re getting big” and trying to keep a smile on my face and stay excited for the benefit of everyone else…that’s the hardest part…
I am currently around 22 weeks pregnant. This was an unplanned and very surprising pregnancy. That’s the first hurdle. How do you tell people that you’ve fallen pregnant only 2 months into a relationship when you know full well that you’re going to be judged? I feel that most people get judged when they fall pregnant, I am certainly guilty of it! I’m sure many of you have thought “how are they going to afford it?”, “she will ruin her career”, “they’re too young…too old…too childish…”. So I feel the need to make a little joke about having 2 kids from 2 different dad’s just so people know that it doesn’t bother me. But why should I? But anyway! After getting over the judgmental “wow…that’s…erm…great”…We have to move forward and bake a baby.
This pregnancy has had little to no sickness and other general pregnancy symptoms haven’t been too bad! So I did start to think, fab, this’ll be nice and easy! But boy was I wrong.
When finding out I was pregnant, my partner and I discussed the logistics of moving in together. At the time I was in a big enough 2 bed flat, so I asked my landlord if my partner could move in, but unfortunately he said no; he didn’t want a baby in the flat but instead let me out of my contract so that we could find somewhere for all of us. It was kinda nice of him…but kinda mean at the same time. I had to move for a second time in a matter of months. Everyone knows the stress of moving, but add being in the early days of pregnancy when your hormones are insane, and add a 4 year old who has only just settled in…it’s not fun! So after a stressful and yet again expensive move, we are in a lovely 3 bed house with a garage and garden and for the first time ever I feel financially stable. Things are looking up.
Everything was going swimmingly, just dealing with normal day to day life and freaking out about Alex starting school in September more than anything. But the day before being 20 weeks pregnant, I receive a phone call from a midwife at Cygnet Wing advising me that I needed to have the blood test done that day that I should have had done around 15 weeks…but honestly I just kept forgetting about it. This blood test was to replace the Nuchal translucency measurement that they were unable to do at my 12 week scan as the baby wouldn’t get in a good enough position. This test would tell us how likely it is that the baby would have an abnormality such as Downs Syndrome, Spina Bifida or any of the other hundreds of things. I clearly thought nothing of it! I’m 29 years old, Alex is perfectly healthy and it would never happen to me! So a midwife popped round, took some blood, Alex watched and her face was hilarious and off my blood went to be tested.
The following Monday brought a very exciting day! My 20 week scan when we hopefully get to find out the gender of the baby. I wanted another girl because I know what I am doing with a girl and the idea of a boy kinda weirded me out. And Alex would obviously love a little sister. Fane had no preference (but really he wanted a boy). So the ultra sound technician did her job, measuring all the limbs and organs and checking the heartbeat. We were advised the baby has a short femur and would need another scan 4 weeks later to keep an eye on her growth, but she didn’t seem that concerned. We also got the wonderful news that the baby is another girl! Due to her short legs we have decided to call her Stumpy.
On leaving the hospital over joyed with the news and about to go work, I receive a phone call from an unknown number. The very serious sounding woman at the other end of the phone said it’s so and so from Cygnet Wing, I thought they must have forgotten something, but no, she said she had the results from the blood test I had the previous week. She didn’t sound like the usual happy midwife that you speak to so my mood changed dramatically and the skip in my step died. She advised us that there my results came back high risk for a chromosome abnormality with a 1/24 chance that something is wrong. Shocked and confused I just say okay…she then goes on to tell me that we need to decide whether we want further screening, and I knew exactly what this consisted of, she didn’t need to give me all the information. I was asked to get back to her asap with a decision.
I told Fane what was said and in the car explained to him exactly what further screening meant. An amniocenteses; a needle entering the amniotic sack to withdraw some fluid to be tested. The test brings a small chance of miscarriage. Depending on who you speak to or where you look on the internet will depend what this chance is, ranging from 1-5%. Fane tried to stay positive with logic in mind, but I caved and burst into tears about the situation. Do we go through the rest of the pregnancy not knowing and being unable to prepare for a possibly disabled child, or do we risk the test and I know exactly what we are dealing with? Thousands of women make this decision every year and the outcomes are varied. Some are told they are high risk and their baby is fine and some are told they are low risk and their baby is still born without an abnormality. But no matter how many websites, forums, and stories I read, nothing made me feel better or made the decision any easier. What would I do if she had an abnormality? I would cope, I would have to, I would love her like I would if she was perfectly healthy. But could I cope if I didn’t know what was to come? No I couldn’t. My anxiety wouldn’t take it. I wouldn’t be able to go the next 20 weeks not knowing without having a daily breakdown, and Fane felt the same. I called my mum to tell her what was going on and she came home from work immediately to comfort me; no matter how old I get I will always need my mum in times of distress. Martin also came home as he was very worried about me too. We were all in agreement that going ahead with the further screening was the best option for my sanity, I called the Cygnet Wing and they got me an appointment for the following day at Luton and Dunstable.
The appointment wasn’t until the afternoon, so without any sleep, we just pottered around the house in the morning, went to Franky and Bennys for pancakes in an effort to cheer me up, and then headed to L&D. The women and children’s health ward is nowhere near as nice as Bedford’s Cygnet Wing. It’s much older and colder, dark and gloomy hallways, paint stripping off the walls and a tiny waiting room for the ultrasound department. Neither of us could really speak. We just waited to be called.
When entering the room noticed it was not as welcoming as Bedford. The consultant and the midwife did not have beaming smiles on their faces. They explained the process to us again and about the chance of miscarriage and began with a scan to take the babies measurements again. She mentioned the short legs as the technician did the day before, but this time she expressed her concern; it could be a sign of this, a sign of that, but not once did she say “it could be nothing”. Eventually we got to the amniocentesis. The sterilised and covered things and got everything prepped…all I could think was what if the baby moves and hits the needle…
She spent what felt like a life time looking for a suitable place to enter the amniotic sack, and the first time she put the needle in the quickly pulled it out as it wasn’t as suitable as she thought. It wasn’t very reassuring that it’s that easy to make the wrong decision. She entered a second needle and was happy with the position. I asked Fane to keep looking at me and I at him and I squeezed his hand as I felt what was like the worst period cramp you could ever imagine. Thankfully it was over in about 30 seconds. But then it felt like we were being kicked out the door. I was happy to hear that we would likely get the results back in 2/3 days…but these 2/3 days were the longest of my life.
Both of us went to work on the Wednesday and Thursday and carried as normal as much as possible, both telling our colleagues and hearing similar stories from their/their partners/their friends pregnancies. It seems so many couples go through the same difficult time, some being told they had in a 1/5 chance and still finding out their baby was healthy. It was hard to keep distracted just like waiting for any other important phone call.
That Thursday afternoon my phone rang during a lesson and I left the room to answer it. I was so nervous, my hands were sweating, my mouth was dry and my heart was beating out of my chest. I answered the phone and the midwife who was there during the examination was on the other end. Her voice was enthusiastic which immediately gave me hope, and she very quickly told me that the test results came back negative and she wished me luck through the rest of my pregnancy. The massive weight was lifted and I couldn’t contain my happiness. I immediately called Fane and gave him the good news. We could once again be excited and tell everyone we were having a healthy, baby girl.
We attended a wedding that weekend and I am so glad we could do so knowing the test results, I even had a couple of prosecco’s to celebrate…and a cheeky cig.
Our lives were back on track, we started buying clothes and writing lists and planning our future with Alex and the new baby.
However, good things rarely last it seems. On Friday I noticed some spotting; I wasn’t overly concerned to begin with, I was at my brothers with Alex and Fane was at work so I didn’t want to cause any worry until I got home, bathed Alex and called the day unit. Whilst she was in the bath I spoke to a midwife, explained what I was experiencing and although she said it didn’t sound too concerning she advised me go in and get looked at. I told Fane at this point as I didn’t want to panic him beforehand! I called my brother and told him to put his Friday night on hold and he would have to look after Alex and tried to explain to Alex what was going on without scaring her. She was fine and happy to be having a sleep over with Uncle Thomas!
We arrived at the hospital around 8…I think…it’s a blur. I showed the midwife my underwear so she had an idea of what we were dealing with and she asked me loads of questions and wasn’t worried. I wasn’t experiencing any pain or discomfort. She left the room to look for a heartbeat Doppler and as I lay on the bed, I felt something happen…something more than just spotting. I looked in my underwear again and this time it was blood…bright red blood. I had absolutely no idea what to think in this exact moment apart from that we were going to lose her. The midwife didn’t take long and I showed her and she seemed a bit more concerned now. I laid back down and she looked for the heartbeat with the Doppler which thankfully she was able to find pretty quickly and all sounded well. I just had to wait for a consultant to come and give me a proper examination. During the wait I bled more and it came through my jeans. When the consultant arrived she asked a few questions and got me prepped for the ‘examination’. Women, you will know what I mean, men, I won’t go into detail! She confirmed the blood was definitely coming from inside, through the cervix…but no signs of labouring which is good! But where the hell was the blood coming from! There was much more blood after the examination and it wasn’t showing any sign of stopping. Fane and I were obviously petrified at this point and being given information about labouring at this time and she wouldn’t survive if she came now and I couldn’t take it all in. Clearly the fear from everyone in the room was that I would miscarry at 22 weeks, when I would have to give birth to the baby. But the heartbeat was still there and still strong, so all we could do was hope and wait.
I stayed in the hospital overnight for observation; Fane went home and packed me a bag. He didn’t want to leave the hospital of course but he had to, so he picked a sleeping Alex up and went home. If you have stayed in the orchard ward you will know that it is a lovely ward, with the friendliest and kindest midwives and nurses you could ever imagine. I was fed and watered before trying to get some sleep. This wasn’t very easy! It’s a lovely ward, but a noisy ward. Fane sat bolt upright all night worrying about me and the baby as you would expect.
The bleeding did slow down, and I still didn’t experience and pain or discomfort, but the worry was still there…is this the end? Is this going to happen again? Why is it even happening at all!? No one could tell me why and 90% of the time they can’t tell anyone why. It is insane that in this day and age pregnancy still has so many unanswered questions.
I was examined again in the morning, the bleeding was just spotting now and the babies heartbeat was still going strong so thankfully they could tell me that at least for now everything is well. Alex and Fane came in the morning, she behaved for about 2 hours and got bored as you can imagine, but luckily they let me go at lunch time. Stressed, tired, confused, upset, unsure whether it’s over or not, we went home. Alex went to a friends and naps ensued!
We have borrowed a heartbeat Doppler from a friend for the weekend just to keep our mind at rest till the bleeding completely stops, but today I still feel lost. The baby is fine, and that is amazing, and there is apparently nothing wrong…but I can’t just flip back from insane worry to excitement again, I just don’t work like that. Until the baby is here and she is in my arms I will now be on constant alert- and that for me is the worst part of this pregnancy.
I’m sorry this entry has ended up so wordy, but I needed to write it all down and share my recent experiences. Thank you for reading,