In Part 1 of my story, I focused on just how long it took for us to fall pregnant, in this the second in a 4-part series of blogs; Getting Pregnant, Being Pregnant, Giving Birth & Parenthood, I share what it felt like to finally be pregnant. I’d yearned for this for so long, and though it was a cherished time, it by no means felt straightforward.
I hope those on their own journey to parenthood, or helping those loved ones around them will take comfort in my bumpy ride and will remain hopeful that dreams really do come true.
PART 2 BEING PREGNANT
The waiting game
We had yearned for those 2 blue lines for so long and now that they had finally appeared, we weren’t sure how to feel.
It was strange, I was bursting to tell others my news, but equally I knew that the journey ahead would be long and there was still so much uncertainty in the result.
I’d have to wait another three and a half weeks before my first scan. The hardest thing throughout the IVF process had not been the needles, the hormones or the tablets, hands down it was the waiting! Waiting for appointments, waiting for results and now the longest wait of all, waiting to see if everything would be ok!
I found myself on google most days, working out my due date, checking how many days pregnant I was and wondering if my symptoms were a good sign or not. I’d read symptoms could be pretty bad, particularly in the first trimester and even more so if it was twins. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself so I tried to patiently wait for scan day.
As the days progressed so did my feelings of nausea. I found myself making more trips to the loo than ever before and I generally felt very uncomfortable. The thought of my most favourite foods had me reaching for a bucket and I would go hours dreading the next meal I would have to eat. I just felt so out of touch with the body I’d learnt to understand these past 32 years.
As we had conceived through IVF, we were offered an early scan at 8 weeks to check all was in order. We’d lost our first baby at 7 weeks, so it was a nail biting wait. I was so eager to see how my two embryos were growing.
The day before scan day arrived though, we had some terrible news. My father-in-law had been taken to a hospice to be treated for end of life care. A huge amount of stress and sadness overcame us both. We hadn’t told anybody we were pregnant yet, we whispered our news into his ear and it made our hearts heavy that he would not be here to meet his grandchild, but we knew he needed to be freed from his pain. Life and death in such close proximity. The world works in such mysterious ways.
Scan day had arrived, with mixed emotions. I was hoping for the best and preparing myself for the worst. I feel in this time my heart had become more resilient. It was necessary to reach this point. But I didn’t know if it could have dealt with yet another bout of bad news.
As I lay down for the scan, clenching my husband’s hand tighter than ever before, our eyes were drawn to the sonographer’s screen. We had transferred two high quality embryos to increase our chances in our last NHS funded cycle of IVF. This meant twins could very much be on the cards, maybe even triplets I thought.
As the sonographer scanned the insides of my tummy, we saw a flicker on the screen. It was a beating heart. I never imagined it would feel as amazing and emotional as it did. She then searched intensely for the second, ‘baby no2, where are you?’, I wondered.
Suddenly I felt a cold shiver down my spine and a heartfelt ‘unfortunately’ coming along. The second embryo had indeed implanted, but there was no growth or signs of a heartbeat. It was quite the bitter sweet moment. My eyes were fixated on the beating heart, but my mind kept thinking about the brother or sister that baby no1 could have had.
One healthy baby, deep down that’s all we ever wanted and this was the closest that we had got yet!
The following days and weeks were difficult. An emotional rollercoaster for us both. My symptoms intensified and my body didn’t know how to cope. I felt pain, I felt uncomfortable, I felt alone in my suffering and I wondered how I would get through 7 more months of this.
I went off my most favourite foods, in fact I went off food in general. I’d never experienced this type of nausea before and nothing I ate, chewed on or drank seemed to help.
The frequent visits to the bathroom at night kept me up during valuable sleep hours and that made day times that much more difficult. I was constantly tired and I just wasn’t enjoying the first trimester in the slightest.
I’d had many friends and family who had fallen pregnant over the years, none of them had described it as I felt it. I couldn’t help but think, was I over exaggerating or were my symptoms genuinely that much more unbearable? This is what I had prayed for, so I knew I had to find the strength to fight it.
As is the way in the Indian community, many had already either found out or speculated that I was pregnant. I hadn’t even had my 12-week scan, so I was in no position to confirm the gossip that was spreading. Once we had the all ok, I would be shouting it from the rooftops, I just wish people had the respect to let us get to that stage without all the insinuations.
I’d had people prematurely congratulate me, unnecessarily quiz me and awkwardly put me on the spot when it came to ‘was I pregnant?’. I really struggle to understand how it is anybody’s business but mine! But I guess the community gossips need something to keep them going.
12 weeks – the dating scan
A few weeks later my scan appointment had arrived. During this time, I had extensively researched the concept of the ‘vanishing twin’. There were cases of the second embryo not showing at week 8, but turning up for the 12 week scan, thus the possibility of a reappearing twin. I wondered and to some extent hoped there were indeed two lives growing inside of me. I still wasn’t ready to let go.
Again, we saw what the sonographer described as a beautiful and healthy baby. We heard an incredible heartbeat and we were given a few images to share with everyone. There were no signs of baby no2, which was sad and difficult to comprehend, but for me I guess it was closure.
As we left the room, we both looked at each other and smiled, we were overjoyed with the news and we would finally be able to officially announce our pregnancy.
Spreading the Word
We were both bursting at the seams to share this news with friends and family. Parents and siblings first, grandparents next and then our friends and cousins followed. So many were thrilled for us, others surprised and a few replied with an ‘I already knew’. I found it strange that even news such as this people could make about themselves?
Nonetheless it felt so fantastic to finally share our joy.
As the weeks passed, we caught up with a few people. With some I was able to share the full extent of my story, with others I just felt like it would exhaust me. When I thought people could benefit from hearing what the process had involved for me, I felt compelled to share my experience and put them at ease that there was indeed hope. It transpired that many in my friend circle found themselves also struggling to conceive and hearing about my first hand experience with IVF comforted them.
The weeks passed oh so quickly. Thankfully the nausea had faded and I was now just feeling tiredness coupled with the regular spout of heartburn. I’d befriended Gaviscon whose aniseed flavour helped me get through the worst of it. I was up 3 or 4 times each night to empty my bladder, which meant I wasn’t sleeping much. I was getting bigger and my jeans were getting tighter, but people keep saying I didn’t look ‘pregnant’. In some ways I took this as a positive, but in many it got me worried. Was the baby growing? Was it indeed still inside? Scans were so far apart my mind constantly wondered to worst case scenario.
Luckily though, midwife appointments were a bit more frequent. These gave me a chance to put my worries at ease. Offered me opportunities to hear the baby’s heartbeat and to check all my vitals were still ok. On one occasion I had a student midwife struggle to find a heartbeat. Those two minutes of her searching whilst I lay there with a cold gel on my stomach felt like a lifetime. The midwife had her continue like a true teacher and eventually we all heard a beating heart. The room kind of felt silent whilst the sound echoed round the walls.
20 weeks – the anomaly scan
Three days later we were scheduled in for our 20 week scan. We were excited to see how the baby had grown and to get the reassurance that all was ok. The 20 week scan, also called the anomaly scan was also our chance to find out the gender of the baby (aka Peanut) Although we’d decided long before then that we’d be keeping it a surprise.
The scan took place at the Royal Free, the surroundings were not as familiar as Guys Hospital, where we had all of our IVF treatment. We waited patiently to the see the sonographer and he too had a student in the room with him. Seemed like the season for it. He took his time carefully analysing Peanut’s measurements.
We now saw the developed spine, heart, brain, arms and feet. It was a truly amazing sight. Oh how much our little peanut had grown! 20 mins of prodding and measuring later we had a set of images and most importantly peace of mind. Providing there were no complications down the line this would be the last time we see Peanut before his birth day!
We got lucky again with the scan photo. The sonographer managed to find a bicep curl (or thumb sucking) image of Peanut that I eagerly forwarded on to friends and family. This now felt so much more real. In the coming weeks I knew I would feel more of Peanut moving around inside of me and I felt more attached to him/her now than ever.
In this time I had discovered the amazing thing that is over the bump maternity jeans! Uber comfy and just as fashionable as regular jeans. Where had these been my whole life?! I couldn’t believe all jeans weren’t designed this way (probably not needed for all the size 8-10’s out there) but for anyone with curves and a big appetite these were the ultimate about to have a big fat dinner jeans! I could tell that these would feature in my wardrobe long after pregnancy!
The following weeks and months passed quickly. Life continued to keep me busy, with work, temple commitments and the house extension I didn’t have time to slow down. The second trimester in general was pretty enjoyable.
Each outing hubby and I had, we would imagine this new addition to our life that we had longed for arriving. We talked openly about our fears, our excitements and discussed what kind of parents we wanted to be. I knew this would be a true partnership and I took a great amount of comfort in this. For so long it had been just the two of us, the thought of a tiny third person joining us both energised and scared us.
As positive and overjoyed as I was about being pregnant, each time I was alone with my thoughts I realised what I felt most was fear. Each visit to the loo, each twinge, each google search, I felt more and more anxious that my happily ever after could be snatched away from me at any moment.
At about week 24 we felt our first kick! I still hadn’t ballooned as such, so it felt good to get confirmation that Peanut was still growing inside of me! Early on it was a strange sensation, quite difficult to describe but as the weeks passed, the kicks became more pronounced, more visible and more comforting.
At 28 weeks we celebrated with a traditional Indian baby shower ceremony called a ‘khoro’ marking the impending arrival of the baby and celebrating my journey into motherhood. This was then followed by a more conventional baby shower. Surrounded and absolutely spoilt by friends and family, I knew Peanut would always be loved and looked after in life.
As the weeks progressed I got a little more tired and felt a little more pregnant, mainly at night time when I was at one with my thoughts. The kicks, punches and hiccups were getting more noticeable and the dreaded stretch marks had started to surface. I’d been bio-oiling twice a day but that hadn’t seemed to have helped my ever expanding body. I continued to live my busy social life and hoped that Peanut was getting a sense of my love for being and for doing.
Week 30 came by so quickly and I’d reluctantly booked myself in for the whooping cough jab. I’ve always been afraid of jabs, but knowing that this would help Peanut gave me a sense of strength; so much so I ended up getting the flu jab at the same time!
The next 4 weeks consisted of psychologically preparing myself for maternity leave from work. It was a really strange feeling that swayed daily from needing a mental break in life to feeling anxious about temporarily leaving the only life I’ve ever known.
I’d reached the peak of my career, achieving more than I’d ever imagined possible and just when I was on the brink of climbing higher, I would be taking a break from it all to begin the epic journey of parenthood. The following thoughts spiraled around my head;
- I wonder whether this time out to have a baby will set me yet another year behind my male counterparts, or perhaps I will have the chance to use this time off to pause, reflect, learn, grow and come back fighting harder than ever?
- By already thinking about my ‘returning to work’ plans, was I neglecting my ‘being a good mother’ plans. It saddens me to think it’s 2018 and the thoughts swirling round my head are no different to those that generations before me likely contemplated.
- There’s also a huge financial sacrifice at play. How will we cope on a single salary with a new addition to the family. I understand that lifestyle changes may need to be made, but for me the biggest driver of when I will return to work is not when I’ll feel ready. It’ll be when we can’t afford for me to stay at home.
- And finally, many before me have had children and made it work for them, I don’t know if I’ll be one to compromise on my career or compromise on those crucial first years. But I guess only time will.
Week 37 crept up on me and I had officially began my maternity leave. I was so fed up of my busy train commute into work, the awkward moments when you board a packed train and nobody offers you a seat, the even more awkward moment where you have to ask for a seat, or even worse where another passenger had to ask on your behalf! So this was a welcomed break from it all.
I was off three weeks before my due date, but had plenty to keep me busy. We moved back into our newly renovated home and there were so many finishing touches that needed attending to. We were so excited about creating a loving environment to raise our family.
By Week 38, the house was complete and Peanut was kicking me profusely, almost like he/she was ready to escape. It’s strange how I’d gone from savoring and getting so excited by every kick I felt, to being really fed up from my insides being bruised. But Peanut wasn’t as ready as I thought and lay comfortably inside me until week 40!
Throughout my pregnancy, many had offered to share their labour stories, but I was too scared to hear them. Hubby and I had attended antenatal classes but I only wanted positive vibes and was very much of the school of thought that ignorance was bliss.
Looking back this feeling was so different to our journey to getting pregnant. Then knowledge was power, or at least a way to protect myself. Giving life to another built faith and trust in way I hadn’t understood before. Nothing could prepare us for what was to come.
This was it. I was in labour…Peanut would soon be welcomed into the world.