Here we go again
It was probably my most indulgent Christmas to date. The previous 3 months had consisted of me leaving a job, suffering a miscarriage (during my week off between jobs) and starting a new role in a company during the midst of a restructure. I think the overload of chocolatey goodies was something I well and truly deserved. Even though there had been many highs in the year, I was definitely ready to bid farewell to 2019.
But come New Year’s Eve, I had decided that enough was enough. Over the past 4 years my fertility (or lack of) had completely ruined the shape of my body. The needles, hormones, comfort eating and childbirth itself had really taken its toll. I no longer recognised my reflection and I decided as cliche as it was that January would be as good as time as any to ditch the junk and get exercising. I started off really well, skipping at home to workout videos, going to bounce classes once a week, and walking as often as I could. Despite my period being due soon after new year, I also resisted temptation of crisps, fizzy drinks, sweets and chocolates that my time of the month would often trigger!
The thing is, my period didn’t come. Perhaps I’d thrown my body into a state of shock with all this exercise and healthy food, I thought. But 6 days overdue seemed a little much, so preparing to be disappointed or pleasantly surprised, I bought myself a pregnancy test.
I took a deep breath and like always tried not to pin my hopes on two lines. I didn’t think the odds were on our side. This wasn’t an IVF pregnancy, no drugs, no big bill, no intricate planning. My uterus had not been very hospitable in the past, so why this time I wondered? Knowing that even if I was pregnant, it didn’t mean I would stay pregnant had my mind all scrambled.
I took the test. Two lines. As clear as day. Here we go again.
Pregnant until proven otherwise
As I went to embrace my hubby, I couldn’t help but think about how much I didn’t want to disappoint him and as I glanced over at Diyan, I knew how much of an amazing and caring big brother he would be. But with it being such early days, I also knew I couldn’t guarantee him a sibling, so yet again we decided to take it one day at a time.
I decided that jumping around exercising probably wasn’t a good idea given my history. So I stuck to the healthy eating and ditched any major physical exertion.
The thing is, unlike last time, where I had an overload of symptoms due to all the additional IVF drugs, I didn’t actually feel much. No major sickness, no extreme tiredness and no random headaches. Although this was much more of a pleasant start, it had me worried from the outset.
Nonetheless, 6 and a half weeks pregnant, I went to my GP and shared my news. I asked for an early scan to get some reassurance, but the truth was I knew a scan didn’t guarantee anything. At least it hadn’t in the past. Being just 5 weeks away from the ‘safe zone’ got my mind thinking all sorts.
What if I have another miscarriage? What if I don’t? How will we announce it? What will my colleagues say? How long will I take off work? Jumping 20 steps ahead but trying to remain grounded, I knew the most important thing was to be kind to myself. Added pressure or guilt would not solve anything.
With each day that passed I was another day more pregnant than the last, and that was a great feeling. That was until I was 7 weeks and one day pregnant. When I visited the bathroom, I wiped away something pink. I had no words. I felt numb. Please God No. My head told me it could be nothing, my heart told me it could be everything. And just like that I found myself in the scariest of places yet again.
That night, I hardly slept. Tossing and turning and feeling period like pains, I dreamt that my worst fears would be confronted yet again. The following morning I couldn’t bare the thought of going to work and potentially miscarrying on my commute. So I called in sick. I knew I had to put my well-being first. My mind was going into overdrive and so I took to google and booked myself in for a private ultrasound. I needed something to put my mind at ease.
It was a strange little local place, it didn’t have the hustle and bustle vibe of my usual trip to the early pregnancy unit. Just me, the receptionist and the sonographer. I took a deep breath as she spread the surprisingly warm gel on my tummy, I gritted my teeth. I was so scared she would see nothing.
But she saw a baby, in the womb and with a heartbeat. That was certainly good news. I wasn’t going crazy, I was indeed pregnant. However, there always seems to be however’s in my stories, she saw a subchorionic haematoma. Basically an internal bleed that would explain my spotting. I’d had one of these before. In fact this very same time last year and it was the reason for my miscarriage. So back into my dark hole I went. The other concerning thing was the baby was measuring small, the measurements showed it to be about 5 and a half weeks pregnant, not 7. The sonographer tried to reassure me as best as she could and advised me to get bed rest to allow the blood to clot.
I went straight home to bed, and all cried out I wondered if there would be any light at the end of this familiar dark and lonely tunnel I found myself in.
The following day I called my GP and explained what had happened. She booked me in for an NHS scan at the Royal Free Hospital the following day to try help put my mind at ease.
Yet another restless night later, I found myself spotting again. This time it was a deep red, just like the pain and anger I was feeling. As I made my way to the hospital I had no more tears left to cry, no expression on my face, no more prayers left in me.
Like a robot, without even thinking I navigated myself to the 5th floor, knowing exactly which turn to take, exactly which seat to sit in. As I waited my turn I heard the kerfuffle in the reception area. ‘Why are we scanning her again, if she’s had a scan 2 days ago?’ I knew she was referring to my case. No sympathy, no compassion just pure inconvenience in her tone. Thing is this nurse had actually seen me 3 times before in previous scares, but that didn’t seem to count for much.
She called me over, and trying not to take out my frustration on her, I calmly explained that I had been for a private scan but since then had been bleeding more and had been referred by GP given my history. She then magically switched to polite mode and escorted me to the room. After giving them a download of my history, I drew the curtain and went about the normal drill.
Then came that awkward and scary moment when the sonographer first looks at the screen with great intensity. I tried to read her face, it was giving nothing away. But upon glancing across to the nurse, I got a sense of reassurance.
They turned the screen and a sac, a baby and heartbeat all present.
They asked me to take it easy as it was a delicate stage in my pregnancy, particularly given my history. I was to avoid heavy lift and return for a scan in 2 weeks time. In those two weeks, I tried my hardest to be sensible. I avoided carrying Diyan, steered clear of intense housework and tried to get as many early nights as possible.
Pregnant and promoted
The following week however, the most bizarre thing happened. Just 4 months into my new role, I was offered a promotion. A global role, an incredible opportunity, a huge amount of responsibility although potentially more stress and travel. Whilst I was both shocked and humbled at the offer, I was overcome with guilt.
Guilt that I was asked to take it easy and accepting this offer would mean taking on more. Guilt that by some miracle I had been given another shot at motherhood and I would be focusing my attention on the wrong thing, but mostly guilt that I would be accepting a role I would eventually need to take a 6-12 month break from. How would that be perceived by the team? Or by the management who were taking such a punt on me? Why did I feel like I had to choose one or the other? Could I do both?
The questions, doubts and overwhelming feelings swirled in my head for weeks. But for now I had to prioritize making this human and keeping it safe.
Now almost 8 weeks in the symptoms came flooding in. Faced with constant nausea, I found it difficult to concentrate and be fully present either at home or work. I would wake up most mornings feeling miserably sick and just not myself. Everything seemed an effort. Getting dressed, sitting at my desk and commuting to name a few. By the time I sat down and plucked up the appetite for dinner I would be exhausted and routinely fell asleep on the sofa each night. I wondered how I would get through another 6 weeks of this! (assuming it subsided at 14 weeks like last time)
Two weeks had passed fairly quickly and It was scan day once again. Another chance to see our little baby Cashew. (seemed a fitting name, given we referred to Diyan as our little Peanut before he was born)
As I waited in a packed early pregnancy unit, I tried desperately to distract myself. I couldn’t help but try and interpret each potential mum to be’s situation. Had they just received the worst news? Was this their first scare? Was I going to be seen before them?
I popped to the ladies to kill some time and saw red. Again! Sod’s law. Here I was hoping to get confirmation of everything being OK and those red stains on my tissue felt like they would jeopardize it all over again.
30 mins later my name was called out. A nurse and sonographer led me to the scan room. They explained they would try a tummy scan and only go internal if they needed to. I explained my history, my anxiety surrounding this pregnancy and my recent spotting before lying down on the bed.
As I braved myself for the worst news, the sonographer broke her silence with, I see the baby’s heartbeat and it seems to be growing well. This was such welcomed news, but I still didn’t find myself jumping for joy. I couldn’t get over this random bleeding. Every time felt better about the pregnancy, it would appear.
All I could do now was wait. Something I had become very used to. In 4 weeks time I was due to have my dating scan and perhaps that would give me more definitive reassurance, I thought.
It’s all about timing
Whilst waiting for the scan, the promotion was progressing as was the guilt. I didn’t want to hide my news, but also knew I wasn’t really in a position to share it. I had miscarried before 12 weeks 3 times before. A part of me felt I would be jinxing the pregnancy if I started sharing the status of it. But I did what felt right. I told my new boss to be and explained the dilemma I found myself in. I trusted him, I trusted he would keep this to himself, I trusted this wouldn’t change the prospect of the promotion, I trusted that I was still the right woman for the job.
However, I know that the timing of this pregnancy in relation to the promotion was far from ideal. But, I did not want to be apologetic. Becoming a mum to another was something I had been denied twice in the space of 12 months. Promotion or not, this little human I was housing was a blessing that I wasn’t going to shy away from.
He was very supportive. The first thing he did was congratulate me. Which lifted a massive weight from my shoulders. We talked about how we would make this work and how it would one day make a great book/ blog title. It felt so great to have an understanding and reassuring ear. But mostly it felt good to not feel alone!
Literally the next day, all promotion plans were paused. With new incoming leadership, all new roles were to be put on hold temporarily. For a split second I thought the timing of this was uncanny. But it made sense. I’m a great believer in things happening for a reason and thought to myself perhaps the timing of this role wasn’t quite right. Either way I was asked to sit tight for a week or so to get clarity on next steps.
Meanwhile the pregnancy symptoms were intensifying. Mornings were hard, afternoons difficult and evenings just near impossible. Constantly tired, forever feeling nauseous, it’s really a wonder I got anything done!
Scan day came and anxiety levels were through the roof. So much hope was pinned on the results of this scan. Had baby cashew grown? Was everything going to be ok? Would my mind finally be at ease?
We headed to the Royal Free for the big day. In familiar surroundings, I lay on the bed, rolled up my top, reached out for hubby’s hand and held my breath while the sonographer pressed her warm wand against my tummy. Those first few seconds of pin drop silence were always the most worrying. As I tilted my head up to look at the screen, there was our gorgeous baby Cashew. I glanced over to my hubby and his smile confirmed that this indeed was real. After two losses, we were pregnant once again and better still had passed the most riskiest first 12 weeks of early pregnancy. The scan confirmed that baby Cashew would be due on 14th September 2020.
A rapidly changing world
Just a week later as I shared my news with the wider team at work, Covid-19 was escalating at an incredible rate. Life seemed to changing with each evening address from the Prime Minister. Pregnant women were being asked to self isolate for 12 weeks. Whilst this brought with it so much nervousness and anxiety, I thought to myself it wouldn’t feel like a ‘normal’ pregnancy for me without a dark grey cloud hovering over me.
The situation did put everything into perspective. All of a sudden everything seemed clear. I decided then that the promotion was not for me and that I was going to focus 100% on keeping myself and this baby safe during these times of grave uncertainty.
So as I sit here on Mother’s Day as anxious as ever not just about what’s going on in my body, but also about what’s happening all across the world, I am grateful for all that I have and all that will be. Today will be a celebration of the mother I am to Diyan, the mother I hope to be to Cashew and the mother I didn’t get a chance to be to my 3 little stars shining brightly above.