I don’t know where the time has gone. It seems like just a week ago I was pregnant and waiting anxiously for B to arrive. And now he’s here and it’s almost like he’s always been here and suddenly I’m due back at work today!
I have given myself a small reprieve in that I have accrued all my annual leave for the year and I am going back almost mid year. So I have taken just over a week of annual leave so I can postpone my return to work until 1 June. It’s a bank holiday here in England which means we have the Monday off, so I do get a “free” day to add to all that.
And yet… it seems so not enough.
I know in the US and elsewhere that maternity leave tends to be short. I believe it’s sometimes even as short as six weeks. I’ll have had 19 weeks, but it seems so little time. I can’t believe I initially said I’d go back after two months!
It’s a bit of a drag workwise as my boss (who I managed to chase down after several weeks) said that he doesn’t want me to go back to my previous client. But he doesn’t want me to tell them either. So it’s a bit awkward. He also said when I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago to call him back when I have two weeks to go. I do, and I have, but of course he’s on holiday.
So instead of going to my client which is about half an hour away, he wants me to go to our base office which is about an hour away and three trains. I’m really not thrilled about this prospect as I know I’ll just be sitting in the office with nothing to do until he appears, and apparently he’ll be traveling that week anyway, but I suppose at least that means I’ll just leave early if I have nothing to do.
That’s my boss! He’s a great guy and I totally (platonically) love him, but he’s one of those people who has very little time and then if he ever gets round to giving you his time, you just have to drop everything and give it.
Anyway. Aside from the obvious pain I have of being separated from B, I am concerned about the whole breastfeeding thing. If you’d have said this during pregnancy I would have had a very different view. But for us, breastfeeding just works and it’s the one thing I seem able to do without much effort. After the infertility and difficulties getting pregnant, and the emergency caesarean birth, I feel it’s something I can do for him that can bring him benefit, and I want to carry on doing it as long as possible.
I’m not anti formula per se, but I don’t want to give him formula if I don’t have to. I have a good supply of milk and I’ve been pumping around once a day for the last month and a bit, and it seems to be fine. (We switched from a rather unpleasant Tommee Tippee to the Medela Swing Maxi I bought at the Baby Show – it’s way more expensive but a much better pumping experience.)
Unfortunately, B is rather resistant to the bottle. I have friends who have the opposite problem. But of course my child would have to be different! We’ve tried a bunch of different bottles… Tommee Tippee, MAM, Nuk, even the expensive Medela Calma which is meant to mimic the nipple (whose nipple, I have no idea… a bionic person’s!). Eventually we think we have found that he will take… the Lansinoh mOmma. Although apparently only from me. T has used the MAM bottles a while and he will take about 1oz extremely begrudgingly. Either way it’s about 1oz at a time. (Update: Yesterday he took 2.5oz and looked at me expectantly as if to say, “Where’s the rest?!” So I had to breastfeed him! Maybe we’ve turned a corner?)
So last week I left B for the first ever time! Well I’ve left him before for a short time like to walk to the local shop or walk Dog, but not for an extended period. I am due back to work at the beginning of June so I am in dire need of a back to work wardrobe. My pre pregnancy stuff doesn’t exactly lend itself to breastfeeding or expressing, as I tend to wear higher cut dresses (and I sure as s*** am not going to sit around pumping in my underwear!
My mother very kindly gave me some money when we were on holiday, which was to put towards some new clothes and a haircut. It was so nice of her! Think she realised I was feeling a bit unconfident when I had a mini meltdown about what to wear to the family do we went to.
I think when I first gave birth I sort of lost most of the pregnancy weight.
And then… the brunger!!
Omg. The breastfeeding hunger is something else. Turns out I’m not one of those people who wastes away to nothing and I just want to eat all the time! Luckily breastfeeding also burns calories! But it’s not really my usual amount of eating. I’m a bit of a pig lately. Also I confess that during pregnancy I really didn’t worry about diet, although I also felt fuller quicker because B took up so much room.
So the upshot of it is that I’m about a size larger than my pre pregnancy dress size. And that is two sizes larger than my fighting weight before IVF round 1 took its toll on me! And not to mention the boobs! Seriously they’re out of control. My usual size is 32C. I’ve been wearing 36DD and it’s not really the right size but I couldn’t really bear for my breasts to be touched during pregnancy and I’ve been wearing stretchy nursing bras anyway because they’re more comfortable for the Amazing Humungaboobs™ and their waxing and waning.
Anyway I measured myself according to Boob or Bust (a nursing / bra measuring website) and it turns out I’m currently a 32H! OMG, WTF, etc! So obviously that necessitates different clothes as well, because a lot of nursing clothes are a bit low cut and quite frankly nobody wants my Humungaboobs™ in their face (least of all at work!).
So I spent a day clothes shopping at the big shopping centre. T was texting me updates with pictures of B looking remarkably happy without his mother! I kind of didn’t know what to do with myself, but it was worth doing as it’s pretty difficult to try on clothes whilst babywearing (which we seem to do most of the time) and I’m the kind of person who likes to try on clothes on my own without an opinion! (Probably accounts for my dreadful dress sense!)
I’d already got some stuff from Mamalicious which I wore a lot during pregnancy, so that covered off nursing dresses. Also a couple of bits in the sale from Dorothy Perkins and New Look. (These are all fairly low end high street shops.) I’m really not a person who buys very expensive clothes often. I wish I could be one of those classic dressers but I’m not! Although I do seem to have a uniform of mainly black… On maternity leave I’ve mainly lived in jeans and JoJo Maman Bébé Breton feeding tops. Clearly not suitable for work!
Anyway, here are some headless pics to demonstrate some of my purchases. I was quite proud of myself!
Feeding vest top from B Shirt. Light jacket from New Look. Skinny jeans from Marks & Spencer. Flat shoes from New Look.
Feeding vest top from B Shirt. Jacket from New Look. Skinny jeans from Marks & Spencer. Court shoes from New Look.
I was pretty pleased with my haul. (Most of the pics were taken in New Look changing room so didn’t show all my stuff from H&M!) I also got some shirts which are good for a casual look. I’ve been living in stripy Breton feeding tops from JoJo Maman Bébé which are great for casual but not for work, so it’s good to have something a bit smarter.
I mentioned I got a ridiculously expensive breast pump bag from Sarah Wells which is an American brand. I looked everywhere for some kind of multipurpose bag but it doesn’t so much exist round here because people tend to take maternity leave until the baby has been weaned. Also the UK has a really low rate of breastfeeding so mums who go back to work tend to move to formula if they haven’t weaned. Unfortunately I was hit with a gigantic customs charge which added insult to injury! However I’m fairly happy with the bag. Just as well! I have used it for my shopping trip and it’s massive, but I haven’t tricked it out for pumping yet.
Anyway, I took some pics for interest…
Rucksack straps or handbag straps can be tucked away / pulled out as desired. The handbag straps are long enough to put it over your shoulder and carry it that way. Which is a good deal as it’s a big bag!
Pump compartment which is insulated and water resistant so you can store your pump and your pumped milk with ice blocks. There is a photo pocket where you can add a pic of your baby to aid expressing (oxytocin!). My Medela Swing Maxi double pump fits in there easily.
Top view. You can easily fit a laptop in the laptop pocket. Also room for shoes, lunch, and loads of other paraphernalia.
So I’m pleased with it all! I feel like I’m sort of physically prepared for work. Just not mentally.
The other day I went to a breastfeeding and working coffee morning run by La Leche League. It was themed around going back to work so obviously I was interested. Anyway I’m completely mortified because when I introduced myself and started talking about going back to work, I cried! Wow. I’m so not a crier. It turns out that B has turned me into waterworks central! Everyone was really nice about it and I wasn’t the only one to get emotional but still! Shocking!
It was great to meet other members of “the breastapo”. I had had no intention of joining LLL but actually have found the fb group really helpful with tips on breastfeeding, and the book (tongue in cheek named The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) is really helpful and full of tips including on going back to work.
I can’t believe my time with B is coming to an end. It’s not to say I won’t see him, but it will be different. He’s going to stay at home with T (his dad) for a while and then go to nursery a few weeks later. So we will be working parents. It just feels so soon to go back. I’m sure I will cry my eyes out when it happens.
I have built up quite a stash of frozen milk. Hopefully we will not have a defrosting disaster like we did a while ago! It’s more for backup as my intention is to pump for him the day before. So if I pump at work I’ll just give the nursery that milk the following day. The freezer stash is more just in case.
Other than that we have been concentrating on making these last few weeks really awesome for baby B. He is growing up so fast! He can now roll, which first happened two weeks ago when we were on holiday, but was more of a sort of accidental roll than a purposeful one. Today (18 weeks+1) he did both types of roll (front to back and back to front) in a really purposeful way.
He’s also gotten kind of sick of being in his rocker. I guess we didn’t really get the full money’s worth out of that but I’m planning to give it to my sister as they can use it as soon as my niece is born, so they’ll get longer to use it. My brother gave us a Baby Bjorn bouncer they were getting rid of, which is okay to put him in if you need a minute to go to the loo or something. Now he can roll, it’s not safe to leave him on the sofa!
So this weekend we took him swimming and picked up a present for him… a jumperoo! I think it pretty much was the best day of B’s life so far! He loved it!
If you’d have told me this was the kind of thing I’d be getting excited about, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s the most tacky piece of tat! And yet he absolutely loves it. If you can imagine a tiny little dude sitting in the middle of it, playing with the bits and making tinny music come out of it whilst giggling with glee – that’s B!
I don’t think I could love him more.
One of my favourite parts of the day is after B has woken up for his morning feed and then gone back to sleep. Sometimes I go back to sleep too, but more often than not I’m just lying here surrounded by my three boys sleeping (B, T and Dog). B’s in bed next to me and I just marvel at the fact that he’s here, and softly breathing, and perfect.
I get it. I get it more than you can imagine. Whenever I used to read another infertility blog, I’d mentally compare it to our journey and my own infertility (because the “fault” is mine – I’m the infertile one) and figure if ours had gone on longer or been easier or harder. And usually ours compared unfavourably, and I’d wonder if it was just too late for anything to try and fix it, and I’d get angry at anyone and everyone because we had to deal with this and others did not.
I used to get so angry at people who had babies without trying. At people who’d run the gamut of insensitive comments. (“At least you know you can get pregnant” after a miscarriage that was the culmination of 10+ years of infertility and IVF… “Why don’t you just adopt?” to two adoptees who just wanted to have someone biologically related to them in their lives…) Even at my own sibling who easily had two children – one born during the holiday we went on to get over our loss.
I was angry and jealous and honestly not the nicest person to be around for a while, so after our loss the previous year I took a step back from socialising and focused more on work, and self care. And I blogged a lot. And got amazing support from this community of bloggers. And made some real life friends.
When we finally got pregnant last year that was the culmination of a great deal of treatment including multiple operations, IVF cycles, immune therapy and at least four different hospitals and countless doctors.
It was not an easy ride.
But we are lucky because out of all that came baby B. And the pain of infertility recedes, but it doesn’t mean I’m not conscious of it. As I posted the other day, I’m grateful every single day that I have the chance to be a mother. I don’t take it for granted.
After all that I am full of joy for this chance. And I’m grateful. And I feel empathy for anyone else still going down this path because I know what it feels like. It’s been over 10 years and up to 15/16 years depending on how you count it. (Not-not trying or actually trying.)
What I didn’t do during those days of anger was wander up to people who had kids and express my anger to them. I might have felt it privately but I knew deep down that my anger at them was irrational and misplaced. Someone else being fertile is not the cause of my own infertility.
Likewise I didn’t do the equivalent of that in the blogging world. Your own blog is for venting, and you can do what you want on it. But I didn’t seek out blogs where people had kids and make snarky comments. Because it is literally not their fault. When infertility bloggers got pregnant and had kids, it gave me hope. If it became too triggering, I unfollowed. But most of the time I carried on following them because I was happy for them that it worked out, and I wanted to share in that happiness.
Ultimately isn’t that what we want to happen in the infertility blogging world? We want those people who want children to be able to have children, either through medical intervention (as we had) or adoption. Or we want them to be able to come to terms with not having children.
It doesn’t really make sense to hope that all infertility bloggers continue to live in misery and longing and never manage to have a child or come to terms with a child free life… It would be perverse to hope for that, because we’d be hoping for that for ourselves, too.
So when someone from the infertility community comes on my blog specifically to bitch about parents, in the context of everything we went through to become parents, and how recently it happened for us, and knowing our background of being adopted and the loss that entails, I can have empathy for that person but I can also be kind of p*ssed off.
I have never felt “smug” about being a mother. I literally never thought this day would come, and I went through a lot to get here, and I’m thankful every day. Being grateful is not the same as being smug. And I don’t post stuff about parenting to upset infertile people, or for any other agenda. I talk about my life because my blog is about my life and my experiences.
I understand that to some in the trenches of infertility that talking about parenting following infertility may be triggering. I know that some infertility bloggers have stopped blogging after having children through birth or adoption. I know others who have started new blogs.
For me, my blog was named Zero to Zygote for a reason. I hoped one day where there was no child there would be a child. In my first post I talked about my dream of being able to tell my child the story of how he came to be. It was always meant to be a story of hope, and that journey included venting of infertility anger, processing of adoption loss, working through the grief of pregnancy loss, as well as everyday experiences and thoughts.
So I’m asking you, infertility bloggers, if all this triggers you, please do not take out your infertility anger on me on my blog. The space for that is your own blog, or a support group. You’ll never be able to chase down every person that has a child to comment on their blog or tell you how angry you are that they have one and you don’t. And it will just make you feel worse. Just unfollow me and save yourself the trouble of thinking negative thoughts.
And your anger is misplaced. I wouldn’t wish our experiences on anyone. It was not easy and it was not enjoyable and it almost broke me. I hope you resolve yours more quickly than we did (whether by having a child or being happy not to have one; I understand that having a baby is not the be all and end all, even if it sometimes feels like that). I hope that everything works out.
Of all the anger I had about infertility, the ones I hoped for the most and where my anger dissipated were for the others in similar positions to ours. But maybe you are still deep in the trenches right now and you can only feel your own grief and loss, and I get that. You’re entitled to feel that way. Life is unfair sometimes. Take it from someone who’s been there for many years: unfollow your triggers. And if that includes me, unfollow me.
I wish you all the best.
Mother’s Day in the UK was a while ago, but I saw this video on Facebook from the Today show and it made me cry.
Mother’s Day message – Today
Everything has changed for us with the arrival of baby B, after many years of infertility, medical intervention and loss. This time last year I had just got my positive pregnancy test for B and I was so scared it was going to go the same way as our previous year’s pregnancy, little PB who was lost to miscarriage.
For Mother’s Day here in the UK I posted this message on Facebook, with a picture of my mum with me and one of her with baby B.
“It’s my 39th Mother’s Day as a daughter and my first as a mother. Heading to see my mum, who first met me when I was a few days old and has loved me ever since. She’s now [Grandma] to B but she’ll always be [Mum] to me.
Both of us had a long and difficult journey to be a mother. Thinking of all the mothers out there today, especially the mothers without children and children without mothers. I promise not to take it for granted. ❤”
I hope for anyone who finds this day difficult that you know that we see you. And I hope that next year you’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day with happiness.
I’ve been a mother for almost seven weeks and I don’t know where the time has gone. I think I’m still in the phase where I can’t quite believe that it’s happened, but it has. Our lives have changed irrevocably and I’m still in a state of disbelief that finally it has happened for us.
Here’s the thing: Every drop of this life is precious. I never thought this day would come so I didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it other than in the abstract. But here I am, living it. I’m snatching time to write this blog when it’s past 1am and B is snoozing in his side sleeper cot next to me. And on the other side, T and Dog are snoring away. I couldn’t be happier.
I only get four months off before I go back to work and I can already see it slipping away and I kind of want to stay in this bubble forever. A secret: Everything is so much easier than I’d been led to believe. I’m not sleep deprived. I don’t feel exhausted. Breastfeeding is relatively easy. Weight seems to be coming off.
The way people talk about new motherhood and being a parent is that it’s a massive drag. I had super low expectations. I kind of thought it was a means to an end before the real fun started (when the kid could walk and talk) but I’ve been blown away by how much I enjoy it.
I absolutely didn’t think I’d be a natural mother. And yet if I didn’t have a decent job that pays the bills, I’d be tempted to jack it all in and spend every waking moment being B’s mum. I wonder if I have a massive dose of hormones or something making me go all doolally. What happened to the stone cold hearted me? I’m not sure. I’m kind of mushy nowadays.
I love him being here. My only biological relative. He looks like me. My genes. I’ve never had that before. Being adopted, never knowing a relative who looks like me – it’s a huge thing. Life changing.
I think it’s been easier for me to adjust partly because breastfeeding has been pretty smooth. Of course there are some teething problems (not literally!) but on the whole it came naturally to us and B has put on loads of weight! He was 5.44kg a few days ago, up from his birth weight almost seven weeks ago of 3.61kg.
My friends from NCT have all had problems breastfeeding so I’ve been really lucky. Although they all had easy births so they joke I was due something easy! All but one of the babies has been born although we think the last one has just been born but not announced. B was the second biggest at birth. The only caesarean! It means he has a nice unsquashed head! Also the only boy so lots of girlfriends to choose from! (I’ve told him it’s perfectly fine to have a boyfriend!)
I don’t feel smug. Maybe it is because we wanted him so much. I don’t take any of it for granted. To be frank, I really doubted I’d even be able to breastfeed so it surprised me it came so naturally. And gradually other “hippy dippy” stuff has snuck in. I’m totally not the mother I expected! I can’t let him cry and I carry him around a lot. My Earth mother friend (you know who you are, haha) finds this hilarious, I think. I keep messaging her one more concession to earth-motherdom so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I become a full blown hippy!
We kind of have a focus group because of NCT, our antenatal class, where all babies have been born within a few weeks of each other. It’s been really interesting especially as one of them who I’ve mentioned before is really negative. I sort of feel like it is my job to perk them up a bit! (Not her though. She’s beyond redemption. She whines about everything.)
It’s interesting because I feel like our experiences are similar but how we experience it is different. Like if you look at it, I actually had the most traumatic birth. I also got an infected c section scar and B ended up in hospital with bronchiolitis. So really we’ve probably had more than the others to deal with but we do seem to be the most happy.
I think I just expected it would be really hard and it’s much less hard than I expected, so I feel kind of giddy rather than depressed. Like the sleep isn’t that bad if you don’t have to get up and go to work! And I’m used to interrupted sleep because Dog sleeps in the bed and regularly shuffles about! And although I do get tired feeding during the night, I think of it as a phase that will pass.
I just don’t resent it at all. I feel hugely lucky to be able to be doing this. I just never thought I would get the opportunity and I love it. And the hard part won’t last forever. The others have talked about how they’ve been crying and stuff and I haven’t done that at all, not through stress or exhaustion. Only slightly teary eyes through a bit of happy emotion!
The other funny thing: Other people’s babies leave me kind of cold. I have met some great friends through NCT. Out of the seven couples in our group, I’m good friends with two of them and we recently added a third to our “splinter group” (after a gruelling audition process, haha). I get on great with them but I definitely have that thing where I love my baby but I am not gaga for other people’s. I like them but I don’t go mad for them like others do. I guess the baby madness only extends to my own! But it’s great to have some friends in the same position. We meet up once or twice a week. B actually has a better social life than I do!
And I’ve done things I didn’t think I’d do. One of my friends persuaded me to try Baby Sensory classes. It’s so odd and I laugh to myself thinking of what my team would say if they could see me singing “Say Hello To The Sun” (with actions). I didn’t think I’d be mad on breastfeeding but I am. I feel like I want to do it for a year if I can. I’m going to have to pump when I go back at four months. I want to do that for him. And I wear him in a sling a lot of the time. I really didn’t see myself doing that but it just makes sense. I’ve even ordered a wrap to try! I’ve gone full on Earth mother! I’ll probably be puréeing his food later!
So yeah. I’m in a baby haze. I’m not bored. I don’t resent him. I don’t dislike this phase at all. I’m loving it.
We reached the six weeks milestone which T was avidly waiting for! We had to mark it in the way of resuming (extra)marital relations! It was kind of comical and kind of reassuring it all still works. On the plus side, an emergency c section means my pelvic floor seems fine! Don’t think my stomach will ever be the same though! The weight has dropped off but I still have a saggy stretch marked pouch. I suppose the caesarean does that. I thought I would really upset about it but I’m not letting it bother me now. That saggy stripey pouch gave me my baby!
They keep asking in hospital and appointments about contraception. We discussed it and I said I wasn’t worried as it never happened for 16 years. T said, “I didn’t realise we were having another baby!” Truthfully I would see it as a miracle but I really don’t yearn for another child. I am over the moon at this one. And there is no way I would put myself through the mental and physical pain again, if we were actively to try. I think we are just going with “What happens, happens” approach! So B will be an only child then!
So B is here and I think of him as perfect. I wonder what he will be like as he gets older. He’s outgrown two, almost three sizes of clothes. I realised that the sizes on clothes don’t correspond to ages at all! He’s in 0-3 months now at 1.5 and I can’t see him getting much more wear out of them!
The grandparents are super proud. Both sets are loving it. My folks come round once a week roughly and they just want to hold him and grin. It’s been great though. A very bonding experience for us. I’ve found myself talking to them about adoption a lot. That’s probably a whole other post. I can’t believe B is now older than I was when I went to live with my parents. He’s still so tiny and he still needs me so much and he will only settle being with me. I think of the few days old me and wonder how that must have felt to me. My parents are actually really great about talking about this stuff. I think they realise in a way that having B has given me a lot of peace.
My sister is still pregnant! I’m so glad. I was dreading how it would pan out if it went wrong but they are approaching the halfway mark. And she’s having a girl! Which means I get to buy girl stuff for her kid so I don’t miss out on girly things. Truth be told I love having a boy. Although I’m sure in future I’ll be able to take my niece to do the girly things! Spa days and afternoon teas hopefully. Although no reason why B wouldn’t like those things!
My brother has been having a really difficult time. The other siblings and my parents and I have tried to help but he is at the point where he refuses any help. My folks are so upset. I think partly it is pride as he wants to provide for his family himself. Also I’ve said on here before, I always called him The Golden Child as he had a charmed life. He’s in his thirties and this is the only bad thing that has ever happened to him. But it’s really bad.
I feel bad for ever feeling jealous of him because I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. (His child has a serious health problem.) We are all trying to help but I don’t know what we can do when he keeps refusing. (Including financial help.) We are just all hoping that they can get help and that things aren’t as bad as we are fearing as right now everything is unknown. It is really sobering as I know that this time last year I was feeling terrible that our previous baby’s due date fell around his baby’s christening. So much has changed in a year.
My other friend is still going through chemo but the good news is that the tumour has shrunk! I’m really hoping this is it for her. She’s had a tough time dealing with chemo as she’s been really ill. I’m very aware that we’ve had this huge exciting wonderful thing happen in our lives but others are dealing with some horrible stuff. We are just trying to be there for her.
So that’s a bit of an update typed on iPhone in the middle of the night. People ask what I do all day and I reply, we are so busy but I’m not sure what we are actually doing. Being a family. We were three and now four. Dog is being a big brother. We have new roles. I’m learning how to be a Mama.
In the blink of an eye more weeks will have passed. I already can’t remember what it felt like to be pregnant… I know I had years and years of pain before then but it feels like that is healing. Just as the scar from my caesarean is healing, so is the pain of infertility, the pain of thinking I could never have this, and the pain of losing our first baby. I can still remember it but it’s not such a deep stabbing pain any more. And the other pains I’ve experienced in my life… the sadnesses… They all pale in comparison to the love and happiness I’m feeling now.
Or: The long and the short of it
So B is finally here! Born last Sunday eve 19:36. Weight 3.61kg, just under 8lb. Apgar scores 9, 10, 10. He’s perfect.
Birth definitely did not go according to plan but he’s here safe and sound and we are all well! (Although dad is recovering from the most traumatic day of his life. 😉)
Ended up having an emergency caesarean… Surprisingly not as bad as the 64hrs labour that preceded it and was up and walking the next day.
It was about 2 days of contractions, the big ol’ waters breaking at 02:30 and then about 14hrs hard labour in hospital… Contractions never got frequent enough and dilation only got to 5cm after all that time, and baby’s heart rate kept dropping with every contraction so they advised us to have a caesarean even though we tried everything to avoid it.
So pretty much nothing went according to plan! Had contractions of varying severity and frequency for 2 days, but never enough to actually go into hospital. (They wanted us to have 3-4 in 10 min, regularly for an hour – never happened.)
Waters broke mid contraction in bed at 02:30 Sunday morning. There was a lot! 3 bath towels worth! Quite alarming! We were told to go to hospital as soon as they broke by the high risk doctor so headed over after cleaning up and arrived around 03:30. We were both really excited at this point.
I wasn’t allowed in the birth pool at all, or the delivery room for ages, so had to go through first stages of labour in triage. It was really upsetting as they basically left us alone whilst they waited for me to progress enough to warrant a delivery room but I wasn’t allowed to do anything in the birth plan.
T was really supportive and kept helping me try to breathe as the contractions got stronger and more painful. It was hard for him as he felt helpless as he couldn’t do anything to take the pain away. I remember he was breathing with me although my deep breaths turned into moans and groans!
Had continuous monitoring which meant I had to stay in one position, which was sitting/reclining, which didn’t help the pain at all. Baby’s trace was irregular from the start and never regulated so I wasn’t allowed to move. Triage was bright lights, hospital trolley type setup so not at all conducive to progressing.
I had checked myself at home and was at least 2cm dilated prior to waters breaking. When the consultant came in, he gave me a horrible rough speculum exam (I was crying out in pain and he was just shoving it in) and declared I was only 1-2cm and 50% effaced. I’m sure the environment didn’t help and probably delayed the contractions because I was so uncomfortable.
At some point (it got to be a blur with all the pain) I was moved to a side ward (about four beds divided by curtains). Again it was really strange. At least it was dark and at first we were the only ones there, but then there were other people I could hear behind the curtains and I felt really strange moaning (then screaming) in pain when I knew other women were there.
Initially they were quiet and I even heard their partners laughing which made me feel that I was doing something wrong. I tried to be quiet as I had really wanted a zenlike birth but I couldn’t help myself. There’s something primal about feeling you’re being ripped in half! Towards the end the other women started making noise too so at least I didn’t feel like such a freak. I really feel that you want privacy when you’re in labour, though.
I resisted pain relief for hours, then eventually had gas and air. It was quite funny as it makes you feel stoned and is actually quite enjoyable! I made T take some photos with me doing the peace sign! However it didn’t help at the peak of contractions and I was in so much pain! I’ve never felt anything like it. It pretty much renders you incapable of rational thought. I kept trying to visualise my baby arriving safely and tried to do the hypnobirthing techniques but the environment wasn’t conducive and the pain was too intense for it to make much difference.
The whole environment was awful and really medicalised. The whole time they mainly left me to it whilst periodically checking the trace. It kind of felt like we had no support – just monitoring. I had gone into it thinking I would be all zen but I was screaming with pain. I couldn’t help it!
My midwife arrived at around 13:00 and I was finally taken to a delivery room. It was a much better environment and I’d been promised the birth pool which I was really hoping would help with positioning more upright. But then they decided I couldn’t use it because by then I was in too much pain and they thought I needed a cannula because I was dehydrated, plus they felt they might have to intervene due to baby’s trace. And they thought I needed an epidural.
So then we moved to yet another delivery room without a pool. My midwife did help but by then I think I was too far gone and in too much pain. Also it was so far from what I’d prepared for that it was difficult to deal with. It really dwarfs any other pain I’ve ever felt in my life!
Eventually after hours of painful labour (I was delirious!) I had an epidural. After that I could finally rest, but the contractions never picked up pace to open the cervix efficiently and I didn’t get further than 5cm dilated.
To be honest, the epidural was the least of my worries in terms of pain. They have to inject it into your spine and people say it hurts but I can honestly say I never noticed the pain during the pain of labour! Given the awful labour I went through, if I had my time again I would have the epidural sooner! So much for mindful hypnobirthing!
They were going to offer me the option to induce, but baby’s trace was getting worse – his heart rate kept dropping with every contraction. They said they thought his cord was getting squeezed and they strongly advised I take the caesarean as they were worried about his heart rate.
By that time I had been in labour a really long time and I didn’t feel up to fighting doctors’ recommendations. And actually the idea of this finally being over did appeal! I also knew that my contractions didn’t seem to be progressing my cervical dilation. It’s weird with an epidural as you can feel the contractions but the pain isn’t there. I was pretty out of it but I think the contractions actually slowed down after the epidural so there was no hope of getting him out the natural way.
So we agreed that I should have an emergency caesarean. This was really the most distressing part – I knew that it was the right choice for my baby but I was overcome with disappointment that I hadn’t been able to birth him naturally and also that I’d gone through so much pain for nothing!
The experience of the emergency caesarean was pretty horrible as I was separated from T as I went for pre-op whilst he had to wait to be called in. First I had to sign consent forms which is funny as I question how much consent you can really give when drugged up and in immense pain!
Then I was wheeled to the operating theatre where about a million people were bustling about. This was not the calm relaxed entry I’d hoped for as a first experience of the outside world for my baby! Also laying flat on my back was really painful and uncomfortable so I was really distressed.
My midwife was there and calmed me down a bit but the dosed up epidural was really quite horrible. It gave me the shakes which is apparently a normal side effect but meant I couldn’t stop shivering. They put me on the operating table and shone bright lights on me whilst dosing me up with anaesthetic and testing with cold spray up and down my body to see if it had worked. They also erected a big screen across my middle so I couldn’t see the blood and gore!
Eventually we were ready and T was shown in, wearing his scrubs. Fetching! He was really supportive (as he was throughout labour) and kept reassuring me. I’d told him to try and take lots of photos so even if I couldn’t remember it all there would be some record of it. I can only describe the intense labour part as being in a fog of pain.
They started cutting and it was really weird as you can feel everything but the pain. And they really cut a lot more than you imagine! Then they started digging around inside and that feels so surreal! It’s like someone’s rummaging around in your abdomen and then they’re bracing against your chest and pulling something out. As they did stuff, they described what they were doing so I knew they were pulling him out, but I couldn’t see anything because of the screen.
And then: a cry!
I’ve heard that cry so many times since, this week, and yet it was the most amazing beautiful thing. Our son’s cry! T and I looked at each other and I started crying.
They had to cut the cord and they took away the placenta for testing. Apparently it looked abnormal in some way with fatty deposits. The surgeon said they’d never seen one like it before… I had consented to donate cord blood and stem cells so I was disappointed we couldn’t do that, but relieved that whatever was weird about it hadn’t affected B being brought into the world.
And then there he was. Someone handed him to us and he was there on my chest and he was beautiful and breathing and it was over and yet it had just begun.
* * *
B couldn’t feed right away even though he clearly wanted to, because he had some liquid in his stomach that needed pumping. So we had skin to skin for a while as I was in recovery. And then they took him off to get his stomach pumped. Poor T had to wait whilst we were in recovery and then go and see his baby son have a tube down his nose. But then as soon as he was back, B was desperate to feed and he took to it like a duck to water. And he’s been feeding ever since!
So week 1 was a week of firsts. A short stay in the hospital – he was born Sunday eve and so we stayed Sunday and Monday nights. We were in wonder at everything. The grandparents rushed to meet him on Monday. Tuesday we got to come home and he met his big brother, Dog. And now, a week later, it seems like he’s always been here. Even though it’s only been a week.
The whole birth experience was pretty distressing at the time but I feel kind of fine about it because B is healthy and I’m recovering well from the caesarean. It’s kind of funny in a way that I’d initially asked for an elective caesarean and been talked out of it!
I can honestly say I don’t feel in the least bit bad or stressed about it any more. I’m so utterly giddy that my baby is here and I relish every moment of being a mother. I guess it helps he’s a champion breastfeeder so I feel at least there’s one thing I’m giving him and he’s doing well. But the other discomforts – like the healing scar and the being woken up at night – don’t bother me. I guess I had an expectation it would be hard, and I find it’s easier than I thought.
It’s really easy to wake up during the night when it’s your own baby who needs you and wants the comfort of being with you. I don’t resent it in the least. I relish the fact that he wants me and only me a lot of the time, and I love the fact that he is so cute when snuggled up to his father and that T is so in love with him. (T has done all the nappy changes! I do IN and he does OUT!) I love that we are a bigger little family now with Dog and B. It just feels like I have everything I ever wanted.
It’s so surreal to realise he’s the only one in the whole world I’ve ever met (that I can remember) who is biologically related to me. And also weird to think he’s not yet the age at which I went home with my adoptive parents. So my first mother must have had me and cared for me when I was this tiny and helpless. It’s a thought. There is something sad about it but there’s also a lot of happiness. My parents are absolutely over the moon obsessed with him. Even though he’s “only” grandchild #3, they are super excited and keep wanting to FaceTime with him even when he’s asleep!
And this week has been amazing for all the experiences we’ve had. We’ve been out every single day. I’ve even breastfed in public! I never thought I’d be that person, but when the kid’s gotta eat, he’s gotta eat! I really thought my healing would be worse but I seem lucky. It definitely hurts but it’s a good pain that got me my baby here safely and it is decreasing every day. It mainly hurts getting up and down but T has rigged up a rope by the bed so I can pull myself upright! And he is being super helpful with everything. He is an amazing dad already as well as an amazing partner. Dog is also a caring big brother who’s especially interested in the contents of nappies! I just feel so happy when I’m surrounded by my three boys: T, Dog and B.
So… We are sort of in a love bubble right now. And it feels like everything good.
Feeling somewhat bruised today after a culmination of a number of things and I realise that this process bruises us all. And I’m sad that the outcome of that is a lot of sadness and anger. Mainly anger.
I think the main point is this: Pregnancy after loss shoots you into a whole new domain of feelings, and suddenly you have a foot in each world – one still in the world of infertility, with those still struggling angry at you for being “okay”; and one in the world of pregnancy, where you feel like an imposter and you never quite get rid of the fear of history repeating itself and of reverting to being your childless self.
I feel stuck between those worlds now. For example I’ve tried to carry on blogging and not being one of those people who stops being supportive just because I’m “okay”.
(Thing is, I’m not okay. I’ll never be a normal pregnant woman because I’ll never take it for granted, and no matter how far everything goes, I’m still worried about loss. I have a new set of worries now and of course they have calmed a bit because it’s possible to acknowledge a pregnancy after a certain stage. But they are still very real. I’m not a complacent optimistic pregnant woman and I haven’t announced it on social media or told people I don’t see, because part of me still worries that it won’t happen and something will go wrong.)
But I’ve become really aware of how continuing to comment on people’s blogs might not be helping and supportive as I intended it to be. That for some people who are struggling to get pregnant, or are newly pregnant after infertility or loss, the fact of someone else being pregnant – even after their own infertility and loss – is not encouraging, and just makes them feel bad.
I have tried to be empathetic and supportive but maybe I just need to realise that there’s a certain stage of hell that infertile/newly pregnant after loss people are suffering in and that trying to be there for them whilst I am heavily pregnant is hugely triggering. And not just in blogland but real life, too.
It’s a weird feeling to be classed as someone who’s crossed over to being the subject of people’s anger for being pregnant. Because I was always the non-pregnant one, the infertile, the non-parent. It’s an identity I don’t feel fits, and yet here I am with a bump, causing pain to people in the same situation I was in for so many years.
It’s ironic because I still feel at 34 weeks like I can’t comfortably accept congratulations on my pregnancy or feel completely comfortable answering questions. I have stock answers but I don’t want to tempt fate by expecting everything is going to be okay, even if it seems that way to everyone else and there are people thinking, “It’s okay for you”, just as I did about others in previous times.
The big news is that I’ve known for a while now that my sister is pregnant. She had a very similar situation to mine last year where they did IVF and it resulted in a first ever pregnancy followed by miscarriage. I told her about the immune therapy we had and she ended up going to see the same doctor, and getting a slightly different diagnosis.
They decided to move forward with immune treatment alongside the “natural” cycles and then they decided to transfer their remaining frosty from their first cycle. (The difference for us was that cycle 2 was a fresh cycle as I didn’t create enough eggs / we didn’t have enough embryos of any quality to freeze any – on either cycle.) And now a few months later she has tested after the two week wait and she’s pregnant.
Of course I’m thrilled for them. And I can also understand how she must be feeling because I felt something like that too. The sheer all encompassing fear of getting positive pregnancy tests but before any scans. And even after scans in our case – as we had a first scan and heartbeat last time. I know I went a bit mad during that time, and truth be told, my mind only started to calm down slightly around the 20 week mark, which is a long way away for her.
And right now her sister – the one she could always depend on as being equally infertile – is heavily pregnant. I’ve been really conscious of how awful this must be for her even though I know she’s happy for me in her own way. I know how I felt when my brother’s wife had his baby whilst we were on our post-baby-loss-moon. It’s hard to deal with.
My sister has reacted a lot like I did. She is angry at everyone. She’s angry at her partner for being happy, for “not doing enough” and for not being able to read her mind. She’s angry at women at work who are pregnant or who have children – or even who are happy and chatty and not in a state of upset like she is. She told me she even moved desks to get away from them because they were “too happy”. She’s angry at my parents for asking how she is and offering support. I’m sure she’s angry at me for being pregnant.
She called me the other day because she was feeling so bad about everything and I did my best to reassure her that what she was feeling was normal. She has always been a lot more highly strung than I have, and if I think how crazy I felt, I would expect her to feel a lot worse. I have already written at how I feel about pregnancy after loss (How not to react when someone congratulates you on being pregnant). It has taken me a long time even to talk as if I’m not constantly waiting for loss – even if the thoughts still creep in.
I tried to reassure her that everything she was feeling was valid. I shared my experience of feeling angry and resentful that I couldn’t enjoy this pregnancy for months, and why I still worry. And we talked for a long time, and she was upset and angry and I don’t know how much I helped. I feel like during that time of waiting, you almost can’t say the right thing. The person who is pregnant after loss is going to be afraid, and angry, and I don’t think there’s much anyone can say to allay it.
So I don’t know how to navigate this. It’s like I’ve been given a role I didn’t ask for and suddenly I’m the oppressor rather than the oppressed. I don’t belong any more in the infertility world, with my big bump triggering people. And I’m not a parent either.
I don’t want to be one of the people causing pain to others. But equally, I feel like it’s not the pain Olympics but I still kind of think… Surely we have gained the right after everything we have been through to begin to hope we might have a successful pregnancy, eventually.
When I wasn’t pregnant and I had unexplained infertility and other things, I looked for hope. And when I miscarried our baby after our first cycle of IVF, I felt desolate – but the worst feeling was hopelessness. So I always searched for it. When people who’d known similar struggles got pregnant, I was happy for them because it gave me hope that there might still be something for me. (One of the first people I ever followed now has a real life baby who is about one year old, and I’m so happy for her!) When we went through cycle 2, I kept one blogfriend in mind who had a successful second cycle. I tried to believe in hope.
But I don’t want to be that source of pain if I can help it. Particularly if I can help it – I can’t help seeing my sister, but I can help commenting on people’s blogs and inadvertently causing them pain. I really do not want to do that. I’ve had over a decade of that and I don’t want to be that person to someone.
So I’m going to take a break from commenting on infertility blogs, unless I’m really sure that they want to engage (e.g. If they comment on mine and we “know” each other). I have always had a policy of trying to engage with blogs I follow (often as a result of them following me) but in some cases I can’t be sure, and I don’t want to hurt people by commenting if I am doing more harm than good.
I’m in a risky kind of place right now because I want to talk about my own experiences and fears and I’ve moved on a few months from that place of going through IVF and immune stuff so it’s maybe not appropriate to comment on people’s blogs who are still going through that.
I have had a whole day full of people being angry today and it’s making me feel fairly wretched. I wonder if there is some effect of the moon or something. There is too much pain and anger in the world today, and I’m not dealing with it well. I’ve also been wondering lately if there is such a thing as pre-natal depression or pre-baby blues or whatever. Because I feel like I’m taking stuff to heart and feeling teary when the old me would just have brushed it off. (Old me is one kick ass b*tch. Current me is blancmange.)
More than anything this week I think I need a break.
This is not what I expected to happen at my baby shower.
My mother-in-law is in hospital hooked up to ECG machines. She seems well and is in good spirits, mainly concerned with how she “ruined” my baby shower. Of course we are all in way more shock than she is.
The day started great. Dog and I had a nice lie in, listening to the rain on our roof. (Our bedroom is in the loft with windows over the bed.) It was strangely soothing.
Got up, managed to take Dog out in between the torrential rain showers, and then came back and had a nice bath before heading to our local pub for the baby shower / Christmas dinner.
It was so nice! Lots of my friends were there. Everything was set up absolutely gorgeously and I was so happy. We had our starters and then our mains (I had turkey dinner and it was amazing) and Dog was having the time of his life as my friends were falling for his sad “I’ve not been fed, honest” face. (Never fall for it. I always do.)
Suddenly I heard T’s sister shouting, “Mum! Mum!”
My mother-in-law was sitting in her chair with her eyes and mouth open, completely unresponsive. It was so shocking. We didn’t know what to do. People were yelling, “Call 999!”
What happened next was kind of a rush and kind of slow motion, the way only accidents and traumatic things can be.
T’s sister started shaking and trying to dial her phone. I put my arm around her and led her to a chair. She was shaking violently.
L, my amazing midwife who I had invited to my baby shower, leapt up and came round the table to my mother-in-law and tried to check her responses. She wasn’t responding at all so with a bit of help, she got her on the floor and started doing CPR.
I really thought I was watching my mother-in-law die.
We took T’s sister round the corner and sat her down to try and calm her. Gave her a glass of water and I just held her whilst she shook. I didn’t know what else to do. I wasn’t even feeling anything I think, other than shock. Everyone was shocked. I mean, one minute we were eating our Christmas dinner and the next, there’s an old lady on the floor with someone over her performing CPR.
Luckily, and it was probably only minutes, a friend came round and said, “She’s breathing!”
We calmed T’s sister and went round to see her. My mother-in-law was lying on the floor in the recovery position and L was tending to her. She was remarkably chipper considering we all thought she had died! Typical T’s mum, she was sort of wondering what all the fuss was about. (She didn’t have to see her staring face.)
The first responder arrived. She didn’t seem to know what to do, but L even helped her to sort out the blood pressure cuff (seriously?!) and by that time T’s mum had been sitting up in a chair for a while. I mean it was so shocking because she was on the floor unresponsive one minute and the next she was acting like nothing had happened.
Two other paramedics arrived and thankfully seemed a bit smarter about what was going on. They took down the story from a sort of hysterical T’s sis and a calm and collected L. L had already been on the phone to the ambulance crew beforehand and explained everything. T’s sis is actually a trained nurse, and she said she couldn’t find a pulse, whereas L said she had found a “thready pulse” – but either way it was a really shocking thing that happened.
They took T’s mum to the ambulance after a while and did an ECG, and then they took her to hospital. We all felt a bit helpless as to what to do. T’s mum insisted we must finish our dinner, and as they were taking her to hospital with T’s sister, we felt at least she was in safe hands. So the rest of us had our dessert, and we chatted for a while, but it was really strange knowing my mother-in-law was in A&E.
At that point despite everyone telling me not to, I called T and told him what had happened. They didn’t want me to tell him as he’s away this weekend and can’t do anything, but I felt like if it had been my mother and the situation was reversed, I would want to know. He was pretty calm about it and we kept him updated throughout the evening.
I felt bad for my best friend who had done such an amazing job of organising it. And before that happened, we were having a really lovely time, and they still gave out goody bags which she had put together which was so amazing and everyone wrote messages. I am sure I’ll have time to appreciate them after. And people helped me carry a mountain of unopened gifts back to our flat. But I think we will open them tomorrow when T is back and I’ll do more of a baby shower write up then. As right now we’re all still in shock.
Once all the guests had left, I went to drop Dog at home and got changed out of my party dress and headed to the hospital. My mother-in-law was still in A&E but had been moved out of resus and was hooked up to a machine monitoring her heartbeat. We waited a few hours until the doctor could see her. She was in really good spirits considering (typical old people, “Don’t make a fuss!”) and her main worry was that she and T’s sis hadn’t paid their bills for lunch – which I assured her was not an issue!
T’s dad arrived and of course it was a terrible shock for him. We sat with her for a few hours and kept her company. I think hospitals can be really boring and that’s a bit depressing too. Both T’s parents and sister live over an hour away, and the incident happened at around 4pm, so by the time T’s mum got moved to the cardiac ward it was late. I took an executive decision with T that we should book them into the local hotel and so we did that.
I popped out to the supermarket to get supplies and came back with bags for each of them with PJs, underwear, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, shower gel etc. It was quite confusing trying to decide what both of them would wear but it was a rough guess and the hotel’s on the high street with lots of shops, so they only need to wear the stuff tonight and tomorrow and then they can choose their own!
We eventually picked up T’s dad’s car and drove back to ours with T’s sis, and dropped the car in our parking space. Then I walked them into town to the hotel. I finally got back and am sitting with Dog. It’s 2 mins past midnight for NaBloPoMo but I figure it’s still before midnight in the US, and under the circumstances…
There are no words. So I’ll leave you with these for today.
“First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.”
~ Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)
[Early supporter of the Nazis, later imprisoned for opposing Hitler’s regime.]