I was looking at old photos of myself on Timehop (God bless Timehop, the regurgitator of past lives!) and realised that I was really skinny. This was something of a surprise to me as I spent a good proportion of my life and most of my adult life feeling fat.
It's like a lot of my old life is something of a shock to me now. I remembered with a jolt the other day that I didn't wear trousers for five years because my ex told me my legs looked a bit like sausages in them. Five years! When did I allow someone else to have such agency over my body?
Even before I met my ex, I think I had some pretty disordered eating. Not quite anorexia – I never really was one for seeing things through – but I did maintain a pretty low body weight that is significantly lower than I am now. (For context: I am around 5'2", and I used to be a UK size 8-10, and now I'm about a UK size 12. Generally not considered "overweight".)
I'm not sure when my disordered eating and strange body image first started. A lot of people (especially girls) start this around puberty, and perhaps that's what happened for me. I think it's a bit deeper than that, though. I was adopted as a baby, transracially, and I grew up around white people so all my life I've looked different from most of the people I was around growing up.
When I went to a predominantly white school, all of this got amplified. I remember that it was a shock because I slowly realised that I was "less than" because of my race. I realised that I was supposed to be blonde haired and blue eyed and I was about as far from that as possible. I started to find myself ugly (and people started to tell me I was ugly to my face). I never had the skinny white girl legs. Mine were muscular and I was just a different build. Really average for my race, as it turns out. But you don't know that as a child if you grow up with people who don't look like you.
Adoption is complex, and I don't know how much of this was tied up in adoption, but I do know I can't separate out being a different race from my overall experience of growing up. My feeling of not fitting in, even though that was all I knew. Anyway, I got kind of chubby. Although looking back, I wasn't chubby. I don't think I was ever actually chubby – I was just short, and not lanky.
Then one time when I was around 16, I went away on a holiday (to learn a language) and when I was there I got pretty sick and I couldn't really eat anything. And I dropped a load of weight. When I got back, suddenly everyone said how amazing I looked because I was skinny. I was suddenly approved of, and I liked it. So I maintained it.
I maintained it for a really long time. The thing is, I'm not naturally meant to be that weight. (It's about 20-30kg lighter than I am now. I don't know exactly how much as I don't know how much I weigh now.) So I got by on some disordered eating that kept me at my magic weight. My magic weight crept up over time… I kept in a 5kg weight range through school, and then it kind of crept up during my time at university, until it was +10kg, and then it was about +15kg in my last few years with IVF and everything. And even +20kg post miscarriage.
For me, I always thought I was "happy" when I was a lower weight. But when I look back, I was always kind of unhappy. I was happy that I'd managed to keep my weight down but I always felt a kind of anxiety about it. I used to weigh myself every day. The number on the scales made me feel like I was achieving something or I was failing something.
When I met T, after I'd split up with my ex – I had to adjust to a new way of being. I was always very controlled with my ex. He wouldn't think he was, but he controlled a lot about me. He had a huge effect on my feelings of self worth (or not). This was someone who had always dated very skinny women and even told me I was the fattest person he'd ever been with. It made me feel pretty bad about myself that I was that. The whole thing with my ex was that I never felt good enough. With T, I felt good enough. He really didn't care about weight. I actually met him when I was still pretty skinny and I piled on the relationship pounds… I let myself go.
I'm still conflicted about how I feel about it, because I recognise that my magic weight wasn't magic at all, but a strange idea of how I was supposed to look. And T tells me he loves me the way I am. But it was hard in the beginning putting on pregnancy weight – not just because of the weight itself, but the fear that it might be for nothing, like our first IVF and pregnancy was.
This pregnancy that gave me B also gave me a lot of weight. Firstly I had to take IVF drugs which make you put on weight. And also I had to take steroids which make you put on weight also. I got to halfway through pregnancy in a state of fear that it wouldn't work out, but then when I got halfway I decided I was going to try my best not to fear it any more.
I also decided to stop weighing myself. I have weighed myself every day, sometimes multiple times a day, since I was a teenager. I even recorded my weight every day in an app so I could see how much weight I put on. It's a bit crazy obsessive.
When I was properly pregnant, I gave myself permission to stop weighing myself. And I let myself relax into the pregnancy.
And you know what?
The strange thing is, I have no doubt I'm at least magic weight +20kg. Possibly +30kg. And I definitely have my moments of feeling a bit concerned about it (especially if I catch a glimpse of myself coming out of the shower – stretch marks and overhang and pendulous mammaries hanging out) but I generally feel absolutely awesome.
I don't know how it works for other people but for me – my body was always this thing that failed me. I wasn't the same as my white friends. I looked different. I was ultimately not enough – I wasn't enough for my birth mother to keep me; I wasn't enough for my ex to love me how I needed to be loved; I wasn't thin enough or attractive enough or whatever.
But having B was like all vanity went out of the window. I love myself now, because I know I'm just the same as anyone else – I'm fallible and imperfect, but my messed up body gave me B and I love myself for that.
I love my ridiculous humungaboobs that feed B like a dream… when his dad "flies" him over to me for a feed, he giggles and opens his mouth to latch on. They may be saggy and baggy but they do exactly what they need to do to feed my baby, and I'm proud I've been able to do that and even to pump for him so he's been exclusively breastfed for his entire life, for half a year.
I love my saggy stomach. (This one requires a bit more imagination!) I love that it carried B safely (even though he needed cutting out at the last minute!). I love that I got to experience being gloriously, amazingly pregnant. I once had a big bump that I never thought I'd get to have, and I grew a human in there, and if it looks like a fleshy deflated balloon well – so be it. My bikini days are over anyway and I have an awesome very flattering swimsuit with tummy panels!
I love my fuller face. (Again this is a hard one!) I love that it's the face that my son loves. His eyes light up when he sees me. He giggles and reaches his arms out. We even had to hide the cushion with my face on because he kept staring at it! Yes, I don't have the cheekbones I used to have but they'll come back one day. Or maybe they won't. But I refuse to hate my face because it looks a little bit like my boy's and I love his.
Anyone who sees me now probably thinks I've "let myself go". And I really have.
I've given myself permission to breathe out. (You kind of have to if you had a caesarean, just saying.)
I've given myself permission to not care. I don't have to listen to the whispering voices of bullies from the past, who said I was fat and ugly. I'm not fat and ugly. I am the size I needed to be to carry my baby into existence. I'm the face of my ancestors, who I'm finally beginning to connect with through adoption forums and same race groups, and I refuse to be ashamed of my non-whiteness because I don't ever want to see that shame in my son's face.
Of course I don't advocate being unhealthy. (Well, chocolate notwithstanding.) The thing is, I'm a size bigger than I was pre-pregnancy. But there's a freedom in letting myself have this. I have told myself I won't diet until I finish breastfeeding. Right now, I don't know when that will be. I want to do at least a year. In fact I'm enjoying it so much (never thought I'd say that!) that I joke I'll do it till he's 15… although I think he might decide to wean himself before then! (We have started baby led weaning but B is not interested in the least… It's a messy business!)
I will start exercising again when I have the time, for sure. But it will be just for myself. I miss the enjoyment I used to get from exercise, a bit, but then we are pretty active as we walk almost everywhere and we have Dog, and he gets us out and about. Plus I do swimming with B once a week, if bobbing around in the shallow end counts. (Yes it does!)
The important thing is that I want B to have a healthy self esteem and be happy. And a huge part of that is having happy healthy parents. I don't want him to see his mother dieting or hating the body that he changed by coming into existence. I don't want him to hate half of his race that came from me. We've taken steps… He's in a diverse nursery in the diverse area we live in. So he will never have the experience of feeling the odd one out, like I did.
And his parents are currently happy together and don't argue that much! (And when they do, it's his mama's fault… Hopefully the hormones will have died down a bit by the time he's more aware!) We are hopefully moving to our new place soon, so he'll even have a bit of outside space. And he has an awesome Dog for a buddy, and a load of new buddies at nursery… Life is good… and we are going to focus on the good things we are grateful for, rather than the bad things we wish we didn't have.
Those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know we are massive Disney fans. We have booked to bring B to Disneyland Paris this year, because even though he won't remember it, it's our happy place (and we will save Orlando and the transatlantic flight for when he's older!). We have been every year apart from last year (heavily pregnant) as a couple and now we're going back as a family.
And of course, one of the best Disney songs ever is from Frozen: Let it Go. I don't tell that many people this, but I can barely ever listen to that song without wanting to cry. It's the perfect song that sums up so much of how I feel. (Which is strangely embarrassing given I'm an almost-40 year old definitely not Scandinavian most likely not a princess archetypally buttoned up British-by-adoption person.)
Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!
So here's the thing… I never was perfect. But I was trying to be, and it was exhausting.
And I never realised that all this time I needed to find acceptance. Not from other people, but from myself.
There are good and bad things about Timehop. I always find it interesting to see what I did on this day a year ago, and the years before that. Although there are always things we'd rather forget and it doesn't seem to filter those out.
This morning's Timehop showed me this scan picture. So strange to think of what time was like a year ago, when little B was in existence but we had no concept of who he was, and now he's here, bright and alive and spreading butternut squash all over his tray table. (I actually hate butternut squash and it turns out he isn't too keen either.)
I am so grateful to medical science that we have this chance to be his parents, that I have a chance I never thought I'd have, to be a mother. As an adoptee, to know someone biologically related to me. To see someone who looks a bit the same. To know I'll be able to offer that comfort of looking a bit like him and he'll never have to wonder where he came from.
And I think back to this time last year and it seems almost inconceivable(!) how much my life has changed. I'm still the same person and yet I'm not.
I may be out of the trenches of infertility but I can remember what it was like. And the fear that haunted me throughout my pregnancy with B. Right now I'm looking at that scan picture and remembering how I felt relief and I cried that there was a baby there. But I also didn't feel happy that I was pregnant because I was so scared that we would lose this one as well.
And a rainbow baby, as B is, is a special sort of baby. All babies are special of course. But a rainbow baby has parents who know the fear of loss and who went through the special kind of hell before their baby was born. Maybe a rainbow baby has parents who don't take parenthood for granted. I know we don't. I feel a ridiculous sense of gratefulness every single day when I look at his chubby little face.
I don't know what I can say to my friends who are still in the trenches apart from, I feel for you and I want you to know you are not alone. I know that I'm just one more of those annoying people who now have a baby. I know what it's like to feel infertility anger and I bear you no malice if you wish to unfollow. But you must know, you are not alone.
When I joined WordPress three or so years back, I felt like I was talking into a void. I needed somewhere to shout and rage about my infertility and to try and make sense of what we were going through. And then I realised it brought up some feelings about adoption I had buried. And I quickly realised that I wasn't alone at all.
I had such support throughout my whole journey of making sense of all of this. Infertility but also adoption, and feelings about all sorts of things from work to friendships.
And I made real life friends. Some I've never even met in real life but whom I consider actual real life friends!
So although this path is hard, and paved with the small angry pebbles of anger and loss (and running with the tears we have shed! Let's make that metaphor work for us!), know that you are not alone. I promise you. There are good people out there! And the great thing is, your blog is for you and it attracts the people who are interested in what you have to say! Who knew?! There are some pretty awesome folk out there and I hope one day to convert some of my real life not-yet-met friends into actual "I know what your voice sounds like" friends!
So, that's all for today really. Looking back is bittersweet. I know we had a long bloody wait to meet our miracle. And I'd be lying if I said I was happy to go through that. But the outcome was bloody spectacular. I'm biased of course, but B is such a happy baby it's hard to complain about the slightly truncated sleep cycles (co sleeping helps) and the over familiarity with poo (how does it get everywhere?!). When my baby chucks back his head and giggles I think there is not a sight nor sound in human history that will ever top it.
This year is a bumper year. We are planning our "big" birthdays and we are going to take B on his first trip to Disney (Paris – not going to brave a transatlantic flight with a baby!). We decided we are going all out and staying in the Disneyland Hotel. OMG Disney fans! Too exciting. Of course B won't really notice it but we will enjoy it! Hopefully our new flat will settle soon (ah the vagaries of the UK housebuying process!) so B will get his forever home and Dog hopefully will too. (I am still hoping I am right in thinking he is a special species of immortal dog who's going to live forever.) A bit of outside space (it has a terrace) is super exciting for us Londoners. I see my friends overseas and their gigantic yards and I think you'd have to laugh at our modest delusions of grandeur!
So yeah, life is pretty good right now. So much has changed in a year. I am so grateful to my lucky stars and whoever else may have had a hand in it. (Doctors and IVF technicians mainly I guess.) I keep telling myself not to worry about something going wrong. It seems hard to imagine because 2015 was such a bad year, but maybe these things all even out in the end.
And you… I've not had as much time as I expected to catch up on people's blogs. My day seems to lend itself more to the intermittency of Facebook. But I do care about what's going on in your lives! Tell me your news!
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.
It’s been 16 days since B was born and our lives changed gear. (*Eek, three weeks since I started writing this blog post a few days ago!) And yet it feels like he’s always been here. I guess he’s been in existence for 9 and a half months, and in our minds and wishes for years before that. A year ago I couldn’t even imagine him and yet right now I have a two week old baby on my lap, breastfeeding, whilst I try and type out a blog post on the laptop! (Multitasking!)
I started writing this post in my head about a million times but it’s taken me until now (the day after T went back to work after his two weeks paternity leave) to start writing it. We’ve just been having the most amazing time. If I tried to put it all into words I don’t think I could do it justice so I’ll probably end up babbling incoherently. Sorry! I have loads of thoughts whirling around in my head so I’ll try just to put down some first impressions of parenthood.
Proper planning does not prevent p*** poor performance
You can’t really plan for how stuff is going to be (see my birth story, last post). And also you can’t plan for how you’re going to feel. I absolutely haven’t felt like I thought I would.
For example, I really cared about the birth experience before it happened, and as soon as it did – I didn’t. And I also was really anti having visitors in the first few days – but we ended up having plenty in the first few weeks, and I was totally okay with it.
The whole thing made me realise that the best laid plans… well, they help, as long as you’re okay with changing them as different things happen. I’m actually glad I went through the thought process of what would happen with the birth, because even though it didn’t happen as I’d planned it, I was able to adjust okay when it did.
It’s not as hard as people say it is
This is my recurring mantra. I honestly can’t believe how much people drone on about how hard having a baby is, and that hasn’t been my experience at all. Maybe because B was so wanted, or maybe I’ve just adjusted really well, but I haven’t found it hard at all.
Luckily my healing from the caesarean was pretty easy and I was able to walk the day after (albeit gingerly!) and I was very motivated to get out and about so I was pretty much back to normal by week two.
And I never expected this but breastfeeding came really naturally to both of us. He definitely has a preference for one boob over the other (I think I have a more difficult angled one!) but he fed as soon as he was able and fortunately I had no pain or issues with giving him milk. I think that has had a huge impact on how I feel about everything because I’m sure if you have problems with it then that can be really stressful.
The sleep deprivation everyone goes on about isn’t really that bad at all. I am not getting up early for work so it’s not a big deal. I can sleep in for longer in the mornings (when he wants to sleep!) and go to bed later. I am sure it will kick in when I go back to work but right now it’s a fairly straightforward thing – he wakes up, I feed him and/or change him, and we both go back to sleep.
So really the whole thing has been way more enjoyable than I thought. I’m really loving this part – I think I had really low expectations of sleepless nights and crying babies and it’s really not that bad. And I kind of figure this it is the worst bit so generally I feel really positive about it.
The funny thing is people always ask how you’re coping like they expect you to be having a terrible time. People can’t believe I was up and about so soon after having a c section. B just sits in the sling and we go all over the place. He is very portable! I think once you get over the nerves of breastfeeding in public, the world is your oyster!
It’s strange how people want to talk about how awful they say / imagine having a baby is. You instantly get people talking about sleepless nights, nappies and endless feeding. And the thing is, they are right. You do have sleep, but it’s just on a different schedule. You do have to change nappies but I have mainly outsourced that to the proud dad, who has taken it as a point of pride to get a clean baby bum! You do get woken up randomly (especially if you have the boobs!) but you don’t really care.
The thing is, when you’ve waited and hoped this long… You love every moment of it.
It feels so awesome to be a family. We already were, with Dog, but I think having a baby just cements that. Dog does not really know what to make of his little brother so far. We’ve done our best to make sure he feels happy, but he’s definitely a bit cautious and subdued. On the plus side for him, we have been at home a lot more than usual and he’s had a lot of extra treats. I am hoping he feels happier soon and he knows he’s still my best dog.
As soon as I got back to the ward after recovery, T presented me with my “push present”. This was something we had discussed in a kind of jokey way because none of the guys in our NCT (antenatal class) really knew about it. Anyway I told him that it’s traditional to have an eternity ring for your first child, and there so happened to be one I liked… which he duly produced as soon as I was back on the ward!
I’m really happy with it. It’s funny but I’m not even bothered about getting married, as I’ve been married before and I think we are more committed anyway. It is just nice to have a little symbol of our commitment and also obviously our little B as well! (And Dog!)
Another thing I’ve noticed more is that because we aren’t married, B was referred to as “Baby [my surname]” in the hospital. He is taking T’s surname so his surname has effectively changed. It does feel slightly weird him having a different surname to mine, but I feel okay about it. He looks way more like me, and my brother’s kids have our family surname, so it’s not like it’s dying out. He’s the first grandchild on T’s side and probably the only one, so it feels okay that he takes their name.
The other big thing for us is that B is the child of two adoptees. Which is kind of more crazy for me because T has met his birth mother, whereas I have never met any of my birth family since I was adopted as a baby. It is crazy that B looks so much like me because he’s my first blood relative I’ve ever known. It’s sort of a sad thing and it’s sort of a happy thing.
You probably don’t need the stuff you think you need
I think it probably is hard to imagine beforehand how you’ll feel. I know I really couldn’t imagine it. Anyway I took all this stuff in to the hospital with me and ended up using hardly any of it! The makeup was extremely optimistic, haha. And I waited until I got home to have a shower.
I really thought I would care about how I looked but when it came down to it, I didn’t really have the chance to worry too much. After the birth, I said to T that I must look a state but he said no, you look beautiful. I can confirm that I checked later in the bathroom mirror and my hair was sticking up in a matted mess, and I looked absolutely knackered, but I’ll take it!
The other thing is how much stuff you maybe think you need for the baby but you probably don’t need. We haven’t even used the buggy yet and he’s three weeks old! Although he’s quite light now and I can imagine I won’t want to carry him forever! Also, you pretty much just need some basics like nappies, clothes and a sling for the baby and the other stuff can wait… I may do another post for anyone who’s interested!
Also, you will get a lot of stuff you definitely don’t need when you have a baby! I have been well and truly told by T, who laughs his head off at me every time we get another doudou. The backstory is, my go to present for all friends who have babies is a doudou. It is a small animal toy holding a blanket. Now, I was always very proud of this present as one friend I got it for told me that it was his kid’s favourite toy.
How many doudou have we received?
About five so far. And counting…
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful. I really am. I just find it funny that I thought I’d come up with a super original present that everyone likes, and really they are probably thinking, “Oh god, it’s another bloody doudou!” 😂
People are so happy for us, which means they’ve been super generous with the gifts, but thank you cards are hard to get round to. I mean it’s three weeks down and I’ve been sort of writing this post in the background and I have hardly got halfway through the thank you cards! It’s nuts. I’m hoping people don’t expect too much of us!
To tell or not to tell
As followers of my blog may know, aside from this (relatively anonymous) blog, I kept my pregnancy off social media. There were lots of reasons for this but mainly it was down to pregnancy after loss and not wanting to count chickens or have to deal with pregnancy discussions when I wasn’t ready for them.
So aside from people who were invited to my baby shower or who had seen my not inconsiderable bump in real life, most people didn’t know I was pregnant. Which meant that any announcement would come out of the blue.
T and I debated it and he agreed it was okay for me to announce B’s birth on Facebook. Facebook has an option to add a child to your profile and you also specify the parents so both of you are tagged. T is a lot more private on social media than I am, so we even debated whether he was happy for me to post about B, but we decided it was okay for me to do it and tag him, as long as it went to my subset of friends (as I tend to post just to about a quarter of my friends and not all of them).
In the end, I made a brief post with a photo of B and it was really nice. We immediately had tonnes of congratulations pouring in. It just felt great after so many years of it never being me, and obviously it’s nice to be celebrating something you are really happy about anyway. So it was kind of awesome and I didn’t really feel like I had missed out on pregnancy congratulations or anything.
The one thing I did have a bit of an internal debate about was whether to make any comment about our journey to get here. The infertility and operations and ivf and treatment… I’ve seen other announcements referencing these and always kind of thought I would want to highlight this if we ever had our own announcement. Mainly because it’s always hard to see new baby announcements as if it is yet another super fertile couple with an oopsie pregnancy.
But… in the end I decided not to. It’s hard to explain but I just really want this part of B’s life to be about celebrating and not anything more complicated. I have to respect T’s preference for privacy also. I feel that all my close friends know already about my medical history and also if I discuss it in real life, I always mention how B happened – with a lot of intervention. So I guess it’s a balance of privacy and openness. I want to shout it from the rooftops… but I also want to respect T’s and B’s privacy.
Speaking of which… I really want to share some photos but with my blog readers rather than the general public. So I’m going to put some photos – for a limited time! I’ll delete them shortly! – on another post, which will be password protected. And I’ve kind of hidden it in the thick of this post so only people who read it will know the password, which is [redacted – mail me and ask nicely!], so please feel free to check them out before they are deleted! 🙂
A final thought… (for now!)
In these halcyon days of B’s early existence in the outside world, I’ve been thinking how long the journey has been to meet him. In my last post, I referenced my very first post where I wondered – way back in April 2015 – whethere we would ever be parents. And that’s nothing compared to the years and years of infertility and operations and pain we had to get here.
I’ve been working out the stats. I’m not sure exactly what they are and one day when I have time, I will try and work out the exact numbers. But here is (approximately) what it took for us to have B.
- 16+ years of infertility
- 3 operations
- 6 hospitals
- 10 doctors
- 2 cycles of IVF
- 19 eggs retrieved
- 2 transferred embryos
- 2 pregnancies
- 1 loss
- 200 injections
- 6 intralipid infusions
- 11 medications
- 1 caesarean section
(I was going to add in all the attempts to get pregnant but thought that might be somewhat boastful, haha.)
It’s sort of mind boggling. I don’t believe in religion but I do feel like B is a miracle baby! And I’m so happy he is here. T and I are completely in love. And Dog is getting there! I just feel so lucky and still can’t really imagine this is real.
And here’s the big thought that makes everything worthwhile…
T said the other day that if we hadn’t had all the other attempts then B wouldn’t be B. Any of those other eggs that didn’t get fertilised, or the embryos that didn’t make it, and even our baby we lost were different potential humans.
And our little baby B who we’ve already come to know and love is a perfect accident of biology, who was helped along by science, and he’s wonderful.
I didn’t enjoy the waiting and hoping and heartache and wondering if it would never happen, but it has, and life is good.
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.
Showing my age as a “geriatric mother” with that title, but when I was thinking about how to sum up this blog post, those were the words that sprang to mind.
So that’s what I’m going to tell you about. The journey. What it’s like and the thoughts and ideas I had about it. Maybe this will never be read by anyone. Or maybe, just maybe… in 15 years or so, when the mythology of his/her being is slipping into the mundane, I’ll knock on the door of my adolescent’s bedroom and I’ll say “There’s a story I have to tell you…”
As we say in the UK, there’s been a slight technical hitch…
No sooner had I gotten my head to that zenlike state of pre-birth blissful
ignorance calm excitement (based on doing it all naturally, or as far as possible, pending any surprises) but I had a hard knock back down to earth.
Long story short: Turns out I’m not going to get to give birth in the lovely Birth Centre, which just about broke my heart (if it wasn’t a stone cold British heart).
Damn you, gestational diabetes!
The way I found out was particularly shocking. By which I mean, it wasn’t really that shocking but now I’m on wind down from the professional world of work, I’m sort of in a state of blissful relaxation and it was a bit of a shock to discover that everything I’d been visualising in my head wasn’t actually going to happen.
The basic problem is that if you have diabetes (including gestational, including diet-controlled and not insulin-dependent or medicated in any way), you have to be treated by a consultant. And if you’re under consultant care, you have to give birth on the delivery ward. The reason is, if you have diabetes then the protocol during birth is to be monitored continuously. They can’t monitor continuously in the Birth Centre as it’s a midwife led unit.
So instead of giving birth in the place I’d envisaged (huge, softly lit, nicely paint-jobbed pseudo hotel room), I have to give birth in a standard hospital room – with a bed with bars on, and medical equipment beeping and nasty bright light white roomed paper curtained yuckiness.
Now, someone could have told me this weeks ago when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes but they didn’t. Mainly because the diabetes people are a bit sh*t and don’t operate in a joined up way at all. (I really do not see eye to eye with the diabetes people and now I especially don’t.) So the way I found out was from my midwife (the lovely, lifesaving L) when I asked if I could take a picture of the birth suite for T, as he hasn’t seen it (he figures he’ll see enough of it by the time I’ve given birth and I’m inclined to agree) and instead of being led to the lovely hotel-room-like birth centre room, she led me down the horrible hospital corridor to a yucky hospital room with wires and stuff hanging all over the place.
Naturally, I didn’t look happy at this – L realised there’d been a massive misunderstanding and told me I should have been told there was no frickin’ way I could use the Birth Centre if I was “diabetic”, and clearly I was beginning to change my mind about the whole thing and considering how I could do a home birth! And swiftly took me to the hospital cafe to talk it all out…
The thing is, it’s taken a vast amount of psychic energy and general emotional thought to get myself to a space where I felt okay with the idea of childbirth and was largely managing my emotions and anxieties concerning pregnancy loss fears and fear of pain etc. I was actually completely fine about the whole thing, and now I feel like I have to unravel all of my mental preparations and change my idea of what the birth is actually going to be like. And this is all for something that could happen any time.
It’s frustrating, for sure. And thing is, I realise that everything could change on the day and I was prepared for that (eg If I have to have a caesarian rather than vaginal birth) but this is changing the entire birth plan I’d envisaged before my waters have even broken.
I asked if there was anything I could do, but L said that the protocol at our hospital for those who’ve been diagnosed as diabetic (using the goddamn Glucose Tolerance Test) even if well controlled by diet mean that patients have to have continuous monitoring during birth. This is because of the NICE guidelines which say that for controlled diabetics, they should be allowed only to get to 40+6 (ie 41 weeks gestation, one week overdue) before being induced, and they should also be subject to continuous monitoring during birth because apparently they’re more at risk of the baby being in distress.
Now, the NICE guidelines apply to insulin controlled diabetics. I am not on insulin or metformin. Quite frankly I am not inclined to believe I am diabetic but allegedly because I “failed” the glucose tolerance test, I am now classed as diabetic. (Based on my body’s ability to metabolise a syrupy glucose drink over two hours of inactivity. Which is something I do every day… NOT.) By all accounts it’s likely it’ll go away after the baby’s born, and anyway, my private doctor said these tests do not account for racial differences (I am not white) and in his opinion, the normal glucose levels for different races are different and it should be expected that my race has a higher baseline level of blood sugar and can still be healthy / non-diabetic. Which just makes my blood boil. (I’m already mad that the diabetic dietician tried to make me eat more carbs that I don’t even usually eat – such as diet fizzy drinks, more bread – so they could then put me on metformin. WTF?)
The frustrating thing is, it is not a decision for me or for L and I don’t have much choice. Basically that’s my hospital’s protocol so unless I start looking for someone else to give birth (bearing in mind this could happen any day now – I’m now at 38 weeks) I have to accept that. L said this was just how it worked in this hospital and whilst she sympathised with me, she would not feel comfortable looking after me (as my dedicated midwife) against the consultant advice / hospital protocol (for continuous monitoring). Which I can completely understand from her point of view.
My only option really is to appeal to the diabetic obstetrician (who is very nice and an advocate of natural childbirth and minimal intervention) to see if she thinks I need continuous monitoring. But… I also feel like things like this make us doubt our own opinions. I mean, if doctors tell me my baby needs continuous monitoring and this is my first baby to make it to childbirth then I don’t feel in a confident position to tell them I don’t want that. (In a midwife led unit, the most monitoring they can do is doppler in between contractions, which doesn’t tell you if the baby’s in distress during the contraction, during which the oxygen is cut off and he’s relying on oxygenated blood reserves in the placenta, from what L explained to me. Which are apparently considered lower in certain groups of people including diabetics.)
In short, I’m not in a position of confidence to say, “I don’t want continuous monitoring” because we are made to feel we are basically endangering our baby if we don’t have it. And I don’t want to endanger my baby. Of course. I can have a feeling that it’s not necessary but then a voice in the back of my mind says, what if it is necessary? What if you refuse it and he dies? So of course I’m not going to go against what they say.
L thinks it’s just about me wanting “the nice paint job” (her words) and it’s true, the Birth Centre room is like a hundred times nicer than the delivery suite room. But it’s not just some stupid vanity or whatever or wanting to be in a hotel room. It’s the difference between wanting a relaxed home-type birth versus a medicalised, all white bright-light smelling-of-hospital whilst other women scream in the background birth. I mean I really don’t like hospitals and the only reason I was so chilled out about the birth was specifically because I’d seen the Birth Centre, which is totally un-hospital-like.
Argh. So L tried to make me feel better. She said she would “de-medicalise” the room. We could turn the lights off and have fairy lights / tea lights (all battery operated of course) and I could use the birth pool and also use the continuous monitoring that is wireless so I could move around and get in and out of the pool. So I wouldn’t be tethered to the bed, which is completely what I don’t want. (I know this sounds odd when I had initially wanted an elective caesarian but it’s precisely because of my fears about lack of control which are now coming true!) I am also absolutely averse to going on the ward after birth. It’s like my worst nightmare. I don’t want to be around other people. I want it to be just us.
L also said that she would make a concession and other than trying to de-medicalise the delivery room – and also that she would be the gatekeeper and not let anyone in without agreeing it with me (and I refused the consent for the medical student to be there as well) – that if I have a “normal” vaginal delivery without intervention or complication, that I can go recover in the Birth Centre. So if I don’t lose loads of blood and need further treatment or whatever, or have a caesarian, I can go to the original place I wanted to be rather than on the ward.
I’m getting my head around it, and T thought I was doing well as he said they should have told me ages ago so I’d have had time to get accustomed to the idea. I feel like I don’t have much choice in the matter. I mean, realistically I can’t have a home birth (and I don’t feel up to that, quite aside from our flat is tiny) and if I want to be looked after in hospital, I have to go along with what they say. I appreciate L trying to make it better for me, but it’s quite a big shift in what I’ve been gearing up to. So I’m just going to have to work on being all zen and accepting and stuff.
I think one of the big things is that I’ve done a lot of work on myself to get to this calm state, so when there are things that are knocking me out of it, they make it difficult for me to stay so relaxed. Actually one of the things completely doing my head in is one girl in my NCT group. We have a Whatsapp group and she always posts about how anxious she is and how much pain she’s in yadda yadda and I just want to tell her to shut up. She’s like super insipid and whines about everything and keeps talking about how she wants it to be over. I actually said to her today that she should try and enjoy it because some people (like me) are grateful for being pregnant as we never thought we would be.
Also, she’s a bit creepy towards me… We are the same race and I kind of feel a bit like she is a potential stalker. She has no family in this country, which I’m sympathetic about, but she really annoys me so out of everyone in the group she’s the one I least want to be friends with. (I did on first meeting until I realised how whiney she is. As an example she’s usually the last person to post on Whatsapp chats because she’ll write a load of stuff and nobody will respond.)
For example re the creepiness: she lives the closest to me out of the others in the group, but not on my estate, but pretends to everyone she lives on the estate (which is more upmarket than where she lives – outside – just to sound snobby!). She’s already told me she walks past our block of flats every day and “wonders which one yours is?” (Ummmm creepy. Glad there’s a big gate around it and she can’t get in.) She is always hanging around our estate and making out she lives there and posting on the Facebook group, like she doesn’t get that she doesn’t actually live here.
Other creepiness is she literally keeps on buying the same stuff as I have bought for our baby. Like we discuss stuff on the group and people ask what others have got and then she just buys the exact same thing I’ve already bought. It’s like she wants us to be the same race and have the exact same stuff for our babies?! I am just not comfortable with her ways. I think she wants to keep emphasising similarities or something and we are not similar!
And also doesn’t seem to take the hint that I am never inviting her round, and keeps angling for an invitation. The other day she even posted to the group, addressing me: “I think I want to get a sling like yours – do you know where I could try it out?” Clearly asking if she could come round and try mine out. Umm no. I am one of those people (British!) who don’t invite people round unless we are friends friends. And why would she think I’m going to open my brand new sling and let her try it on? Just nope. Why can’t she go to a shop and make up her own mind? She even said it again in person when we met up as a group (I tried to sit far away from her and not talk with her) and I was just like, that’s nice. I mean, if you want to buy it, buy it. Don’t expect me to use my new stuff for you!
Hmm maybe I’m just getting to grouchy pregnant state? Weird thing is, apart from this annoying girl and the whole “You have to give birth in a nasty hospital environment” thing I’m super chilled out. The others in our group were saying how I seem to be the most okay with everything and calm and stuff. I honestly think it’s because I never thought I’d get to this stage and I am grateful. I can remember this time last year feeling hopeless and depressed and thinking I’ll never get to have a child, so I’m not going to feel bad about this, or whine about the pregnancy aches and pains (okay, not that much!) and so on. I’m feeling much better now I don’t have to go into work again until after maternity leave. I’m working from home and lying around with Dog and nesting with T and I am just not going to feel bad about that, because whatever happens, everything’s going to change in a few weeks (or less!).
Anyway the next steps are that L has even had to book me in provisionally for an induction at 40+6. This is something I did know about as with GD the doc said she wouldn’t let me go past 41 weeks. L said it’s better to get a slot rather than wait until the time and then have to fit in around the availability. I’m hoping it won’t be necessary and B will arrive before then (but not early! Ideally on time / a couple of days late!). I see various docs the week of my due date and so there’s the opportunity then to revisit their recommendations around induction, delivery location etc… I’m thinking the most likely outcome is going to be a fairly medicalised birth at 41 weeks though.
We went through all the birth plan questions (which mainly consisted of me saying I don’t want intervention if I can do it naturally) so L and I are meeting next week to go through the plan. And also she said she’d try and de-medicalise a room for me to try and talk me round and get me feeling better about it! I can be kind of upset about it but ultimately I just have to accept it I think and try and get myself in a good headspace to have the kind of birth I want (even if in a nasty hospital room).
In other news, my sister had her 9+ week scan today and it was great! So I’m feeling hopeful for her. It means by the time I give birth (all being well), she will be around 12 weeks. Maybe this will be easier on her. I know it took a long time for my anxieties to reduce, but equally I feel some selfishness creeping in and wanting to be able to be happy. I feel like for the first half of my pregnancy I was anxious and worried, and then for this latter part, it’s almost been hard to feel happy because of stuff going on with my sister and my brother (which I haven’t talked about on the blog but he’s dealing with something huge). So just to be able to celebrate B’s safe arrival, that would be a big thing. My main thing is I want him to get here safely. And the second thing is I want my family to be able to be happy for me. And not in a way that negates what they are going through – I want them to be happy because they are genuinely happy… I hope that is possible.
I keep thinking about starting a new blog post but have been in hibernation the past while, unsure of what to say. I think it’s maybe analysis paralysis because there are almost too many things. So – an update as I emerge from my hibernation into the light. (Well, more of a fog around London.)
Happy (quiet) new year!
We spent last night not in a state of partying but in a state of semi-hibernation as seems to have become my default since stopping work on 16 December. In my defence, I am in the end stages of gestating an actual human and it seems to be more and more unlikely that I’ll ever get up off the sofa during the day… but I think secretly I quite enjoyed not having to schlep out for New Year.
I’ve always thought New Year was a bit of an anticlimax / weirdly arbitrary date to celebrate. Fortunately, T (and Dog) feels the same so the past few years we haven’t really done much. The last couple of years we went round to the neighbours which is the ultimate no effort party. (It’s so nice not to worry about getting home in the wee hours of the morning!) And this time we went one step further which was to stay in, eat leftover comfort food (home made bolognese sauce from the previous day on a baked potato with cheese – amazing, plus discounted christmas pudding – we really know how to live!) and watching a new series on Sky (The Young Pope – weird) and enjoying the free fireworks display from our window. Fortunately Dog is not the type to get upset at fireworks, although holding him up to view them when he was clearly uninterested was possibly a step too far!
I think you’re meant to have some sort of reflection on the past year and goals for the next year but I’m not really into all that. I try not to predicate what my next year will look like too much, as I think happiness is the main thing rather than any specific tasks or achievements.
I will say – as I think silently to myself, most days – I am damned lucky. And not just because of B (the tiny human wriggling his way around inside me – I still can’t get over the idea there’s an actual person inside me – so weird) but because of T, who I love more than anyone, and Dog, who I love about a millimetre less than T. It’s easy to say now that B is almost cooked, but I like to think I could see how lucky I am and feel happy even if B wasn’t on the way.
Pregnancy update: 37 weeks – TERM!! EEK!
So today I’m 37+4 weeks pregnant, which is utterly mind blowing. I just reread my entry from 20 weeks and it’s really weird to think how everything has changed. Our doc said as of 37 weeks, the baby is considered “term” so could come at any time. What the…???!
I have a huge bump. It’s covered in stretch marks (weirdly, more on one side) and I affectionately call them tiger stripes. I can’t say I love them, but considering I never thought I’d have a baby, the tiger stripes and the destruction of my once moderately perky boobs is a small price to pay.
My latest bumpie… taken in a changing room! We have no full length mirrors in our flat! This was at 36 weeks.
B (baby) keeps wriggling about. Occasionally he’ll stop and I’ll get a bit worried but a prod and he moves again. I am wondering if he will come early or late. Like, I always assumed he’d be late but what with the gestational diabetes and his alleged large size, there’s a chance it could be early. I got referred to the diabetic doctor and she was really nice. She said because I’m keeping the GD under control with diet, she’d let me go to 40+6 before discussing induction (in line with NICE guidelines). We had a slight worry last week as they said I had slightly more amniotic fluid than the normal range, but I had a follow up scan this week and it was fine.
Generally I feel fine health wise although I’m definitely feeling more tired and less mobile. The 8 flights of stairs to/from our apartment is a joy! I tend to stop every second flight and pretend it’s for Dog’s benefit (I give him a treat if he waits) but really I’m just knackered. Also in the past week it’s become really hard to sleep because every position results in back/shoulder pain. Fortunately I’m off work so I don’t have to do anything with my awake time.
Our NCT group has a few of us due around the same time. I’m the third (out of seven) in terms of due dates but there are only a few days between us, so we’re all wondering when the first one’s going to happen. I do feel it’s nice in a way to have a group of people to chat with about pregnancy who are all in the same boat. We have a Whatsapp group and it’s quite active. Although there is one girl on there who I find kind of irritating (who keeps angling for an invitation round our place as she lives the closest… I keep ignoring it). I suppose you can’t get on with everyone! She’s not nasty or anything but just really babyish. Probably me being a grumpy “geriatric mother”! It does mean there’s a group of people who can discuss buggies and baby clothes and things that are boring to everyone else, so it serves a purpose.
We had a group photo before Christmas. The most pregnant of us were 36 weeks and I think the least pregnant are about 31-32 weeks. We were all very smiley!
I love Christmas!
We had an understated but nice Christmas. Just as I’d hoped really. We went round to my parents’ place and my mum cooked – we’ve hosted both sets of parents the last couple of years, but it reminded me how nice my mum’s christmas is. (Let’s just say she’s much more domesticated than I am so Christmas dinner is not delayed two hours whilst I try and get the potatoes to roast!) Hilariously my dad managed to spill potato gratin all over my lap, thereby terminating the run of my one and only pregnancy Christmas dress before I’d managed to get a nice picture! Luckily I’d already thought ahead that I might want to lounge in jeans for the later hours, so I had a change of clothes!
We took Dog round and so there was some funny slapstick routines with us opening and closing doors so that Dog and my parents’ cat would remain separated. Don’t feel sorry for the cat. Seriously he’s a grumpy b*stard. When Dog was little, he thought he and Cat would be friends – Cat hissed and scratched him in the face. Dog’s first experience of “Not everyone thinks you are the cutest thing on earth”! Second time, he scratched Dog’s ass as he chased him upstairs. So yeah, it was funny. Dog was very well behaved though, which was nice as he had his own Christmas dinner, painstakingly chopped up by me. (I swear the baby will have no impact on the babying I already do to Dog.)
Also brilliantly, my sibling who lives overseas decided to come for Christmas at short notice. So it was awesome to spend Christmas together. A proper family Christmas! We went to see T’s parents a few days after Christmas so we actually ended up having two Christmases. It was great.
We had lots of nice presents too. Quite a few were baby related. I kind of always thought I’d mind, but I really don’t. It’s nice to have little presents for B. I realised that we needed actual newborn clothes instead of 0-3 months for the first week or two, so it was nice that my sister got us some cute onesies. The great news is, she’s still pregnant! They had their first scan (7 weeks) and baby looked healthy. Their second is in a few days which will be around 9 weeks. I’m feeling really hopeful for her and trying not to ask too many questions.
We got a Polaroid camera which should be fun for visitors so they can take a picture with B, and also it prints pictures that are about the right size for his baby book. And as a present to ourselves we bought a proper “posh” camera which takes much better pictures than the iPhone! T is under orders to take plenty of pictures at the birth – even if we later censor them!
T got me some photo books with lots of pictures of us in them. It was really sweet and not what I had expected at all. Especially as I’d been having a go at him for spending so much time on the computer! It turns out he was making me 2 volumes of photo books. It’s really nice, with lots of pictures of us at Disney and of Dog! He said that they should help during labour (apparently looking at photos of loved ones / happy things helps release oxytocin) so I’ve packed Volume 1 in the hospital bag.
Christmas season in pictures…
Carnaby Street – my favourite place to go (Christmas) shopping. Another favourite, Liberty, is right by Carnaby Street. It’s a great place to shop and go out so if you’re ever in London, I recommend checking it out rather than the usual tourist spots which are usually insanely busy!
Giant christmas tree in Covent Garden. You can see the buildings for scale!
We went to see Motown: The Musical. It was great, apart from The Tallest Man In The Universe who ended up sitting right in front of me! Argh!
Christmas TOMS. You can never have too many TOMS. These are supposed to glow in the dark, but I haven’t managed to see how that works – it’s probably not dark enough, or something. Anyway, TOMS. I love TOMS.
Last work do. I had a work away day at a posh hotel. It was very Christmassy! The best thing is, my best bud at work was the one organising it and she made sure I had a GIANT room… Very luxurious! Technically it was the disabled room so I had remote controlled lights and a bathroom the size of our apartment, but hey, I wasn’t going to complain… I had a nice bath but my belly wouldn’t even fit under the water!
T, Dog and I went for a little Christmas meal at the pub. It was great! We were supposed to go with our friends but unfortunately the one who was having chemo wasn’t feeling well enough. We went to see them on Christmas Eve so we delivered all the presents then. We are hopeful she’s getting better.
London by night.
My Christmas present from my folks! Made me laugh.
My Christmas present from my friend with the American fiancé – Cheetos. And the large bag of gifts I got for my nephew / niece with my hand to scale!
We went to the cinema on a movie marathon (because we still have the unlimited cards and we figured we should get it all done before baby arrives). We saw Passengers, which was great, very silly. And Collateral Beauty which was a bit weird. And we had some Tex Mex street food in between. Healthy! (Probably not!)
And Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the red cups! I’ll miss them when they’ve gone!
Ready or not…
So the focus of the past few days was to get ourselves “hospital ready” in case I went into labour early. (Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen!) Yesterday we spent ages getting the car seat installed. It was quite easy but then we couldn’t figure out how to remove it! Hilariously the instruction books are actually in a pocket under the seat, on the base. So you could only access them if you took the seat out… Anyway we finally managed to remove it. Phew! It is compatible with our buggy, which also got delivered… Crazy to think that all being well, there will be a little person in it in a few weeks.
We got a bunch of Amazon deliveries too so we are pretty much all ready in terms of equipment, apart from the cot. T is still working on a major DIY project (a built in wardrobe) so we will clear some space once that is usable. I guess if B comes early, we can have him in bed with us for a day whilst the cot is delivered!
I packed my hospital bag which has all my stuff and everything for B. It was quite weird doing it, thinking of all the stuff I’d need and that he would need. T will have a bag too. We managed to keep it quite small. It feels so strange to think we might be coming home with a little human any time over the next month or so. We looked at each other yesterday and said, WTF?! There should be some sort of licence!!
Anyway, pending B’s arrival I’m due to go back to work on Tuesday for a week or so. In theory I’m working until 39 weeks. This was based on my pre pregnancy assumption that babies come late as everyone I knew who had first babies had them late… Also I needed to maximise my leave because I don’t have much.
I guess we are “nesting” in our own way. As in, a rather physically chaotic but mentally prepared way! Hilariously after all my ranting and raving about “hippy dippy ****” I seem to have come full circle. I no longer want an elective Caesarian – I want to have a natural childbirth with minimal intervention if possible. And I’ve even read and semi-digested the hypnobirthing book. I’m still not convinced you can actually self-hypnotise but I’m more talking it as having a calm, positive approach to childbirth. T has been reading it too! I have the accompanying tracks downloaded to my iPhone so it remains to be seen if the weirdly toned voice helps!
I keep looking at Dog and thinking, everything is going to change for you, little man. We are trying to make him feel very secure and I keep thinking that I don’t want him to get upset. But he’s a very chilled out Dog so hopefully he will adjust and be buddies with B. I bought him a bandana that says Big Brother! I just love him so much and want him to be happy and not feel neglected. I suppose it’s like when you have an older child! Fortunately he’s probably easier to please than a child – a few treats and he’s anyone’s! I’m really enjoying these days of lying on the sofa with him. The calm before the storm!
The last couple of days I’ve felt something different – like B has maybe moved lower or something. So maybe the first few days of 2017 will be more active than we anticipated!
Watch this space!