Today a friend of mine posted an ultrasound picture on Facebook and gaily announced to the world that their baby would be born next February.
I already knew she was pregnant because I was one of the first people she told. We’d discussed pregnancy and whether she should start trying, and how she was going to persuade her boyfriend to try, and figuring out ovulation and so on. I told her about our experience and encouraged her to come off the pill and try sooner rather than later, if she could get her boyfriend to agree.
I guess he agreed because a few short months later, they’re pregnant. I was kind of surprised by how little time it took, because in infertility-land you get used to talking in years rather than months. She told me how many months it took: three.
Three months! Straight off the pill and up the duff!
Now, I am okay, but a couple of years ago this would have floored me. Why is it always someone else who just has to come off the pill a couple of months and get pregnant?!
I really do feel happy and thankful for my life now. I feel (secularly!) blessed. But I have to confess I had a slight twinge of… something… when she told me she was pregnant. I don’t know what it is… It’s a sort of wistful, “Oh, to be that innocent!” The way they posted it all over Facebook without any worries they might lose the baby. The way they got pregnant so easily having barely tried. I guess I just feel wistful that I never got to have that innocence and that straightforward expectation that nothing would go wrong, that we’d just try and it would happen.
My infertility was measured more in decades. One and a half, more or less.
What do you call yourself when you were previously infertile but by some (secular) miracles and scientific interventions you managed to have a baby?
I’m a mother. But I’m not a normal mother. I’m a pinch-myself-daily-because-I-can’t-believe-I-actually-had-a-baby mother. I’m a Thank You Science mother. I’m a “If you think you might have issues getting pregnant you really should try straight away and let me know if you want to know anything about endometriosis, IVF or immune therapy” mother.
I’ll never have that whole will we, won’t we have another one dilemma. We are over the moon with our lovely One and Only.
I’ll never innocently post early scans on Facebook for people to guess whether it’s a boy or a girl or who the baby looks like. Nobody knew about our pregnancy who didn’t see me in real life. There are still people who don’t know!
I had a twinge of something, a remembrance of loss of innocence, and I’m happy for my friends and I’m happy for us because we are so lucky to have B, but I had a twinge because I remember what it was like to be there, and I’m thinking of all of the people still in the trenches, or those who have had to walk away from the dream of being parents… and I’m sad for them.
So – mothers after infertility. Mothers after loss. I don’t think infertility ever leaves you. I don’t think loss ever leaves you. But we know desperately how lucky we are.
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!
Sitting here listening to music on Alexa (“Alexa – play songs by Ed Sheeran”) and this came on and now I’m in floods of tears. And feeling very thankful.
Trigger warning: some serious emotion relating to pregnancy.
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.
Well, I did it! This is my final post for NaBloPoMo, the blogging challenge for November. I can’t quite imagine how, but I’ve managed to
bore you post every single day in November. Wowsers! (Now I can go back to the usual blogging-every-few-days thing and stop the 11pm panic setting in…)
Things I blogged about in November:
Whether I should tell my ex that I’m pregnant (my most popular post in November) – answer: I haven’t as of yet, and have no immediate plans, though I’m pretty sure it’ll come up
How not to react when someone congratulates you on being pregnant – about pregnancy after loss and the emotional implications (second most popular post)
Going to my friends’ (gay) wedding – a beautiful Scottish weekend and how #loveislove as far as I’m concerned
And a bunch of other stuff. Because I really did manage to do it every day (UK time, anyway!).
One of the bittersweet things I notice from the stats is that my all time most popular post (other than the homepage) is from June 1 last year. Entitled “Day 53: Not so Clearblue”, it was my first ever experience of a positive pregnancy test. I was so happy that day!
One year on and quite a lot wiser (though still fairly headstrong and stupid), I know that a positive pregnancy test is only the first step. That pregnancy – my first ever pregnancy in all my 30-something (closer to 40) years, ended in a physically and emotionally painful miscarriage. This time last year I was holding a deep sadness in my heart, rather than a baby. In February this year, my first baby’s due date, I really thought my heart was breaking.
This November, I feel a lot different. Reading those posts, I want to give 2015 Me a hug. And tell her it will be alright (so far). Today I am 33 weeks pregnant with a little fat guy who’s currently taking up residence in my uterus. B (for Baby – I couldn’t bring myself to give him a cutesy nickname like our last one had) is due mid January 2017 and with each passing day I feel like he’s more and more likely to make it.
(The little bugger keeps kicking my innards and bouncing on my bladder, anyway.)
I’m thinking of 2015 Me and Last November Me and all the Mes who’ve been and gone and are still partly here. The bruised Mes, the hurt Mes and the Me who’s still here in November 2016, who never quite believed and yet is still somehow still going. And all the Not-Mes too who are going through their own hardships – the pain of infertility, the complex feelings around adoption, and all the other things we find hard to put into words.
A year ago I already knew you, my blogfriends, and I knew how much you’d saved me. I don’t know if you do. Blogging gave me an outlet to try and put those feelings and experiences into words, and to understand I wasn’t alone.
So, thank you to BlogHer for the blogging challenge – but moreso, thank you to all my blogfriends for being awesome.
You mean the world.
I’m very conscious that the tone of some of my posts has switched from infertility/loss to a cautious acceptance of pregnancy to (probably from the outside) a complete embracing of pregnancy, and I wanted to address that a bit and try to explain the whole storm in my head. Because despite what it may look like from the outside – babymoon, shopping for baby stuff, baby shower – I know that this is not a “normal” pregnancy.
I have never, ever gotten pregnant on my own. (Okay, you know what I mean!) I’ve never had an “oopsie”… I’ve never had a pregnancy scare… I’ve never felt funny one day and thought back to my last period and realised I was late. I was in a long term relationship for a really long time, during which I (and probably everyone else) thought we’d have children. But we didn’t. And before then and after then, despite being in relationships where I could have become pregnant, I never did.
We’re still not sure what caused my 10+ years of childlessness. (It certainly wasn’t lack of baby-making activity… just saying.) It wasn’t until I started blogging (I think April a year and a bit ago) that I finally started to put a name to what I had. Infertility. I kind of just thought I was a freak who didn’t deserve to have children. I was adopted, so I shouldn’t care about biological stuff anyway, right? (It turns out many adoptees do, a whole lot more than “normals”.)
A disparate range of afflictions – heavy, painful periods, endometriosis (2 operations to clear the decks), a possible blocked fallopian tube, some polyps, a fibroid or two, some chemical imbalances – that all conspired to prevent me getting pregnant all through my twenties and most of my thirties. An ex who didn’t understand the loss I felt the first time I had an investigative laparoscopy and they found extensive endometriosis and a likelihood I wouldn’t get pregnant naturally.
Fast forward a few years. I split with my ex. I met T and I told him everything. I mean everything. By that time I was approaching mid 30s and I knew I should not get into a relationship with someone who might want kids I wouldn’t be able to give him. T being T, said, “We’ll just do IVF.” And me being me, I didn’t even raise it (and we had a nice few months of going at it like rabbits, both for fun and just in case) until T suggested it was time to make the appointment about having kids…
One blog, two cycles of IVF, about 20 different drugs, two pregnancies, one loss and one ongoing later and here we are. I’m pregnant. 28-and-a-bit weeks. We’ve just been on babymoon. We have a mini collection of tiny outfits. A plan for a baby shower. A name and a nickname. T reads to B every few nights, a story about dogs just like our Dog. B kicks appreciatively (or maybe, “Do the voices!”) and Dog snores as Dog always does, possibly unaware that he’s scheduled to get a baby brother.
I have everything I ever wanted. A T, a Dog, and a baby on the way. A house (well, a teeny flat), a job I enjoy which pays me enough money to pay for the tiny flat… a nice family and a soon-to-grow little family of my own.
And yet… I’m scared.
Here’s the thing, for those of us who’ve experienced a loss before, I think we have a sort of PTSD (and I don’t use that term lightly: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I really thought the pain of however many years of infertility, the insensitive questions (literally a couple of days ago a friend messaged me, “Have you ever considered having children?” and if I hadn’t been pregnant, I would have felt a lot worse…), the constant pregnancy-birth-mother’s day-first-day-of-school announcements on social media were something I could deal with, because my feelings about never having a baby were so deeply buried, and it had always been thus.
And then we did our first cycle of IVF. And I got pregnant! It was amazing. It was exciting. We were optimistic. We passed those milestones – the repeated positive pregnancy tests, the ultrasounds, the little heartbeat flickering away, the… miscarriage.
The “ball of cells”, the “at least you know you can get pregnant”, the “it happens to loads of people”, the worst pain I could have imagined, obliterating the searing physical pain which was also most definitely not “just like a heavy period”. The dismantling of plans and dreams. The going back to a horrible job with unsympathetic management. The commiserating holiday at the dream destination. Disney, the place to bring your kids… the happy place. The misery of pregnancy weight gain without the baby. The loss of hope.
And I know that what we “suffered” is experienced by hundreds of thousands of people, and others have it much worse. I never had to give birth to a dead baby. I can’t even imagine the pain of that when passing my almost-baby was so painful. I never suffered repeated losses, because it took over a decade to make it to our first pregnancy. Our first loss. I’ve never had a real live child running about who died. I know it’s not the Pain Olympics. But I also know that what feels monumental to me is smaller than what many people have dealt with.
Maybe it’s because of this, because my decades of childlessness were more of an absence than loss, that our one hard-won loss last year hit me so hard. Because I really felt like maybe I was just not meant to have kids, maybe it would never happen, and when I got pregnant on IVF cycle 2, an ostensibly less successful cycle than cycle 1, I felt not joy but mounting fear that this would be another suckerpunch, another loss.
Pregnancy after loss is not like pregnancy, period. I see those pregnancies of friends and on social media and they’re so full of joy and excitement and that seems naive to me, like tempting fate. I saw our first baby’s heart beat. That meant we were in the tiny percentages of unlikeliness that something bad would happen… but it did. I barely slept leading up to our first scan, and I knew not to trust it. When we saw the heart beating, I cried. I don’t know whether from joy or fear. But it wasn’t the end of the anxiety and I didn’t “feel pregnant” and I didn’t rejoice. As each milestone passed – 12 weeks, 16 weeks, first kicks, T would ask me, when are you going to feel better? And I couldn’t answer him. He had to believe for the both of us.
Of course, over time, anxiety has decreased. How I feel about baby B now is nothing compared with how I felt in those first, fearful weeks. I don’t know when the anxiety moved to more manageable levels because it has been 6 months of slow, gradual reduction and trying to be as happy as others seem to be for us. All throughout this pregnancy, now in its 29th week, I have kept up this internal monologue of rationalisation… Read the stats, understand the risks… Know that every day that passes, the risk reduces. But I will never be like those carefree friends who have never suffered infertility or loss.
What helped for me was passing the halfway mark – 20 weeks, which coincided with “coming out” to people at work (though I told my boss and HR sooner due to the legalities). It may sound crazy but as T said to me, it’s okay now to tell people as you’d want them to know if the baby died… It’s no longer a “ball of cells” or “happens to everyone”. It is an actual acknowledgeable baby. People would be able to talk about it if we lost him, instead of having to pretend that he never existed. That makes a difference, I guess. As is being treated like an obviously pregnant woman. Getting seats on public transport. Having a sympathetic doctor who took my anxiety seriously and referred me to an amazing midwife. And the biggy – feeling him kick.
People who don’t worry about pregnancy loss tell you how annoying and uncomfortable it is, but honestly, I embrace every discomfort. Even when I wake up at night with back pain, even when my body is a mess of extra chub and stretch marks, I am thankful that I am experiencing something I never thought I’d ever experience. And I’m scared now that I’ve started to dream about him, our son, that he might not get here healthy and alive. That whatever pain I felt least year about losing our first baby, it would be a thousand times worse now I’ve felt B kick, that I’ve felt my skin stretching, that we registered him at nursery and bought him little outfits, that everyone knows.
There are those little reminders. “Is this your first child?” – I always answer yes. I know that’s not strictly true, that we had another almost-child last year, that B is our “rainbow baby” – but I can’t bring myself to tell that sad story to every smiling face who asks. People congratulating us then musing about maybe trying for a baby soon. I want to scream at them, start yesterday! It might never happen! (But of course it will, straight away, because you’re not us.) People who congratulate us in a thoughtless way that triggers off all the feels. I’ve taken to saying, It took a lot to get this far. A lot of medical interventions. About 20 different drugs. So no, I won’t be having a second child. I don’t even feel confident I can get this one here safely, but those words remain unspoken, always in the back of my mind.
That friend of mine who asked me the other day if I’d ever considered having kids – she has one, and told me that they liked him so much, “We might try for a sister for him soon.” She’s in her 40s… Oh, the naïveté! Imagine being able to think, I’ll just have another one and I hope it’s a girl. Like that’s your worst likelihood. Not, I hope we can have a child. I hope my baby doesn’t die. Just, I hope we can make a sister for him, but if it’s a brother then I guess we’ll deal with it.
A girlfriend of a friend from school is around 2 weeks behind us – and they constantly post pregnancy updates on Facebook. I can’t stand them. I can’t look at their confidence and I worry for them that they don’t know the risks, and I resent that they are so blasé about it, but then I tell myself that their way of doing things is the normal way, not our way. You shouldn’t spend your pregnancy worrying that it’s going to end, that there’s not going to be a live baby. That’s just us. At Halloween she dressed her bump with blood and doll parts so it looked like a baby clawing its way out. I can’t imagine she’s ever looked at blood coming out of her and wondering which parts were her dead baby.
And part of me is jealous that it’s not me posting bumpies and milestones and cutesy pregnancy announcements (ours would be Dog and a pair of booties, now you ask). But I don’t think I could cope with the idea of unannouncing. It was bad enough last time having to unannounce to the very few people we had told. It’s almost worse having to deal with other people’s grief. Pregnancy-wise, I’m just going to lay low, off radar (well, off social media) until-when-if B is born. If he arrives safe then I will be able to tell people, this is our son! This is Dog’s little brother! I can breathe. Meanwhile, I’ll participate in the rituals of baby shower and shopping and dressing the bump and enjoying other people’s happiness for us, and I’ll try my best not to let the worries take over. Fake it till you make it.
But until then, I will talk to my bump, feel B kick, and try and impart some reassurance to him that his mama is doing her best to keep him safe until it’s time in three months to try and get him safely into the world.
Well, not much to report here. Still waiting until our first scan, where we will find out (possibly) if this pregnancy is viable or not. Although obviously the main goal is to get to 12 weeks and then full term, this is just one of the many hurdles we have to jump in order to get a bit closer to that goal.
It’s hard. It’s really hard being bloated and fat and my face swollen up (from added weight and also from the steroids) and with humungaboobs and generally not being able to fit into most of my clothes. It’s even harder to think that this might be all for nothing, as it was around this time last year when our first IVF cycle ended in miscarriage. I’m sort of making a lot of excuses to not do things (like drinking and socialising) and I feel like I want to know one way or another. If it’s all bad then at least I can hop right on the crash diet bandwagon.
Our scan is on Thursday. This coincides inconveniently (!) with my penultimate day at work, and I’ve promised people lots of cake (home made) on both the Thursday and the Friday, so I have to go in even if we get the worst news. I guess if that happens I can at least have some farewell drinks. I had sort of not planned any and said I’d do cakes instead, so everyone just thinks I’m being antisocial rather than pregnant.
It seems like we are just waiting… And waiting… And I know this won’t be the end of the waiting. I suppose I’m seeing the scan this week as some kind of confirmation that we are not immediately about to miscarry. I know enough from going over last year’s scans in my head what would be a good outcome and what would be a bad outcome. Last year we didn’t know so when they said, “There’s a heartbeat!”, we took that to be good news rather than realising that them asking for a second scan a week later was bad news. So basically unless we get the all clear this time (and we will actually be more at the timing of the second scan for the first one this time round, 7 weeks 1 day) then I will assume it’s bad news.
I can’t even describe how bad I’m feeling about my body right now. I can barely look at myself and I actually avert my eyes when getting out of the shower so I don’t catch a glimpse of myself. I seem to have developed fat in places I didn’t even know I could be fat. Anyway, I guess if it actually ends up in pregnancy then I can accept it, but it’s pretty hard to deal with right now. I’ve had to go and buy other clothes but it is wrecking my self-esteem right now.
In terms of symptoms, I can’t tell what is symptom and what is meds. A few things I’ve noticed (other than humungaboobs and general bloat) – I have definitely got some kind of strange reactions to food, not cravings exactly but I do feel like I am more bothered about what I do and don’t want to eat. Maybe that’s psychological. I am also feeling nauseous when I’m hungry, but maybe that’s just greed. And secondly my sense of smell seems worse (I mean better) than normal, in that I’m more bothered by bad smells. I had to make T move his trainers (sneakers!) outside of the bedroom because they were making me feel sick! And I’ve also had a bit of a nasty taste in my mouth every now and then. And I’ve even felt a tiny bit dizzy every now and then. Plus I seem to have this crash (maybe sugar!) in the late afternoon. So either way, this whole IVF / meds / possible pregnancy thing does seem to mess with your senses.
I’m mainly just trying to keep busy, and have been doing okay with that. This week we had a bank holiday in the UK, which means we have the Monday off work. (This is not that big a deal when you’re working your notice period, but it’s nice anyway.) This weekend we have a big girls’ weekend planned. I’m hoping that this means I will actually be able to celebrate (ish) my pregnancy rather than feel terrible about impending miscarriage, but it’s been arranged for ages so it’s not really like we can rearrange it.
It will be four of us who were at school together, and we worked out we haven’t all been together since we left school (about two decades ago, eek). I’ve been in touch with all of them since school and we’ve met up individually but never the four of us. The most we had recently was 3 out of the group plus my BFF (who didn’t stay at the same school and currently lives overseas so can’t make it). But everyone lives in different places and one of us lives really far away so we just don’t really get the chance to meet up. She has a daughter who is at school – the only one of us with a child – and I haven’t seen the kid since she was a baby! That’s nuts.
Anyway we (well, I) have planned lots of fun things to do. So aside from just catching up we will be able to have some fun. I had to resist planning everything out to the last detail. I’m sort of a quite disorganised person but I do like to plan events as I don’t like having to wait in queues or not know what we’re doing! But I had to pull back a bit and stop going crazy! We are going for tapas on Friday night, a bit of sightseeing followed by afternoon tea and a show on Saturday, and brunch on Sunday. We are staying at one of the friend’s parents’ place in London (she lives really the other end of the country) so that should be fun, as it will be like being back at school and having a sleepover!
So that’s what I’ve been up to, apart from the waiting. Here are some pictures from the past few days (mainly of food!)… I do take other pictures but they all have people / Dog in, so in the spirit of maintaining some semblance of anonymity, you get food!
I made lemon drizzle for my coworkers last week. I can’t actually remember if I already posted these, but I had a sort of sudden desire to make it, and it turned out quite well! Not as lemony as I’d like so next time I would add more lemons. I used Mary Berry’s recipe for lemon drizzle traybake. Next time I’d probably use 3 or 4 lemons rather than 2, but everyone said it was really nice anyway!
I did another pregnancy test last week just to check, at 6 weeks, whether I was still pregnant. Looks alright!
I had a bit of fantastic news: my sibling who lives really far away was in town, so we went for afternoon tea with T at the Langham Hotel. I’ve been wanting to go there for ages as it is meant to be one of the best afternoon teas (there are so many in London you barely have time to try them all!) and it didn’t disappoint. I also wanted to go there as I am a super fan of Cherish Finden, who is the head pastry chef at the Langham. It was great to see my sibling and catch up, and the most amazing thing was that Cherish Finden came out and we met her! Seriously I was almost crying, I was so happy. She is one of the judges on a show called Bakeoff Creme de la Creme, and she is known for being a bit scary but I love her. All I asked for was a photo, but she came and chatted with us for ages and was really nice. Not at all like her fierce on screen persona! The afternoon tea was fantastic as well.
Cherish Finden on Bakeoff Creme de la Creme.
On bank holiday Monday we decided to take Dog to the city farm. For those of you who live in the country, a city farm is where city people can go and pretend to be in the country! I actually love going to the city farm because it reminds me of our first date… T asked where I wanted to go and he suggested the city farm (although in his head it was the zoo). We went and fed the animals and held hands walking around and I just thought, he seems like a great guy and he can think of interesting things to do! Nowadays it is a good place to go because we can take Dog. A lot of places in London aren’t very dog friendly so it’s nice for him to be able to get out and about.
Last night I made a salad! Told you this pregnancy thing is messing with my tastes. I hate salad! But this salad was mainly “bits” as in protein. I don’t like lettuce much but this was the best salad ever! We are lately addicted to Brianna’s home style honey mustard dressing. It’s great on avocado (it even has a picture of avocado on the label) and it tastes just like the vinaigrette at The Wolseley, which is a posh restaurant in London which does the best avocado vinaigrette ever. Anyway I was very proud of myself for actually making something that wasn’t pizza or pasta.
And here is a picture of me today.
I’m still waiting, in this enhanced two week wait (before the first ultrasound that gives an indication but no guarantee of viability) so I’ve been trying to distract myself. Unfortunately when working one’s notice this means there isn’t a whole lot of work to distract yourself with, and also it leaves you (well, me) a bit open to the whole “Getting annoyed with everyone in the world” thing, probably exacerbated by social media.
So here in no particular order are the things that are annoying me this week…
- Rude people. This category encompasses almost everyone on the Being Annoying list. I just think the whole world would be much nicer if everyone was nice to each other instead of being rude.
- Antisocial behaviour (such as manspreading and BO) on public transport. Travelling on public transport is not fun at the best of times. And I’m not pregnant officially so nobody gives up their seat for me. (I really want to make it to 12 weeks so I can get a smug-pregnant-person’s badge. Transport for London does these Baby on Board badges which are meant to be so you can offer a pregnant lady a seat without being scared to offend someone who isn’t pregnant. I’ve never had one although this is the second time I’ve been pregnant.) I actually got up and moved away from a person the other day whose legs were manspreading into my seat. And being pregnant, this may be a symptom or it may just be my extreme sensitivity to smell, but I cannot stand the body odour of some people on the tube – it is making me feel sick. Another time last week I actually asked a guy to stop hitting me with his rucksack. He just went and stood in front of me and kept moving around so it was banging into me and I was like, Can you stop hitting me with your rucksack? Everyone on the tube was flabbergasted as people in London don’t actually like to make eye contact, let alone tell someone when they’re p*ssing you off. But he stopped, and I just stood there being angry.
- Entitled millennials. Now I am an official old person but I have had it up to HERE (imagine a marker) with millennials and their stupid bitching about nothing. Like, seriously, someone asked you to turn your music down because it was 4am on a weekday? How dare they! (This is a specific reference to my horrible new neighbour who has surpassed even my previous Neighbour From Hell in inconsiderate behaviour, and woke up everyone in the block by playing loud music at 4-5am – her excuse being that she suffers from “anxiety and depression and bipolar” and needed to invite some friends round for an unplanned party because of it. Because her right to feel not lonely surpasses everyone else’s right not to be woken up in the middle of the night. She has now started a war on our apartment’s Facebook page saying everyone is being horrible to her and anyone who doesn’t like it is obviously OLD.) No consideration for other people… And I realise I’m sounding like my parents here.
- Being a childless woman. It’s like you get all the crap bits about being female (sexism, big sore boobs, periods / side effects from IVF drugs) and none of the good bits! Smug mums banging on about breastfeeding! Mums in general whinging about their children in a completely annoying way when other people would do anything to have a child. People who do bad things to their own children. It’s just depressing that people who don’t deserve children seem to have no problem popping them out, and then us infertiles have to suffer psychological anguish because we don’t get to have children.
- Pregnancy after loss. I literally can’t enjoy it because I’m just waiting for it to end. It’s nice we got this far but I don’t have any faith in it right now. I’m beginning to hope, and I sort of hate myself for hoping because we hoped last time and it didn’t work. I don’t want to be this fat, swollen and hormonally ranty without actually ever getting to enjoy pregnancy. I can’t just “snap out of it”. Maybe I’ll feel better IF we get to 12 weeks, but we’re not even halfway there yet. This sucks. It also means I have to keep making excuses and sounding like an antisocial ***** because I don’t want to go out drinking and have to make up a lame reason why I’m off alcohol. I just want to get to the point where we can acknowledge the pregnancy. I guess that’s 12-14 weeks.
- Solicitors/lawyers. OMG What do they actually do? We’ve been waiting for our house to go through for like FOUR MONTHS. We have all the money ready to go. They’re just delaying over nothing. I feel so mad that I could have spent my notice period on holiday and moved house but instead we are stressing that it might not even happen before I start my new job next month. And I really don’t need that stress. As for the divorce… When can I have it? This is ridiculous. I’ve been with T longer than I was actually actively married. I might be having a baby with him, and my divorce from my ex still hasn’t bloody been finalised. It’s like lawyers just make money out of other people’s pain. ARGH.
I’m sure there are loads of other reasons why I’m angry. Maybe I’m PANGRY. (Pregnant-angry. Who knows. Maybe I’m imminent-pregnancy-loss-angry.) I definitely seem to be thinking more evil thoughts lately. Although I haven’t said much to people about it. I just think them in my head.
Sit with me on this one… I may be some time.
(Or: Seeing things through other people’s eyes)
We had a kind of exhausting weekend, full of the kind of social butterfly activities which remind you that you are too old for this shiz. I always thought of myself as the young one, mainly because all my friends were a few years to a lot of years older, and now I realise I really have no claim on that title given my advanced age and general overall desire to sleep.
On Friday night we went out for dinner with friends so we could celebrate Dog’s birthday in advance and hand him over for the weekend. It’s very comforting to have friends who are almost as crazy about Dog as we are! We went to a really nice pub and had a very civilised meal and Dog actually behaved… Although that was possibly more to do with the fact that he had four humans feeding him burger and fries under the table. Still, it was his birthday weekend so was good to be spoiled!
For the first time in this IVF round I had to do an off-site injection (where I bring all the injection paraphernalia with me). I was kind of keeping my eye on the clock and when it was due, I just headed off to the bathroom and injected my Menopur. Not too bad! Although obviously no sharps bins in pub bathrooms so I had to repackage the syringe and take it with me. Progress!
We were dropping Dog off with our friends as we were away for the weekend doing a birthday celebration overload. First of all we had T’s aunt’s 70th birthday party. This was about 2.5 hours away which meant we hired a car, which is exciting as we don’t have a car and meant we could pretend to be proper grown ups and whatnot. We had to be at a small village in the middle of nowhere by lunchtime on Saturday, and it being family and “old” people, we couldn’t be late.
Unfortunately for T, he happened to mention that it was sort of near-ish to an outlet shopping centre I really like, and he wondered if I would like to go en route… Is the pope a Catholic?! So we ended up taking a slight detour to the outlet and eyeing up all the merchandise. Fortunately for T, I am still on austerity until we buy the house, although I did have my eye on handbags in Coach and Kate Spade. I decided not to go for them given we are trying to get this house sorted, which means our bank accounts need to be nicely under control and it makes no sense to spend hundreds of pounds on handbags anyway. (But… They’re so pretty!) It was fun to walk about though and a pleasant detour ahead of a busy birthday weekend.
The 70th party was really nice. It was all of T’s extended family, some of whom I’d met before and some I hadn’t. I don’t know if this is a personal thing or an adoptee thing but for some reason I always find it fun to meet people’s families. I love big family get togethers. I guess maybe as we lived overseas when we were younger, we didn’t get to see our extended families very often so it sort of felt like a treat. Also, this is probably definitely an adoptee thing, but I find it fascinating when I meet people’s families and can see the family resemblances. It’s like… If you never had that yourself, it’s sort of mesmerising to see it with other people’s families.
It just so turns out that in T’s family, the family resemblance is really strong between the females. Firstly his mum and aunt look really similar. And then one of the aunt’s bio daughters looks the spitting image of them when they were younger. And it struck me that whilst there is probably far less focus on T himself having been adopted – because he’s white, adopted into a white family – it’s still visible that he doesn’t look “the spitting image” of his parents like his cousins do. It made me wonder how that made his mum feel when she looked at her nieces who looked so like her and her sister. It’s just one of those adoptee things that you wonder about.
In the end we had a fab time. They put on a great lunch party and everyone was really friendly, including those I hadn’t met before. I think you can sort of see where T’s kindness and friendliness comes from, as his family is very like that. Strangely it also reminded me of my ex’s family, who were sort of my surrogate family as we lived a lot closer to them than to my family. (It’s strange when people split up how you don’t just lose that relationship, but the entire extended family.)
Being slightly detached too it means that you are reminded how other people see things. Like people are still sort of interested (generally in a kindly way) that I don’t “look” British, and yet I speak “very good English”. Depending on the age of the person I’m usually more or less tolerant of comments like that. To be honest, I see people of my own race and I’m moderately surprised when they speak perfect English. I think it’s a sort of cognitive dissonance that you get as a transracial adoptee – you look one thing but you act like another.
Following that very genteel and civilised 70th birthday, we then had to drive another couple of hours to get to a surprise 30-something party. This was the one I was worried about as it was for T’s friend who I’ve never met! We’ve been together a good few years and I’ve met lots of his friends but this was for one from his hometown. When they meet up, it tends to be on boys’ nights out and so I just never met this bunch before. They were all 30-something couples and we surprised the birthday boy by turning up when he thought he was going for a night out with his wife.
The whole evening was weird for a number of reasons – not unenjoyable, but a bit strange. The first is that all the others knew each other. They were long time couples who were married with kids and so the mums knew each other as a result of the dads being old friends (of which T is one, but he moved away). It was sort of strange firstly because I wasn’t drinking, and everyone else was. T and I had discussed tactics and we thought I would order a drink but he would drink most of it and I could just take sips. (The things he does for love!) I think a lot of British culture depends on drinking, so it’s really weird not to drink, as social occasions revolve around it. Because of this, it’s easier just to order and drink and take a few sips than it is to not drink – as soon as you don’t drink, people start asking questions and I really don’t want to have to deal with questions about pregnancy when I’m going through IVF.
Secondly, as a result of going through IVF I think my hormones are probably all over the place. I actually didn’t mind the idea of having a drink or two (I’m in the stims phase) but I don’t think it mixes well with the meds. For the first week or so of stims I’ve had really bad headaches, and now I feel not that bad but the alcohol made me feel sick. We started off in a pub and then went for a meal (the type of meal people assume I like because of my ethnicity… I don’t like that sort of food at all, haha!) and I just sort of spent most of the evening feeling a low level of nausea. I was also very conscious of needing to remember to take my injection and the stress (mild!) of having to get away from the group and inject in the toilet (like a druggie!).
Thirdly, all of the people in the group – there were three other couples – were parents. And literally the main topic of conversation with the females was about children. They were sort of beside themselves at being on a night out because they don’t get to do it very often. So they wanted to get completely drunk and let their hair down, and they didn’t really have many other topics of conversation than their kids.
I guess I just felt a bit of an odd (wo)man out, not having kids and not really wanting to get drunk. Really I feel like I am past that stage – I like a drink or two, and I like going out for cocktails with my girlfriends or having wine with T over dinner, or going to the pub – but it’s not a big thing. Most nights I could do it if I wanted to – I just don’t want to. I have Dog to get home to, and I’m tired and old (!) and it just doesn’t seem the draw that it was in my twenties. And it always feels a bit weird if you are the sober one in among all the drinkers!
What I also found was that the men spoke to me a lot more than the women did. I think the women realised that I wasn’t in their gang and didn’t have kids, and I just think based on previous experience that men tend to be a bit less standoffish when deciding whether to be friendly or not. They weren’t unfriendly, the women – they were polite, and nice. But I could tell that we didn’t have many topics in common. At least one of them was a full time mum whereas I am a full time worker (for my dog!). So it was a bit weird I guess. They kept bringing up kids and asking the awkward questions (where they assume we don’t have kids because we don’t want them) and talking about whether they wanted any more, and I just thought wow, it must be nice to have the luxury of assuming you’ll be able to have another child if you want to.
The other thing is, I was the oldest out of all of them. And I probably started trying to have kids around the age that they had theirs… I just didn’t have any due to infertility. If everything had gone according to plan, I would have the two or three that they had. The youngest person there was early 30s and I’m late 30s. And the funny thing is, I really didn’t look like the oldest. T said “That’s what having kids does to you!” – I was sort of in shock! And the way that people moan on about kids, sometimes I do think that they possibly aren’t as great an addition as we think when we are going through fertility treatments!
It probably sounds like I’m being really negative but it wasn’t bad at all – it was fine. But I’d sort of rate it as less enjoyable than the family lunch – chances are, the only time I’d ever see them again would be if T and I got married. Or maybe they’d get more interested in me if I had a kid!
In the end, after a Sunday lunch with T’s parents we got home and we picked up Dog and it was his birthday. Every time I’m away from him I’m super excited to see him! It’s probably a bit pathetic but I really do miss him when he’s away. It always seems very quiet at night when he isn’t snoring his little head off!
The IVF update:
Stims: I’m finishing up Week 1 of stims with 250 of Menopur with the Buserelin down to 0.25. Over the week I have had a few headaches but they seem to be calming down. My boobs are now swelling up like gigantic humungaboobs, which T is very happy about. On the plus side they aren’t sore any more like they were during my period and down regulation, but they do make me feel self conscious and fat. It took me ages to find something to wear for the weekend parties as both my boobs and stomach are all swollen. My belly feels like it’s all swollen too, and I can sort of feel what I imagine to be my ovaries, but I feel generally better than I did earlier in the week.
Next scan: My first scan is on Wednesday instead of today (Monday) based on the fact that I was a slow responder last time and they think it would be pointless to scan me today. I don’t feel like I’m in any danger of OHSS as I have swollen up but I feel sort of okay. It actually worries me as it makes me think maybe I’m not responding to the stims. We will have to see on Wednesday.
Immune stuff: I’m still taking the supplements (baby aspirin, Omega 3, Pregnacare, Vitamin D) that Dr S recommended. Once they have an idea when my transfer will be, based on when egg collection is likely to be, he wants me to go get an intralipids infusion and also start heparin injections and prednisolone for the NK reaction. I won’t really have much of an idea until Wednesday as to whether my ovaries are responding. In the first scan I only had 6 + 3 follicles, which sounds a bit rubbish. I’m hoping there will be more than that.
Head stuff: Aside from the constant reminders of childlessness (which I’ve sort of gotten used to), I’m feeling generally okay. From memory, Gonal F seemed worse than Menopur is now, but it is probably a result of being very chilled out at work due to working my notice! I have some work to do for a guy I like working for, but there’s really not much pressure so it’s quite enjoyable. I’m due to start my new job in June which will mean more money and a bit of a change, which I think is positive!
IVF makes you think. I’ve already been pondering adoption stuff a lot, I suppose as a result of this process because you have to face up to the fact that you may never have a biological child. One of the things I’ve had to try and wrap my head around is the sheer number of people who seem to be pregnant, both at work and in my personal life. Not to mention blogspace where many of my fellow bloggers are now pregnant. I’m happy for them and it gives me hope that it will one day be me, but I still have days where I feel like everyone else is moving ahead whilst I’m still in the trenches. I have to keep reminding myself that infertility and loss is painful whether it’s 1 year or 3 (or in my case, over 10). But generally I’m sort of philosophical about it because there’s not much I can change about it.
T and I are getting on well and he is super supportive which is great. We talk a lot about our future child, who already has a name, and we’re also planning to move into our new place in the next month or so, which is really exciting. I thank my lucky stars every day that I have such a great partner – he is just the best human I’ve ever met, and I always feel happy that we don’t appear to be sick of each other so far! We have a vague Plan B if this doesn’t work, and we will probably try and focus on doing some nice things like getting the house nice and going on holiday before paying for a private cycle. I kind of think that I’ve lucked out with T and Dog and that maybe that is as much luck as anyone can have.
So hopefully this will be our lucky cycle, but otherwise, I keep reminding myself… Everything will be okay.