This year, our rainbow baby is here.
Here in the UK, it’s Mother’s Day at the weekend. It will be my first Mother’s Day as a mother.
I still equate Mother’s Day with my mum, the only mother I’ve ever known (since I was adopted at a few days old). Every other year I’ve just been me – a person with no biological relatives. This year, I have my first biological relative in B. I have a child! I’m a mother. It still feels surreal.
I’m sort of amazed by motherhood, in that I never really saw myself as the maternal type. I knew I wanted a kid, but I expected this first part to be the tiresome and boring part – before the baby turns into a toddler who can express himself. But here’s the thing – B can express himself just fine! And there must be some sort of hormones, or biology, that makes you love your own child.
I’ve spent years primarily being defined by my work. After over a decade of infertility I never defined myself by the typical female traits. Instead I was always about achieving stuff in a mainly male world. I was the female of colour in a white guy’s world and I ploughed my own furrow.
And now I’m “one of the mums”. And to my surprise, I don’t hate it. I relish it. I find it all the more precious because I know I have less time than the others. Most women in the UK take a year off when they have a baby. More than a year because they accrue holiday when they’re on maternity leave. I could take a year – I’m entitled to it – but because I started my job pregnant, I am unpaid by my company for all the time I’m off. And I can’t really afford more than the four months I guesstimated we could do without my salary.
Mum life is fun. And it’s even easier because T is off at the same time as me. Although we realised that a lot of stuff is geared just towards mums and babies and not dads. On the one hand I think that’s unfair, but on the other – I’m only just seeing how there’s a biological imperative and it makes sense for the mother to be the primary caregiver.
I knew it intellectually but I never really knew it. B knows I am his mother. He looks for me, and he’s comforted pretty much only by me. He likes T, but after a while he will look for me. And I’m the only one who can feed him. That’s such a big thing I hadn’t really fully understood. I see with B that instinctively he searches for me and wants to be with me.
It’s weird to think that I was once his age and that even before I was the age he is now (just two months old!) I was taken from my first mother and given to a new one. Because I see now how B knows me, knows my smell, is comforted by me. Quite aside from looking like me. He knows me from being inside me for nine months. It’s a real big thing to think that happened to me at such a young age, a fraction of the age B is now. I wonder what that must have felt like to me as a baby.
The funny thing is, I have almost a deeper relationship with my parents now because of B. They want to see him every week. We bond over our shared love of him. They don’t love him any less than their biological grandchildren – they are super proud grandparents of all of them. And I feel like we’ve had deeper, more critical conversations lately, especially about adoption. The fact they’re able to do that and to listen to my musings without getting defensive has been really a bonding experience for us.
Having my own biological child has thrown up all these thoughts and feelings. I’ve had time to think and I’ve had time to bed into the idea of having a biological relative. It’s still so new and yet he feels like he’s always been here. It’s so huge in one way and so little, quotidian in another. In one way I feel like I’m still just me and in the other, I feel like everything has changed.
I’m still active on adoption groups and lately a lot of adoptees I know have found their birth parents and families. It makes me wonder about looking for mine. I’ve thought about it a lot. But also I’ve seen how it doesn’t seem to make them happy. It seems to make them sad a lot of the time and yet they feel compelled to search.
For me, I don’t feel compelled to search. I wonder if I should feel it and there’s something wrong with me that I don’t. I wonder if I found my birth family whether I’d recognise myself in them. I’ve seen pictures of adoptees and the family resemblance and I wonder about that. Maybe B is enough for me. I feel like my birth mother would be like me – accepting of life, not really looking back. Not expecting me to go back. I don’t want to drag up difficult feelings because I don’t want to ruin the happiness I have now. And I hope she’s happy and I don’t want to ruin that either.
T is also adopted and I wonder how much his experience has shaped mine. He found his birth mother a long time ago. They’ve only met a couple of times. It’s like they just needed to do it and then go back to their lives. Since B was born, we were supposed to see her and it seemed really difficult to arrange it. Lots of tangled communication. Then she cancelled.
I wonder if she’s cancelling on purpose because it’s too much or whether the excuse she said is true. I feel slightly defensive and miffed on his behalf and on B’s behalf because I don’t understand why someone’s biological mother and grandmother doesn’t seem to want to see them. Maybe it’s too much emotionally.
Part of me feels like she’s not entitled to see B because she’s not his “real” grandmother, as she hasn’t been an involved mother to T. But that’s just me being defensive for him. I guess I don’t understand why she doesn’t want to see this beautiful man she made. I think maybe a lot of adoptees have complex and angry feelings towards birth parents and we can’t know the circumstances.
I feel compassion towards mine but it’s easy because they’re abstract and not real right now. If they were in this country and easily accessible I would feel mad if they didn’t make the effort to see me. And I kind of think feelings like that are why I have never searched. I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole of hope and disappointment. I’m fine and happy with life as it is. I kind of can’t believe how it’s worked out lately, how I have these three amazing guys I live with (if you count the dog as a guy!) and why would I want to change that, to drag up difficult feelings? Maybe that makes me a wuss.
So those are the thoughts that have been at the back of my head. At the front of my head have been the happy thoughts. The “I can’t believe that title now belongs to me” thoughts. The thought of my first Mother’s Day. On Saturday we are seeing T’s parents. And on Sunday (Mother’s Day) we are going round to my parents’ house with B and having a double.
Mother’s Day still feels like it belongs to my mother, because I’ve had thirty-odd years of celebrating it as an honour for her. This year my dad is taking us all to a restaurant for lunch for my first Mother’s Day, so it’s about me too. And it’s about T’s mum, my mother in law, and her first grandchild. And it’s our time to think of our first mums who gave birth to us all those years ago. And I think of the mothers without babies too. The unacknowledged mothers. They matter too.
As a new mum, I know I’m not special – hundred and thousands of women do it every day. And yet this year I have joined that circle of life, of women who have given life, our ancestors and the women to come down the line. I imagine I’ve joined that lineup of women, a line I never thought I’d join – through not inconsiderable effort and medical intervention – and I feel significant and insignificant at the same time.
I am me. The child of two mothers, a shadow mother and an everyday mother. The partner of a wonderful, kind, funny man. The flatmate of a brilliant dog. The mother of baby B.
Life is good.
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.
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.