I’ve talked a lot about infertility before – that’s the reason this blog started in the first place. But once you’ve been through it all and ended up with a baby – what are you? I’m still technically infertile, but I am a mother. I don’t feel like I can properly call myself infertile, aligning myself with the many women still in pain, still trying to deal with infertility, when I have our longed for child.
I talked about the strange hinterland of post infertility on one of my previous blogs. It’s that way we’re a particular kind of mother, an ever-grateful mother, a mother who doesn’t take having a baby for granted. I feel like a mother in an everlasting state of wonderment and joy that I get to be one. (It’s kind of sickening how happy I am about the whole thing, and I can assure you I don’t go around pooping rainbows – I just hold the happiness in my heart when my baby giggles or reaches for me, or does just about anything…)
I also feel The Fear for others. I have friends who get pregnant and announce straight away and I have to stop myself from saying, – Stop! What if?! and How can you be sure? – because those are my anxieties and not hers. It’s a strange place to be because we know what could go wrong, and we are those Miracle Mamas, the Mamas Against All Odds, and so our very being is confirming to them that good things do happen, and so we can’t be the ones to rain on their parade even though we know that not all trying ends up with a pregnancy, and not all pregnancies end up with a baby, but we nod along and smile because that’s what we do.
One of the things that’s come up a lot lately is the idea that one might not be enough.
And that’s something that’s just so alien to me, I can’t even imagine how it must feel to have that degree of sadness from having an “only”.
I was one of four siblings, and we got on well. It was complex, for sure – having two bios and two adopted. It was harder for the adoptees, but overall it was good – we had a fun childhood with lots of family games, kids going on adventures, and lots of freedom to play together. I don’t know why I never pictured myself as a mama of many. I guess I knew from quite a young age that I would find it difficult to have children. (I had been told something fleeting when I was much younger, which was never repeated by later doctors, but then told I had extensive endometriosis and likely fertility problems in my mid twenties.) I’ve always been someone who didn’t wish for things I didn’t think I could have. So the most I ever wished for was one.
Also, personally – I think I would have enjoyed being an only child. I don’t know if this is to do with being adopted or just my personality. I always felt as one of four that I didn’t get quite the amount of attention I would have wanted. And I don’t mean this in a drama queen way (although I had plenty of that) – I always felt needy, and maybe that is an adoption thing. I would just wish sometimes I could have a day of my parents just to myself. Don’t get me wrong – I do get on with my siblings. But I also enjoy now that I’m an adult that I often see my parents on their own and I don’t have to share them with anyone else! I guess I’d have been what they call now “a high needs child”!
So when I was told I probably couldn’t have kids, I just wished for the one, and when that wish was granted (by a lot of medical science and a fair amount of money and effort, rather than the Fertility Fairy!), I felt – gosh, life couldn’t get any better.
I see a lot of stuff now on FB about people worrying about only children. People worry they’ll be spoiled, or socially inept, or not know how to relate to other kids, or not able to function as adults, and I find it interesting because I wonder – where are they finding these terrible only children who grow up to be dysfunctional adults?! All of the single children I know have grown up to be just fine as adults. I don’t think they’re any better or worse functioning than the general population. And one thing they all had was a good relationship with their parents. B has been in nursery since a young age and he’s probably more socialised than a child who stays at home with his mother who doesn’t have a sibling for a few years. He enjoys seeing his friends at nursery, but he’s also securely attached to me. (And to his dad, and dog brother!) I figure so far, so good – he doesn’t seem like an irreparable weirdo!
For us, the lengths we went to in order to have B were pretty gruelling. (Though not a patch on what some have to go through. We were lucky.) I know that for me, I couldn’t be the mother I want to be to B if I were to continue going through additional treatments. It’s most likely I’d need another endo op, possibly another fibroid op, more IVF, more immune therapy. It was hard physically, but it was harder emotionally. I already feel a degree of loss that I have to go to work and B is at nursery during the work week, even though I know he’s absolutely fine. I wouldn’t want to be under emotional strain as well, trying to conceive a sibling, when I don’t think he needs one to be happy. I hope that by giving him a full life, and living in an urban area where there are a lot of kids about, that we can counter any potential loneliness he might have as an “only”.
I understand that being okay with one is not “normal”. Most people have more than one child. And maybe there’s something a bit strange about having no siblings, or not having multiple children. I don’t know. I feel sadness for people who can’t have children, including those who can’t have a second child and desperately want one. I just don’t feel the sadness of being a mother of one myself.
I never thought I’d be “that kind of mother”. I sort of thought that the baby phase would be kind of boring, that I’d probably find it a little bit of a drag until toddlerhood, until some kind of doing stuff like walking, eating, talking… but it’s been a joy. I thought I’d find it hard, because everything leading up to having a child has been hard, but it’s been relatively easy. And I don’t take that for granted at all. I’ve seen others struggle with breastfeeding and reflux and post natal depression and sleepless nights and I think we’ve been lucky, because it hasn’t been that hard for us. No tongue tie, no breastfeeding problems, no ongoing health issues and the sleepless nights I was used to due to my job! So whilst the adjustment has been monumental in some ways, it’s just been a case of slotting in as though he’s always been here in other ways.
And the thing that’s bittersweet as a mother of one is that I know that every time is the only time, and every last time is the very last time.
I’ll never have a tiny little baby again. B is my one and only (human!) baby and he’s now one, toddling about, vocalising, making his feelings known. (He’s a terrible tweenager already! Just like his mama used to be!) I’ll never see a baby take their first steps again. I’ll never see my baby roll for the first time again, or the time he worked out how to giggle and it made me cry with happiness – that’s the first and last time. We’re coming to the end of our pumping journey – and it’s been a slog. But the last time I pump breastmilk for him will be the last time. I can’t even think about the last time I breastfeed him. The last time I babywear. The last times are all the last times.
But… I feel so much gratitude that I even got to experience the firsts. And even if the firsts are also the lasts, I’m at peace with it, because it’s more joy than I ever thought I’d have.
I thought for so many years that I would never even have one, that I’d never be a mother. So to me, B, my “only”, my boy, is the most amazing thing. (I hesitate to call him a gift, because he’s not an object. He’s his own person, who has his own ideas of what he wants to happen in life, and most of those involve chocolate or bubbles). He’s an amazing, wonderful – and completely run-of-the-mill all at the same time, because that’s amazing also, the way we take the normal stuff for granted, the giving of life, the joy of family – little boy I never thought I’d have. So I guess I just never had the time to wish for another, because I was so busy wishing for him.
Hands up, I’m the worst sort of blogger. But I got landed with a mahoosive bid at work which finishes this week (started back last year and in earnest over Christmas) so work has been busier and life just sort of took over. Almost every day I think, I must blog that! But I sort of got out of the habit. Anyway, here we are!
I’m currently standing in the disabled bathroom at work with a double pump attached to my boobs, pumping… #oohtheglamour – yes, we made it to a year! Apparently this is some kind of badge moment in breastfeeding and “lactivist” communities but I don’t know because I stopped frequenting them when they started pushing adoptive breastfeeding. (Many adoptees in our communities find it problematic. I appreciate that isn’t the usual narrative – more on that later.)
Our breastfeeding journey has been pretty enjoyable so far, although I’m not sure I will really miss pumping. We have discussed it and decided we will go for natural term weaning probably unless anything else happens… This means letting B decide when he no longer wants milk. Right now he still has expressed milk at nursery but he also has water and food, so in time he’ll probably move to just breastfeeding when we’re together / mornings and evenings and at some point I guess he’ll decide he doesn’t want it any more.
We spent B’s birthday in foreign climes when I was off on my conference for work. It was fun in a way although I missed most of his birthday which was also a bit sad. I’m glad they could be with me (T and B) and it was nice for them to spend daddy and son time, but I guess I thought we’d spend it together as a family. We had a nice (extortionate!) dinner in the hotel after hours and B got a cake from the staff so I think he was happy!
We also had B’s first birthday party at home. It was a small affair… Just family (not my sister as I’ve given up asking her to travel as I know the answer will be no!) and a couple of local friends. The boys enjoyed playing in the ball pit. I made a cake. It went horribly wrong and I decided to de-ice it and redo it on the morning of the party – but I guess it went along with the tradition of crappy homemade birthday cakes!
A couple of weeks later, our keen stander decided to start walking! I’m not sure really what you actually count as walking but he’s definitely doing it now. T and I decided that it had to be five consecutive steps (not sure how we decided that – he’d been doing two for ages but it didn’t seem like proper walking) so that happened a bit before he was 13 months. It’s all a bit odd really. He looks like a little drunk when he walks!
Happily it seems that in the whole scheme of things, B seems decidedly average. Now of course personally I think he’s the cutest baby in the world, but I’m happy he’s neither an underperformer or an overperformer. There seems to be a culture amongst some mums to want their baby to be super advanced and I don’t get that. I don’t want to wish his babyhood away! (And I don’t want to hold onto it either – the new things he learns every day are so much fun.)
I suppose it comes back to what I call Post Infertility. Most mums I know didn’t go through infertility to have a baby. They just decided to have one and whoosh! They were pregnant.
I spent years hoping and thinking I couldn’t have a baby. I still find myself insanely grateful for the chance to be B’s mother. I relish every moment of it (even in some weird way, the tiredness and the waking up in the middle of the night because I think: I might never have had this! Although it is hard sometimes!)… I don’t take it for granted but I’m also generally infused with such a joy about it that it feels churlish not to let it soak in: I’m a mother.
I’m not the mother I ever thought I’d be. I was no nonsense. I didn’t think I’d enjoy the first year as much as I have. I thought the toddler years would be the best. But really what I’m understanding is that it’s all the best. I find myself worrying (mildly, not anxiety like) that I could lose it… and that makes me determined to enjoy it even more (whilst also wishing I could wrap him up in cotton wool and keep him safe forever).
As an adoptee it still feels weird to have someone who is related to me by blood. I find it weird to think I actually grew him. But I did! And he’s his own little person with his own personality… and yet I can see aspects of me (mainly my stubbornness!) in him. It’s funny and wonderful and poignant and magical all at the same time.
I never seem to manage to make the time to blog much any more, and that’s a perfect microcosm of how it feels to be a working mother – there’s never enough time for anything. Which is crazy, because I have a million unwritten blog posts swirling in my head. Many of which are about the strange hinterland that is being a working mum (mom!) after years of infertility.
First things first: I am so grateful to be here. I still do a double take every single day when I wake up next to my beautiful boy and I realise that somehow, after all the struggle, I am a mother. How did this happen?, swirls through my mind every day. I thank all those people silently who helped that dream become a reality. And I don’t easily forget all the years where it didn’t seem possible.
Second things second: Being a mother after infertility is a strange thing to be… I feel like it’s almost a different thing from being a “normal” mother. I don’t think we post infertiles ever really forget the deep grief and fear, the joy-pain of pregnancy after loss, the hoping and wishing that something will go right after so many wrongs. My overwhelming emotion most of the time is deep joy and gratitude that I have managed to have this experience of carrying and giving birth to a human being… my first known biological relative.
Which brings me to the third point: Having a child after being adopted [in a closed adoption] is a huge thing. It’s monumental. Having a child after having been transracially, transnationally adopted – if you weren’t, you can’t even begin to comprehend the profundity of it. I couldn’t, before it happened to me, despite that person being me.
To look into my baby’s face and recognise my own – to feel that deep kinship, to feel joined to someone else when it has never happened before in my living memory – it’s the most gut wrenching joy-pain you can imagine. To realise what I lost as a baby. To realise what I’ve gained through having my baby. To realise my birth culture and language is lost to me and I can’t pass it on to him… To realise that matters – even despite the joy. To live in that complexity where joy can coexist with grief and loss.*
Of course – I don’t want to put that on him. He has no responsibility other than being my baby doing babyish things and hopefully drawing as much joy out of life as a baby can inhale. And yet – he is everything.
(*I already knew what I’d gained – prevailing adoption narratives always focus more on gain than loss. I can be happy and adopted and have suffered deep loss all at the same time. That’s adoption complexity for you.)
Fourthly: After so many other “Not like the other” categories, Working Mother has to be the most stark. I genuinely never knew that the battle lines of Motherhood were so entrenched. And none more than Stay At Home Mother vs Working Mother. I never wanted to be caught up in these battles, any more than I wanted to define myself by Crunchy Mom vs Gina Ford Mom, or Breastfeeding Mum vs Fed is Best Mum – and yet, if there’s one thing mothers seem to like doing, it’s defining themselves as a Mum Type. (I’m Haphazard, Intuitive Mum… completely disorganised and completely in love. That’s all really.) I realise in so many spaces I don’t really fit in. And the (relative) loss of my antenatal buddies – who fell by the wayside as soon as I went back to work – felt like a rejection of the old school kind. (And that’s not even to get into the whiteness of motherhood… and how that makes a transracial adoptee feel. A complex subject for another day!)
And yet, I think we’ve settled into our own niche. I’ve found mum friends – some of whom will probably last and some of whom probably won’t. Quite honestly, it’s hard to cultivate friendships when you work full time and other mums seem to have endless pools of time to do Mum things and they use their weekends to catch up with their husbands… My baby is at nursery during the week and so even if I’m working from home, I can’t really meet mum friends, because why would I want to go and spend time with someone else’s baby when mine is in daycare? Like I said, it’s a strange hinterland and we find our own way.
I have made some Mum buddies whose kids go to our nursery – their kids are a bit older, because I had to go back to work so soon. But it’s good because we have more in common. (I’m the terrible one feeding my child Ella’s Kitchen premade pouches instead of developing a varied baby menu and posting pictures of tot cuisine to our whatsapp groups. Our working mums group is a safe space for all of us who’ve ended up rushing across town all sweaty to grab our babies at the last possible minute. No Lingo Tots or prosecco in the play park for us!)
The thing is, I wish I could join those other mums. I’d love to be a stay at home mum, for even a time, and I find myself wondering whether it’s possible to have it all, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t – something has got to give. For working mums, it’s missing out on all the mundane stuff that our SAHM friends take for granted. The idea I might not see my child’s first steps.
Which brings me to: The Dilemma.
I’m doing not too badly in my job. Weirdly… It always makes me a little nervous when things are going well because I’m primed to feel like something is bound to go wrong. But I’ve managed to develop a great working relationship with my boss (the one I wasn’t happy that my old boss – who I love in a work platonic way – put in place). We seem to be quite symbiotic and complementary and work well as a team. And I am lucky that what I’m doing right now means I have the flexibility to work from home a fair amount and to continue breastfeeding/ pumping. (11 months next week. How did that happen?!) It’s important to me that I am able to do that. And coincidentally, I also get paid more than I ever did before, and my working hours are more reasonable. I honestly don’t know how that happened. I like to think it’s my karmic reward for putting up with so much **** in my old job!
Let’s not beat around the bush – I’m the main breadwinner. By a lot. I get paid almost double what T gets paid. We were lucky enough to have an offer accepted on our dream flat this year and it’s my salary that enabled us to get the mortgage (plus a fair bit of help from my parents with the deposit). So I need to work to continue to provide for our family. T is an awesome partner as he’s much more organised than I am and he figures out everything we need to do domestically. I just have one job – to earn the money. (Well, and to feed B!) Doing what I do helps keep us afloat. And getting promoted, earning more and doing well would help us reach our sweet spot (pay off debts and mortgage) sooner.
Our company is having a leadership summit in January, and I received an invitation. It’s a long way away – a transatlantic flight away. It goes on for four days plus travel. And only approved people get invited.
I got an invitation. It’s a big deal.
I asked my big boss if there was a mistake. (Surely not me!) My manager wasn’t sure either… She said our big boss had to approve all names so I must have been invited, but maybe not.
I emailed him to check there hadn’t been an error.
He called me. No error. I’m invited. “As a member of the leadership team.” Of course! (I’m like the most junior person in the team. They’re all one or two grades above me, or in his case, four!)
And when is this conference? Smack bang over my baby’s very first birthday.
He told me, You don’t have to come. Let me know and if you don’t want to, I’ll give your space to Andy. (Andy is another relatively junior member of the team. Hopefully not as well regarded as me.)
All the global leadership will be there… It’ll be a great networking opportunity. All expenses paid.
And… It’s my baby’s first birthday.
T says, He won’t know. We can move it a couple of days and celebrate then. I say, But I’ll know. I’d be on the other side of the world when my baby turns one.
My manager has asked me to work on a big piece of work over that time anyway, so the decision may yet be taken out of my hands, but the summit probably takes priority – if I want to go.
Every few minutes I change my mind about what is an obvious decision. And it comes back to my multiple identities and how the “obvious” answer changes according to which identity I’m cloaking myself in at the time. I am a mother. I am a working mother. I’m an adoptee whose baby is the most important person in the world to me. I am a mother after loss who realises how precious those small mundane things are. I am a transnational, transracial adoptee who finally made a family. I’m someone who was cut off from her roots who invests a huge amount emotionally in birthdays because they are the only link to my past.
I am all those things and I am my baby’s mother and I am a great worker and I want to do well so I can provide for him and make him safe, keep a roof over his head, keep him happy.
But he is not me. B is not me. He is himself, and he’s wonderful and joyous and giggly and amazing and cute. He doesn’t need to be anything for me, but I need to be everything for him.
How do we ever resolve our multiple identities? How do we decide what is best?
I don’t know if we ever can, but I’m going to have to try…
We finally completed on our new home and got the keys a few days ago. I still get the happy shivers when I walk in! It’s our almost-forever home (before we retire to Florida to live out our days at Disney World!). It’s the home B will grow up remembering. I still love our other little flat and we are hopefully going to keep it and rent it out (B’s pension!). But this one is bigger, and has outside space – a terrace for Dog and B to play on, and for us to lounge on, and it’s pretty much perfect. Our dream home!
I still can’t believe I got everything I ever dreamed of. A great guy after a sad end to a previous relationship. The best dog you could ever ask for. A rainbow baby after years of trying and loss. A blood relative after almost 40 years of being a genetic island. A job I’m actually enjoying rather than enduring. When I look back to when I started this blog, and where we were at a couple of years ago, I feel very lucky.
I don’t take it for granted. I thank my lucky stars every day. I still have fleeting moments of anxiety where I’m scared I will lose it all, and especially B. (Not to the point of unmanageable anxiety or post natal depression, but I see danger everywhere now I have something so precious I couldn’t bear to lose.)
But the overwhelming joy and love I feel for finally getting to be a mother, and for the ease at which I’ve become B’s mama (he is the most easy going baby ever born, and the cutest, though I may be biased…) is something that cheers me every day and makes the memories of the hard times fade a little. I know I was lucky already, with T and Dog, so it feels like too much to have wished for this, but somehow it happened. I just feel so thankful for everything and especially my boys.
I seem to have fallen into a strange in between life. I’m supposed to be back at work, and for all intents and purposes I am, but my work has decided that they can’t really accommodate a breastfeeding mother, so I’ve been told to work from home when I don’t have meetings.
It means I sort of feel like I’m back at work, but I sort of still feel like I’m on maternity leave because I’m at home like before. My friend sent me flowers to commiserate my first week at work and I felt like a bit of a fraud! But lovely flowers!
It means I’ve pulled back a bit from the SAHM / maternity leave group of people as I was going back to work, and yet I’m not really back at work yet because I’m still at home a lot of the time, so it’s a sort of limbo.
My slightly grey mood is probably also a result of staying up late to watch the General Election last night – I feel like my brain is in a bit of a fog! (For those not in the UK, we had an election and there’s now a hung parliament which means nobody won with enough majority to govern on their own – so there’s change ahead.)
So I’m spending the majority of my time since being back at work, working from home. Of course I’m thrilled to spend more time with baby B, and Dog, and T. T thought he was going to be a single dad for a while but that hasn’t really happened. I did go into work to meet my boss and so T took B for the day to see his parents.
I met with my boss and he confirmed he wanted me to work on some internal stuff for a while, but because of the whole pumping thing I ended up leaving early and so T wasn’t home from his parents’ place so I felt kind of emotional to be wandering around by myself knowing my baby wasn’t at home. On the plus side I got to spend a bit of time with Dog, who probably feels a bit neglected by me lately (although I think he enjoys not being grabbed and cuddled all the time as I think he found it annoying!).
So after the meeting with HR, they arranged a pumping room for me at work, which I duly used when I went to meet my boss. They actually banned me from using the disabled bathroom so that’s one thing. Which I can cope with, as it wasn’t particularly pleasant. However the pumping room is not exactly ideal either. I felt during the HR meeting (with three people) it was kind of trying to force me to accept the solution, which was that they make a meeting room slightly private for me but I have to give them 24hrs notice and I also have to tell them the exact times I want to pump on any given day. Anyone who’s pumped knows that’s not an ideal situation but I accepted it and I tried it when I went to meet my boss. For reference, the legal obligations are here: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/b/s/Acas-guide-on-accommodating-breastfeeding-in-the-workplace.pdf
The room they’ve given me is a small teleconference room. It’s actually fine size wise. It has a desk which means at least I didn’t have to put anything on the floor. And a power socket as the pump I have (Medela Swing Maxi) is a battery eater otherwise – it takes 6 AAA batteries for 1.5hrs pumping which is like three sessions! The problem with the room is that they don’t have a lock and it also has a big window (partly frosted opaque) which needs covering up. So their solution is to use 2 pieces of flipchart paper and to put a sign on the door saying not to come in, and then give me a doorstop to wedge in so people can’t open the door easily should they choose to ignore the sign! All this stuff needs taking down and reinstating in between sessions!
Anyway, I decided I would ask for a morning session just after I arrived at the office and then a lunchtime session. I’d leave early so didn’t do a late afternoon session. The whole thing worked okay, but I just get so much less milk during pumping at work than I do when I’m at home.
I managed 2oz each session when I tend to get around 4oz or more from each side when I pump at home in the early evening. It took longer too. It just felt like a lot of work and hassle to do but then I guess I hadn’t done a full day’s work and also I haven’t done it at that time each day, so my body isn’t used to it then (and when I’m home with B, he doesn’t drink so much during the day).
What I’m finding difficult about it is that if I’m partly working from home then I don’t really get into a routine with it. If I’m home with B then I’m not pumping as he just gets it from source, although I often try and do a pumping session in the evening to stock up so T can give him one bottle a day.
Obviously when he’s at nursery he’ll need more than that, so I’m just trying to figure out when I’m going to pump to supply that. I’m feeling a bit confused by the whole thing because of the lack of routine that I thought I’d have when I went back to work.
I’m glad to be back at work in a way, in that everyone at my work is very nice. I’m kind of concerned about it because I don’t feel that I have enough to do right now, and maybe people find it weird I’d complain about not having enough work, but I sort of feel like if I’m going back and foregoing more maternity leave, I should be busy and doing well so I can get promoted etc etc!
I just feel a bit torn between lives right now, but I suppose that’s normal. And I’m very lucky my job is allowing me all the working from home time. I guess they’ve kind of had their hand forced because they can’t accommodate the breastfeeding, but I still seem to get on well with my boss so I’m hopeful we can continue to have a good relationship. I guess I just want it to be worth going back to work. I don’t want to miss out on B for nothing.
Also, I think the going back to work has precipitated a change in my relationship with the local mums. Over the past few weeks I was kind of getting a little frustrated with them, because they cancel things at the last minute and don’t commit to things. I think maybe we are just different sorts of people but when I make an arrangement to meet up, I expect it to go ahead unless someone’s sick or something. Nowadays they seem less keen to meet up – maybe they just hate me! But also I find they only confirm stuff at the last minute or they cancel stuff the day before.
Maybe it’s because my time off was more precious to me that I more wanted confirmation of what we were doing, but anyway, it has gotten to the stage where I kind of feel like we are not on the same page. The two mums I was most friendly with are more friendly with each other, as they live really close. And one of them especially is kind of making a bid to be one of the leaders of the local mums… This is the one I used to hang out with a lot.
She tends to cancel stuff at the last minute and I just feel that she’s gotten a better offer. I’m fairly laid back but after a few times I started finding it annoying. She’s also very competitive in terms of sending updates on what her baby’s doing, and buying stuff for the baby, and I’m just not into it.
I think the main thing that happens as the babies get older is that you realise that you all have different parenting styles and maybe that means you have less in common than you thought. I really felt like I got on with them all but everything with them seems a bit more high stress, with routines and so on. We haven’t had much trouble with B because we just kind of go with the flow. I never try and put him to bed early, and I guess we are what you’d call attachment parents, we co sleep and babywear, so he’s not really a big crier and he’s just generally an easy baby.
I say this not to sound smug but more to illustrate that we aren’t very organised parents or set in our ways… He just hangs out with us and we haven’t changed our routines too much. We still go to bed late and because we are off, we get up pretty late too. It means we don’t get up at 5am like the other mums seem to do. (I’m so glad as I can’t cope with 5am wake ups.) I think maybe they think I’m lazy or something because we don’t have all these fixed things we do, and I can’t relate to the constant stress they seem to have.
Some people don’t even seem to enjoy having a baby – it’s like they are obsessed with trying to escape on a night out. I don’t feel I’m missing out at all – perhaps because I never thought we’d get to be parents. I don’t think that makes me a better person; just a different one. But anyway, I sense a distance growing between us.
Because T and I have both been off I’ve had a different experience too – they do a lot of mum stuff but I don’t do much of it as I feel it would be mean not to include T when he’s off too. It makes you realise how much parental stuff is left to the mums. I also can’t understand why mothers complain about it because it’s great. Maybe it’s great where we are in London, but there’s so much to do that socially you really wouldn’t suffer being a mum, unless like me you are going back to work. There’s stuff for mums and babies every single day. And loads of places you can go, and classes and so on. I actually feel exhausted just thinking about what some of them do. I think even if I was alone at home I’d want days where I just relax at home!
So overall, I think I feel a bit like going back to work has been an anticlimax. Right now I’m not fully back at work and I’m not at home on maternity leave any more, so I’m sort of stuck between two worlds. I don’t think I’m depressed or anything, but my mood has been a bit down over the past week, because of the whole back to work thing and then feeling like I’m half and half.
I’m the sort of person who likes to go in 100% on things, and the problem is right now I’m spread thinly between both. I need to figure out how to be happy with the balance.
Quite honestly I wish I could stay at home full time with B, but it’s not possible financially. And I should be grateful that I have a job with a sympathetic company which will allow me to work from home and relax a bit and still get a good salary! Maybe when we’ve moved house – hopefully next month – I will be able to relax into the new reality.
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.