Heartbeat or Heartbreak?

7 weeks+2 days pregnant

There’s an old saying that lightning never strikes twice. It’s a quote based on the idea that something bad or unusual will not happen to the same person again. But it’s a myth. “A strike to any location does nothing to change the electrical activity in the storm above” and just in the same way, having lost one baby does nothing to protect me from losing another. 

Incedentally, I’ve actually been struck by lightening. It happened to me about ten years ago when I was walking on the Great Wall of China in Beijing. I remember the jolt shot down my umbrella and through my arm. It all happened so quickly and I don’t remember any pain. Tragically, a man was killed by that same bolt, and I walked away feeling very lucky to be alive. Ever since that day, whenever there’s a storm, I feel a little afraid. I won’t put up an umbrella and I’ll stay inside whenever I can. 

This pregnancy is like my storm. There’s the ongoing fear that lightening will strike me twice, that I’ll lose this baby too. There is also the ongoing urge to use preventative measures to reduce the chances of it happening again. But it feels a little like walking around in the storm, just hoping and praying that the lightening bolt misses me this time. 

On Tuesday I have an early scan. Whenever I recall ‘scan scenes’ on films or tv shows, they’re always filled with such joy. Partners gazing lovingly at the screen, squeezing one another’s hands as they glimpse at their new baby with awe and wonderment. I too remember a time when I waited with excited anticipation for a scan. I never doubted anything. Now I doubt everything. 

The last time I was in a scan room was the worst day of my entire life.  After failing to find a heartbeat with the Doppler, the sonograper carried out an ultrasound. I didn’t dare look at the screen. Matt sat beside me as he had done in previous scans. He gripped my hand as he had done before, only this time he gripped it with fear rather than excitement. I watched the sonographer’s face, looking for clues as to what was happening. It was eerily dark and quiet as she delivered the news and my world fell apart.

Returning to that scan room feels a little like returning to that spot on the Great Wall of China with my umbrella up. It feels unsafe and very, very scary. I’ll at least be in a different hospital this time which is somewhat helpful in allowing me to separate the two experiences. 

I was reading information about scans on the NHS website, when I came across a quote that said “Be aware that ultrasound scans may detect some serious abnormalities, so you should be prepared for that information.” Be prepared. Be prepared?!! Who is ever prepared for that? We may fear problems, we may even anticipate them but who could ever be prepared for them?! The worst thing imaginable happened in my last pregnancy, but does that make me more prepared for something to go wrong again? I would say I could go on to have dozen losses but I’d never be prepared for any of them. To me, ‘prepared’ suggests an acceptance that something has gone or will go wrong, a readiness. Who is ever ready for news like that? 

Should women be prepared for bad news every time they have a scan, a blood test or midwife appointment? Would it make it make them ‘ready’ for bad news if they were? Would it change the outcome? Would it make it easier to move on from? I would say not. In her book, ‘pregnancy after loss’ Carol Lanham discusses a phychological detachment called anticipatory grief, “to protect themselves, many women think if they tell themselves that they’re not going to have this baby, then they’re not going to be upset if they lose it, which is crazy because they’re going to be upset no matter what.”

I’m not prepared for bad news on Tuesday and I will not prepare myself for it either. If I start anticipating the worst outcome from every appointment then I am in for a very long and agonising nine months. ‘Preparing myself’ will do nothing to change the outcome so I’ll save myself the anticipatory heartbreak. That’s not to say I’m not afraid. Im afraid of the associations the scan room has, I’m afraid that the songographer will deliver bad news, I’m afraid of ‘knowing’ and of ‘not knowing’. I’m afraid of seeing my little ‘bean’ of hope and of beginning to invest in the idea that one day it’ll be more than just an image on an ultrasound. 

The only armour I have in this battle is hope, and I won’t let that go. I’m preparing for good news on Tuesday. 

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