16 weeks + 1 day pregnant
I started this week with a number of worries looming over me; 1) the return to work and the all associated concerns that came along with that, 2) being separated from Matt during the week as he returned to his course in Lancashire, 3) meeting my new GP and hoping that s/he was supportive.
I danced between these three worries all weekend and the weight of the three together felt like a heavy burden at times. It was a lot of changes to adapt to all at once and I naturally felt apprehensive in the face of them. I spent a long time fretting about my return to work and in hindsight I made the proposition far more intimidating in my mind than was warranted in reality.
Re entering my school felt like time had stood still. Everything was so familiar and it was like no time had passed at all even though the reality was that it had been seven months. The caretaker was tending to the playground as always, the dinner ladies were cleaning up from lunch as they usually did at that time of day, and the office staff were doing their normal ‘office stuff’. The school looked exactly the same. The staff looked exactly the same. But I was different.
I felt overwhelmed as I walked through the gates. I passed a dinner lady and wondered whether she knew that I’d lost the baby. I had a momentary fear that she would ask me. Please don’t ask me about the baby. I stopped to greet the caretaker and his expression was filled with such sympathy for me that I found myself welling up and becoming tearful. It felt like there was a lot of people to face all at once; people who would undoubtably want to ask questions, people who didn’t know what to say to me and people who were watching me, waiting to see how I was coping.
Most of my worries were unfounded as it turned out my colleagues were amazingly supportive. I found that I chose to share the news of my pregnancy more or less straight away and I was bombarded with support and positivity from them all. I’ve heard that some loss mums anguish over sharing the news of a subsequent pregnancy, fearing that others will judge them for getting pregnant again so quickly and deeming them to be replacing their lost child. I’ve never had this concern myself; maybe because I feel confident in my belief that I could never replace Nieve and I therefore don’t expect anyone else to think that way either. People talked easily to me about my new pregnancy, I guess it’s a much easier and more pleasant conversation topic than addressing the loss, though some did.
I find I’m very receptive to talking about the loss and I find the more I talk about it, the easier it seems to become. At first it felt excrutiatingly painful to relay the events surrounding Nieve’s death. Speaking the words to explain what happened was like a knife wound to my heart, with every word making the cut deeper. Lately I’ve found that because it’s a tale I’ve told so many times, it’s become like the worn out copy of a familiar book and I’ve started to become desensitised to the words as I tell them, though of course not to the story itself.
After a day back in the classroom I felt that it reignited something within me that I haven’t felt for a long time, that I’d forgotten existed or perhaps just considered forever changed. Teaching is a special job because part of it involves going ‘into role’ and being in that role allows me a momentary escape from ‘me’. In teaching there is very little time to consider your own wants and needs, especially when there are the wants and needs of thirty children to contend with. And maybe that escape from ‘me’ isn’t such a bad thing, after all I’ve spent the last seven months consumed by my own thoughts and feelings.
I felt a real sense of achievement completing my first day back in the classroom. I’d connected with my old self and I’d begun to rediscover how I existed in the world. It felt surprisingly comforting to be back there, a bit like being ‘home’, and I felt…safe. I managed to not just ‘get through the day’, but to achieve things- to thrive and not just survive. It did wonders for my confidence and helped to restore a bit of normality; a sense of routine in my haphazard life. I still carried my loss heavily with me throughout the day although I feel like I am now learning to carry my grief in ways that don’t cripple me any more.
On Monday morning I also waved a tearful goodbye to Matthew as he set off to Lancashire, where he is based Monday to Friday for his apprentiship course. It was the first time we’d been separated in the seven months since losing Nieve and I felt like I had lost a limb. Matthew has been my source of strength throughout the past months and he has a gentle and calm way of helping me to rationalise my negative thoughts and restore a bit of positivity. When I find my worries exploding or my sadness flooding into sobs, it’s Matt who can diffuse my apprehension, Matt who mops up my tears…Matt who has me writing positive affirmations on post it notes or has me repeating positive mantras when I’m feeling lost. He has become the crutch that I lean on during my darkest times and the thought of not having him close by was- is, daunting.
I worry about him when I’m not with him. I’ve found since losing Nieve that it’s rocked my sense of perspective about death and my brain is more suggestive to thoughts of tragedy. Death and tragedy feel closer, more imminent, undeniable…Terrifying. I worry about Matt driving up and down the country. I worry when he’s been out and I don’t hear from him for a while and my brain starts to journey to the unthinkable. My counsellor has suggested that I should start to record my fears and the outcomes in order to help me build up some faith and perspective again. To realise that a call unanswered doesn’t usually end in tragedy. I’m working on it.
On Monday evening I tackled the third of my worries; meeting my new GP, but just as I was beginning to feel that I had overcome my hattrick of concerns I ran into problem 2.5) more bleeding. I was in the doctor’s waiting room when I discovered it and my heart sank. Not again. I tried to remind myself that my last bout of bleeding had come to nothing but my negative brain was quick to quip “What if this ongoing bleeding is a sign of something being very wrong in the pregnancy?” Negative brain is more convincing because the implications of what it suggests are doused in fear. At least I was in the right place to get medical attention.
All my initial thoughts and fears about meeting my new GP were overridden by my fixation on the bleeding, but as it happened he turned out to be totally brilliant anyway. He assessed me thoroughly, taking a urine sample and performing a pregnancy test (which totally terrified me- what if it was negative?!) before deciding to refer me to the Early Pregnancy Unit for a scan to detect the source of my bleeding. I felt relieved, and unlike with my previous bleeding where I had visited A&E, I felt like I was going to be properly assessed and treated.
One of the concerns I’d had about Matt being away was that he wouldn’t be there to attend emergency appointments such as these. Luckily my friend Jess offered to accompany me and I was surprised that I felt ok with that. My imagination had depicted a scenario where I would fall apart without Matthew by my side in a situation like this, but I held it together and for that I’m proud of myself.
At the Early Pregnancy Unit the staff were fantastic. I was given an ultrasound scan where the sonographer found no clear source for the bleeding which I had experienced. I felt relieved and also encouraged to see my little boy; alive, well and very wriggly! The staff suggested that the bleeding may be caused by the blood thinning injections that I been self administering. The medical professionals in Birmingham remain perplexed as to why I’d been prescribed these injections in the first place, deeming them unnecessary. They were originally prescribed to me in Lancashire after I was admitted to hospital with a bout of dehydration and I was considered to be at risk of developing thrombosis due to inactivity from being sick and advised to remain on them til 28 weeks. But now that my sickness has eased off and now that I’ve experienced all this unexplained bleeding, I really feel that they are doing more harm than good and I plan to speak to my doctor about coming off them altogether.
And so…I made it. I may only be half way through the working week and I may only have completed half of my weekly stint away from Matt but I feel like the hard part is mostly done. I’ve ‘dipped my toe in the water’ and returned to the world of work and I’m doing ok… I’m ready to submerge myself and to start swimming again. I coped with the trauma of more bleeding and managed to hold it together without Matt to hold my hand. I’ve seen glimpses of the old me, positive and capable and I’ve found a strength in myself which has raised my confidence. Now all I need is a day off work to recover!