18 weeks + 4 days pregnant
This has been a week of mixed emotions. I had a midwife appointment on Tuesday and when I arrived for it, I recognised the midwife, Aletha, as someone who had covered my 28 week antenatal appointment during my pregnancy with Nieve. She was actually the last midwife I saw for antenatal care before Nieve passed away.
“I recognise you,” she remarked. “Yes,” I told her “from my last pregnancy, not long ago… But my baby passed away” she looked absolutely horrified and her eyes filled with tears as I recounted the story. I told her she was the last midwife I’d seen before it happened and I kind of wish I hadn’t said that as she looked so worried and guilty. She couldn’t have known anything was wrong; Nieve had a good strong heartbeat at the time and she had followed her protocols to measure my abdomen. She had deemed Nieve to be measuring perfectly but I now know that these ‘manual’ methods of measuring are only about 60% accurate. Nevertheless, the midwife had done everything that she was supposed to do.
As part of this appointment the midwife said she would ‘listen in’ to the baby. The thought terrified me after the ordeal last week, but I knew I’d have to face my fear at some point. I explained about the incident the previous week with the Doppler and the midwife at the hospital not being able to find the heartbeat. Aletha was totally understanding and reassuring. She felt my abdomen and identified where she thought the baby was lying, then she applied the gel and rested the Doppler on my stomach. I found the sound it made triggered all those haunting memories and I shut my eyes to try to block it out and attempt to stay calm. She shifted the Doppler to the right… a heartbeat…. Mine?… No, definitely baby’s! It was strong and loud and fast and sounded just like a train. A beautiful, beautiful train. It was a wonderful feeling, filled with relief and joy. I celebrated what so many take for granted; that today my baby was alive.
On Wednesday I felt him kick. Soft, subtle but undoubtable. It was pure magic. His kicks feel different to Nieve’s. It feels like I can feel his whole body shifting sometimes too which is a different experience. When I notice differences like this between the two pregnancies it often leads me to wonder whether these subtle contrasts are an indication that things weren’t ‘right’ in my pregnancy with Nieve. I’m certainly bigger than I was in my last pregnancy. I looked back and compared photos of this pregnancy with last, and found that I’m about the same size as I was at six months with Nieve, even though I’m only four months now. I like being bigger, it encourages me to think that baby is growing well, as growth appeared to be an issue for Nieve at the end. But it also makes me feel guilty. In my pregnancy with Nieve, people would often comment on how small they thought I was, but I had concluded that it was just my frame and had no reason to believe differently.
On Thursday I visited the toilet at work and found more brown spotting. Here we go again, I thought. My Midwife had advised me that I should go straight into Triage with any more bleeding so I left work straight away and headed to the hospital. My boss offered to send someone with me but I didn’t want to put a strain on school resources and decided to try to remain calm and strong.
But sitting in the waiting room at Triage I felt suddenly alone and scared. Why did this keep happening? Experience told me that the spotting would probably clear up again in a day or two, but I couldn’t help but feel alarmed about why this kept happening. There is nothing ‘normal’ about this pregnancy and I always knew it would be hard, but it feels like my nerves are being constantly tested with these extra obstacles thrown into the mix.
I saw the midwife first and she reached for the doppler to check on baby. This had been my biggest fear after the incident last week, but I felt some reassurance in the fact that Aletha had found his heartbeat on Tuesday and I’d also recently felt him move. The midwife switched the doppler on…that whooshing sound… I hate it…it’s so triggering for so much anguish and heartbreak. It took a short while for her to locate his heartbeat but I held it together this time. It was amazing to hear it again, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that sound.
Next, the Doctor came to visit me. She carried out an internal examination to check my cervix and this time they were able to locate what they believed was the reason for the spotting…a small polyp on my cervix. Apparently totally normal and harmless in pregnancy (though it didn’t stop some extensive Google research later in the evening). I feel relieved that they seem to have found the cause and that it isn’t associated with the baby or the pregnancy. I feel a little lighter since getting this information. The bleeding may well occur again but hopefully I can feel a little calmer about it next time even though I really wish it wasn’t there in the first place.
When I returned to work I opened up to one of our Support Assistants about the issues I’d been having in pregnancy and about my daughter’s death last year. “It happened to me” she said. It’s so shocking and saddening to realise how common baby loss is. It feels like a secret agony endured by so many; an agony that’s never really talked about. Her own case was particularly tragic because it led to hemirrhaging and ultimately a hysterectomy which must’ve been so traumatic and heartbreaking. We spoke openly about our experiences. Losing a baby isn’t just something you experience, it becomes a part of who you are and while others would probably be horrified by such conversations, for us they are a reality that we somehow have to learn to accept.
This week the one of the midwives enquired about how I was coping with the pregnancy and I was honest and told her that it was extremely difficult but that I was trying to remain positive. I sometimes wonder if my outlook sounds slightly morbid, but after a loss, it’s difficult to take anything for granted any more. I told her I don’t know how long I’ll get to keep this baby. My greatest hope is that I’ll get to take him home at the end of this pregnancy, but if not, if this bit of ‘pregnancy’ is to be my only taste of motherhood, then I want to cherish every single moment of it. When I look back at my pregnancy with Nieve I would never wish any of it away, I’d never take back that time, even if I could because it was precious and sacred time with my daughter, despite being painfully short. I would never have wanted that time to be filled with anxiety and fear as it would’ve made no difference to the outcome and would simply have stolen the beauty out of what was such a special experience. I try to remember that and take that positivity with me each day.
But that’s not to take away from how incredibly difficult this experience has been at times. Some days it feels like my pregnancy is something to be endured rather than enjoyed; a battle. I feel incredibly anxious about all the unknowns, but I’ve realised that that’s just how life is, a long road of uncertainty, it’s just that the majority of people take a false sense of security out of the odds of any bad things happening. I’m hoping I can learn to find a balance; to learn to be positive that the odds of fate are in my favour, but also to cherish what I have in the knowledge that you can never take anything for granted.