24 weeks pregnant
This weekend several strangers stopped to ask me when my baby was due. It seems my undesguisable baby bump has now placed me in the realms of ‘public property’. It’s almost as if a visible bump makes people feel entitled to question you about your pregnancy. But what if a complete stranger, asks me that question; “Is this your first?” People generally mean well and they think they are being friendly and polite and sharing in the excitement of your pregnancy, but they have no idea that this probing question could uncover such a tragic backstory.
At a friend’s barbecue yesterday I was sat with friends when a girl walked in who I hadn’t seen for about a year and a half. She said her hellos then excitedly called over to me “So you’re a mum now!?” I had no idea she knew I was even pregnant last time as the information must’ve been passed on through mutual friends. I stuttered incoherently before leaping to my feet. It wasn’t the kind of conversation I could have with her across a group of ten other listeners.
As I approached her I could see her mind working overtime and saw the horror on her face as she bared the the responsibility for unveiling such a tragedy. People always feel guilty for doing anything that is perceived to make you sad, to force you to remember. The fact is you are sad, they didn’t make you this way and they didn’t ‘remind you’… you will always remember.
I’m not sleeping well. Before I can even let myself close my eyes I need to feel him move. Sometimes he’ll kick me lightly and I’ll doubt it and wait for another. Sometimes I tell myself I’ll wait for five kicks, just to be sure it’s definitely him. Sometimes I get so tired I start to drift off and I feel things and wonder if was real or a dream. I’ll heave myself out of sleep just to make sure.
I wake up several times during the night and I force my weary mind to focus and check he’s moving. Often he is and I’m momentarily reassured and drift back to sleep for a while, but only to wake again a couple of hours later and repeat the whole process. Sometimes he isn’t active and so I wait, unable to surrender to the relaxation of sleep until I know he’s ok. Often, once my mind is activated it becomes difficult to ‘deactivate’ it and I lay awake for hours, exhausted but unable to switch off.
I don’t resent the lack of sleep. I see it as my duty to be vigilant, though I recognise that I’m bordering on obsessive. A friend recently questioned whether counselling would help with my anxiety over movements but the thing is, it’s a behaviour I don’t want to change because I deem it necessary. Sprocket’s movements are my only clue about his wellbeing and so they consume me as I’m desperate to protect him.
Sometimes I grow worried if I haven’t felt him move for a while but then I can look at my watch and realise it’s literally only been ten minutes and I have to urge myself to calm down.
I’ve been wearing my ‘kick counter’ every day and I’m constantly asked what it is. People who don’t know my history will probably think I’m an obsessive crazy lady, but to my mind, it’s preserving my sanity rather than damaging it and it’s helping me stay constantly atuned to Sprocket.
I’m learning about Sprocket’s patterns of movement and now know that he sometimes has a relatively inactive period which can last up to two hours. I hate this time but experience is helping me to realise that it’s normal for him. I’m getting better at staying calm during these times but there is nothing like the sweet relief of feeling him move after a quiet spell. I literally feel all my anxiety melt away again for a while, It’s almost euphoric. He’s still with me.
Sometimes Sprocket is extremely lively. At first I felt reassured by these active periods but then my anxious brain has begun to wonder; what if he’s in distress? What if I’ve damaged him from too much sugar in my diet? What if the cord is round his neck? What if my placenta is too small? It’s difficult to maintain a sense of rationale. Luckily my midwife has helped me with my worries and assured me that an active baby is usually a good sign.
One of my loss mum friends recently spoke to me about how she anticipates all her fear and worry disappearing as soon as the baby is born. I don’t think it will be as simple as that. I think it’s important to recognise that the birth is not the end of the story. It’s not a ‘happily ever after’ or an event that will instantly heal all the pain and anguish of the past.
I imagine that there would be relief, joy, elation. But I’m pretty sure that the anxieties and responsibilities of pregnancy will soon be replaced by the anxieties and responsibilities which come with caring for a newborn. And if that’s the case, when will the worry stop? Will it ever stop?
I wonder if losing a baby will affect the way I parent in the future. Am I now destined to be that over anxious mother who crumbles every time my child falls over? Am I destined to be the overprotective and overbearing parent who won’t let my child out of my sight? I hope not.
My own mum was quite the anxious parent and I recognise how it’s inhibited my confidence. I want my children to be cautious but not fearful, confident but not reckless. I want them to learn to feel robust in the face of life.
Today I am 24 weeks pregnant and I’ve finally reached that significant milestone; viability. It marks the increased chance of survival should Sprocket be born prematurely. It marks the point in which medical professionals would step in and use intensive medical intervention to save him. It marks the transition from ‘late miscarriage’ to ‘stillbirth’, from feutus to baby. From some health care support to maximum health care support.
I’m glad we’ve made it.