Thursday, 21 November 2013

Should I stay or should I go?

( Well, you gotta let me know... Any other Clash fans out there? No? Oh ok, on with the post...)

Back in the doubtful days of September I spent an afternoon musing on all the things that I might pursue once my energies were no longer devoted entirely to counting the length of my cycles and the levels of my hormones and weekly blood draws and transvag probings and the like. Such a struggle, and such an uncertain trajectory; which is why I could do nothing other than speculate at the time, as to what my future might hold. (As an aside too much information alert!: it seems entirely likely that the very day I penned those particular musings was the same that sperm finally decided to meet egg, giving all musings to come an entirely different, more hopeful flavour.)

Well, we're on a different trajectory now, thanks to those two lines, but one I must admit that is no less fraught with worry and fear and uncertainty. There is the ever-present fear that the next u/s will reveal the worst; the uncertainty that comes with the knowledge that we are dealing not with a when, but a very big if... This last week, in particular, has thrown me for a loop as I've been wading through a grief hangover and guilt and thinking a great deal about S. There are so many complicated and confusing emotions that come with the mindfuck that is pregnancy after loss, and when I find the energy and cognitive capacity I'll likely write more about it.

But for now, I am here with a more practical problem.

Long before we knew about the little seedling's imminant mind bending, life altering entry onto the scene, I agreed to do a week of teaching for the students of a dear friend in Italy. The prospect of a pregnancy (or even fertility treatments) seemed, at the time, laughably and distincly unpossible, and so I didn't think twice about saying yes. What could be more lovely than a week catching up with a friend I see far too scarcely, spent in Italy at a university of gastronomy, surrounded by vineyards and experienced guides in all things culinary and viticultural? I know, right? I was in for a treat! (And really, given the mindset to which I was prone in those days, I am sure I would have indulged accordingly in all that such a scenario offers, without the slightest bit of appropriate restraint or respect due the fine wines involved.)

Admittedly, this particular gig has in recent months - what with a new job and new plans and a growing (touchwoodfingerscrossedpleaseplease!) baby - been all but forgotten. I have planned nothing. And then this week I looked at the calendar and remembered.

In theory of course, I can still travel to Italy at the end of January and make good on my word. There is no medical logic advising against it. But H and I both, somehow, have this strong feeling of not wanting to be apart, of having me in another country where I don't speak the language and know almost no one, because, well...just in case. I don't have a better reason for you than that, and don't really want to seriously contemplate what those thoughts represent anyway.

And then I looked at the calendar and did the mental pregnancy maths and also realized that the week falls on almost the exact stage of this pregnancy as when things started to go horribly wrong with S more than three years ago. No matter how much I try to remind myself that this is its own pregnancy,  how much I seek to separate one from the other and to adjust my attitude accordingly, I anticipate that this time in the pregnancy might be a huge trigger for me. I might freak out. I might need to curl up in a ball under the duvet and cry snot-faced tears. Then again, I might not. It's hard to call.

And herein is my dilemma, an admittedly very nice (and unanticipated) one to have.

So, bloggy friends, I am hoping to draw on other perspectives here. What would you do in my shoes? Have you found such anniversaries particularly difficult, or do you think having some distraction would be helpful? And are H and I just being crazy, ultra-cautious neurotics?

What I'm possibly passing on. But then, what I've got.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

For really real

Today I am 11 weeks pregnant. Not so far along in the larger scheme of things, I suppose, but oh so much farther than I ever imagined we would get, in those scary, tentative first days. In the last little while, this has all begun to feel real. Like, really real; this might actually happen. I don't mean the reality of a baby joining us in 6.5 months. Shut your face! That's still crazy talk!

What I mean is that for many weeks I couldn't even grasp the reality of my, uh...delicate condition. Being pregnant. Knocked up. I'm not sure I actually fully believed there was a bun in this here oven. <Any other grating cliches we can trot out here?> But the fact is, we'll soon be rounding the bend on the second trimester.

My confidence is currently on an upswing though may swing down without warning; I still reserve the right to panic at any given moment after another breathtaking peek at the little seedling during our 'graduation' from the fertility clinic this week. And graduate we did, with flying colours. Such agony! Such relief! S/he was in there, still measuring slightly ahead with a crown-rump length of 11 weeks 2 days for an ultrasound done at 10 weeks 5 days. That was very reassuring. But best of all, we got to see little seedling fist pumping away in there, either annoyed or delighted with the extra attention (who could say which?) and making its feelings emphatically known as we gazed in reverent silence at the screen lighting the dim sanctity of that room shared with three radiology students in that amazing moment. Before now, there was the little heart beat, but really, somehow I didn't have quite such a sense of the...alive-ness of our baby. Until now.

And so when I say things are getting real, I mean that now, I kind of accept the fact that there is an actual human being growing somewhere in the vicinity of my lower pelvis as I type this. My baby. It's crazy and amazing. And also, I must confess, not something I was able to truly absorb before this week. I think in my first pregnancy, I personified S from the very beginning, felt maternal love for another human being from the very beginning. Putting aside for the moment my sense of guilt at not having been able to do that for this baby...well, it was just too terrifying to invest that much. Until now.

And it only got more real from there, though more on the basis of social cues than of biological evidence. After our discharge from the clinic, we were sent for an intake appointment with the community midwives team. We've only ever gotten that far once before. Typically here in the UK, prenatal care and births are handled by midwives, with OBs or specialists stepping in only when a woman is referred as high risk. I do fall into that category (for many reasons, my age and medical history and recurrent losses being chief among them), but our initial assessment was carried out by a midwife who will follow us alongside Dr. B. We liked her very much; she was knowledgeable and understanding and sensitive but also very practical. Meetings with the community midwives tend to be less rushed and more focused on parental feelings and adjustments than hospital appointments do. We spent more than an hour, and at the end were rewarded with a bag full of goodies aimed at consume!consume!consume! expectant parents and...wait for it...a maternity book for which to record a progressing pregnancy, all the way up to a birth plan. Holy shit. For reals.

More disorienting delightful still, our appointment took place not in the clinical, high risky environment of the hospital, but in a local children's centre, complete with diaper caddies and tiny person furniture and adorable toys like these two:

Wizards and witches and babies, oh my!

The atmosphere was so warm and so... familial, oozing such an aura of parental ease, of children-as-a-natural-part-of-life, that it caught us off guard. In the past, such spaces were clearly demarcated as being out of our reach; cruel reminders of what we couldn't do and didn't have.

I felt like an interloper at first. Did we really belong there? This place with the built-in changing tables and nursing pillows and leaflets for mother-baby yoga? The fact is, I don't know if I'll ever truly feel a part of the 'club' (or, in many ways, if I want to) but for perhaps the first time, I allowed myself to feel embraced and lulled by the warmth of such an environment, which for so long felt beyond our grasp. For however long this pregnancy lasts (even though I still can't mentally grasp the whole living-baby-in-6.5-months thing, I am hoping for it with all my heart), I want to bask in it. Feel every second of it, as completely as possible skipping the terror of course pleaseandthankyou.

No, we didn't take a wrong turn. Yes, we are really supposed to be there. We have the paperwork - oh ok, and the little burgeoning human - to attest to that. And if my renewed nausea and fatigue in the last days are anything to go by (this is supposed to abate in the second trimester, right?), then - staying with my confident, hopeful vibe - the tiny human is going through another growth spurt.

The stuff that dreams are made of

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Contents of my uterus: confidential until further notice

Not so long ago, I received an email; to be precise from this friend, he of the oh-so-early, oh-so-unassailable-pregnancy-optimism.

This most recent communique was a quick, punchy two-liner probing enquiring about the...ahem, situation with our efforts for a dream baby. Quote: success with pregnancy...dare I ask?, followed by a signature asking that I pass on his best wishes to H. He is clever and interested and witty and great fun to have at a party, this friend. No one has ever accused him of being overly delicate.

As for me, I have never been someone who confided my deepest feelings and angst around our struggles in that department to my friends or family, at least not since the early days of loss and grief, when I learned a disheartening lesson about how disinterested, selfish, trivializing people can be when faced with the kinds of tragedies they'd rather not think about. Most have a tendency to make it all about them, so that even when they do speak, clumsily, it is to assuage their own fears or feelings of inadequacy. (But that, dear readers, is a post for another day.) However, just as I have not shared the deepest darkest truths of infertility after loss, neither have I been secretive about our reality. Friends who ask after our well being have been told, in there amongst the updates on job searches and big moves and recent vacations, that yes, the patter of little feet is something that fills our daydreams, that no, it has not been easy and no, there is nothing (nothing!) yet to report. The friend in question knows about our struggles, which is one of the reasons I was so screamy about his artless pregnancy announcement back in my most barren - of hope or baby - summer months.

Normally, I would have brushed off this equally artless, if well intentioned, attempt at friendly concern with just the sort of update described above: full of trivialities about our goings-on, inserting somewhere in their midst a concise response on the contents of my uterus in the negative.


But, it just so happens - still much to my amazement, even writing it now - that when this particular enquiry reached my inbox, I was (am) indeed with child. It arrived, in fact, only days after we had first encountered that glorious second line. Not only that, but really, the brevity and focus of this email prevents me from just throwing out a random, cheery response which skirts the issue entirely: We're great! Still in England! H is working on his thesis! and so on and so forth and so blah blah blah.

Initially of course, my lack of response was due to the fact that, well, we were processing some heavy, if exciting, stuff. For many days I simply didn't oh ok, still don't now, have much time or headspace for anyone or anything other than the burgeoning hope growing within me, the terror that has been its twin, or the intimacy of the secret that H and I share (uh, with all the lovely peoples of the interwebs, natch).

But then, actually, how do you answer this email? I don't want to write my little seedling out of existence with a harmless lie. It would feel too much like...tempting fate? Lacking maternal instinct? I don't know exactly, but I wasn't prepared to do it. At the same time, I'm obviously not in a place where I am wanting to share this massive, life changing news, this secret of secrets with all the world. It is still too precious; let me savour it a while longer, as the magical, intimate, unbelievable, sacred thing that it is.

Nonetheless, this stupid kindly email has forced me to think much earlier than I had anticipated about the inevitable question of when and how and who to tell.

I have feared this time, feared it long before I even had that concrete, second-line, reason to. I fear the forced joyfulness (where for us, pregnancy is far from the joyful, naive time that most parents experience). I fear fresh grief, over the knowledge that no one who has not been through something similar can really, truly provide any emotional support for such a pregnancy as ours. I fear the sense of isolation that will grow with that knowledge. I fear the 'helpful' advice on how we should be coping with it all, because I'm already bitchy and hormonal and mostly, besides H, nobody can do anything right even if they try and I want need to protect that as my prerogative for right now, here in my little cocoon. I fear the anger which will almost certainly be my response to the amnesiac joy I anticipate from others, forgetting my sweet baby S (if they ever acknowledged him to begin with), forgetting the heartbreak we experienced just in getting this far, belying the view that another pregnancy will fix it all and maybe, finally, I'll 'go back to the old Sadie'.

I won't go back. I don't want to. I don't want to forget my son, for he is as much a part of this family story, of the branches that shyly, tentatively search outward as the tree grows, as are H and I and this new little seedling, this branch. He is the deep and abiding love that has enriched the soil in which our family tree grows. And our struggles after S, the other losses and the months of disappointment and the prodding and invasive appointments with numerous medical specialists and the fear of remaining forever childless. All those experiences, too, colour this path, not only with abiding sadness, but with the gift of intense joy, the relish of every minuscule progression towards the future we've so long dreamed of with such ardent hope. Our joy is our sorrow unmasked, in the wise and comforting words of Gibran. Those same sorrows that have carved us with scars are also what allow us this joy; they are forever intertwined.

And really, on a more selfish, less poetic point, I fear that amnesiac joy coming from those who could not share my sorrow is a step too far for me. Maybe, in these moments, I don't have the ability to forgive and forget. What right do people have to share in my fresh joy when they could not share in, or even be present for my raw grief?

But all this too, I suppose, is a post for another day. Now I just have to figure out how to reply to that email, before I start to appear really rude.

I am working on it. Source

Monday, 4 November 2013

One of those posts with all the bullett points

So, in between the bipolar, hope/terror/hope stream of consciousness that is pregnancy after loss, punctuated by genuine freakouts which seem to grow in frequency as we approach each u/s appointment - because I promised I'd try to give that a rest for a while (and really, it's exhausting enough to live it the first time) - other thoughts do occasionally manage to make their way into my consciousness.

Like what? Like, for example, all the of the following, as inconsequential as it is...


It's November already, which means it's more than a year since we traded in the sun bleached cobbled streets of Lisbon to return to the leaden skies of England. Even though we had some terrible hardships while living there (we lost our second and then our third pregnancy during that time, and got our initial diagnosis of subfertility), a sliver of my heart will always belong to that city, not least because I felt so close to all my babies in the beauty of that country. How could you not be awe-struck, every single day, when this is the view from your local cafe, five minutes from home?

Here we are enjoying a weekend away in Porto. Sigh. It's so inspiring to be surrounded by that kid of beauty. I truly miss the place. At the same time, it's incredible to think of the time that has passed, and how new and fresh things are beginning to seem, again. Aside from leaving Portugal, this year has been filled with some very necessary (and long overdue) changes.


It's kind of baffling how much traffic has picked up on my blog since this post. I guess the cynical side of me thinks that, even in the land of ALI, most people would rather hear about a pregnant lady than a bitchy, barren one. (Who, me bitter? Yep, guess I'm still processing some emotions.)

And while we're on the topic of this here blog, why is it that this particular post, amongst all my blathering, seems to be catnip for spam commenters wanting to share for the benefit of I and all my readers the wonders of the witch doctor who cast a spell that made tangible all their deepest desires? (I deleted a good many of those comments, but in case you're perversely curious as I was, I'll wait a moment if you want to go have a look for yourself before they're gone for good.) Could it be because, given the title of the post, some poor mammalian ovaries are an ingredient in said magic spells <shudder>? Curiouser and curiouser.


This morning I received an appointment for my 20 week anatomy scan....booked for the 15th of November, when I'll be 11 weeks pregnant. I have to say, the NHS can generally not be accused of this level of...erm, efficiency, but today they're waaay ahead of the game. However, much as there is a part of me that would love to ffwd to a point in this pregnancy closer to viability, and beyond the oh-so-scary-I'm-already-dreading-it point when I lost S, I'm not actually aware of a method for doing so (correct me if I'm wrong here ladies!). So, time to rescheduled the appointment then, for a date that corresponds to my real-world pregnancy timeline.


Last week, I had to travel to London to attend a day of training for work. The venue for the workshop was right next door to one of London's more fascinating and touching museums, the Foundling Museum, which uses artifacts and historical archives to tell the stories of London's abandoned babies, or 'foundlings', who were looked after at the property throughout the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. They are currently exhibiting a collection of photographs around the twin themes of Motherhood and Loss. Though loss is understood in the broadest conceptual and emotional sense here, there were several powerful pieces that dealt specifically with pregnancy loss and stillbirth. It was moving and refreshing to see those experiences of motherhood included, given that so many of us experience the societal silencing of our stories and that there remains such a strong taboo on speaking these truths (for fear of 'upsetting' those fortunate souls who never have to contemplate unhappy outcomes of pregnancy?).

After my training workshop and the visit to the museum, H and I met for some shopping and dinner at one of my favorite little hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurants in Covent Garden, where I can indulge in lots of gluten free goodies. I think kimchee pancakes are my new culinary obsession.


In the last week, just as the more conventional symptoms like food aversions and random cravings seem to be abating (good thing too, or my body's horror through weeks 5-8 at the very thought of anything spicy, usually a staple in my diet, would have prevented me from enjoying those kimchee pancakes), and along come a few genuine head scratchers. Because amongst the exhaustive lists of possible pregnancy symptoms that the likes of Just Mommies and other oh-so-helpful sites have compiled for those of us neurotic enough to compulsively deeply in touch with our bodies, my own seems to have settled on a few new quirks.

I'm having pretty regular palpitations in which it feels like my heart is going to leap from my ribcage; they start in my chest and extend up through my throat. I asked the doctor about it, and he says that although it's not terribly common, it's a perfectly normal response to increased blood flow in these early weeks. I'm supposed to rest as much as possible, which I guess is a good thing, because these episodes usually leave me feeling weak, dizzy and unable to catch my breath.

Secondly and perhaps more humorously, (though probably not for H, for whom this particular 'symptom' is more unsettling than for me), I've started talking in my sleep. Well, not talking so much as...emitting a kind of muttering/humming sound? After H pointed it out, I've caught myself doing it a few times as I drifted off, and it's odd, to say the least. I can't find a single reference to this as an actual pregnancy symptom, but I have never before been one to talk in my sleep and am normally a very placid sleeper, while this habit has only surfaced in the last month, so it must be related somehow. I recall reading somewhere once that post-menopausal woman suffering from snoring so frequently because of the huge shifts in hormone balance that softens the tissue in the ear/nose/throat area, so I'm wondering if it could be something similarly to do with changing hormone levels. (I didn't have the nerve to make a special call to Dr. B to ask about that one.) Wierd.

But also, I told you I was glowing.


I've been nominated, like, a gazillion times for the current wave of blog awards that are making the rounds. Thanks everyone; I'm feelin' the love. I even keep meaning to reply and accordingly have a draft sitting somewhere in amongst my current posts, but I always end up too lazy and, well, bored with that much self-reflection. I promise I'll get to it after everyone else has thoroughly tired of the exercize! At least, I think I will.  

I hope everyone else is hanging in there. I'm on my way to check in with your blogs now!