Emotional

I’ve written pages in my personal journal, but it’s not enough, so I’m writing more here. I am emotionally self-consumed and on red alert at the moment and I’m really struggling to think about things clearly.

Being pregnant, each time it happens, brings back so many intrusive thoughts and fears and terrifying memories… each pregnancy I’ve lost, each of the days I felt all the blood coming away from me, so many days of bleeding in my life, the scans with no heartbeat, the waiting, the smashed hopes and dreams, baby showers I attended while bleeding away pregnancies, newborns I visited after losing my own pregnancies, and the worst things of all, things my mind will never see in soft focus – bleeding out in the hospital, doctors shouting my name, asking if I’m still with them, a nurse squeezing an IV bag into my veins trying to counter the rate of blood loss, the pins and needles attacking my arms and legs as my body prepared to shut down, diverting blood from my limbs to my vital organs, trying to survive through the haemorrhage, consciousness slipping away and silently repeating my children’s names to myself, promising myself that I will not leave them without a mother. Crying alone in the hospital at midnight as they tried to set up a blood transfusion, full of the suffocating fear of reacting to the blood and dying anyway. The doctor asking if there was someone I could call and staring at her for a long, long time. No. No one.

The nightmares after getting home, being afraid to sleep in case I bled to death while I wasn’t conscious. Fear of my periods returning in case the blood wouldn’t stop. Shouting out into the darkness, night after night.

And still more… catching one of my babies in the palm of my hand, then having to take him into the hospital for fetal testing after keeping him in the fridge overnight… things that no woman should ever, ever have to go through.

And then, on top of that, I have all the trauma of What if it goes okay? And I start thinking about the birth, the retained placentas I had with both of my children, the emergency blood transfusion, signing paperwork to consent to a hysterectomy if they can’t stop the bleeding, nurses trying to find veins and failing, people shouting about no blood-pressure readings, doctors rushing around me, and bright, pure whiteness, morphing back to concerned faces as I regained consciousness before going into theatre.

And later… at home, crying so hard, my nipples dripping a mixture of blood, milk and baby-saliva onto my deflated stomach as I desperately tried to breastfeed with a body that was a ghost of itself. No time to rest and repair, nothing but a beautiful, hungry baby to feed every 90 minutes from breasts that were bruised and battered. Family visits from people who stayed too long and expected us to make tea and lunch for them when I was the one who needed looking after. People who laughed and joked and wanted to hold my son, when I was still in a state of mental and physical shock from almost having died, reluctant to hand him over because he was my everything and I trusted nothing and no one to keep him safe. Even when he slept, I stayed awake, crying silent tears of fear for everything that had happened. I lived in a crippled state of exhausted insomnia for months.

And now, again, all these things swim around my head in a turbulent panic, torturing me with what was and what still could be. If I wake in the night now, I lay there for ages, trying to calm everything down, trying to reassure myself that the past is in the past and these things are not happening today. That I am okay. That we are all okay. Slowly, gradually, as the minutes turn into hours, my mind accepts a peace, of sorts, and allows sleep again. But my nights are restless.

I live with all these memories and I feel like I am full to bursting. Several times over the last few days I’ve felt a compulsion to post random, totally brutal and honest statuses on Facebook that acknowledge who I really am and what I have been through. I feel like I WANT to shock people, because people do not know me. They do not know what we have lived through. I feel like it’s too much for me to carry around inside. All this stuff, with a potentially healthy baby growing inside me… I have an excess of mental energy and nowhere to direct it.

I swing from being indescribably happy to wanting to scream “Fuck you!” at everything and everyone. I want to cry and sob and bash my fists on the floor and yell to the stars that “I am pregnant and I will have this baby! I worked like a dog for this so here I am and this is what it took to get here!”

I’m afraid of people’s joy, if we ever get around to telling anyone. I’m frightened of the congratulations and oh, how exciting comments I will have to deal with. I feel like I’m navigating a war zone and people are going to smile and say how lovely!

I am conflicted, emotional, probably emotionally scarred, shit-scared and absolutely over the fucking moon about what is going on, and I’m finding it hard to deal with the feeling-o-meter being on maximum red the whole time.

I know, in part, this is building to a crisis because my scan is tomorrow morning. Because I know that every little thing I’ve dared to hope for the future can be taken from me tomorrow, yet again.

But that it might not be. And I’m wired as hell over it. I’m trying not to make tomorrow the most significant even in my life ever, but in some ways it is.

We said, after the last loss, we’d try for one more pregnancy, and to hurry that along, we were going to do IVF. Well, like a miracle out of nowhere we got our one more pregnancy, and this time it has to work.

It has to.

It. Has. To.

6 Weeks

A lot can change in just under a week, and I’m hoping it’s all good…

At 5w1d I had no real symptoms of anything. At 5 weeks 4 days, I felt vaguely sick in the evening. At 5 weeks 5 days I had full on, stomach-turning nausea in the evening because I’d gotten too hungry before dinner. 

And for the last two days it’s been all day sickness, the kind that makes you want to eat all the time in the hope that somehow the food will make it go away.

I’m still struggling with blood sugar highs/lows and I get very shaky and wobbly in the first half of each day. I’ve countered that by eating more – a LOT more. It’s the only thing that seems to help, but my body is running through calories at lightning speed (at least, I haven’t put any weight on yet, despite my daily intake being breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and evening snack). I am eating far too much, I know, but I don’t seem to be able to stop.

Also, over the last couple of days, with the constant nausea, all my good habits have gone out of the window. I’ve not been walking (because I’m tired and moving makes me feel sick). I’ve been eating carbs, carbs, carbs, including, on Friday morning, TWO bounty chocolate bars. And I don’t mean the two bars you get in one pack, I mean four bars, from two packs. A disgusting amount of chocolate in one sitting.

The other thing that has markedly changed is (tmi warning), my nipples. They are two shades darker and TWICE as big as they were. I have modest sized boobs, so they now look like they are 50% nipple. The change is astonishing. My boobs haven’t been especially sore, so it’s even weirder to see them in the mirror.

All in all, I feel pregnant. For the first time in years. I feel completely, hormonally, absolutely pregnant.

I looked back over my diary and during my last pregnancy (which I lost at 7w5d), I went to a zumba class at just before the 6 week mark. A zumba class!! Even the thought of doing that today makes me want to throw up and crawl back into bed.

And as for the ever-present spotting, the thing that has plagued me constantly, I’ve had absolutely none. Nothing. I am one of those women who bleeds all the time, but I’ve had none. That in itself is a small miracle.

I had a dream that I went for my scan last night – it was such a vivid dream. Three days and hopefully a heartbeat. Three days.

Not Without My Father

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I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book, by Andra Watkins, from the wonderful and inspiring Nancy at My Year of Sweat, so I was really excited to read it.

And it didn’t disappoint. Although at first (being brand new to Andra and the Natchez Trace) I was a little confused about this Meriwether Lewis character she kept talking about, and what his relationship to the Trace was, I soon found those thoughts pushed aside by the sheer enjoyment of accompanying her on her walk.

I loved the way she described moments between herself and her parents, the way she interacted with her father and the bright light she exposed her family relationships to. I shed a few tears over the whole beauty of family love because she so effectively illustrated that, as with all of us, families are imperfect, frustrating, irritating, incorrigible and can hurt us deeply, yet we still love them.

But for me, the most memorable part of the book, and what convinced me that Andra is not only a wonderful writer, but also an incredibly strong woman in her own right, was how she dealt with sudden diarrhoea and no toilet paper mid-walk. After an improvised clean-up, she writes:

“I quit! I quit! I quit!” Waves of pain shot through my legs as I ran down the grassy embankment, pounded my backpack on the pavement and screamed. I whipped out my mobile phone to summon my father, to tell him I wasn’t an adventurer, to come get me, to take me home, to embrace the failure I was. NO SERVICE taunted me from the upper-left corner of the screen.
“Dammit!” I slung my abused pack into tarmac a final time and sunk to my knees. “I can’t even succeed at failing.”

But she doesn’t quit. After ten minutes of total silence on the road, she gets up and carries on.

That was the moment I fell in love with Andra. Because, although I’ve never been in quite the same set of adverse circumstances, I know that feeling. That feeling of when everything is just too-bloody-much and you’ve had enough of it all.

It’s a wonderful account. If you get the chance to read her work, do. She’s honest, down-to-earth, and wonderfully human. In fact, just the kind of person you’d like to have with you if you were ever mad enough to walk 444 miles 😉

I Wasn’t Going To Do Pregnancy Updates, But

Well, I have no one else to talk to. Apart from DH of course.

We haven’t told a soul, and we aren’t planning on telling anyone for a long time (after the birth, we’ve half-joked). And although I’m doing a pretty decent job of keeping busy, I just wanted to write something down because it feels like this has gone on forever already.

So, things.

HCG

First of all, since they don’t do beta’s here in the UK, I’ve been conducting my own personal beta-testing with a pregnancy test each morning. Studies have shown that the single biggest predictor of a viable pregnancy in the early weeks is the doubling time of HCG.

So, I took a test every single morning to check whether or not they were visually getting darker. And each morning, they did. Each line was better than the last (I noticed early on in my last pregnancy that there was a two day period where the lines didn’t change much and it turned out to be anembryonic). Each time I compared the two tests, I felt such relief that it was  doing what it should have been doing. I stopped taking them after 12 days of tests because they weren’t changing any more – I think they had reached saturation point:

tests

I’ve also used the Clearblue digital tests that have a weeks indicator. You can see I got 1-2 weeks on the day of my 6th positive test, and 2-3 weeks on the day of my 9th positive test. Today, the day of my 14th positive test I got the wonderful 3+ weeks (they date from ovulation), so I am exactly on track for HCG levels:

test

I don’t know if I blogged about it, but on my last pregnancy, I didn’t get the 3+ indicator until a week later than I should have done, so my HCG levels were clearly rubbish right from the start.

So, HCG-wise, I’m happy.

Spotting

None so far. It’s still early – very early. I’m currently 5w2d. I have had spotting in all of my pregnancies before 7 weeks (even the healthy ones), so I’m tentatively waiting for it, but so far no signs at all.

Meds

I’m taking my progesterone twice a day, like a good girl and my BBT is running sky-high. I’m averaging a daily temp of 98.9, which is 0.3 higher than it was with my first son in the first trimester. The progesterone is clearly being absorbed – I’m just hoping it’s not going to cause any problems.

I’m taking prednisolone too, and for the first week on it I was okay, but for the last three days I’ve been having a nightmare controlling my blood sugar (it interferes with glucose processing). I am all over the place with hunger/the shakes. In fact, I called the clinic yesterday (which I never do) because I was feeling so awful after lunch (shaking, dizzy) and my heart was running at 93bmp (my usual heart rate is 50-55bpm). I am waiting for them to confirm if they want me to do a glucose test or not. They suggested eating a really solid meal and resting, which I’ve done, but I started shaking again this morning 90 minutes after breakfast (porridge and a banana), and it was so bad I struggled to fill out a form when I did preschool drop-off. I came home and tested my blood sugar, which was 5.6 (normal), but I felt dreadful, so I ate a portion of butternut squash risotto plus another banana and an apple. That helped a lot, but now I’ve basically had breakfast and lunch by 9:30am and I still feel a bit lightheaded.

I’ve also got a sore throat and a stuffy nose, courtesy of my oldest son, and I think where prednisolone suppresses your immune system (and pregnancy does too), you can be more sick than you realise because your body doesn’t react to the illness.

I can’t really tell if I’m hungry or ill or what, I just know that I don’t feel right at the moment. My gut feeling is that I’m just extremely bloody hungry, but I thought 5 weeks was a bit early to be suffering pregnancy-induced hunger.

When I think back to how I was with my first son though, I remember it being all-consuming. I ate and ate and ate for months on end (and put on 3 stone). So maybe it is. Maybe this is just what a healthy pregnancy feels like and I can’t remember because the last 7 attempts weren’t.

10,000 steps

I’ve walked at least 10,000 steps every, single day since the first faint line appeared on a test. I’ve read so much about blood flow to the uterus, and I know how important moving around is. It helps drainage, lymph, it delivers oxygen, promotes waste clearance, reduces inflammation and boosts mood. Walking is my talisman. I do it because I want to provide the right environment for this pregnancy and I know that by moving my body, gently, for extended periods every single day, I’m doing what I can to energise and oxygenate my body (and my baby – gosh, it feels crazy even writing that!) without wearing myself out.

Mentally

Emotionally/mentally, I’ve been doing pretty good. I haven’t had any premonitions of doom, I’ve been quite positive (in a cautious way), and aside from a couple of freak-out moments at about 4 weeks, I’ve kept myself busy and occupied with other things. I’m definitely erring more on the side of  assuming it’s all going to be okay, which is a nice place to be. What has really helped me this time though is a) being under the care of the clinic – they are literally at the end of the phone if I need them. How cool is that? and b) my personal HCG experiments have reassured me that for now, at least, everything is looking pretty good.

Other stuff

No other stuff to report at all. No bloating, no weight gain (I’ve been resisting eating stupid amounts, but given how shit that is making me feel I might just stop doing that and stuff my face like crazy. I am now eating a full meal every 2.5 hours  because I have the appetite of a gladiator), no cramps, no nausea, no nothing. It’s still too early.

If I really search for things, I’d say I’ve been a bit more tired in the evenings (but not loads), and I’ve had the odd day where things have felt a little heavy and tender in my uterus. But that’s it.

So there we go. Eight more days until the scan, at which point I’ll be 6w3d and hoping beyond all hope that there is a good heartbeat.

The Right Book At The Right Time

waw

I’ve just finished a book that has been sat on my bookshelf since June 2008 (I looked it up in my Amazon history, cool huh?).

It’s 160 pages long and it took me three days to read it, with copious amounts of highlighting. And it is such a brilliant book, I wanted to share some of it with you.

The title doesn’t really do it justice, but it’s called Women At Work, by Anne Dickson.

In a nutshell it’s a book about being more assertive in the workplace. But it is so much more than that. The advice in this book can apply to everyone you have to deal with – from family and friends, to neighbours and shop assistants. It’s a blueprint for dealing directly, openly and clearly with people and for always respecting your personal boundaries.

Reading this has cleared up such a lot of confusion for me. My mother, who was abused as a child, is a very timid, submissive person (which was her survival strategy). As a result, I grew up thinking you always had to be nice to others, never let anyone think you disagree with them and never do anything to hurt someone else’s feelings.

I’ve allowed people, on some occasions, to walk all over me. And more frequently I’ve ended up wound-up and upset by things people say and do. I thought maybe this was a problem with the people that I chose to spend my time with, but this book has allowed me to see that it’s primarily a problem with setting my own boundaries, retaining my own sense of personal power and taking myself seriously enough that other people will take me seriously too.

A revelation!

All those horrible comments that I should have challenged. All the times when people have been too busy, or too dismissive to talk through my concerns. All the times I’ve felt that people just didn’t understand me, when I was giving them NO clue at all as to what I wanted or expected from them.

All that time I’ve been allowing people to (unknowingly) chip away at my own sense of who I am and what is acceptable. By never challenging anything (or occasionally just having a tearful/angry meltdown), my sense of self, my sense of personal power has just diminished.

Here is a quote from the book:

Consistent failure to make requests, express feelings, say ‘No’, and set limits leaves our personal boundaries indistinct under a haze of confusion and resentment. We end up experiencing our boundaries only when other people clumsily, repetitively and habitually invade them.

Anne talks about how it is okay to be anxious, even at the very moment when you are trying to be clear about your preferences and feelings. She talks about starting difficult conversations from a position of what you want to achieve, not by worrying about what the other person is thinking or is in the middle of doing. She tells you to give yourself the importance you deserve.

So, after finishing this book, I looked Anne up online and she has a website! And one of her other books, which is also sitting on my bookshelf (as yet unread), has a 30th year anniversary edition: A Woman in Your Own Right. I can’t wait to read my copy of this.

I had a quick look through the reviews on Amazon for and I found this:

5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a must for you if you’re feeling overwhelmed about anything.

…I must have bought at least 20 copies since, but I’ve given them all away during my practice as a volunteer in miscarriage support. Grief and bereavement can cause serious breakdown in clear conversation. Everybody thinks they know what you are going through and how you should act, but they don’t as “they” are not you. Being able to tell your truth in a clear, consistent and honest way literally does save relationships at these overwhelming times and allows the right things to be said and understood and for grief to flow fluently.

The fact that a miscarriage support worker was recommending her book for the exact thing that I have been struggling with over the last few years was amazing.

It was like a message from the universe :-).

The point of this post was going to be that you should read your books, not let them gather dust on the shelf.

But actually, I think this was the exact right time for me to take it off the shelf and give it my undivided attention.

So I only have one other thing to say: read this book if you are a woman of any age. I wish someone had handed me a copy when I turned 16.

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