*Fair warning – this is a pretty serious post. I will post a happy entry about the 3rd trimester soon. But I think it’s important to acknowledge these feelings, too.*
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve been lucky to have a straightforward pregnancy. Physically, after the first trimester, I haven’t had real issues – no pelvic girdle pain or feelings of imbalance or even heartburn. Now, in the last trimester, some of those complaints are coming back – I can’t sleep, I’m a bit nauseous most days again, I’m getting lightheaded, my lower back is achy, and my hips ache when I’ve been for long walks.
And yet I still found myself in hospital on Tuesday, getting a scan (as I understand it, normally you don’t get a scan after 20 weeks in the UK unless there’s something to be concerned about). Everything’s absolutely fine – the baby & I are both healthy and well. We were there because apparently also standard to get a scan when your baby has been monitored for reduced fetal movement twice.
There it is: I am one of those paranoid pregnant women. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, for the past couple of months I have been absolutely terrified that when it’s all over, I will not end up taking a baby home with me. It’s particularly strange to feel like this when I’ve had so many people tell me I seem really calm about the pregnancy. And I guess I am in a lot of ways, but there are a couple of key reasons for this. One is that I feel very fatalistic about it; what will be will be, and there’s little I can do to change it. The other is that when I’m nervous, I’m really aware of how I come across to others, and work hard to seem level-headed. The truth is that I won’t allow myself to get excited. At this point, I am starting to get excited – I can’t wait to meet our little one! But every time I start to feel really excited, I make myself take a step back and remind myself that there are no guarantees. I wonder if this is normal, or if I am slightly defective. I guess it’s hard to be optimistic when you’ve already had a miscarriage. The truth is that we were so excited about that first pregnancy; we’d wanted it for some time and it was like a little marvel just for us. Having that taken away was a shock, and while I know that from a physical perspective it could’ve been much worse, we were so heavily emotionally invested, even at 8-10 weeks (contrary to what you hear, miscarriage isn’t necessarily something that happens all at once) it was devastating. So how will we cope if something happens now, at 36+ weeks? I can’t bear to think about it, yet it seems I can think about little else these days. This may be part of the reason I’m struggling to actually slow down despite being on maternity leave; I do want to relax, but being active keeps me distracted. And it is harder and harder not to think about the miscarriage; I can’t help thinking about the fact that I should have been experiencing this trimester all the way back in February, and feeling sad about the fact that it feels like my opportunity to be excited has been stolen.
Anyway, all this means that I pay a lot of attention to the baby’s movements. Feeling it move is one of my favorite things about being pregnant. It’s even weirder when you can suddenly see the bump move, but I think it’s so cool! Unfortunately, my anterior placenta means that the movements are often muffled. Plus, I think our baby is just quiet in general. And this feeds the paranoia! It’s so hard to know whether the movements are actually reduced or it’s just behind my placenta, or whether it’s just napping more than usual. But twice I have been concerned enough to call the hospital. I am so grateful for the care the NHS have provided – not once have the midwives or doctors made me feel silly or paranoid. They’ve all been brilliant and assured me that I’ve done the right thing to call/come in. I couldn’t be more grateful for this, as it has been so reassuring & made me feel a lot less neurotic.
And if you are also pregnant, I would also encourage you to do the same – the midwives really do mean it when they say they want to see you if you are worried. Stillbirth isn’t hugely common & isn’t likely to happen to me, but it’s also not that unusual; in 2015, 1 in 227 births was a stillbirth, or around 9 per day. This means that most people won’t be affected, but if you are, obviously it would be hugely devastating. It is so, so much better to be cautious and use the healthcare that is available to you. This is not to make you as paranoid as me, but I think it is important to be aware of this. I don’t think I’ve had any conversations about this with pregnant friends and it has made me feel a little lonely, to be honest.
To get support around stillbirth or neonatal loss, do contact the charity SANDS. Tommy’s is another great organisation that funds research into baby loss. And more information on baby movement is available from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.