Fear and worrying in the last trimester

*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.*

P1090733I 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.

 

 

Thoughts as I start the 3rd trimester

P1090540First, how has this happened?! It seems impossible that I’m 6 months pregnant and only 3 months away from meeting our little one, who has felt a little abstract up until now, if I’m honest. It’s particularly weird because I don’t feel very different yet. It’s a strange thing to say when at least once a day someone comments on how big I am, and when I look in the mirror and can clearly see my bump and how very different I look. But it still doesn’t feel that heavy; I’ve been very fortunate and not yet had swelling, back pain, or any of the more serious pregnancy complaints. I have been tired and gassy (yup, I know you’re glad I shared that) and that’s about it. I haven’t been able to forget I’m pregnant for months, but it certainly hasn’t felt like it’s played a big part in my daily routines.

But as the 3rd trimester begins, I am starting to worry about when this will change. One of the things that has changed already is allotmenting – I’m not really comfortable digging anymore. What will go next? I’m still cycling. My original plan was to stop at 28 weeks (if I could make it that far), but now that I’m there I still feel well & balanced, and really don’t want to stop. I’m losing enough sleep as it is and am not keen on the thought of getting up an hour earlier to walk or take the bus to the train station. I am finding it interesting to observe people’s reactions to my cycling, though. It seems to evoke strong feelings, with people either looking absolutely horrified or pleased. Generally it leans toward the former, but I was really glad to hear my midwife say that she thought it was brilliant I was still riding my bike. Recently I’ve been reminding myself that it’s perfectly normal in a lot of countries, too.

Other random thoughts:

  • I am loving my body during pregnancy. Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed (in a good way) by how perfectly round my belly seems to me; surely that can’t be normal?! It’s like someone’s strapped an adorable bowling ball to my belly. My belly button is looking super weird/disturbing, but what the heck, something was bound to stretch! I am, however, still learning to cope with other people’s comments. My confidence lasts right up until someone tells me I’m huge or big for how far along I am. I generally try to brush it off when they’re there, and have even replied to say, hey, there’s a whole second human in there, but the truth is I am finding it a little hard. I spend days, sometimes up to a week, obsessing about it afterwards. Instead I’m trying to cling to one particularly wonderful person’s comment one day that I looked like a 15th century Italian madonna, minus the pancake hat. I’ll take it!
  • I am not loving the fact that I can’t sleep. This is partly due to physical discomfort, but also partly just overthinking right before I go to bed.
  • The conversations about names are still fun, but I really hope we can make a final shortlist soon!
  • Antenatal classes are next month, and I am feeling pretty apprehensive about them. I did want to do them, because I’ve not really started to think about birth or parenting in detail yet, and I think they will help us prepare for that. While the pregnancy is definitely starting to feel real, and we have now started to buy/be given baby things (the only thing left on our list of essentials is a stroller), I do think the classes will make it real in a totally different way. Mainly this is because so far the pregnancy has been something between me & R; I haven’t thought about other people’s expectations or experiences that much. I’ve deliberately not even read any books, though I’ve been tempted. I just know how natural it is for me to compare myself to others, and I am really worried that the classes will magnify this and that I will now start to second-guess myself about everything.
  • Why is it that I like the expensive strollers best? I am not willing to spend that much money on a stroller! Or am I? Gah. Ideas for Stokke knock-offs gratefully received.
  • I am starting to look forward to my maternity leave, which starts in just under 2 months. Eek! I’m planning to do some nice things for myself if I can; perhaps a day craft workshop or something.
  • It’s hilarious how many people have told me in the past couple of weeks that I seem very laid back and calm. I really don’t feel calm at all; I am just taking the route of not thinking about problems until they’re staring me in the face. Most of the time this seems like a good strategy, though, and I think overall I have been quite relaxed during the second trimester which I’m very pleased about. I was so stressed until a couple of weeks after the anomaly scan in week 20, so it has been really refreshing. I think the truth is that I feel a little fatalistic about all of it. Having lost one pregnancy before, I guess I am aware of just how little control I have over the pregnancy, and am reacting by pretending it’s not happening rather than worrying about things that I can’t control. This feels like a good enough coping mechanism for me, though I admit I do get jealous of women who are getting excited so much earlier than I did (there are a lot of other pregnancies at my workplace at the moment).
  • I still can’t really comprehend how much my life will change after the baby arrives.

Pregnancy FAQs

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Eating cake & ice cream in Vienna at 25 weeks.

I’ve not written too much about the pregnancy yet, and if I’m honest I’m not sure how much I will write. There’s so much already on the internet about pregnancy that I think I may just be boring people, plus as I’m keeping a private pregnancy journal I guess I have less of an urge to write about it here.

That said, it’s definitely not off-limits & there are a few things I’m sure you’ll be wondering about, and that I’m very happy to share. I really liked Sarah’s FAQs format, so I’ve shamelessly stolen tweaked it for my own purposes. Settle in for a long read, sorry! 🙂 Just for perspective, as I write this I’m just about to start my 26th week (so roughly 5 1/2 months in).

Do you know/are you going to find out what you’re having?

Nope. Part of me wanted to know, but R didn’t. Had I known, I wouldn’t have wanted to tell other people, though, and I am not convinced I could have kept it secret, so ultimately I agreed with him! R is convinced it’s a boy, because during the 12-week scan the sonographer once said “he” instead of “it” or “the baby”. I, on the other hand, genuinely have no inkling.

How are you feeling?

Pretty well now. The first trimester was not fun, but more on that below. I have had lots of people tell me I look well, am blooming, etc, recently. This may or may not be true, but is lovely nonetheless. The past week or so, I have felt a bit more tired again – the tiredness had mostly passed at 14 weeks or so, so it’s annoying that it’s back. My main symptom, though, is needing to go to the loo. Like, all the time. It’s terribly irritating. Overall, though, I do feel genuinely well. I’m still able to ride my bike, which I think is helping & which I’m really grateful for. My aim is to be able to carry on for another couple of weeks, up to 28 weeks. But I am paying close attention to my body and definitely won’t push myself if it starts to get uncomfortable or I feel wobbly.

Have you had any weird food cravings/aversions?

Hm. It’s hard to say. I mean, when does it become a craving? I quite fancied melon early on, and other cold foods (and I’ve eaten a ton of ice cream), but it is summer. The one thing that I think qualifies as a craving is Nutty Bars, so if you’re reading this in America, please consider this a plea, as you genuinely can’t get these here, even online! Nutty Bars are chocolate-coated wafers with layers of peanut butter. They’re terrible for you, but I have been thinking about them for ages & would pay quite a lot for them, hence why I think they qualify now.

Aversions have been really pronounced, though. During the first few months, I basically didn’t want to eat anything as I was quite nauseous, though fortunately not to the point of being sick. I’d cook dinner and then I couldn’t eat it. I did manage to eat a bit, but only about half of what I can normally eat. My appetite came back at around 14 weeks. I still can’t stand the thought of spinach, mushrooms (which I normally love), or eggs, though. Eggs are the worst, but to be fair I’ve not been able to eat poached eggs since the miscarriage; it’s just that now I don’t want them in any form!

There’s definitely just one in there, isn’t there?

Ha, aren’t you clever. I hate it when people ask this. Yes, there’s definitely just one, and I am definitely not big enough yet to merit asking this.

Can you feel it move yet?

No, I don’t think so. Most people will have felt it by now, and in the past couple of weeks there have been a couple of moments that might have been the baby, but I’m not sure. I have an anterior placenta, so any movement I do feel will be muffled, and is often later as well. Occasionally I’ve felt something like what you feel on a roller coaster or going quickly down a hill, when your stomach pitches around. There have also been a couple of things that feel like a strong pulse or throb; that could be the baby, but again I’m not really sure.

What sort of birth are you planning to have?

Oh, man, I’m not ready to start thinking about that. Hopefully one with as little pain as possible, I guess? I’m a hippie in a lot of ways, but my approach to health/medicine is pretty modern. Drugs all the way, if I decide I want them, as long as there is no harm to the baby! We’re signed up for antenatal classes in September, so I’m sure I’ll think about it after that. Ultimately, I guess for me the birth is such a small part of having a child that it’s not that important to me how it happens.

How are the cats taking the news?

I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet. 🙂 Pippa’s mostly annoyed that she can’t sit on my stomach/chest anymore. She occasionally lies on my hips when I’m on my side, but clearly finds it uncomfortable.

And R?

He’s very excited. We’re currently having endless conversations about names, and making lists of things we need/want.

Can you talk about anything else right now?

Yes, happily! To be honest, I’ve not really been that interested in thinking or talking about the pregnancy. For the first trimester, it was because I was so scared of having another miscarriage. Work has been incredibly busy since then, so I suppose I didn’t have much time to think about it. Oh, and I started driving lessons in June. Things have now calmed down, and I expect the pregnancy/baby will now start to take up more time. Up to now, I’ve been spending lots of time thinking about work, the allotment, the house, what I’m reading, etc, etc. I talk about the pregnancy when other people bring it up, but haven’t raised it myself, apart from with a few people.

What are you making for the baby?

I’ve no grand plans, I’m afraid. I’ve mentioned the baby blanket previously, and I’d like to make a mobile and decorate some onesies. R’s mum has already knitted us 3 cardigans and 2 blankets. My mom also knits, as do a lot of our friends, so I’m going to scale back on what I’d normally do. I’m also trying to think of tactful ways to tell people we don’t want any more blankets – we’re already up to 4! Any tips gratefully received.

Some more thoughts about this pregnancy:

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In Cornwall at 22 weeks. Can’t believe how much my bump has grown in a month!
  • I am relieved to say that my mental health has been well throughout the pregnancy. I know both my mom & sister really enjoyed being pregnant, but I was still nervous. So far, I have had a few crying spells – I’m indecisive at the best of times, but I genuinely can’t cope with them now. This is pretty mild, though; there have been no suicidal thoughts or anything serious.
  • I’m surprised at my lack of interest in baby things so far. Is this normal? Is it because of the miscarriage? I don’t feel any inclination to go to baby sections or look at tiny cute things. Perhaps I am just not ready to accept the reality of becoming a parent yet, in spite of wanting it for some time. We have bought a few picture books, and when we were in Stratford we bought a bib with a Shakespeare quote about puking on it (How could I resist that?!), but that’s been it so far. Every time we visit R’s parents they give us something & I feel instantly overwhelmed. And then I feel guilty, because I should be grateful, right?
  • You may have noticed there are pictures of me in this post! As a rule, I really hate pictures of myself. I know, I’m terrible. Anyway, I have made an effort to make sure we do have pictures of me while pregnant. I do think it’s one time of my life that I’d regret not having photos, though I haven’t done weekly photos as that’s a bit much for me.

Pregnancy after miscarriage: how I got through the first trimester

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For me, one of the most upsetting things during/after the miscarriage was people telling me I would probably have another chance to have a baby; I was young, blah, blah, blah. I just didn’t want to hear it. The truth is that there was no way to know whether I could get pregnant again, or whether I could cope with the stress of being pregnant after a miscarriage. I just found it such an insensitive thing to say, even if people did have the best of intentions. And now that I am pregnant? While I am really happy to have another chance to have a child, I will say that the first trimester was absolutely awful. I don’t mean physically, though I may mention that in another post. I mean I basically spent the first few months trying really hard to forget I was pregnant. Last time I rushed out & bought a journal and started thinking about baby names and looking at cute baby things, but I just couldn’t do that again. I made my midwife appointments, etc, but only as a matter of rote, like things you do for a job that you don’t really want. I obligingly took my prenatal vitamins; I stopped eating salami (sob!); I stopped drinking completely, rather than having the occasional G&T. I also obsessively looked at toilet paper every time I went to the bathroom, convinced there was going to be blood on it.

And then, quite early on, at 5ish weeks, there was. And there is no terror like it. We had to wait a week for a scan, because nothing’s really visible that early on. There it was, a tiny little heart beating, floating away in the womb. It should have made me feel better, right? But it didn’t. There was about an hour of relief, then 6 weeks of conviction that it had stopped, and that I would find out at the 12 week scan that I’d had a missed miscarriage. Fortunately that didn’t happen, but honestly, those 6 weeks were absolute hell. I think I cried every day.

So how did I cope in the end? There were a few practical things that helped me. I can’t promise they’ll help you if you end up in the same position, but I thought I would share just in case.

  • Scheduling in treats for myself

For whatever reason, this timeframe ended up coinciding with lots of annual leave. This could really have gone either way, but not thinking about work actually helped in the end. I did make sure no days off were completely empty, though. I tried to go out for lunch, or go for a nice trip somewhere, or go to a gig, etc. I also tried to do a bit of gardening, but as I was at the allotment the day the miscarriage started, that didn’t work out so well. Visiting gardens was good, though.

  • Reading peer-reviewed articles about ultrasounds & miscarriage

What can I say? I like to be informed. Reading Internet forums was awfully anxiety-inducing, but for some reason reading about miscarriage in a factual way was actually calming for me. I think this is very much to do with how I was brought up, and I am aware that this is probably not the case for everyone! Because I work in a hospital library and in an academic library, I was lucky to be able to access this kind of information pretty easily, but I think most public libraries will have at least a couple of textbooks available. Abstracts for journal articles are often available from PubMed, even if the full text isn’t, and there is also the database Free Medical Journals.

  • Joining the Miscarriage Association forum

Having said how anxious Internet forums make me, I would like to point out the exception to the rule. The Miscarriage Association hosts private, moderated forums. We had decided not to share the news about the pregnancy, and I joined this forum in the interest of my mental health. I really needed to share my feelings somewhere, and this forum felt like a safe space. Everyone was very sensitive (perhaps not surprising, given we’d all experienced miscarriage). If you’re considering joining, I would recommend it. You don’t have to share if you don’t want to, but personally, I found even reading other people’s posts made me feel less lonely (which, aside from anxiety, is what I felt the most during the first trimester).

  • Talking to family (and one or two friends)

Eventually, I did tell my mom, sister, and a couple of close friends about the pregnancy as the 12 week scan approached. Telling others and having a chance to talk about what I was feeling definitely helped. I couldn’t bring myself to be excited about the pregnancy, but letting other people be excited for me was definitely a good thing.

  • Setting boundaries – making it clear to others when I didn’t want to talk about it

This was really important, too, both in regard to R and the people I chose to tell early. Because while talking can help sometimes, it can also go too far sometimes. There were a lot of times I really didn’t want to think about it, let alone talk about it. Making sure people understood that was crucial. Everyone was really good about this, and let me bring up the pregnancy rather than asking me about it directly, and I think that’s because I made it fairly clear that’s how I wanted it to be.

  • Telling the midwife about my concerns

I have a lovely midwife, and it was great to know that she was there to support me as and when I needed it. She gave me some practical ideas for local support, too. In the end, I didn’t follow up on that advice, but it was important to know the options, especially with all my family being so far away.