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.