New Year. It is a time to reflect on the old and set intentions for the new. No doubt many of your are making lists of goals, challenges, or resolutions for yourself. But I have just one challenge for 2020: surviving my first year of motherhood.
In 2019, I started the New Year making some promises too myself. Some I kept – some I didn’t. I’m fine with that, life often gets in the way of all good intentions. And sometimes, that’s for the best.
For those who read my blog regularly (thank you, I love you), you will already know that the middle of 2019 saw a huge surprise. I fell pregnant. Completely unexpectedly. I wrote about the panic and anxiety surrounding that and received the most phenomenal support from you all. Again – thank you, I love you.
I’m now 33 weeks pregnant and the bump is actually starting to show! Those who follow me on Twitter and Instagram will have seen snippets of my journey through pregnancy but I’ve yet to share a full update on this little old blog.
Reflections: The Second and Third Trimester
It is safe to say that the second trimester has felt like the longest period of my life. They’ve felt like an endless parade of anxiety, hospital visits, anti-sickness meds, laxatives, Gaviscon (or so much Gaviscon) and tears.
There are things that people don’t talk about during pregnancy. Or at least, not that I’ve ever heard before. I mean, sure, everyone talks about feeling more emotional and their odd cravings. But does anyone talk about the constipation? I went five weeks without going to the toilet. Five weeks. It took three different types of laxatives, two hours spent crying on the toilet, and a very sore, bleeding orifice to get that moving again. I’ve been taking laxatives ever since.
And burbing. Burbing all the time. I even think about food and I burb. This quickly progressed to heart burn. Which in turn progressed to acid reflux and vomiting – because I didn’t have enough of that with hyperemesis. I do feel that Gaviscon need to become my official sponsors … I already tweet daily about how much I love the stuff.
And did you know that hair growth can increase during pregnancy? Hello hairy belly. I kid you not, my swollen bump is covered in fine, white, soft, fluffy hair. I’m lucky that I can still bend enough to shave my legs (many can’t – although I often can’t be bothered). My pubic hair, however. Well, I had to stop purging that seven weeks ago. The midwife doesn’t advise waxing/shaving for six weeks before a c-section because it can increase the risk of infection. There was talk that this could take place over the festive period dependant on my health/the baby’s growth so I stopped shaving just in case. It’s okay though – I’ve rather fallen in love with my full 70s bush. It is just so fluffy and soft. I might even keep it.
Being irrational …
About everything! This might just be me. I have deep seated trauma from a previous failed pregnancy. It meant that every scan (of which I have them every four weeks) resulted in panic attacks. A close relative asked for a copy of the scan picture and I had a full breakdown – I became a crying, hyperventilating mess in the hospital waiting room. They were given the image. But they had to promise not to show anyone else and to destroy it if things went wrong. This may be expected for someone dealing with PTSD. The tantrums I threw over small things, however, those can’t be explained.
Of course, things weren’t helped by every hospital appointment throwing up a new potential complication. An AWOL tube from a previous surgery found fused to my bladder wall. A slightly too small baby. Hyperemesis persisting past twenty weeks and only slightly easing. Regular black outs leading to neurology appointments, investigations into blood clots on my brains and eye tests for raised inter cranial pressure.
And then, just as I started to feel better about the scans (I actually enjoyed the one I had on Christmas Eve), another complication arose. A suspected blood clot on my lungs meant choosing between a scan that increased my chance of getting breast cancer by 12% or that my unborn baby would develop a childhood cancer by 0.001%. Statistically, the lesser risk is to the baby. The doctors told me this. My husband told me this. My rational brain told me this. I chose the risk to myself. That is not a rational decision.
Thankfully, there is no blood clot. My lungs and kidneys are simply strangled by the ever-growing baby. The doctors described the baby as a parasite again and my body is just a host that they can’t really help any more. Monitoring and repeat tests after birth to check for lasting damage is all they can do.
Intentions: Post-Partum/The Fourth Trimester
During my first antenatal class, I was asked “what’s the best thing about being pregnant?” I couldn’t answer. But I can now. I even have multiple answers.
Decorating a nursery has given me so much pleasure and joy. Sure, we may be in a rented house, but that hasn’t stopped me from creating the kind of nursery I want for my future child. I’ve picked out furniture and watched my husband build it. I’ve bombarded my mother with art work I like and she’s taken the hint and drawn the most beautiful safari themed artwork.
I’ve purchased a hot air ballon mobile to hang above the crib. I need to sew it myself. I realised I don’t really know how to sew so the kit remains unopened three months down the line. Perhaps my new years resolution should be to sew the thing before the baby comes.
The nursery is by no means complete, but the baby won’t live in there until it’s six months old anyway. And I hope to be in our own home by then.
Buying baby clothes. I’ve even found baby clothes terribly cute. I’m not sure if it’s hormones or genuine excitement at having my own baby. Ebay and Facebook marketplace are my saviours when it comes to creating a full baby wardrobe. I became a little obsessed with bidding for the cutest of snowsuits and have ended up with five – it is probably overkill but do you know how cute snowsuits are?
Okay, confession – the little foxy one is actually new from John Lewis.
Choosing baby names. We have no idea what gender our child is going to be. It doesn’t really matter. I wanted to avoid the stereotypes of baby blue for a boy and sickly pink for a girl. As you can see, our nursery is mostly lemon/grey and the clothes are gender neutral.
With this in mind, we’ve picked two names for each sex. All are Celtic/Gaelic names and shrouded in mythology and meaning. It was sitting down with my husband and choosing these that really made me feel pregnant. Away from the anxiety of hospital visits, we were able to actually imagine having a child together and talk about the life we can give that child.
Imagining a life with a child
And that is the best bit of being pregnant. Imagining life going forward. Filled with illustrated children’s books, play mobile castles, pet rabbits and forest school. I’ve got a sling so that I can carry the baby on my adventures over Dartmoor – camera in hand and Archie for company. I’m signed up for baby swim lessons from six weeks old (it’s not just an excuse for me to get into the pool). And I have a plastic-free toy wish list as long as the eye can see.
Of course, that is all very idealised but what is looking forward to the future if not an excuse for optimism? I’m sure the reality may be very different but a girl can dream, right? And boy will I strive to make the dream come true.
But realistically, all I ask for in 2020, my only intention, is to survive motherhood. And give this little parasite the very best start to life that it is possible for me to give.