Twelve to sixteen weeks pregnant: finding the way with words again

I haven’t written since before Christmas. There has been a lot to write about but I’ve been stuck for words. So, to kick off this blog, I need to rewind to five days before Christmas.

Our 12-week appointment

On 20th December, we had our 12-week appointment at St Thomas’s Hospital. We arrived in the hospital concourse with a sack of nervous excitement. As is our ritual, we put coins into the lucky Tim Hunkin machine in the hospital corridor (I’ll tell you more about Tim Hunkin’s marvellous machines another time) and then we took the lift to the eighth floor for our date with providence.

Inside the antenatal department, we took our ticket for blood queue. The first part of our appointment was the blood test for our combined screening for chromosonal disorders: Down’s, Edwards and Patau Syndrome. When the nurse called us, I felt a whoosh of nerves. I took my seat, rolled up my sleeve, then came the sharp scratch. As the syringe drew my blood, I thought how strange that there are answers in that tube, clues to the health of our child. From reading the information leaflets, I knew Down’s Syndrome is not usually life-threatening like Edwards and Patau Syndrome. There’s very little chance of survival with the latter two conditions. Dad 100 and I had talked about this test before our appointment. Of course, we both hoped for a healthy baby, but we knew we could not terminate this pregnancy if our results came back high risk. What really clinched it for me was watching a documentary called “A World Without Down’s Syndrome?” the week before our appointment. The programme was presented by the actress Sally Phillips, whose son Olly has Down’s Syndrome. She said instead of tragedy, she has experienced joy and laughter raising her son. I am so grateful I watched it because it removed so much fear for me.

After our blood test, we had to wait for our scan. I had a big drink of water – since going through IVF, I get very confused when I’m supposed to drink water and when I’m not! When we were called, I felt a skip in my stomach. I was so excited to see our baby again. Jose the sonographer asked me to lie down. He squeezed gel on my stomach. As soon as the probe touched the gel, our baby filled the plasma screen on the wall, floating around like a sleepy space cadet. Soon, there were wiggles of little arms and legs. While we gazed in delight, Jose continued with his measurements. He checked the fluid at the back of our baby’s neck (nuchal translucency) and the nasal bone, which are part of the assessment for Down’s Syndrome. Next, Jose gave us a tour around our baby’s body – spine, abdomen, stomach, bladder, kidneys, even a remarkable glimpse of the butterfly-shaped brain.
‘Excellent,’ Jose said.
I could have pressed pause on life right there.

12-week-scan-pic

After the scan, I had to see a doctor about a problematic wound I’ve had, ever since the surgery to remove my pregnancy and fallopian tube last summer. The wound has opened and closed many times, though thankfully it’s small. Dad 100 has been telling me to get it checked out with the GP but I always feel like I’m pestering her, so I didn’t go. As I was examined by a heavily pregnant doctor, Dad 100 waited for the results of our chromosonal tests. I really wanted to get back to him, to receive the news together, but the doctor was keen to swab the wound. She said they would test for infection and let me know the results.

When I came out of the consulting room, Dad 100 was sitting opposite the door. He was clutching a piece of paper. I sat down with him under the fluorescent lights – we were the last two patients in the empty department – and he showed me these numbers.

Background risk:       1:112              1:271              1:852
Adjusted risk:            1:2248           1:5426           1:17040

He pointed at three graphs on the paper and soon confirmed the fantastic news. The numbers relate to the average (background) risk for Down’s, Edwards and Patau Syndrome and the adjusted risk based on our combined blood test and scan results. Essentially, this means low risk for all three disorders – the best Christmas present we’ve ever received.

Writer’s block

I think all this good news is why I haven’t been able to write. That may seem odd but after years of hope and expectations, without such good results, each positive experience we have now takes time to sink in. The further we go on with this pregnancy, the longer it takes to settle. Initially, it’s incredulity – is this really happening to us? Then there are waves of gratitude for each milestone reached. There’s also the sense of the stakes getting higher, the further we go on. Staying focused on the moment really helps to quell any fears of loss that come up.

My blog has helped me through many tough times in the past. By writing and sharing a blog post, it has always helped me to move on from difficulties I’ve had. I suppose after the wonderful experience at 12 weeks, I didn’t really want the story to move on. It was a very safe place to be.

I’m also aware of what many people reading this may be going through in their lives. Multiple IVF cycles, pregnancy loss, the draining effects of trying to conceive for months and years on end. I know from personal experience how difficult those times can be. Of course, I am hugely grateful for this pregnancy, after years of wishing for a baby, but I also want to be mindful of people who are struggling. Saying this, I do know that in hard times, I have drawn hope and strength from other people’s breakthroughs. I have been able to celebrate other people’s success, whilst having no certainty of my own. I wish that anyone who is in pain right now finds support and comfort, is relieved of their distress.

Celebrating 40

From week 13 to week 16 of pregnancy, it’s been all quiet on the baby front. I’ve had hardly any symptoms. My energy levels have been good. We celebrated Christmas, New Year and last week my 40th birthday. All my life, I’ve loved getting older because of the increase in happiness I feel – until the struggles to conceive took hold. In my late 30s, there were one too many graphs in IVF clinics. “Just look at the DECLINE in your fertility!” they bellowed, charting the drop in IVF success rates after 35. I know doctors don’t get out of bed without evidence, but there were times when we were researching clinics after our first failed IVF cycle that I could have done without the graph of doom. That said, I do think education in school is important. I had very little idea of the facts of female fertility before going through IVF.

Anyway, I had a joyful birthday lunch with family and Dad 100 treated me to a surprise day out – and what’s brilliant is my love of getting older has been restored.

Kick me, baby!

mum100-ivf-pregnancy-blog-12-week-scan-waiting-for-kicks-squareThe night before my birthday, I was certain I felt flutters inside. They were more definite sensations than anything I’ve felt before. Could they be the first detectable kicks? It’s more noticeable when I lie down. A little bulge appears, low down in the centre or on the right hand side. It’s lovely to feel that because I don’t have an obvious bump. I put my hand on the little bulge and breathe deeply. Occasionally, it feels like a little bubble pops in my stomach or there’s a tap on a tiny tambourine. Of course, it could just be wind! I can’t wait for the first convincing boot in the belly, which could be any time from now up until 25 weeks.

Today we have a 17-week check up at the hospital with the lead consultant. I’m feeling relaxed. Miraculously, after six months of problems, my ectopic surgery wound has finally healed by itself. No antibiotics required 🙂 . I am very grateful for each little miracle and I’m beginning to trust that our good fortune will last.

Nine to eleven weeks pregnant: a little box of hope

We all need some belief at Christmas. So here’s a little box of hope for all of us.

mum100-ivf-infertility-blog-a-little-box-of-hope-at-xmasThis year, I’ve witnessed many friends online and in life, bravely walking down Infertility Road. Unique to each of us, this is the most daunting road I’ve ever travelled. There is no guarantee of arrival at a delightful destination. There is no map to tell me the length of the journey. I’ve been lost at times. With help, I’ve found my way again. On Infertility Road, there are no warnings of the pitfalls ahead. There are no signs, promising refreshment around the next bend. There is encouragement, however. People wave and cheer, women and men who have travelled this road before, who have earned their spot in a shady deckchair beside Infertility Road. They’re the ones sipping pink lemonade or ice cold beer. They cannot tell anyone where their road will lead, but those cheerful soul sisters and brothers make this journey possible.

This Christmas, I have four wishes for all of us:

  • I wish that we all have people to talk to who listen and understand
  • I wish we all have enough hope to reach the next rest stop along the way
  • I wish that when each of us most needs it, a hand will reach out for ours, pull us in the right direction
  • I wish we all know we can ask for help – sometimes the people who seem the happiest, the most resilient, they are the ones who can be most in need of support.

We all have our part to play in this community. To cheer on, to comfort, to care for each other – and to allow people to do the same for us.

Week 9 to 11 of pregnancy – grateful and dare I say it, relaxed!

As 2016 comes to an end, I am very grateful to be pregnant. The small scare we had at 8 to 9 weeks’ pregnant turned out to be nothing. We were checked out at the Early Pregnancy Unit at St Thomas’s Hospital. We had various tests and an ultrasound scan, which revealed our mini-being with a clear beating heart, measuring 25.6mm (crown to rump) at 9 weeks 2 days. The scan pic looked not unlike a baby duck 🙂

chill-mum

I have relaxed since our trip to hospital. The experience proved again that the equations I do in my head about pregnancy symptoms and what they mean are often wrong. This is the furthest I have ever been in pregnancy, so how would I really know if a symptom is a good sign or a bad sign or nothing to do with the pregnancy at all? Some anxiety is understandable after a previous loss but trying to know everything, at all times, creates more anxiety than it solves.

I have also been very grateful for distractions in December. Some new work has landed in my lap – ideal timing to get a lovely project land before Christmas. Thank you to the Gods of Fortune for the helping hand. I have been Christmas shopping for my nieces and nephew. An old school friend makes handmade clothes at Huxter. You get to choose the main fabric. I love her bold and bright patterns. Here’s the outfit I bought for my two year old niece.

huxter-kids-clothing

My seven year old niece has decided she wants to be the next Stella McCartney, so I’ve bought her a dressmaker’s dummy to go with the sewing machine from my brother. She’ll be taking the fashion world by storm in 2017. My nephew has some Hamley’s Magic Pens, which I’m tempted to use myself for cartoons. We still need to get him one more gift – so if you have any inspired ideas for five year old boys, please let me know.

12 week pregnancy scan

It’s obvious to say, but all I want for Christmas is a healthy baby in July 2017. We have our 12-week scan on Tuesday 20th December. It feels a huge milestone to reach. All of our baby’s critical development is complete. My app tells me our baby is now the size of a clementine, which feels so promising. We will have screening tests for Down’s, Patau and Edwards Syndrome tomorrow. We get initial results on the day. I feel calm and clear-headed about this. I just can’t wait to see our baby again, waving and kicking on the screen.

So Christmas week, here we come

There will be panto at the Hackney Empire, last minute shopping and a Christmas roast on Friday. We’re whizzing up north on Christmas Eve to see Dad 100’s Mum. Good company, loads of food and snoozing in front of TV specials.

I’m wishing all you lovely people a happy Christmas.