Twenty-one to twenty-nine weeks pregnant: we have some catching up to do

We-have-some-catching-up-to-do-hello-Mum100I speak to my friend Sabbir every week. He’s a skilled listener and he always offers me such peaceful suggestions. I’ve been telling Sabbir that I haven’t written a blog since February and I miss the connection that writing brings with my community online. Mostly I’ve avoided blogging, but when I have sat down to write, I haven’t known where to start. Besides, there always seemed to be something else to do first – keep on top of client work, make chicken soup, watch Masterchef, sleep! We’re house hunting as well, so there is a lot on, but I knew something was up when I wanted to clean more than I wanted to write a blog.

Over the last two months, I have been recording thoughts in my notebook. I have captured moments in the second trimester of this pregnancy. Sabbir said to let go of all pressure I was putting on myself to write a blog – just to focus completely on appreciating the present moment, allowing the flow of creativity to come naturally. And guess what? As soon as I did that, I felt inspired to write this blog!

As my baby grows, as the kicks get stronger and the bump gets bigger, as more people comment on my pregnancy, I realise more profoundly the magnitude of this precious gift. By keeping quiet, I’ve been attempting not to jinx my luck. Totally irrational, I know, but I still cannot quite believe we are here: our rainbow baby is coming and I do really want to share the experience with you.

One other thing: it’s time to come out! Since I started this blog, I have enjoyed the feeling of safety that the Mum100 pseudonym has given me. Being Mum100 has allowed me to share things that I couldn’t have shared openly as myself. I feel ready to introduce myself now, however. The time feels absolutely right.

So hello, I am Charlotte. This picture is from our holiday to Seville in March, when I was 23 weeks pregnant.

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My partner is also happy for me to share his first name in my blogs. He is called Phil. We’re both waving hello and sending our love to you 🙂

Here are some snippets from my notebook I want to share with you.

Wednesday 8th March: 23 weeks 4 days

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As night drops, there is abundant space. In Plaza de Espana, lanterns spill their white and orange and blue dots on the crescent of water in front of the grand building. At sunset, we rowed our boat along this water. Joy soaked into every cell. This is the freedom I always experience on holiday. I am completely present and I can feel in technicolour.

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It’s dark now. Bats swirl in navy sky. I follow the shadow of a man on a bicycle. He is a giant, projected against the semi-circular building. His white dog trots along side him, unfazed by the splendour. Still, there is the clip clop of hooves, those hardworking horses that pull tourists in carriages. They stop to take their pictures by the fountain. The spray turns turquoise and pink and vivid green. Phil and I invent a game on the chequered cobbles, an Alice-in-Wonderland blend of chess and ballroom dancing.

On the bridge, the blue and cream tiles are smooth to the touch and warm from soaked up sun. The moon bounces on green water, delighted by its reflection. Venus is above my right shoulder and looking up, there is the moon’s protective face, those wide grey eyes.

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This is a generous playground for people of all ages and nationalities. There is a feeling of infinite space here and this is exactly how I feel tonight. I have endless gratitude for the growing life inside me. I understand my relative size in the universe, a tiny speck of life, yet undeniably part of the whole.

Monday 20th March: 25 weeks 2 days

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I dreamt I gave birth to a tiny baby. I was crying without noise, in a late night hospital ward. I wanted to hold my baby. More than anything, I wanted to feel warm skin and the curl of pink fingers. My child was sealed off from me, however, wired inside a glass igloo.

Through the top floor window, thousand of stars sparkled in black sky above the city skyline. I wanted Phil to arrive. We were alone, my miniature baby and me. I felt a surge of panic, desperation for Phil to come.

Then Phil appeared, running across the empty ward towards us. I so wanted him to see our tiny baby and here he was, out of breath, keen for the same. As I turned back to the baby’s igloo, the glass blackened. There was no way through to see our child.

I woke up suddenly. I had a long drink of water. I breathed in and out, feeling relief with each breath. Then the greatest relief, our baby kicking inside me with Phil asleep beside us. I whispered to our baby to stay safe in there – to keep growing, to get stronger.

I went back to sleep quickly. The rest of the night passed peacefully.

My prayers have changed now. I ask everyday for our baby to come at the right time – late June or early July – please come then, little one, not before. The old prayer was always, please come baby, come as soon as you can, I can’t wait to meet you.

Reality check: we have been completely blessed so far with a smooth and uncomplicated pregnancy. The stream of green lights only seem strange to me because they are a new experience. Everything is exactly as it should be and I am very grateful for that.

Wednesday 22nd March: 25 weeks 4 days

How good it is to walk, to move forward, brisk feet on the pavement. I love the life all around me: a yapping white dog; a Japanese woman with dyed yellow hair; a delivery man with a silver barrel on a trolley; the honk of North London traffic. How good it is to see and hear it all, then immediately let it all go.

What work could I do where I could walk everyday? What work would take me outdoors? Travel writer. Park manager. Personal trainer. Tour guide. I do love the effect of the outdoors. Too much time inside shrivels up my gratitude. I dwell on inconsequential thoughts. Movement outside pacifies my brain. It makes me forget myself.

Outside today, I am loving my wriggly baby, now 25 weeks and 4 days – 64% baked! Yet according to my pregnancy app, still my baby’s weight will increase five times before I give birth. I could pop – the growth feels extraordinary!

Friday 7th April: 27 weeks 5 days

Sometimes I feel like an overblown balloon. Other times my belly is soft and round. Either way, it’s delightful to see the ripples and kicks across my stomach. We’ve nicknamed our baby ZipZap: our little space baby descending to Earth. We call out to ZipZap each day, hoping for jabs and wiggles. Our doctor said to look out everyday for at least ten movements over a two hour period. I lie still and speak. Phil speaks too. Soon, there are messages from the other side. We are in touch, the three of us, in the most basic and remarkable way.

I take more care now. I am careful on crowded London streets, on packed buses and tubes. I was walking through Westfield the other day, to catch a train at Stratford International. I held my arm across my belly, the first line of defence in an overcrowded shopping centre. Occasionally, I have a fleeting vision of falling, slipping down the stairs or tripping up a kerb, a stupid and preventable accident that pulls us all down, now that we are so very close. When I get up in the night to use the toilet, I hold the banister tightly as I go downstairs. I am slowing down. 

Tuesday 11th April: 28 weeks 2 days

Calm is increasing with each week that clocks up. Passing the 24 week viability milestone, every week I have increasing faith that my baby would now survive outside of me. I have a deep desire to enjoy the rest of my pregnancy; this is a gift to be experienced now. I also want to enjoy the remaining time with Phil, to make sure he knows how much I love him.

Saturday 15th April: 29 weeks

I was checked out yesterday in hospital for leaking fluid. Our midwife, Ana, was with me on the antenatal assessment ward. There was no evidence of uterine contractions. She tested the heartbeat. For twenty minutes, I listened to my baby’s strong heartbeat, an average of around 150 beats per minute. The number flickered up and down on the monitor. The sound was soothing to my soul.

There were lots of kicks, those incredible kicks, which thudded like drumbeats on the monitor. Ana told me to expect this. It’s the baby responding to the sound of its own heartbeat. Our little raver, ZipZap – you just keep dancing away in there.

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Twenty weeks pregnant: half way to our rainbow

Here’s our little bubble-blower at 20 weeks and 5 days. Actually, that ‘bubble’ is part of the umbilical cord but it still makes me smile 🙂

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I am so happy and grateful that all anatomy checks came back ‘normal’ – now there’s a word I aspire to these days, a wish to be clinically unremarkable, utterly average.

20-week-scan

We continue to enjoy the incredible miracles of an easy pregnancy, free from dramas and heartache. To the end of my natural life, I will express gratitude for this peaceful experience.

At our 20-week scan, we decided to keep the gender a surprise. Girl or boy, we will love our rainbow baby. I don’t feel any need to know because it is enough to have a growing, healthy baby inside me.

Now it’s time to learn how to be parents. Dad 100 and I have laughed about how much we know about trying to conceive, IVF and pregnancy loss, but how little we know about looking after a baby. So the education starts here!

Five to six weeks pregnant: facing The Big Fear

ivf-blog-mum100-face-the-big-fear-miscarriage-pregnancy-after-lossAt five weeks pregnant, I came face to face with The Big Fear: miscarriage. It’s good to name it rather than tiptoe around it. I had flashes of being examined at the 7-week scan, a long silence in the room, finally broken with “I am so sorry”. I have witnessed friends going through this heartbreak. I feared another loss of our own. I had a cold, which didn’t help my mindset. I drank cup after cup of hot lemon and honey. Logically, I knew that the common cold could not harm the life inside me, but fear will latch on wherever it can. I imagined the poppy seed embryos, hearts forming. I prayed  for them to spark into life.

So why would my brain imagine another loss? Is this a function of survival, to prepare for the worst? I came across this BBC Woman’s Hour interview, which was shared on Twitter by a friend. Dr Jessica Farren of Imperial College London discusses her research into miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr Farren mentioned clusters of symptoms, including reliving pregnancy loss, as well as coping mechanisms after loss, such as avoiding being around pregnant women or babies. As I listened, a pressure bubble popped in my head. I felt reassured that many women in the same situation experience difficult feelings. I had a good cry. I talked through the fear with Dad 100.

Since then, I have felt remarkably peaceful. Despite hardly any pregnancy symptoms in week 5, facing the big fear of miscarriage released me from its grip. For now, my head is clear and I have enjoyed most days.

On Friday 4th November, I did the last ClearBlue pregnancy test. The shift from 2-3 weeks since conception to 3+ was a brilliant result.

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Hours after this test, I felt the first hint of nausea. Was it just a coincidence of timing? Or did the release of all that fear allow me to feel the physical symptoms?

Since then, I have kept to most of the commitments I made in my last blog. I have stayed away from Dr Google. Dad 100 and I wrapped up warm and enjoyed our local fireworks night. I didn’t make the Chi Kung and meditation class because of having a cold, but I did plenty of meditation and deep breathing at home.

Week 6 pregnancy symptoms

Mum100-blog-IVF-embryo-transfer-bleeding-loss-acceptance-trustEach day, I’ve had short bursts of nausea. I love it when I feel sick. It’s like my future kids are talking to me. I say hello back and wish them well with their growing. The nausea fades when I eat, which has been a great excuse to snack. I have been tired in the afternoons and evenings, falling asleep early on the sofa. Sleep is deep, with the occasional vivid dream. In the last few days, I’ve had a few sharp twinges, low down on the right. There has been no bleeding, so I don’t think this pregnancy is another ectopic – I am so grateful for that.

Week 7 of pregnancy – commitments

It’s a big week ahead with the 7-week scan, so I’m setting out a positive stall. Hopefully, I can stick to it!

  • Wear bright colours for our 7-week scan (Monday 14th November, 2.40pm)
  • Breathe deeply in the hospital waiting room
  • Let the sonographer do their job before asking a hundred questions
  • On Monday evening, gaze up at the biggest and brightest supermoon in 70 years
  • Go for walks in the sunshine and enjoy the autumn leaves
  • Follow up new work opportunities
  • Plan a date for Friday evening
  • Say thank you everyday for this pregnancy

Sending loads of love to all of you for the week ahead – and don’t forget to look up at the supermoon!

To the sea

Mum100-blog-IVF-embryo-transfer-bleeding-loss-acceptance-trustFirst of all, a big thank you, to all the bloggers and tweeters who have supported us during our first IVF cycle. Your encouragement and suggestions have been a blessing. The kindness of strangers is remarkable.

Dad 100 and I are now initiated in the dark side of IVF. Until now, fertility treatment has been a long, but mainly procedural, road including:

  • dozens of hospital appointments (thankfully, close to our home)
  • giving up generous quantities of my blood (that’s fine, I can make more!)
  • countless tablets, injections, supplements and suppositories
  • some emotional ups and downs (Mother’s Day was tough, for example, but mainly there has been hope in abundance)
  • two operations with anaesthetic for me
  • one date with the ‘procurement room’ for Dad 100 😉
  • Olympic-level googling

Overall, our minds were focused on being a first time IVF success story. I pictured receiving my embryos, which our doctor said were good quality blastocysts (oh, the pride when they passed their first test!). I imagined my womb lining as the perfect home for our blasters. I considered how much time I might need off work in the first trimester. I saved every penny I could for maternity leave. The tale I was telling myself was that IVF was as simple as I allowed it to be.

How IVF 1 turned out

Our first IVF journey has taken fifteen months – from attending our first consultation and patient information evening in February 2015, to today, eight days past our double embryo transfer. The transfer was one of the happiest days of my life. Dad 100 was glowing with happiness when we came out of theatre. His face reflected everything I felt inside – the long process was worth it, for the love and connection we felt.

Then, I had some spotting on day three past embryo transfer. I have been bleeding heavily since day four. I am still taking oestrogen and progesterone, as advised by our hospital. However, I don’t have any pregnancy symptoms – and if there was the faintest swirl of nausea, or the tiniest twinge of sore breasts, I would be hanging on to that right now!

On Friday, we have our blood test (day ten past embryo transfer) – the hospital have brought the test forward, due to the amount of bleeding. If we get a negative result, then at least I can stop the meds, including the delightful Cyclogest (which actually isn’t that bad). If we get a positive test result, well, I will officially hand over everything I think I know in a bag marked ‘bollocks’ – then I will dance the tango along Homerton High Street.

Kindness is everything

What has been amazing over the past few days is the kindness that Dad 100 and I have shown to each other. We have talked whenever we needed. We have felt angry and sad and then absolutely fine, and then angry and sad all over again. We both know how important it is not to direct anger at one another. We have just said a lot of nice things to each other, which shoos away the fear and loneliness that creep up.

We’ve had some fun too, including some spontaneous meals out. It really does help to get out, especially when the sun is shining. After 3 days heavy bleeding, I relaxed my ultra-nutritious pregnancy menu and had this f**king gorgeous pizza instead – guilt free.

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We’ve also decided to go on holiday. We went to a couple of travel agents, because our planning brains have turned to mashed potato. However, the packages weren’t right for us. Our focus was to find warmth and blue sea – the kind of gentle, turquoise water that you get in the Caribbean. So, last night, we booked our flights to Ibiza – leaving on Monday 6th June. We’re going clubbing, people, we are going clubbing! Party all night, sleep on the beach all day!

Only kidding 😉 When we arrive, we’re taking the ferry from Ibiza Town to Formentera – the very relaxed little sister of Ibiza. Formentera is a small island, which mainly consists of beaches like this. GET IN!!!

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(Photo credit: Trip Advisor)

We’ve found a lovely hotel with a pool and spa facilities. They do the best breakfast on the island, including baking all their own bread and pastries. We going to hire mopeds and explore the island and swim swim swim.

My future kids are very happy about this adventure. I am relieved and delighted to say that they’re still with me. When the bleeding first started, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to connect with my family vision anymore. I feared the trust had gone. In the past, I have walked away from things I have wanted, when they have become tough. Would it be the same with this?

I cried when we did our first meditation after the bleeding started – the peace was overwhelming. However, once I settled into the meditation, the experience was wonderful. Mum100-blog-IVF-embryo-transfer-bleeding-loss-acceptance-trustI saw a picture of my family in a rowing boat at sea, an image which sums up how I feel. We definitely need to work out our new direction, but we’re all still on board, and we are united.

In meditation, I also saw another picture of Dad 100 and me, swinging our future kids round in circles, their faces delighted with how dizzy their Mum and Dad are getting. Future kids, we love you. We’re willing to wait for you. We will step up as best we can to the challenge ahead.

Dad 100 has banned any further IVF research for the rest of this week, because yesterday I went into manic research mode. We have decided to get a second opinion from a private clinic. I spent some time on the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Association website, looking at success rates for fertility clinics in the UK. I made myself feel rubbish, however, looking at how success rates decline as women get older. Dad 100 said it was too soon for figuring out the next steps and he was right.

cool_sunglasses_emoticonSo for now, our focus is on rest, laughter and gratitude. We are feeling the feelings as they come. We are letting them go when they go. And we are getting excited about our little holiday!!