On naming a little human being

Natalie Rose, July 2017

I am so excited and delighted and grateful to introduce you to our daughter. In the coming weeks, I have much more to share with you about our labour, delivery and the first days with our girl. So many things really surprised me about the final stage of bringing our child here. Phil and I both made discoveries about ourselves, including uncovering unknown strengths and finding out the beauty of surrender.

For now, I want to share this with you: in our little bubble of newborn rapture, we have settled on the name for our beloved child. Although we had already prepared a shortlist of names before the birth, we both wanted to wait until we met our daughter to name her. Once she arrived, we wanted to get home from hospital, to allow time and space for the right name to emerge. Her name appeared on day three of life and we knew instantly it was the perfect fit.

Her first name is Natalie, which was on our original shortlist of names. Phil and I both love the connection in the name to birth and birthday, and though neither of us are religious, we love the spiritual significance of the name, referring to the birth of Christ.

Her middle name is Rose. This name came to us as a shortening of Rosemarie, which is a version of my Mum’s middle name. We became more certain this was our daughter’s middle name after her three year old cousin, Isabella, visited us in hospital four hours after her birth. Isabella decided our baby looked like a Rosie. We love Rose for the simplicity and of course the reminder of England’s most beautiful flower, universally linked to the expression of love.

We are truly honoured to meet and name this little human being. Thank you Mother Nature. Thank you science. It feels like nothing short of a miracle to hold Natalie Rose in our arms.

Natalie Rose, July 2017Natalie Rose, July 2017
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Thirty to thirty-one weeks pregnant: my Facebook announcement

Until week 31, I didn’t share anything about my pregnancy on Facebook. When Phil shared our 12 week scan picture last December, it was lovely to witness him receiving so much love. Back then, however, I was missing the right words for an announcement. Plus, I was too scared of another loss.

At 30 weeks’ pregnant, I found the words I needed. They came easily one day, the words that signalled enough of the true story, without feeling over-exposed. At 31 weeks’ pregnant, Phil took some photos of me, which were a perfect match for my words in terms of the emotion they captured. Together, those words and pictures formed my announcement on Facebook, earlier this month.

There were many wonderful responses. Friends expressed delight and offered their congratulations. Some friends commented that they didn’t know I was pregnant. It was good to let them in. Everyone gave their love. There were several special messages, friends who picked up on my ‘rainbow baby’ reference: two friends who had experienced their own loss, which I didn’t know about before; and a third friend who asked me what rainbow baby meant. I found myself explaining, quite openly, about losing our pregnancy last year. She responded with great compassion, saying she had feared losing her pregnancy.

My Facebook post wasn’t the whole story – that I do reserve for this blog – but it was enough for me to open the door the friends, to acknowledge our process and to reach out to friends suffering in silence with infertility or pregnancy loss.

So now I’m sharing my Facebook announcement with you – because I share everything with you 🙂

“Our rainbow baby is coming soon! Thank you to my lovely man, Phil, for taking these photos at 31 weeks pregnant, which capture the deep peace and gratitude I feel. I’m also thinking of all my dear friends, who have had a long road towards pregnancy and everyone who has loved and lost their baby in pregnancy. There’s a permanent place in my heart for you. I am wishing on a rainbow for you too. If you need a chat, a shoulder, a friend, I am here for you – just as my close friends and family have been there for me. Finally, to Phil, thank you for your kindness, strength and great compassion. It is a joy to share the light and shade of life with you x”

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.

Mum100-IVF-fertility-pregnancy-blog-Plaza-de-Espana-Seville-2

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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Seventeen to nineteen weeks pregnant: inspired by the courage of mothers

I was very touched by three fundraising stories I came across in the past fortnight – stories which show the courage of mothers, with and without children; stories which demonstrate the infinite power of the human spirit.

I am moved by the courage of these three women. Their determination to resolve their quest inspires me, despite all the difficulties they have faced. I can empathise deeply with their stories because I recognise the formidable drive to be a parent, the instinctive need to nurture and raise and love a child.

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Anna Clancy is doing a year of fundraising in memory of her daughter, Erin Susan Clancy. Erin died when she was 22 days old. On 9th November 2016, Erin should have celebrated her fifth birthday. From that date onwards, Anna is aiming to raise £1000 in one year for Saying Goodbye, a charity which supports bereaved families. Anna’s Twitter is @ErinsGift if you want to cheer her on.

Samantha Siebold is raising funds to adopt a little girl, “Roxy”, from Eastern Europe. Roxy is 2 years old and has Down’s Syndrome. If Roxy is not adopted, she may be transferred to a mental institution at a later stage. Samantha is determined to stop this happening, by providing a home for Roxy in the US. Samantha has paid the initial fees and started on the home study process. Roxy is currently on hold in her country for the Siebolds to pursue her adoption and they are going all out with creative fundraising initiatives – including T-shirt and flower bulb sales, as well as their GoFundMe page. To find out more, Samantha’s Twitter is @inevitablysam.

Amelia Abby is fundraising for fertility treatment and egg donation for Saskia. Now in her twelfth year of trying for a baby, Saskia lost her first son in 2005, when he was born prematurely at 23 weeks. She suffered a further two stillbirths in 2006 and 2007, a beloved son and daughter. Saskia went on to have three ectopic pregnancies, losing both of her fallopian tubes. Two recent attempts at IVF – one using egg donation – did not work. However, Saskia still has the courage and energy to continue with her quest and Amelia is helping to raise the funds for her treatment. Say hi to Amelia on Twitter @eggdonor29.

I wish these women so well. Their stories capture the boundless love and energy that I have come to recognise in the hearts of many great people whom I have the pleasure to know in our community.

Seventeen to nineteen weeks pregnant: grateful for every flutter and kick

I believe the desire to have a child is a force completely beyond my control. I was aware of this desire in my teens and twenties, but it really took hold of me six years ago, aged 34. I became a mother in 2011 but it has taken six years to achieve a healthy pregnancy. I wasn’t trying to conceive for all of that time, but still the powerful instinct was there all the way, fully awakened in me, beating at my core. Aged 34, I was a mother, yet to meet her child.

Today, February 7th 2017, I am 19 weeks and 3 days pregnant – yes, I still count the days 🙂 .  I am grateful for every single day that passes without incident. I’ve been feeling flutters and mini ‘kicklets’ for the last three weeks. They are the most wonderful and reassuring signs of life. Each time they come, I’ve pressed Dad 100’s hand to my belly, hoping he can feel a little kick. For the past three weeks, he hasn’t been able to feel the movement.

Until yesterday, that is. We decided to talk to our baby, very early on Monday morning, to see if we could encourage a response. We know the baby can hear us now, so we took turns to speak. After a few minutes of ‘good morning’ and ‘hello in there’ and ‘we love you’ and ‘earth calling baby’ and ‘come on, give your mum a kick!’, Dad 100 caught four little thuds, right in the middle of his palm, one following swiftly from the other. He was utterly delighted with his catch!

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.

Eight weeks pregnant: enter The Phantom Period

ivf-blog-mum100-the-phantom-period-pregnancy-after-loss-pregnancy-symptomsI’ve been spooked! This little chap has been floating in and out of my consciousness this week. He has a bunch of shadowy tricks, including disappearing pregnancy symptoms, new pain and spotting.

So, what better way to befriend him than by turning him into a cartoon? Out of my mind and on to the page, you grizzly little ghosticle! Begone with your worrisome ways! I think you’ll agree, The Phantom Period looks harmless enough in his red and pink robes – a misunderstood character, no doubt.

So what’s the story with the Phantom Period?

Well, half way through week eight of pregnancy, all my pregnancy symptoms disappeared. Overnight, nausea and sore breasts faded away and they haven’t returned. On Wednesday, I had light cramps, low down in the centre. It was a continuous mild pain throughout the day. Since then, the cramps have been intermittent throughout each day. On three occasions this week, I’ve had light pink spotting. My emotions became more frazzled. Essentially, everything that normally happens when my period is due has happened.

Except, there has been no proper bleeding – thank the dear moon and planets above! The strangest thing is this: had I not been pregnant, I would have been due on my period this week. Could my body be confused? After 25 years of having regular periods, is my brain still tapping out its monthly rhythm? Come to think of it, I did have cramping for three days at the end of the two-week wait, right around the time when my period was due.

Last night, I had a mega cry, straight after watching Shaun of the Dead! The film was meant to take my mind off things, which it did because it’s so silly – but then the cramping came on again, right as a herd of zombies were attacking Shaun and friends in The Winchester pub! As the credits rolled, all the love and hope I have for our baby came flooding out. It was a proper wobbly-lipped sob. Dad 100 was so lovely, holding my hand and listening to my shaky sentences. He opened up about his feelings too – how wanted our child is and how loved, how much we wish to meet our baby in July.

I went up to the bathroom to wash my face. For the first time in a long, long time, I got on my knees to pray. I’m not religious but I prayed last night like I have never prayed before. I asked all the angels in the skies above Hackney to take care of our child. Sometimes I feel odd praying. Sometimes I wonder to what or to whom I am praying. But not last night. It felt the most natural thing I could do. The prayer came straight from the heart – a direct request for help. And it did give me the most peaceful feeling, to let go of all that fear.

As I was undressing for bed, I realised something else. I was exactly nine weeks pregnant, a huge milestone in itself, but it was also a connection to our first IVF pregnancy. It was at nine weeks pregnant that we finally conceded the loss of our first IVF baby. In the early hours of midsummer’s day, 24th June, surgeons operated to remove our ectopic baby and my left fallopian tube. Perhaps this was always going to be a tough week.

What now?

We spoke to an NHS Direct advisor on the phone. He said the cramping and spotting could either be: a) nothing to worry about or b) a threatened miscarriage. We’ll take option A please! We were advised to go to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit for a scan. When Dad 100 phoned the EPAU this morning, we got the answerphone. They were too busy to answer and we should try back later, the message said. When he did get through on the fourth attempt, the receptionist said we should get there before midday to have any chance of being seen. Sunday hours are shorter and there was already a full waiting room.

Would it really help our baby to rush into central London, sit in a waiting room for hours? Or would it better to wait until Monday? We talked it through and decided to stick to our original Sunday plans. I had already arranged a date for us, an exhibition at Tate Modern, followed by a stroll along the River Thames and food at Southbank Christmas market. I’m so glad we stuck to our plans. What better antidote than fresh air, a river walk, Indian street food, a custard tart and a large dose of artistic creativity. The exhibition we went to was called The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John collection. It features around 150 photographs, taken from the 1920s to the 1950s. There are portraits of Salvador Dali and Picasso. There are a set of Irving Penn’s Corner Portraits, which I absolutely loved, including these intimate photos of Duke Ellington, a penguin-like Noel Coward and heavyweight boxer Joe Louis.

There are some incredibly moving documentary photographs by Dorothea Lange, including ‘Migrant Mother’ and ‘Damaged Child’ – I could gaze at those pictures for hours, the life stories behind the images are so compelling, the emotion so vividly captured.

There are Man Ray portraits, including this vintage print of ‘Glass Tears’. I treated myself to a fridge magnet of this one, I love it so much. The exhibition is well worth a visit – it’s on until 7th May 2017.

glass-tears-man-ray

Tonight, I’m back in a place of peace. We are going to the EPAU on Monday to get checked out. My pregnancy app tells me our baby is the size of a green olive. We look forward to seeing our olive’s heartbeat.

Week 9 of pregnancy commitments

Last week, the most enjoyable commitment was to play music with breakfast everyday. We picked a decade each day and played a random selection of tunes from YouTube. My favourite was our roaring 1920s breakfast café – we were transported to a Prohibition era speakeasy, as we ate our scrambled eggs.

This week, my commitments are:

  • Pray and be grateful for each day
  • Get checked out at the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit
  • Go to Tate Britain with my friend
  • Distract myself with work and writing and reading
  • Enjoy our visit to the Harry Potter studio 
  • Book tickets for a Christmas panto

Seven weeks pregnant: the blueberry has a heartbeat

ivf-blog-mum100-heartbeat-7-weeks-pregnant-blueberry-instagramHow can something so tiny have a beating heart? I have been playing with this riddle since our 7-week scan on 14th November. I have the same sense of wonder when I watch nature programmes. How do migrating birds know where to fly? How do hatching baby turtles know they must run for the sea? It’s enthralling to witness the natural intelligence of creatures big and small. And it’s humbling to experience that no input is required from my conscious mind for our baby to grow. This tiny human, the size of a blueberry, is designed for living.

At our scan, I felt head-to-toe relief to see our baby, settled in my womb. We watched the silver light pulsating on the screen, its tiny heart in motion. At 7 weeks 2 days, our blueberry measured 10.6mm (crown to rump), slightly smaller than average but still within the range expected for our dates. The yolk sac was 4.1mm (mean measurement), again on the small side but nothing to worry about, the nurse said. At the bottom of the ultrasound report was our official diagnosis: “viable intra-uterine pregnancy – singleton”. Having heard the word “unviable” from doctors many times during our first IVF pregnancy, this was a joy to read. We were discharged from the IVF clinic back to our GP – another first.

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It’s taken me over a week to write this blog because I have had so many feelings come and go. Mostly, there is overwhelming delight, that we were given good news. I have also felt sadness and guilt, thinking about close friends who were told there was no heartbeat at this stage. I know how precious this tiny life is to us. I can only imagine how devastating and shocking that experience must be. I still have some fear of loss in the first trimester, so to help with that we had a free counselling session at our hospital. We both found it helpful to air our fears and be supported by the counsellor. By the end of the session, I was back in the truth of the present moment. This pregnancy has been so calm compared to last time.

Week 7 pregnancy symptoms

I’ve had mild nausea, on and off, but no sickness. I eat regularly and drink lots of water, which stops the nausea when it comes. Sore boobs come and go. Afternoon sleepiness is the main symptom for me, especially when I’ve been active during the day. I have occasional headaches. I welcome all the symptoms as signs of the changes taking place.

Week 8 of pregnancy – commitments

Last week, I stuck to all but one of my commitments. The only one I couldn’t do was plan a date for Friday because Dad 100 went up north to visit his Mum. Instead, I’ve planned a date for Sunday – croissants and eggs for breakfast, then a trip to Tate Modern and a stroll through the Southbank Christmas market. Chocolate for me, mulled wine for Dad 100!

Here are my other commitments:

  • Be grateful for each day that passes calmly
  • Book a scan for next week
  • Go out with work friends on Thursday
  • Play music with breakfast everyday
  • Say no to Dr Google – he is a Dementor!

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!

Four weeks pregnant – joy and disbelief

ivf-blog-mum100-pregnancy-sanity-4-weeks-pregnantThe key to serenity is to let go. Surrender the outcome; accept where I am; be at peace. Yes, yes, I know all these marvellous theories of how to live life without going crackers – but can I actually practise them?

On 25th October at 7am, two blue lines appeared. For the first time since we started trying for a baby in 2013, our result on a home pregnancy test was positive. Absolutely no squinting required. I took the test up to our bedroom. I climbed under the duvet with Dad 100. We cuddled up and gazed at the plastic stick with the turquoise lines, as if it was a magic wand.

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We are both delighted, of course. I am also scared. Is this really happening? Can we believe in this result? In bed, I turned over the test stick to check the other side of the window; there were still two blue lines. Relief!

Later that day, I called the hospital with our result.
“Congratulations,” the nurse said. “We’ll book in your 7 week scan. Can you do Monday 14th November at 2.40pm?”

Now in ordinary circumstances, I know that is not long. But my first thought was, really? More waiting????

The three week wait

Daft as it sounds, I wasn’t expecting another wait. I hadn’t given any thought to what happens if it works. For the rest of official test day, the reassurance of those two blue lines settled my nerves. Dad 100 and I had group hugs with our growing embryos between us. I checked the test stick several times, to confirm I wasn’t imagining things.

By next morning, however, I was back in doing mode. I wanted concrete actions to take. How can I possibly wait another three weeks for the scan? I need to organise this pregnancy and fast! Dad 100 and I talked about getting blood tests done. Our new hospital doesn’t offer HCG blood tests as a standard part of the procedure. I looked up private London clinics for beta testing. I called up two clinics for prices. Later, I spoke to a friend who is at the same hospital as me. She suggested I ask the IVF nurses for a blood test, as they did one for her when she requested it.

So, in full organiser mode, I emailed the hospital:

Dear IVF Nurses,

I phoned yesterday to let you know about our positive pregnancy test. We now have our date for the 7-week scan (Monday 14th November). Thank you very much for arranging this.

We were wondering if it’s possible to have a b-HCG blood test in the next few days. We ask this because our last attempt at IVF resulted in an ectopic pregnancy and salpingectomy. It would be good to know that the levels are okay this time, as last time they were very low.

Now, that wasn’t exactly honest of me. Yes, I do have memories of what happened last time, but truthfully the email should have said this:

Please can I have a blood test, ASAP, today if possible? You see I really didn’t think there would be yet more waiting, not after doing a whole two weeks of waiting (okay technically, it was only eleven days of waiting, but it felt like forty). What do you say? Shall we do this blood test?

A nurse replied to my email:

I am happy to hear of your good news. I have spoken to one of our senior doctors in the unit and what they have advised is you come for a scan at 6 weeks instead of 7 weeks, instead of having a blood test. The blood test does not pick up an ectopic pregnancy and the results can come back normal and can still be an ectopic pregnancy. I am more than happy to book you in for your early scan. Please let me know if this is something you are happy with.

Next morning…

I did another pregnancy test (13dp6dt). This time I used a Clearblue digital pregnancy test with conception indicator. The result was good: it came up 2-3 weeks after conception (4 to 5 weeks pregnant).

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I breathed out and then I realised. I was getting it all wrong again. Now is the time to practise patience. I cannot have total reassurance every minute of the day. Say we go for that scan at six weeks and it’s too early to see a heartbeat – what then? Would I panic about not seeing the heartbeat? Or let’s say we book private blood tests. What if the results come back with HCG numbers we don’t understand? Do we pay for a private consultation, so a brand new doctor can interpret our results? Do we turn to Google? NO, PLEASE NOT GOOGLE!

Fast forwarding the tape, this need for constant reassurance never ends. If I give into the endless demands of anxiety, then I will always need the next fix. After the week 7 scan, there’s another 5-week wait until the week 12 scan. Then there’s another 8-week wait until the week 20 scan.

I may as well stick with being exactly where we are – it’s a much more hopeful place. I want to enjoy this experience as much as I can.

So, I wrote back to our hospital:

Thanks so much for coming back to me. Maybe we’ll stick with the original plan for the 7 week scan, as we’d like to be able see the heartbeat. I’m sure it’ll be fine.

It felt great to send this email – it was another surrender in this uncontrollable process. The nurse was very kind when she replied. She said we could change our mind at any time and come for an early scan. But I know that’s not what we need. Instead, we booked a free counselling appointment at the hospital. That will be far more useful than trying to project manage this pregnancy!

Week 4 pregnancy symptoms 

Throughout week four of pregnancy, I’ve had mild pregnancy symptoms – sore nipples and mild cramps. They come and go. At times, I can sense the changes going on in my body. Other times, I don’t feel anything. It is still very early days. The best symptom of all is my period is now over a week late (we’re doing an unmedicated cycle, so this is a reliable sign). I haven’t had any bleeding since the trace of spotting on day 3 past transfer. I am truly grateful for this.

Week 5 of pregnancy – commitments

To help me stay sane, I’ve made some commitments for the week ahead.

  • Enjoy where I am and be hopeful
  • Go to the London Buddhist Centre on Thursday evening for meditation and Chi Kung (deep breathing exercises)
  • Go to the fireworks on Saturday night and eat Dad 100’s chips
  • Do one final ClearBlue pregnancy test with conception indicator on Friday 4th November
  • Breathe deeply whenever I get scared
  • Do not book private blood tests
  • Do not Google any symptoms or lack of symptoms 

I’ll let you know how I get on! Thank you for always being there xxxxxxx

The IVF two-week wait: the Land of No Eye Deer

ivf-blog-mum100-two-week-wait-no-eye-deer-instagramWell, here we are again. I haven’t a clue what is happening inside my body. Nine days after our embryo transfer, there are no obvious signs of pregnancy. I am truly grateful, however, that we’re still in the running.

Mum100-blog-IVF-red-admiral-butterfly-bleeding-after-ivf-embryo-transferI’m enjoying the hope and wonder that being PUPO brings. For anyone new to this community, the acronym stands for ‘pregnant until proven otherwise’. When I say, “I am PUPO”, it brings to mind a butterfly inside a chrysalis, preparing to hatch. There is just so much potential for a beautiful outcome. It is also a mental endurance test. Will the butterfly emerge after the two week wait?

Embryo transfer day

We wore our brightest T-shirts to the hospital – neon pink and turquoise. We wanted to celebrate the occasion with colour and this didn’t go unnoticed at the hospital.

“Wow,” our doctor said. “I saw you two coming!”

Outside the transfer room, we covered up with white hairnets and lab coats – in another setting, we would have passed for shift workers at a meat market, clocking on after a rave.

The embryologist broke the news that our day-6 blastocysts had thawed well. “They’re beautiful,” she said on final inspection. Oh, the pride and love we felt. Let nobody tell you that embryos are ‘just cells’ – the attachment is real; the hope is extraordinary.

Our team completed the embryo transfer in less than ten minutes. We travelled home with our micro-babies, inside our bubble of peace.

Rest and relaxation – 1dp6dt & 2dp6dt

For 48 hours, I did next to nothing. Our hospital said it’s fine to carry on as normal but other clinics say to rest. I’ll take any excuse to keep warm on the sofa, watch films and read books. I ate rainbow-coloured foods and drank lots of water. I celebrated our PUPO status by styling this pineapple. He is the legend of IVF folklore, after all, and he laps up female attention!

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Spotting and mini meltdown – 3dp6dt

I had traces of spotting on day three – which may or may not have been implantation bleeding. I remembered the spotting on day three in our first IVF, which rapidly progressed to heavy bleeding. I imagined escaping to India; my default panic setting is to daydream about hot holidays. However, I knew from our first IVF transfer that booking international travel in the two-week wait is daft.

Pale yellow cervical mucus and mild cramping – 4dp6dt & 5dp6dt

My cervical mucus changed colour on day 4 and 5 – marvellous! According to Google, this may or may not be a sign of early pregnancy. And then I had mild cramping on day 5 – yes, you’ve guessed it, another inconclusive sign of pregnancy.

Symptom analysis is truly bonkers. Really, what I’m searching for is certainty, which is an illusion. I am asking a search engine to tell me how my story ends – just stop and think about that for a minute!

All quiet on the uterine front – 6dp6dt onwards

There have been no further symptoms. No fuzzy head. No sore boobs. No nausea. On day 7, I let go. I came back to that peaceful place of acceptance and surrender. I cried tears of relief. All roads in this fertility journey end up in the same place – the heartfelt knowledge that I am not in control.

Dad 100 and I upped the distractions. We went to the London Buddhist Centre to try out Chi Kung. It’s a bit like Tai Chi, moving through set poses with deep breathing. On Friday afternoon, we went to London Zoo. We saw Kumbuka the gorilla, three sleeping lionesses, diving penguins, a growling tiger and this blue poison dart frog – how cool is he!

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In the reptile zone, I discovered I am Harry Potter. I said hello to a puff adder, the deadliest African snake – and I kid you not, the snake popped its head up from a rock, did a small dance, then slithered to the front of the cage. It flicked its tongue and eyeballed me and we carried on our chat. I can speak Parseltongue, people – a talent at last!

The last creature we saw at the zoo was this stork, which made me laugh. We had words, let me tell you, despite the clear warning.

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Today, we’re off to Kent. We’re staying overnight in a cosy B&B, exploring a couple of towns as potential locations for our house move.

Official test day is Tuesday 25th October – 11dp6dt

I’ll take the test first thing in the morning. We will wait for five minutes and we will look at our result. I promise not to squint! Whatever happens, I know we’ll be okay – we have each other and I have you lovely lot.

When I zoom out from all this, I can appreciate that infertility and IVF are great training for the mind. The process is changing me for the better. I am being shown my limitations. I am discovering my strength and resilience.

One line or two on Tuesday, we will carry on.