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.

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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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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!

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!