As I have documented on this blog before, I am well aware that fertility and pregnancy is a subject seldom thought about for some and a mind boggling difficult subject for others. The road to getting there for us was documented somewhat briefly here but I also didn’t want to turn this blog into a pregnancy blog, not least because I haven’t felt particularly inspired to document each and every stage in words, preferring to take it in bit by bit. But now I’m nearing the end I think I’m ready to record some thoughts on the crazy, wonderful, difficult and tiring world of pregnancy to look back on in due course and talk about some of the feelings and bodily craziness of growing a human from the size of a grain of rice to a watermelon.
When I found out I was pregnant, I swore a lot. I swore at the only living thing near to me who I thought might give a crap, and it just so happened to be my cat. He was stretched out in the door of the bathroom as I waved about the stick I’d just peed on, eyes wide, heart soaring and a sense of fear bubbling at my depths (me, not the cat. He remained nonchalant). It was a shock; hope had dwindled and I had no bodily inklings that I might have been pregnant, instead taking the test out of a sense of duty towards the medication I had been on as had become routine after 7 months. But there I was, pound shop pregnancy test in hand trying to make sense of two lines instead of one. But after 4 more tests the news started to sink in and I was starting to sense a couple of over riding clues to a tiny foetus starting to grow (/take over) my body.
I phoned the hospital to let the consultant know that I was pregnant and wouldn’t need our appointment to discuss IVF. I will never forget the conversation as I asked if we would have an early scan and the lady on the phone simply said, ‘What wonderful news. No, good luck!’ and that was it. I got off the phone and that was it, after months of hospital appointments and blood tests, we were gleefully and terrifyingly on our own. We paid to have an early scan anyway and cried as we saw a teeny tiny blob of promise and expectation pulsating on a screen. An amazing thing was happening.
The tiredness was unreal. It was the beginning of the summer holidays and after a couple of visits to family and friends (where I consumed a lot of gin as is usual for this time of year… oops) I even contemplated that I was anaemic and needed to go to the doctors. I put it down to my body recovering from a crazy year at school and finally realising I had some time to relax. I also pondered it might have been the fact that I started exercising and my body was in denial about having to do a Joe Wicks exercise routine every other day. Either way, I was going to bed at 9pm and waking up at 10am most days and felt lethargic and sleepy throughout the day. And yet… this amazing thing was happening.
So when I found out I was pregnant, the tiredness made sense and my body continued to be exhausted whilst also in shock at the sudden alcohol withdrawal. But then again, I might as well have not reduced my gin intake because as if by magic, the sickly hungover feeling of early pregnancy hung around like a bad smell. Now I realise that I was one of the lucky ones, no hyperemesis (look it up, it sounds horrific) and minimal actual vomit but starting every day for 15 weeks with what can only be described as a distinct pukey vibe is not pleasant. And yet… this amazing thing was happening.
As with a lot of first time mums, dads, parents and pregnant women in general, there were many feelings that I was trying to process during this time of tiredness and sick. Awe, wonder, excitement, lethargy, crazy hormone changes. But I still, above all these feelings, held an overriding sense of fear. A cloud that hung over every trip to the toilet, every time I felt a slight odd emotion or bodily function, every conversation that we had about this exciting new thing. What if this doesn’t work out the way we thought? Lee, known for his optimism and positive energy in our marriage and generally in life, would not enter into conversations about a sad ending to this little wonder, instead injecting hope into all my ‘what ifs’ and generally being an amazing support as ever. That helped massively and as we entered into the second trimester we got the news that so far, everything was well. I went to the 20 week scan alone and marvelled (out loud, much to the sonographer’s annoyance) at every limb, bone, eyeball, chamber and ventricle that I thought I saw. With all this positivity, I still felt some remnants of that nagging fear and yet… this amazing thing was happening.
During this time that Lee was working away, I was impatient to connect with this ever growing blob, now the size of a mango as my pregnancy app told me. I kept thinking that I would feel movement, but each time I felt anything I just couldn’t believe it was a kick or a swish. Even standing at a gig and hearing a song played at our wedding, I managed to talk myself out of feeling movement. With hindsight now, that was definitely one of the first times this little person had wriggled a hello to me but at the time, I was unconvinced! Soon though, these movements were a daily occurrence and there was not one time when I was not marvelled by this connection and beautiful thing. And when I saw Lee first experience this movement too, it was like a new feeling of love for him that I had never had before.
Excitement was building now, especially since I had heard some golden things about this second trimester of pregnancy. Words like ‘energy’ and ‘easy’ and ‘best bit’. Looking back now as my feet are elevated and a baby’s head is squashing my pelvis, yes, this second trimester was a joy in comparison however there was no surge of energy, just a realisation that things were more difficult and balancing a full time job of looking after and teaching 30 4-year-olds was tougher than I thought it would be. I thought I could carry on the way I had always done, giving 100% to this job that I adored, even with all it’s challenges. But I soon began to realise that my body was no longer my own. There were many ways I needed to share this space with an ever growing person who was not paying rent. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I found and am still finding this a difficult thing to come to terms with.
Don’t get me wrong, pregnancy is absolutely incredible. It really is an astounding thing that the same body that was once inside a body can grow a new body. A walking miracle. But it also changes you, takes things from your body; the baby’s needs are above your own. As my body started to stretch and grow to make room for this person, there were and are aches, pains, stretches in my skin, acne from head to toe, weight and water gain and all sorts of things that have drained my body of things that it needs to do in order to help this little life. That has brought with it some challenges, particularly having struggled with body image previous to this experience. I think what I am learning is that this is very much part of an ongoing journey of self acceptance and perhaps practice for the moment that baby is born and my needs are no longer important, my body a vessel by which they have been born and the crucial and fundamental method by which they grew and entered the world. I am certain that this time in the pregnancy, the beginning of my changing body, will not be the first time I ponder this and that the (eventual) exit of my baby will not be the last. I will continue to think upon this evolution and hopefully come to accept it in a way I talk about and believe we should all embrace ourselves. Sometimes all it takes is a little ‘practice what you preach’. And yet… this amazing thing was and is happening.
This leads me to the third trimester which I am at the end of now. All these changes, all this growing leading us to the point where we are now waiting with bated, unprepared breath for this baby to enter our lives. A little adventure has grown in me. For all its new flaws and the way it has changed over the last 8/9 months, I am truly in awe of this body of mine, this baby of mine. Even before I have met her, I know that she will be incredible. I know that because we have waited for her, we have dreamt of her, talked to her and loved her from the outside. I know that because she has been a part of me and already she has taken a part of me which I have willingly given.
In comparison to others I have read about, spoken to and heard, my pregnancy has been a relatively easy ride. Difficult at times, yes, perhaps now being the most tricky to navigate (I haven’t even mentioned the heartburn! Eurgh!), but also glorious, eye opening, life affirming. It has made me grateful; for health, for love, for my gender, for my body. It has deepened who I am. When I began to write this blog post I was convinced I would have nothing good to say about the tiring, achey, sore and difficult last few weeks of pregnancy. The lack of sleep I’ve had, the crying, the immobility. But now I am typing these words I can only think of the beauty that is within me and how excited I am to touch her face and tickle her toes; the journey that she and I have made together and how much of a miracle all of this has been.
So come on Baby Mitchell, we are ready when you are.