It seems quite surreal to be writing about this now, when we are living in a time when rainbows appear to have become such a symbol of hope for us all in these unprecedented times. Of course, for us, like so many bereaved parents, the rainbow has long symbolised the hope and happiness that we have dreamt of.
What I didn’t know when I penned my last blog entry in November (here) following our last failed IVF attempt, was that I was, in fact, already expecting a miracle. It will come as no surprise to anyone that we were in complete and utter shock when we found out. As far as we were concerned we were all set to go for a frozen round of IVF, using one of our 14 embryos, and due to start as soon as my next period made it’s appearance. Consultant appointment done; meds and needles in the cupboard; proposed treatment dates in hand. I was itching in anticipation to make that call to the clinic to tell them that my period had arrived and we were ready to get on the medication merri-go-round once more; but that period never came. When it didn’t, the only thing left to do was test; something I felt so scared to even try. You see, I had given up peeing on sticks a long time ago; for fear of heartbreak. I had no idea if I had ovulated that month, or when. So I waited a few more days, and then a few more, certain that my period would arrive.
It didn’t. As I sat in the bathroom on that morning, staring at what felt like an impossible result that had appeared in the little window on the stick in my hand, I was shaking uncontrollably. My husband was downstairs making me a cup of tea, so I threw on my dressing gown, stumbled down in a haze of shock and thrust it into his hand. As he looked down at it with a puzzled expression, and we both stood there in silence for what felt like an eternity, he eventually looked up at me and said “I don’t understand?“, to which I replied “Neither do I. Surprise!” Needless to say we both hugged and sobbed and went about the rest of our day in a bubble of bliss. I found myself swinging from complete and utter elation, daring to imagine this could be our time, then swinging back to crippling fear in the next breath. We spent that day in London as we had planned to; we had lunch, looked around the shops as things were starting to get a bit festive, and generally grinned like Cheshire cats. As we walked back over the footbridge to Waterloo, we took a very cheesey photo, because I wanted to hold onto that moment of happiness forever, just in case.
When we told our parents, the shock and confusion on their faces was also pretty easy to read. I said to my Mum and Dad on facetime “So, we’ve decided not to go ahead with our round of IVF.” I watched as my Mum’s puzzled face looked crestfallen. “Because we don’t need to….because I’m pregnant.” Both of their faces changed instantly, to wide smiles and then tears. I won’t ever forget it. It felt like the best early Christmas present we could have given them. We decided to wait a few more weeks until we told our siblings, and until after at least two scans before we told any friends. I think I was around 14 weeks before I told my best friends. This time I felt like I had to hold onto it for as long as I could for the sake of my anxiety, I felt like I had so much to lose. Gradually, over the following weeks, we began to tell a few more people as and when we saw them or heard from them. I would love to say that as each week passed that it filled us with more confidence, but even now, a few months down the line, each day can still feel like a week. I keep joking to my husband that it’s like being an elephant….pregnant for two years?!
Scans have been petrifying. Not because there has ever been any sign that something was seriously wrong, but because when scans have only ever brought bad news in recent years, it’s what your brain comes to expect. I declined an early scan in December, because I wanted to be able to get to a point that the pregnancy, and a heartbeat, would be definitively seen, or not. I didn’t want the weight of confusion or doubt hanging over us at “the most wonderful time of the year”. As someone who has had enough cancelled Christmas’s, I didn’t need another. Instead we decided to keep it to ourselves, host, enjoy, and hope for the best.
I asked for the screens to be turned off and turned away in that first scan, as I squeezed my husbands hand to breaking point. My jeans already didn’t fit me, there had to be a growing baby in there, but I couldn’t bring myself to believe it. I won’t forget the words the doctor said when she scanned over my tummy that first time, as if to reassure me the very first second she got the chance “The baby is fine.” Tears streaming down both of our faces, and the face of the nurse who had comforted us so many times on previous visits, and the sound of a little heartbeat pumping through the monitor. A sound that I had hoped for, for so long.
I discovered that January was a good month to be in hiding. I was looking pregnant and wanted to hide it for as long as possible. I had spent the week between Christmas and New year in the peak of morning sickness; wretching at everything and desperately trying to reassure myself that these were all good signs. So when sickness subsided and I could just focus on hiding and eating; I revelled in my new-found hibernation status. No one expects to see you in January, and if they did it was the season for oversized knitwear….perfect. When we began telling people it felt like a huge relief, but at the same time it became real, and the fear that I had hoped would slowly subside, suddenly stepped up a notch.
I want to say that in the months that have passed since, and with the third trimester hurtling towards us, that the fear has passed. I remember a midwife saying to me early on in my pregnancy “We tend to find that women who have experienced loss find that their anxiety eases when they get past the point in their pregnancy where they lost their last baby; but I suppose that might not happen for you. Just be kind to yourself each day.” That was when it dawned on me; perhaps it won’t, not until we have a baby who is four days old, a milestone never reached. So now, each day, I walk around, reassured by the kicks and wriggles of whoever is currently residing in there, and happy that they have made it to another day. And as Boris and I walk around the streets on our daily (government approved) walk, I stare at those rainbows in the windows and hope that the brightest rainbow we are yet to lay eyes on will be with us safely in the summer…