The pregnancy/baby diaries: The potato’s arrival

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So our potato finally arrived, four days early, on 1 August 2017. That it has taken me four weeks to write this post might give you some idea of what life with a newborn is like and just how all-consuming it can be, but I’ll save that for another post.

I had always thought that our baby would be born early and this belief intensified after one particular incident in week 35 of the pregnancy after I sprinted for the bus (which is a terrible idea when you are eight months pregnant) and then suffered contractions that made me think I might give birth on the bus. The beard had to meet me at the bus stop and escort me home; a walk that normally took five minutes took almost half an hour.

At the doctor’s appointment I had the following day I was warned in no uncertain times that the baby would arrive imminently unless I slowed down. Fortunately, I was then signed off sick from work and had a chance to rest.

In Switzerland maternity leave only begins when the baby is born, any time you have off before the baby’s arrival is considered as sick leave, and your doctor will normally sign you off some point between two to four weeks before the baby is due. This makes planning for things like when you finish work and your maternity replacement should begin quite difficult, but it does protect the amount of maternity leave you get, which is less generous here than in the UK.

I had been quite uncomfortable for a little while before the bus sprint, not helped by the fact Geneva had been undergoing a particularly virulent heatwave for several weeks, so my doctor would have been happy to sign me off six weeks before my due date but I managed to negotiate this down to just three weeks. At the time of our discussion I didn’t feel great but still felt capable of work, but the final week, even before my public transport dash, had been incredibly challenging so I was grateful when my sick (prenatal maternity) leave began.

For once, I actually did as I was told and followed doctor’s orders to take it easy. I thought I’d revel in nothing but moving from bed to sofa for alternating stints of Netflix binging, reading marathons and daytime napping, but it did get pretty boring fairly quickly. However, I was grateful that the potato was at least happy with my new regime and did decide to stay put until I reached the point of being full term (37 weeks), but after that point I found myself increasingly impatient for baby to arrive.

From our prenatal classes the midwife had said that labour was not like seen on tv, rarely was it a case that waters would break in a gushing flood and then you would instantly have to rush to the hospital. For most first-time mothers of our age (as in not-teenagers) labour would take somewhere around 18 hours from initial contractions, and for many people this could last much longer.

With not much to do whilst lounging around the flat I became much more sensitive to every twinge, unusual occurrence in my body and many a night (I guess I was even more attuned to these things when lying in bed longing for sleep and with no other distractions) I would find myself googling random symptoms to see if this could be the start of labour.

I didn’t have much in the way of contractions before the baby was born and I knew that although waters breaking was a good indicator I also knew that for lots of people it was barely noticeable when this happened. So, after what seemed like countless evenings of internet researching and scouring through millions of forum entries for indications of early labour, it took me by surprise when my labour actually began on that Tuesday afternoon at 12.30pm.

The beard and I had just had a late brunch, and I was sat in my PJs browsing social media between Star Trek episodes (we’d found a new series to binge on during my leave), waiting for my man to get dressed before watching the next episode. All of a sudden there was a gush, I leapt up from the sofa (I figured it would be easier to clean the tile floor) stood rooted to the spot and yelled for the bearded one.

I didn’t feel any contractions at this point so we took time to find the leaflet the hospital had given us about when to come in for labour, noted that instructions for when you think your waters have broken are to put on a pad, walk around for 30 minutes and if still leaking to then call the hospital. Whilst I paced the flat, the man prepped for the hospital trip: corralling the cats, setting out enough biscuits to last them a week (in case complications kept us both at the hospital for some time), checking the hospital bag, etc.

After half an hour was up I called through to the hospital (which took a little longer than expected, owing to the leaflet they had given us having an out of date phone number). We went through a few things and they said that I should aim to come in within two hours but had time to take a shower, have some food and make my way in. So the beginning of my labour was all very civilised.

By the time I got out of the shower I’d started to have some regular contractions, but these were fairly mild and I remember thinking maybe labour isn’t as bad as I’d been led to believe, or perhaps I have a particularly high pain tolerance threshold and this isn’t going to be any worse than a bad period. Ha!

By the time I’d gotten dressed and we went down to the garage the contractions were about six minutes apart and the pain level had dialled up. By the time we arrived at the hospital thirty minutes later, the contractions were three to four minutes apart and each one was bad enough to reduce me to grim-faced, gritted-teeth silence but still just about manageable with the recovery period in between.

By the time we’d gotten to the hospital at about 2pm contractions were three minutes apart. We were instantly taken through and examined, but at this point I could still manage the pain so thought I could get by without the need for painkillers. Within 20 minutes the contractions were longer and so frequent that I couldn’t catch my breath during the supposed recovery periods and I felt I could no longer continue purely under my own steam, so called for the epidural. I felt like I’d failed a bit, in not being able to hold out for longer but I think the man was relieved to see me seek some relief beyond his mopping of my brow and provision of water.

Within another 20 minutes, although it felt like an almost interminable age, the anaesthetist came and explained the procedure and the epidural was connected. It didn’t kill all feeling, I could still feel the contractions but these were now back to mildly uncomfortable rather than swear-inducingly painful. This was now probably about 3pm, for the next 90 minutes I did okay, remembered to breathe and let my body do its thing. At about 4.30pm, everything changed gear again. What I hadn’t realised about the epidural is that it can only do so much, those final parts of labour are a bitch, drugs or no.

But, I was better behaved than I thought I would be, and only crumpled the beard’s hands during each contraction and muttered a single expletive after each exhausting effort was over. Although I remember having the distinct thought ‘why would anyone ever have more than one child when they know how painful labour is?’

The pain didn’t go away when the pushing began (probably about 5.30pm) at least there was now a clear end point in sight and I went from dreading each contraction to willing the next one to hurry up so I could just get on with getting the pain generator out! As I responded to the midwives encouraging calls of ‘Poussez! Poussez! Poussez!’ (Push! Push! Push!) eventually I could feel the baby starting to emerge. I ignored the midwives (at some point there were two) sudden calls for me to stop pushing as the baby and I decided we were just going to get on with this in one go.

And suddenly, at 5.56pm, there she was, our little baby girl had emerged and was quickly placed on my chest. She emitted her first cries as her lungs started working for the first time and she learnt to breathe. From my prone position I could only see the top of her head, covered in a mass of dark hair and one squidgy eye looking up at me. I burst into tears and felt an overwhelming rush of what felt like every emotion possible, although dominated by a kind of euphoria that I can’t really describe. I felt the beard by my side and concluded I was the luckiest person alive.

The midwife and I think a doctor started to explain to me that there had been some tearing and I’d need stitches (in my eagerness to meet her and her rush to enter the world, our daughter had come out in a triumphant superwoman pose with clenched fist saluting her new world). The previous pain already felt irrelevant and their words had almost no meaning; they could have told me they were going to have to amputate a leg and I don’t think I’d have cared.

Our daughter had arrived and I was in love.

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The Pregnancy Diaries: Why are we doing this?

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Once we got through the first trimester, and as we told family and friends, the reality of a baby started to kick in. I was still mostly trying to think of it as a potato at this stage to try to hide from myself the truth that in another 6 months the beard and I were going to become responsible for a small human. Our actions or inactions, decisions we would take and behaviours we would intentionally or inadvertently encourage and discourage would have a fundamental impact on the formation of an actual person.

Beyond the primary goal of just trying to keep it alive was an entirely dense and terrifying further mission: raising it to be 1) not a terrible individual (note to prospective parents do not read or watch ‘we need to talk about Kevin’), and 2) preferably ‘happy’ but given the elusive nature of such a concept would settle for ‘on balance, more happy than not’.

It is so ingrained into our society that having children is the normal thing to do that very rarely do people stop to question whether having children is the right thing for certain people. Which is really odd because many of us are quite happy to express opinions about whether or not someone should have a cat or a dog and we can discuss an individual’s suitability to be a pet owner, weighing up whether this is a responsible thing for them to do, fair on the future pet and so on.

Obviously getting a pet is a big commitment and should be thought through carefully but surely having a child is a bigger commitment and yet we don’t even come close to asking these same kind of questions. Instead we are trained to expect that every adult should want to have children and I know many people that will go beyond this and actively encourage adults to have children, without even remotely considering whether or not having children is actually a good idea for them or future offspring. (Not to mention those that would actively do everything they can to prevent people who don’t want to have children from being able to exercise autonomy over their own reproductive abilities).

The more you think about this, the stranger it seems. Humans are very complicated! And I should know, I’ve been one (more or less) for some 30 odd years. Taking responsibility to raise one and train it how to, hopefully, add more to the world than it takes away isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Yet, mostly, we don’t question people when they make plans to have a child and we don’t really, or at least I haven’t, ask ourselves why we would want to have children?

Is it purely a selfish thing? A wannabe-god like moment of creating something in our own image in which we hope to inspire devotion and exert control?  A desire not to be forgotten and/or to have someone to look after us in our dotage? A hope that by raising a child we can model a new and improved version of ourselves, a Briony 2.0 if you will, complete with an ability to play a musical instrument, ice-skate, speak many languages and all the other things I wish I could do? An uncontrollable biological urge to propagate? A belief that your child will bring balance to the force, and hopefully not in a Darth Vader kind of way? Some combination of all of the above?

I know I want the potato but as to why…I definitely don’t have a clear answer. And this is just thinking about the impact of the child on me rather than thinking of the child itself and the question of whether I’m going to be a decent parent.

This concern of ‘how do I not completely balls up the child?’ is a pressing one. I have a tendency to think ahead, which can make living in the moment challenging. Knowledge that we were expecting initially intensified this and I became much more conscious of the potential issues our kid is going to face.

I was more aware of the seemingly 12 year old boys on the tram talking (and one can only hope, lying) about girls they’ve slept with; the true horrors of social media when teenage hormones are surging, kids can be so mean and photographic evidence follows you way past the end of the school day bell; not to mention the ease of accessibility of drugs and alcohol; and worst of all, what if they grow up to become some sort of Nigel Farage-accolyte xenophobic monster??

How the heck am I supposed to be capable of raising a decent human being that can navigate all that? How is anyone? Or is that the trick, the whole idea is so hideous, society unites in agreement to collectively bury our heads in the sand and refuse to consider even the most basic elements of suitability for child rearing?

The beard’s response when I would find myself careering down this dark rabbit hole would be to point out how many people seem to cope with having kids that on the surface of it you wouldn’t have thought appeared even slightly qualified to do so, yet somehow managed to adapt to parenting with ease.

A friend at work advised me not to over think it, everyone messes up their kids in one way or another but mostly it’s nothing too overwhelmingly catastrophic.

And someone else told me not to worry about it because ‘happy parents make happy children’. This one bugged me though. For one thing the implication that anyone who wouldn’t class themselves as ‘happy’, those combatting depression or other mental health disorders on a regular basis, will automatically make unhappy children is highly offensive.

For another thing, I resented the oversimplification of myself as a happy person. I am many things: I can be a positive person but I’m not always, I am often irritable, I am an idealist and a realist, I am loyal and I am fickle, I am funny and I am dull, I can be sad and, yes, I can be happy. I am all of these things and more, I am no single one of these things.

So the idea that the potato’s emotional well-being will be reliant on my maintaining some sort of stable positive vibe at all times is frankly alarming and sounds like the way towards a mental break-down for me, sproglet and anyone else in the vicinity when my stepford-wives-esque grinning persona crashes into the reality of a complicated life of even average human emotions.

Perhaps what this person meant was ‘you don’t seem like a complete blight on the history of humanity so have some faith that your spawn may be similarly undamaging to the world?’ Which, is a much more helpful position.

I’m doing my best to go with the Ostrich approach and try not to overthink it and, for now, to just take one thing at a time. First thing’s first, I’m going to concentrate on getting through this pregnancy, what comes after that is another matter entirely.

The Pregnancy Diary: Passing the 12-Week Point

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The 12 week scan is a big deal in a pregnancy, it’s the time when chances of miscarriage drastically decrease, you get the first in-depth analysis of how the potato is growing and accompanied by a thorough blood test is likely to be the first indication of any potentially serious problems.

In Switzerland we have been lucky in that before we were sent for our formal 1st ultrasound we had already had 3 scans with the gynaecologist. Although his equipment isn’t as advanced as that at the ultrasound centre we were referred to, we could see that the potato was developing as it was supposed to and could check its heart was beating.

I was talking with the beard about this recently and he felt that having more regular scans made us more likely to feel more paranoid than if we only had the 12 week and 20 week scans we’d have been entitled to in the UK. But I think the regular scans means that at least we get to alleviate our paranoia each time we see the doctor.

I still dislike the action of having to go our gynaecologist (lovely man though he is) and my blood pressure is still highly elevated every time we do (but is fine whenever I have recorded this at home, so clearly I have a distinct touch of ‘white coat syndrome’). I used to bemoan the fact that the doctor kept asking us to come back at three week intervals, but when travel circumstances dictated that we had a four-week gap between appointments I found myself increasingly anxious as week three passed and we had to wait a whole extra seven days to check on the potato’s progress. But maybe the bearded one is right, perhaps if we didn’t expect such frequent scans we’d find a way to be a bit calmer in-between times or perhaps not.

At any rate, had we been in the UK, the 12-week scan would be the first visual encounter we’d have had with the baby. So I can imagine the wave of emotions this first encounter provokes in UK-based parents would be very different to that which we felt awaiting our premier echo in Switzerland but this didn’t mean we weren’t on our own emotional rollercoaster as the scan took place. Certainly the official ultrasound felt like a very different experience than our regular consultations.

It’s quite hard to know how you are supposed to react when viewing the grainy black and white images of your growing child, probably there is no set way to respond but certainly some kind of response is required as the technician points out various body parts, organs, etc. on the screen. It felt a bit like at Christmas when you are being handed so many nice presents that as you say thank you time and again the effect of the words start to sound hollow. You start to panic that the gift givers will sense a lack of enthusiasm in the repetition of your words, so try to overcompensate with effusive acknowledgement but then worry that earlier, more simple, iterations of gratitude suggest a lack of interest in these initial gifts.

And so it was in the ultrasound room as they point out the head, arms, legs, organs, etc. and I’m politely responding with a vague ‘mmm, yes’ as though I understood that one blob here is a lung and another blob there is a bladder. I became increasingly self-conscious that perhaps I’m not responding correctly. The technicians must see so many expectant parents, that in comparison my ‘mmm, yeses’ might sound like someone who isn’t interested and shouldn’t be trusted with a child. Oh god, I thought, I’m doing this wrong, and started trying desperately to think of something, anything else to say with the next image they showed me.

Unfortunately that was the moment they decided to switch to the 3D imaging technology, which is supposed to give you a glimpse of your baby’s actual facial features and therefore be rather exciting but instead struck me as some kind of mud monster creating itself out of the dirt to suck away all humanity. On the plus side I managed to say something other than ‘mmm, yes’ on the downside what I blurted out was ‘oh, it’s weird’ in a genuine state of shock at the thought of this nightmarish creation shaping itself so crudely out of my own flesh!

It may be naïve to think there is a right way to respond to ultrasound images of your child but I’m am now fairly confident that there is an incorrect way as seemed evident from the doctor’s somewhat stunned response as she quickly corrected me ‘no, not weird, beautiful’. I’m a bit embarrassed by my patently non-maternal response but still find myself thinking ‘that’s easy for her to say, she’s not the one with some slime demon growing inside’. At least she switched back to the traditional ultrasound images pretty quickly.

Initially we told the immediate family that we’d give them the all-clear to start spreading the news at the 12-week point, but as we were still awaiting the results of the blood test, we made them hold off for another week. Fortunately, a week later, the results came back positively and Down’s Syndrome was assessed as very low risk so we didn’t have to confront the issue of how we’d act had the risk been otherwise.

I thought I’d feel elated as soon as we reached this marker and could sound the sirens announcing the pregnancy but we both felt strangely flat after leaving the doctor’s that afternoon, and decided to communicate the news to family members by text rather than having to talk to anyone.

However, the next day I started to tell people at work. I had a new boss starting in a few months who happened to be in Geneva that week preparing for his handover (he was already internal to the organization) and I wanted to let him know as soon as possible and to reassure him the timing wasn’t a deliberate attempt to abandon him as he took on his new role. I was also keen to share the news with office-mates to be able to justify the constant state of exhaustion and permanent green tinge I’d been exhibiting for the last 6 weeks or so.

As an added bonus, in the act of telling I provided a source of amusement for one colleague amused by that variety of methods I went about spreading the news from slipping it into conversation, firing it at people as they came in the office and a dozen ways in between. And I found the more people I told, the more I felt their enthusiasm catch within me.

This shit just got real and finally I was excited!

 

 

 

The Pregnancy Diaries: Part 6 – Spreading the Word

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I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to tell people we were trying for a baby under any circumstances, but the awareness of a number of friends and family members with fertility issues had made us mindful that wanting and succeeding were not the same thing.

Even before babymaking was on our agenda it already irritated me the amount of people that would ask the beard and I when we would have a child, without any consideration of the fact that this could be a delicate issue. Maybe we didn’t want children, maybe we couldn’t have them. Whatever our family status was or wasn’t I was surprised by how many people just assumed it was fair game for genial conversation. When our situation changed and we made that decision to start trying we didn’t want to advertise this and potentially open ourselves up to all sorts of future painful conversations.

When it comes to secrets I tend to be an all or nothing person, either I tell no-one or I tell everyone, so we had decided that for this issue we wouldn’t tell anyone even though clearly many people in our lives would have been able to handle the issue with the sensitivity required.

I’m not great at sharing emotions, certainly not in person anyway – blogging is a whole different form of therapy – so I was very reluctant to share our pregnancy news with anyone in the early stages. When we were still trying to process how we felt about the whole thing, not to mention the fears of miscarriage or some other mishap, the thought of having to communicate this to anyone other than each other was just too overwhelming.

I still didn’t know how I felt, let alone know how to explain this and I wanted to avoid putting myself in the position I automatically opt for whenever I’m unsure about anything: where I expend buckets of energy trying to reassure everyone that everything is okay so as to mask my own uncertainties. We didn’t want to share the news with anyone until we’d hit the 12 week mark (when chances of miscarriage dramatically reduce).

However, the terrifying reality of trying to deal with whatever the hell was going on, with a man as bewildered as I was, and an internet that we knew could be an abyss of over-information and terror stories waiting to suck us in, caused me to crack in my resolve. I had a chum from my London days who was the first friend I knew to have a child and incidentally she’d had her little boy as an expat in a foreign country so seemed a good person to turn to. I spoke with her even before I’d had the first gynaecologist appointment and it was a huge relief to be able to share my thoughts and fears with someone who’d already been there.

We wouldn’t have told anyone else before the second trimester if it weren’t for the fact that we’d be home with immediate family around the eight week mark and felt disingenuous hiding the news from them, not to mention the difficulty of concealing the pregnancy during the festive season. We concluded if we were going to tell some family then we could also tell a handful of friends.

There was one friend I wanted to tell more than anyone but was also really reluctant to do so. This friend had been unsuccessfully trying for a child for some time and had just started the IVF process. I knew she loved me enough that she’d be pleased for me but I also thought news of my pregnancy might be hard for her to accept. I wasn’t sure how or when to tell her but I thought about the friend I knew, so like me in many ways, and thought what I’d want if our situations were reversed. I wouldn’t want someone I loved deliberately keep something from me because they were afraid of my reaction but I’d also want time to process the information in my own way without being forced into a situation where some sort of immediate response would be required.

I decided that if the news at our second doctor’s appointment confirmed that the pregnancy was progressing as it was supposed to I’d let my friend know immediately, but via text so she could respond whenever and however she wanted. Within a few hours she responded that she was happy for us and I knew that she was, but I felt guilty for not having warned her we were trying and I felt guilty for not feeling as overjoyed about the pregnancy as I imagined that she would have been had it been hers (and as I imagined all ‘normal’ pregnant people were generally supposed to feel).

Prior to Christmas, the bearded one met up with his best man and one of his groomsmen and shared the news with them. When he passed on their congratulations to me when we met up again later that evening, I found myself feeling kind of peeved. I wanted to be in control of the message (yes, I’m a control freak) and also it felt strange to have people congratulating us, surely it was still too soon for all that and was responsibility for a tiny new person really something to be congratulated about?

As I faux-sipped at my Bucks Fizz, we told the man’s family on Christmas morning. Not good at saying things out loud (there’s a power to voicing things that clearly scares me more than writing stuff down) we announced the news by giving his parents a Christmas card with a baby sock inside and signing it from the three of us.

As the penny dropped and we were warmly congratulated by parents and then the sisters and brother in law also present, I tried my best to behave how I guessed a typical pregnant person (still suffering under the delusions such a person existed) was supposed to under such circumstances. I accepted the congratulations with a forced smile, ‘joked’ that I was ‘excited/terrified’ and only responded with truly genuine emotion to quickly rush to prevent mother in law from immediately sharing the news with nan-in-law, aunties, uncles and co as we explained that it was still early days and we didn’t want anyone else to know yet.

Next came my family, and a handful of other people we felt wouldn’t be so traumatic if we had to ‘untell’ anyone if something bad happened down the line. With each individual or group we told I tried to conjur up a bit more excitement but something inside me refused to get on board the enthusiasm train just yet.

The Pregnancy Diaries: Part 3 – The Potato File

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I’ve never been much of an obvious baby person, if there is such a thing, but by that I mean I have never found myself cooing over random children and marveling at the babies of people I barely know.

Show me a kitten or full grown cat for that matter and it’s a different story, I feel an instant desire to win it’s friendship and shower it with whatever affection that particular creature will allow me to bestow. I might even say hello to its owner.

Animal babies are adorable, human babies are a bit, well, meh.

My thinking has always been that most babies, particularly the really new ones, tend to resemble badly carved potatoes and I’ve had as much desire to get to know them as I would want to pick up and cradle your average root vegetable, which suffice to say isn’t much, unless said veggie has been baked and topped with tuna mayo and cheese.

Although if someone said to me ‘ooh look at my marvellous potato, don’t you want to hold it?’ I would think it a bid odd, but would probably look at it and maybe even pick it up out of politeness. This has, on the whole, been my experience with babies. Although to be very clear no-one has ever offered me a baked baby topped with tuna mayo and cheese. I hope if they did that my first instinct would not be to eat it.

In defence to my lack of naturally-occurring baby-loving genes I haven’t been around babies a lot and still don’t know that many people with tiny living replicas of themselves. Where my friends have had children, they’ll no doubt be pleased to know, I do hold them in higher regard than a potato, and can marvel at them as much as if said friends had got a new pet. These babies are wonderful and exciting and interesting because they are the product of people I love. Other babies continue to resemble badly carved potatoes.

Since our quest for a spud of our own has been on the agenda the bearded one and I have found other people’s babies to be much more interesting. It’s just that years of the vegetable comparison has stuck and we still have a tendency to refer to other people’s mini-them’s as ‘taters. Except now if we see someone with a stroller we tend to nudge each other excitedly and point out the ‘little potato’ in a definite gesture of good will rather than the perhaps less flattering way we used to apply the term previously.

At first we were referring to our own minion brewing within by the size of it as compared to some kind of edible substance (as our baby app updated us on a weekly basis): e.g. it’s a mustard seed, now it’s a kidney bean and now a small lime, etc.. However that got quite confusing because when speaking with my parents they’d ask me how the blueberry was, etc., but it kept outgrowing these references and we’d have so many conversations about poppy seeds, lentils and kidney beans I wasn’t sure if we were talking about the pregnancy or if I was supposed to be noting down a recipe.

So it became ‘the potato’. This has also been good size comparison-wise as these root veggies come in all shapes so it has probably been the proportion of some sort of spud for several weeks now.

Our doctor told us to keep a file with all the scans, test results and any other pregnancy related paraphernalia that we have collected and will continue to collect from our various appointments. I drew a picture of a pomme-de-terre on the front and the potato file was born.

It’s also a lot easier to refer to our own abstract ‘baby’ (I use the quotation marks to make it less real) as something decidedly less demanding. Thinking of it as an actual child has just been too hard (and thinking of it as a kitten is definitely too weird).

In those worrying early stages when the thought it might go away was all too prevalent, making it seem a little less human was a way to try to insulate ourselves against potential loss. However, even when I got past that stage I still find myself uncomfortable with the thought of an actual ‘baby’ (note the redeployment of the quotation marks there). Probably because I’m too busy trying to focus on the whole getting through the pregnancy malarkey that I don’t want to think about what comes after these 40 weeks are up, i.e. actually having to deal with a kid.

A potato is so much less threatening: I am definitely capable of looking after a potato, but a baby? Well that’s another story. For one thing I’m not sure I have a big enough baking tray.

 

The Pregnancy Diaries: Part 2 – Accepting (or not) the unreality of being pregnant

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A couple of days after the first test we took another one, just to be sure. I kept waiting for the euphoria to kick in and told myself that it was buried within me somewhere I just hadn’t found it yet!

In reality, the overriding emotion was fear. Mostly fear that the pregnancy that we had wanted would go away (odds of miscarriage being fairly high in first few weeks), but also some fear that it wouldn’t, that we would have to deal with the reality of the situation and accept that our lives would be forever changed. I wasn’t sure I was ready for this.

Coincidentally, my pregnancy rudely kicked off a hormonal party without informing the host, invited an overwhelming number of unwanted guests and nobody bought me any gifts I might actually want.

Instead of the Hollywood promised radiant glow and smug inner pregnantyness I’m left with some weird-ass cramps (feeding into the primary fear) accompanied by a constant feeling of hungoverness! Perhaps it’s hardly surprising that the innate joy of impending motherhood hasn’t exactly made itself known to me.

So there’s all this crazy stuff going on and no-one to talk to beside the bearded man, and even that’s problematic.

On the one hand I want him to suffer all the physical rubbish I’m going through so tell him far too frequently and only half-jokingly that this is all his fault. On the other, I don’t want to rain on what I’m assuming (incorrectly as it turns out) is his blissful parade, by sharing my deep dark fears that this isn’t real, it’s not going to last and having no idea whether I’d actually be all that disappointed if it didn’t.

I assume that my emotional response to the situation is ‘wrong’ and that sharing this would at best earn me disapproving judgment and at worst would justify those American male lawmakers from the deep South in their assumptions that women aren’t too be trusted with reproductive choices.

(For the record there may have been some mixed feelings going on in my brain at this point but experiencing emotions doesn’t render me incapable, inferior, infantile or any other negative ‘in’ connotation that idiotic men would like to apply to my gender…Oh dear, and I was so hoping I’d be able to contain the feminist within for at least a few more posts…)

Anyhoo…I don’t really know what I’m logistically supposed to do now the reality of pregnancy is upon me and there isn’t anyone the bearded one and I can ask right now so we do what any sensible 21st century human with a decent internet connection would do and turn to Google.

We gather I will need to see a gynaecologist so using the powers vested in me by technology I track one down using the criteria of ‘english speaking’ and conveniently located. I’ve no idea what else I’m supposed to look for.

It takes me a few days to build up the courage to call the office and make an appointment. I assume it’ll be too early to make an appointment now, but having never been to see a doctor in Geneva previously I’ve no idea how long the wait is for these sorts of things and I’m keen to try and book an appointment before we go home for Christmas in a few weeks. To my surprise I manage to successfully parlay with the French speaking receptionist and am allowed an appointment for later that week.

A few days later the bearded man and I find ourselves in a medical centre sat outside the gynaecologist’s office waiting for our first appointment. Anxiety sets in.

We’d had discussions about what happens if the pregnancy has gone away and I’ve been having some uncomfortable cramps for much of the preceding week. On top of that I generally get nervous going to see doctors.

The doctor is late. We start to wonder if we are in the wrong place, if I’ve misunderstood the receptionist’s explanations about where to go or otherwise done something wrong. This doesn’t help alleviate the stress.

About 30 minutes late the doctor shows up, we take our seats from the desk across from him and set out what we think is going on. Asked if my periods are regular I answer ‘yes’, which confirms we should be about six weeks. Only later do I remember I’ve no idea what my regular period pattern is having only had one non Pill-controlled period prior to falling pregnant.

I’m asked to go into the back office, take off my clothes, take my weight and prepare for the medical exam. Bearded one is waiting by the desk.

Stripping off in front of a stranger and weighing myself doesn’t do much to calm the nerves so I’m not wholly surprised when my blood pressure reading comes back high. ‘Hmm, we’ll take this again in a little while just to see’ the doctor explains. Great, I think, even my blood pressure is wrong.

Bearded man comes in to join us as the doctor does a vaginal ultrasound. At about six weeks, so the internet says, we should be able to hear a heartbeat and see an undefinable yet nonetheless distinct blob on the screen. What we see is a tiny black smudge that is apparently the egg sack where the embryo probably is.

The almost nothingness we are looking at suggests to the doctor that we are probably only four weeks pregnant so he suggests we come back again a few weeks from now.

I don’t remember what he told us at the end of the appointment, but I remember the disappointment as an almost physical weight pressing down on both of us.

But there isn’t much we can do aside from attempt to suppress the bitter dismay, try to avoid spending too much time online looking up miscarriage statistics and hold up for another few weeks until the next appointment.

Still no sign of that elusive euphoria.

(Return of the blog) The Pregnancy Diaries: Part 1 – Discovering I’m Pregnant

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About a year ago I decided to abandon this blog. I thought I would take the time saved from the blog commitment and apply this to other projects, but instead I got sucked into the mire of Netflix, Twitter and other time-wasting distractions and I still haven’t gotten around to channeling my liberated time into something more productive.

Alas, the best laid plans of wombat and women and all that…

In short, I’m back to the blog. I’m also about 4 months pregnant so I decided to marry the two and start the pregnancy diaries. Although I reserve the right to right about anything else as the hormonal whims (or should that be winds) take me!


The Pregnancy Diaries: Discovering I’m pregnant

I should start with the disclaimer that the pregnancy was planned and was theoretically something that was hoped for and desired. However, in spite all of this it took me by surprise in a way that I really hadn’t counted on. For the record, I am also very aware of how incredibly fortunate we are not to have encountered any difficulties in becoming pregnant and I wish it could be as simple for others as it has been for us.


It seems that the bearded man and I know more couples that have had difficulties in conceiving than we know couples that have easily (or so it seems) had kids. To be totally honest it never occurred to me that we might have serious problems, although I suppose it probably doesn’t occur to most couples until they find themselves in that situation. However, I had thought that it would take us a good few months of trying and being disappointed every time my period arrived before what I imagined would be that euphoric moment when we finally took the pregnancy test and realised I was pregnant.

This is not what happened.

I came off the Pill I’d been taking for the last 15 years, I had my period the following month but was neither surprised nor particularly disappointed by this as that month I’d been travelling a fair amount and otherwise busy with work. I also assumed it might take a while for my body to readjust to a non regulated routine.

The following month, I was fairly sure my period was on its way. I’d had an over-flow of emotions that I horrifically thought was what it must be like to have a normal period without the drug dependency (trying not burst into tears when my colleague asked me a simple question) and fully expected the monthly joy to kick in that weekend.

Then I realised that I’d miscounted. It wasn’t 4 weeks since my last period, it was 5. I still wasn’t convinced this meant anything of note, I wasn’t sure what my regular pattern was supposed to be since I’d stopped regulating with the daily chemicals I’d been taking for the previous 5,500 days or so. But it at least meant buying a pregnancy test was a sensible option.

Buying the test I found myself subject to the same sense of shame I’d imagined would have enshrouded me had I needed to buy a test when a teenager and clearly not expecting or wanting to be mother material.

Why this was so I’ve no idea, but nonetheless I found myself furtively in the line at the pharmacy trying to surreptitiously had the packet behind a handful of other random items I’d picked up as cover (you know, I’ll have a packet of chewing gum, some shampoo, a multipack of chapsticks and…adoublepackofpregnancytests…and some moisturiser, and some paracetamol…).

I got the tests home and decided to get it over with straight away, I glanced at the instructions got the gist drank two big glasses of water to fuel my bladder and toddled off to the toilet, test in hand.

I waited the two minutes; the bearded man anxiously looking at me waiting for me to flip the stick and view the results. There was a straight line instead of the cross. Not pregnant. Oh well.

Then I noticed there was some other part of the test that hadn’t done anything, the control window next to the results window. Nothing in that either. I reread the instructions which clearly stated that if no line appears in the control window then the test has failed. Alright the control line didn’t show up but the original result still said not pregnant so presumably that was more likely to be the real result?

However, I’d bought a double pack and had the spare test but rather than fuelling the bladder and going again immediately I thought it would be better to wait until the following morning and do the whole thing properly. I decided to get back to the rest of the afternoon and evening. Have some dinner, watch some Netflix, go to bed.

The following morning I found myself more awake than usual on a Sunday (can’t imagine why) so when the cats wake me just before 7, rather than doing what I usually do which is to shake the bearded one awake and demand he feed them, I got my lazy bottom up to to distribute the morning biscuits myself and then headed to the bathroom.

I took the test properly, held the stick at the right angle for the precise amount of time. I waited the two minutes and looked to see a very strong cross in the results window and a line in the control window appear. No mistaking this result: I’m pregnant.

I thought I don’t really want to deal with this right now so I’ll just go back to sleep and pretend this isn’t really happening. Safely ensconced back under the duvet, bearded man responding to my re-entry into bed by rolling over and throwing an arm around me, I lay wide-eyed in the dark staring at nothing.

After a few moments of realising sleep was not forthcoming I thought this probably isn’t something I should keep to myself so I sort of angrily muttered ‘Well, I’m pregnant’ to the half dreaming man beside me. ‘What?’ he murmurs back at me. ‘I took the test and I’m pregnant’. He’s fully alert now. ‘We’re having a baby?’ ‘Yup’ I respond. Neither of us says anything. I suspect both of us are now wide-eyed in the dark and staring.

Waiting for the euphoria to kick in.

To be continued…