Everything is going great. Maybe it's the second time around, you're more confident, you know what to expect. Maybe your boss knows, maybe a few colleagues have guessed. Cutting down on caffeine is a bother, but the nausea isn't stalking you as badly. And you have more energy than the doctor expected you to—hell you even manage to squeeze in a pregnancy workout most mornings.
Then you go in for a routine ultrasound, hearing the reassuring thump-thump of the heartbeat. Isn't it the best sounding thing in the world? It's the doctor's furrowed brow that gives it away. It's at that moment you know something is wrong. He's taking too long. And when he says he needs to speak to <insert medical professional's name here> and he'll be right back. That's when you know. Your heart sinks and you're left clutching the cold steel rods of the hospital bed. You're holding back tears, you don't want them to see you cry. Not yet.
A complicated pregnancy can be a very solitary experience, even if you are surrounded by friends and family.
From there on, the journey is filled with highs and lows. What should be a celebratory journey, turns into a nerve-wracking few months. There's no enjoyment in such a pregnancy, at least not for me (and I'm still going through it). I stay focused on the end outcome and hope that my baby will survive. Mine has been an extremely complicated pregnancy (bleeding, rounds of bed rest, in-utero procedures and then some). I came close to giving up. No, scratch that, I did give up at one point.
No one expected anything to go wrong—but many things did. Each time I was informed of the "risk factor"—a sterile number that's supposed to tell you what your chances of making it are. In reality, after a few crazy turns, I came to fear the worst each day. It was the purgatory of not knowing and yet holding on to hope.
You are advised to "read up". But you're also advised to not go researching every other possible scenario out there—you don't need to worry about problems that aren't an issue for you. It is physically impossible to do both, trust me. I googled, I read research papers, I memorised the risk percentages (despite myself). I signed waivers.
I battled anxiety at every ultrasound. Is the baby growing okay? How about the percentiles. What's the fluid looking like? Every medical term that I had inadvertently picked up seemed like a possible scare. Will we end up in the NICU? Should I buy preemie clothes? Should I pack a hospital bag at 26 weeks? Every tug in the belly, every twitch, made me wonder what was going on.
It was also incredibly lonely. A complicated pregnancy can be a very solitary experience, even if you are surrounded by friends and family. I felt like no one really understood what I was going through. And I didn't have the heart to explain. How do you articulate in words that you are worried for your unborn baby's life? What can you say when there is a real chance that your deepest fears might come true?
I am still not through, but every day I hold out hope that I'll take this to term. Every day when I wake up, I choose hope over fear.
I know I am not the first person whose life got put on hold because of a crazy pregnancy—but it sure felt that way. Baz Luhrmann was right, the real troubles in life are the things that never cross your mind and the kind that blindside you at 4PM on some idle Tuesday. These last few months have definitely not been among favourite chapters in my life. I wish I had handled it better, here is what I'd have told myself six months ago.
It is an act of bravery
Acknowledge it, even if it doesn't feel like it at the time. You think you're merely surviving something challenging, but it is much more. You'll go from a busy, fulfilling life to just marking days off a calendar. Living though days of uncertainty is tough. Forced bed rest is brutal. Staring at your toes, even pretty pedicured ones, is frustrating.
There will be scumbags
Those who will somehow make this whole situation your fault. There is nothing admirable about them. On those lame folks—practice the subtle art of not-giving-a-fuck.
You have to recalibrate priorities
A top-flight evening will no longer involve scratching multiple things off your to-do list and multitasking on your way back from work. When you've spent weeks flopping about the bed like a beached whale, even a stroll in the park can feel very fulfilling.
Enough with the guilt already
The guilt can be debilitating. Stop wondering "why me", and if you did something wrong. Saying goodbye to guilt is the first step, along with anyone who makes you feel guilty (no, it's not your fault, or your job's, your diet's, your exercise schedule or lack of thereof, that landed you here)
You'll feel like an emotional basket case
It is normal to be confused, angry, upset and bitter, all interspersed with bouts of sanity and confidence. So go ahead, get angry, cry, yell—and then move on.
The simple act of sharing your burden can alleviate it
I didn't want sympathy, I wanted a listening ear. Folks who really care know when to offer a hug, a listening ear or just silence. Seek them out.
It will feel like the world has forgotten about you
The reality is somewhat more mundane. Folks are busy, and unless someone is really close, they have no idea what it's like for you. If you want company, invite people over. And know that there are good folks who are sending a silent wish and a prayer your way.
For some time, the fortnightly foetal diagnostic visit to the doctor was my only outing. I am fortunate to have the best medical help ever. They are the biggest reason I made it this far. I wouldn't be exaggerating if I called them a god-send. Not only did they treat my crazy medical situation, they also knocked sense into my head when I was flipping out and making poor choices.
I am still not through, but every day I hold out hope that I'll take this to term. Every day when I wake up, I choose hope over fear.Suggest a correction