I thought long and hard before deciding to post something about my pregnancy. It was one long low point really.
But I decided to share it here because when I look at Flea now, finally, I can say it was worth it. And perhaps someone in a similar situation will be cheered up – I know I used to scour the Internet for stories like mine that had happy endings.
I found out I was pregnant a week before my wedding. My breasts swelled up like airbags and my wedding dress designer cried for an hour. But six days later – on the eve of my wedding – I started to bleed. A scan two days later revealed a missed miscarriage. We cancelled the honeymoon and I was admitted to hospital for a surgical evacuation.
Three months later when I had another positive pregnancy test, I was nervous but optimistic. Having one miscarriage doesn’t mean you’ll have another, right? That feeling lasted precisely two days, at which point I started bleeding.
We were due to fly to San Francisco for Christmas the next morning so I went to my GP for advice. “You can either have a miscarriage, or a miscarriage a nice holiday,” he told me.
We opted for the holiday, but it wasn’t especially nice. I bled for the entire three weeks we were in the US, and when we returned to spend New Years’ in Devon with friends, I consoled myself by drinking bucket-loads of wine and mountains of peanuts.
On January 4th, we went for a scan at the hospital to check there wasn’t anything lingering in the uterus. I don’t think I’ve ever been more surprised than when the scan operator said: “There’s the heartbeat. You’re about 9 weeks pregnant.”
Wow. Despite being a tough Northerner the shock took my legs from under me when I tried to walk out of the room. But we were back there less than two weeks later.
I’d been standing in the Post Office one morning when I looked down to find I was standing in a pool of blood. Trying not to panic, I drove us to A&E and was whisked up to the early pregnancy clinic, where a doctor said we couldn’t have a scan that day but we should keep anything that passed in a plastic bag, so they could look at it. Then she gave us a leaflet called, “About Your Miscarriage”.
The next morning, a lovely consultant called Des held my hand as he scanned my abdomen. “Well, we know you can get pregnant, and that’s the tough bit, we just have to keep you that way,” he said. Then he squeezed my hand and said, “Look, there’s your baby, it’s doing fine.”
After a barrage of deeply embarrassing tests, most of which seemed to involve putting my legs in stirrups and shining an enormous torch in the direction of my cervix (I kid you not), the consultant’s best guess was that the placenta wasn’t properly attached. This meant blood was collecting in the gap between the placenta and uterus – and every so often it would gush out.
This risk was that the baby wouldn’t have enough oxygen or nourishment, so I’d need careful monitoring and scans every two weeks. The moment there was a sign the baby had stopped growing, she’d be delivered. “So long as she’s over 2lb, we’ll be fine,” said Des, while I tried not to think about what a 2lb baby would look like.
It’s sad to me now, but I never relaxed or enjoyed my pregnancy. I never browsed through baby names or puschairs, I hid the clothes my mother bought when she visited us. I never really believed I’d have a baby – I was constantly in and out of hospital, I bled almost every day and I spent most of my time drinking ice-cold water to make the baby move. Poor little sod. I also used to chant to her when we were alone – “Just hold on baby, not long to go. Just hold on.”
When we started antenatal classes at 36 weeks, and they did the demonstration of the baby moving through a pelvis, I passed out. It was the first time it had really occurred to me that, well, I might have to do that.
As it happened, at our last scan, when I was 38 weeks pregnant, Des laughed and said our little girl was already 9lb and he wanted to induce the birth to give me a good chance of a natural delivery. I’m quite short with a narrow pelvis, apparently. Too narrow as it turned out – Flea was eventually born three days later by c-section, while I was out cold.
It took me a long time to come to terms with what had happened. I’d never allowed myself to bond with Flea before she was born, so it took us a while to catch up after the birth. She was probably six months old before I really let myself love her. Fortunately, she made it easy – she ate like a horse and slept A LOT.
I don’t often tell the story because, well, it’s a bit depressing and I try not to think about that whole torch/cervix thing if I can help it. But that’s why Flea’s middle name is Hope – because it felt as though sometimes that was the only thing that kept the two of us going for those nine long months.