I wrote this post pretty much exactly as it is, at 38 weeks pregnant when a routine pre-natal scan introduced an uncertainty about the health of our baby. What I have written is self-indulgent therapy at it’s best. But at a time when nothing else helped, it worked.
It’s tempting to re-read this and jump in and change the more wallowing aspects of the text but I haven’t. The only piece I have added is at the very end.
It’s funny how a little something changes everything. How your comfortable world is shaken in just a moment. How the very thing you felt would come most easily and naturally to you, suddenly feels likes the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. But this is where I am at, and I don’t know how to make it better.
Last week, my latest little gymnast decided that getting ready for his / her arrival into the world was boring. That time would pass a little faster with a bit of spinning. That a few days with a head rammed into my rib cage on one side, and his / her bum right up on there on the other was brilliant craic. Naturally my midwife did the cautious and correct thing. I was admitted to hospital within 25 minutes of my not-so-routine appointment to do my breech tilts and yoga moves in the safety of the maternity hospital.
The usual feelings flooded over me. I’d been here before when my second baby had settled into a transverse lie at 39 weeks. This wasn’t how it was meant to be. Everything would be harder. I didn’t want a c-section. Seriously, this wasn’t how my last pregnancy was meant to end. I was gutted.
Two days into my hospital stay, the bubba decides to stop the larking around and flips back to head down. Major relief all round and everyone’s delighted. Daddy – who’s home juggling the two toddlers is texted and delighted. Phew. Yep. Great.
About three midwives later we’re still good and a doctor comes to confirm the lie. If we can get 48 hours stable and cephalic we’ll be allowed home. We’re now on the clock with a definite target to aim for. ‘Sure come on down to the ultrasound room and we’ll just check the lie’ the nice doctor says. The hospital is lovely and quiet. It’s a Saturday and, with a flu outbreak, there’s a visitor ban in the hospital, so I wander down the quiet corridor to a scan room I’ve been in before. I’m already wondering if I can make that daytime movie in Swords on Wednesday.
The lie is good. The head is down. Then a question about my earlier scans and a small measurement is taken and re-taken. In a blur the doctor notes that one – just one, measurement is a little different from the norm. She’s reassuring and gentle. We’re going to be chatting to some doctors from the Foetal Assessment unit. There’ll be another scan. Maybe a paediatrician will talk to us. There’s reassurance but no answers.
As the rug is quickly tugged out from under me I do everything a good patient is meant to do. I keep talking about the baby’s lie and I find myself reassuring her that I’m sure everything is good. Sure nothing showed up on earlier scans. And everything else looks good. I’m sure it’s nothing. These are my words. Not the doctors.
The afternoon passes in a fog. The nurses on the ward know the head-down lie is confirmed but are also all too aware of the little flag that has been raised. They are kind and keep offering me tea and re-affirming chats. Daddy visits and it’s for me to mention the sting in the tail to our otherwise happy scan. I take to rubbing my little baby sock and convincing myself that all is good. But I feel sick.
The weekend passes and we meet with a lovely team of experts who re-do the scan. They confirm the findings. My leg is patted. We’re told a little about what might be going on but no-one can really tell us anything until this baby is born. The only words I remember are fleeting references to unnamed syndromes. Syndrome. A word no expectant parents want to hear. Checked and re-checked. Tested and re-tested. The odds are massively in our favour but a little red sticker (forever to be called the ‘fucking red sticker’) goes on the front of our chart and it’s all I can see.
Utter deflation follows. I spin, spin and stand no hope of finding my feet. I can’t do it.
I can barely find the energy to raise a smile as I’m sent home.
On my return visit to the hospital, I pass by the heavily pregnant smokers to the front of our “smoke-free” campus. That’s hard. I’m not even going to pretend that I’m not being mega judgemental. The Doctor notes the baby’s lie is good but mentions in passing the fucking red sticker. Presumably he mentioned it to reassure me. To let me know he knew that we knew, but that no-one knew anything.
I pass the time feeling like I am a complete let down to my child. My rational mind knows the odds faced with the roll of the genetic dice and that we are – in theory at least, ‘low-risk’. But I feel so weak, so pathetic and so unable to summon the immense energy I know I need to deliver this lovely little child into this world. With every squiggle of my belly I feel such guilt that I dread what may come next.
The hurt is immense and the stress is so bloody pointless. Dizzy spells, sleeplessness, days of existing on Krackawheat. No appetite or enthusiasm for anything. My four-year old tells me to stop cutting onions. They are hurting my eyes he says.
We are, at least, drowning together. We are both are equally down, equally helpless, equally low. We talk. It helps but then we hit the point where we admit that we know nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Just that a possibility that exists in every pregnancy that all may not be perfect. We remember that before having kids we’d always agreed that’d we’d ‘take on’ any difficulties that might arise. That really nothing has changed. That, for all we know our other two kids would have presented a similar anomaly and look at them. We talk, talk, talk. We stay away from the Internet. We only tell a few people. After all, what do we say.
About 5 days in, I snap. I grow up. I ‘mama-the-fuck-up’. The pointlessness of ‘knowing’ what we ‘know’ dawns. If our sad is about to get sadder, two weeks of wallowing is neither going to prepare or insulate us from the pain that will come. If our happy gets happier, what a silly waste of time this is.
The baby in my belly has done everything it is meant to. With the exception of a few words, nothing has changed. Those busy little cells got building according to the plans he / she had tucked in there and our little baby is nearly ready to show off all this hard work. And all we can do is cry. Sod that.
I have a job to do and it’s a big one. Fuck the fucking red sticker, and the handwritten notes for the Baby-Doctor that tell them the little signs to go and look for. I inflate the birthing ball, tend to the much ignored bikini line, re-pack the hospital bags and finish the new cover for feeding cushion. I start to eat properly and to stop my brain running riot at 4am. My baby is coming and in a sea of uncertainty one thing I can remember is that baby needs me to be the best mama I can. I need to shake off this funk and to push every obstacle, bad feeling and negative thought out of my head.
In every respect, my job now is just all about the pushing.
There’s an element of ’fake it til you make it’ in my new found hope. It’s pretty obvious to anyone who meets us (though we avoid most people) and congratulates us on the imminent arrival , that all is not right. I don’t really care. Explanations can follow and people will understand, or they won’t. For now I’ll reserve my energies for the only job I can do. Bringing a baby into this world – not to be prodded, examined and poked but to be kissed, cuddled and snuggled. To be given a world of love. To lie between us in the big-boys-bed making the only promise we can keep: to be the best mummy and daddy we can. And as the other two will tell you, in this house you don’t break a pinky promise.
Post-script: After he was born our little Woodie had breathing problems that saw him doing a fairly long stint in ICU, needing help from lots of drugs and a ventilator. Everything hung in the balance for a horrible few days and nights. I dreaded the worst and could only sit there and tell him I couldn’t do this without him. He took his time turning things around but nine horrible days later he came home.
Possibly because of the ‘fucking red sticker’ he was a baby that was really quickly assessed and treated and – happily, this avoided some worse complications arising. His difficulties were not at all related to the findings of the prenatal scan – it was all just an unhappy coincidence.
Yesterday, 12 weeks after this nightmare began, we got our last and definitive test result. This wonderful little boy is perfectly healthy and the pre-natal scan reading was of absolutely no significance. Just a snap shot in time that told an inaccurate story. Waiting on these last results I’ve over analysed every thing the child does. I wonder is he smiling enough, or maybe too much? Is he growing proportionally? Is he responding to us? For chrissakes, I googled whether my sleep-loving baby was maybe sleeping too much. It has driven us insane.
Some other day I’ll ruminate on the usefulness of late pre-natal scans but not today.
We’ve been living on pause and now it’s time to press play.
Image sourced from www.spearmintbaby.com