New Horizons… and detachment
Tomorrow I will be seventeen weeks pregnant.
My last scan was five weeks ago and during it I clearly watched the little form of a foetus leap up, arms and legs waving. I laughed. My miscarriage doctor laughed. She asked me how I felt. “Like I’m looking at someone else’s scan” I told her. And that is the feeling that has pretty much stuck with me.
I have plenty of symptoms, although thankfully I was spared really bad morning sickness. My boobs have been sore from Day 1 (and still are). I get winded sometimes just climbing the stairs. From weeks 5-10 I felt broadly unwell. Hungry, but food wasn’t so palatable anymore. Some smells turned me off (not a lot, but enough). All I wanted to eat was baked beans, mashed potato and brown toast with butter. All carb-heavy foods which ironically I had avoided while going through my protein-heavy IVF diet. My belly has now also been getting bigger (and harder) since about 12 weeks, although I still look less pregnant, more look who ate the doughnuts. Thankfully I am no longer spotting (that stopped around week 10).
I’m very relieved to have symptoms. In the past, loss of symptoms often heralded loss of a pregnancy. So this is not a list of complaints. It is simply a description, because I have not been here before. And when I was going through the miscarriages, I could not imagine being here so I had no particular expectations.
All symptoms are welcomed as indicators that the pregnancy has not ended yet.
The difficulty however is that while I know I am pregnant, I can’t seem to actually believe it. The words “I’m pregnant” sound false coming from my mouth. I look around (on social media mostly – probably my first mistake) and other first-time mothers-to-be appear to be walking around in some kind of state of elation. They are rubbing their growing bumps and talking glowingly about their intense connection to the tiny form blossoming inside. They take photos of themselves in beautiful dresses, with rainbow-coloured backgrounds, flowers, harvest symbols, smiles… but I am not those women. I am not even in the same room.
I started pregnancy yoga last week and the teacher at one point told us to “put both hands on your baby”. I felt like a fraud. Not only because I have such an indiscernible bump so far but also because this is not yet a baby to me. I can tell you all about what stage of development is taking place this week – how s/he is now breathing amniotic fluid, is now able to hear, has begun to lay down body fat etc; but I can’t tell you what it feels like to have a baby growing in me. He or she is not really real to me in that way, at least not yet. I watch weekly foetal growth updates online and scoff when phrases such as “cute button nose” or “you can’t kiss your baby’s gorgeous little belly just yet” are used, because they make me feel patronised and stupified. I am hyper-aware that I appear to be lacking that cutsie gene. I don’t wish baby-dust on people, but I do ardently hope they find proper supportive care and excellent advice. Fertility-world acronyms (DH for Darling Husband for example) irk me. Who calls their partner “Darling Husband” in real life without irony? Where is the acronym for Long-Term Partner or even Same-Sex Partner? Does infertility only happen to blissfully married couples? Where are the same-sex couples? Where are the singles in all this? Where indeed is everyone else?
I lie in bed every night with my hands on my belly, holding my breath and trying to stay as still as possible whilst desperately trying to feel movement. A flutter, a “bubble pop”, anything that might signal that this baby is alive, and is actually there. Because I don’t feel it. I don’t feel anything. This is what we have been pursuing for years, desperately trying to make happen, and now that it is I can’t feel anything, either physically or emotionally.
And when I do feel movement, what then?
Is this disengagement normal? An understandable reaction – a defence mechanism to protect against all the losses we have suffered?
Is it because we used a donor egg this time?
Am I going to be one of “those women” who doesn’t bond with their baby?
This is supposed to be the happiest time in my life but I don’t feel happy. I wonder if I have forced this innocent little being into existence against my own body’s inclination to carry a pregnancy, and I think – am I already letting him/her down? When am I supposed to feel like a mother, whatever that is?
When does the love start?
I am ultra-aware that there are people still struggling with pregnancy loss and/or infertility who may be offended by this post, and I don’t blame you. I have not written in weeks precisely because of you and how I might hurt those still in the maelstrom of fertility treatment hell. I am not forgetting about you. The truth is I still identify with you much more than I do with any pregnancy demographic of people. I don’t think I know how to be anyone else.