Pregnancy – The First Trimester – Part One: Mosquitoes, Paranoia and Early Scans!
For me, the decision to talk about my pregnancy with family, friends and clients, from as early as 6 weeks was a simple one. I have spent the last 8 years working closely with new parents and have seen far too many mothers suffer in silence; often breaking down into tears when talking about troubles conceiving, miscarriages, pregnancy and parenthood. As such I feel I should be open and honest about my own situation. It is for this reason I decided to write this blog, and invite you to join me on the wonderful (yet exhausting!) road to parenthood, including all the highs and the lows it has in store for me…
I absolutely cannot start this blog post without an enormous thank you, to each and every one of you who have sent messages of love and support, since I announced my pregnancy. Whether it was those of you I know via Instagram, or indeed past and present clients – thank you! It feels amazing to be so well supported and I am excited (if a little daunted!) that so many of you are intrigued as to how I will get on.
Having found out very early – at 5 weeks – my first pregnancy came as a total shock to me. My husband and I got married on the 28th December, and what followed was not the honeymoon I was expecting! Whilst in Sri Lanka I was taken seriously ill and hospitalised for 7 nights with Dengue Fever, including a three-night stay in intensive care – certainly not the way I had planned to start 2017! This meant that when we started to tentatively “try” from February onwards, I was convinced wouldn’t conceive, as I believed my body would take the good part of a year to recover.
My period arrived mid-way through March and, despite being totally realistic about the time it can take to fall pregnant, I felt a little deflated; something I am sure many can relate to, regardless of the known fact that it is perfectly normal to take up to a year to get pregnant. In my profession, I am well aware of the struggles and time it can take to conceive, yet when you are in the in the midst of it all, you can lose a sense of reality, if for a moment. To help deal with this, I took a much needed reality check and nipped down to the pharmacy, to stock up on ovulation sticks and downloaded a fertility app (Ovia).
Many of my previous clients have talked about their struggles to conceive, so having an awareness of how long it can take to fall pregnant had only made me more determined that once we started ‘trying’, we should really go for it. Needless to say, this is what we did and March was spent waving ovulation sticks in my poor husband’s face, and sending him screenshots of “Today is your fertile day!” from my app – poor guy. For that reason alone (and his sanity!), I am so pleased and very lucky it all happened so quickly.
One rainy Sunday afternoon in late March, with my husband (Rowan) away on a stag weekend, I was at Sainsbury’s, when I walked past the pregnancy tests on offer, and figured it was worth stocking up. Having been bleeding for two weeks at this point, I had no inclination that I needed to take a test, but my practical brain decided to take one ‘just to make sure’ that March has been another unsuccessful month, so that I could then focus on what else I may need to do in April to get things rolling.
Five minutes later I had already sent the screenshot of the test to my sister, with the accompanying text of “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”. To which she of course responded with several love hearts, baby faces and clapping emojis (communication at its best!). However, the immediate joy was followed very quickly by the sensible and rational side of my brain (which is definitely the side that rarely wins in decision making!), which reminded me of the facts: your period was early, you have been bleeding for over two weeks now, you have no pregnancy symptoms and if 2-3 weeks on the ClearBlue test means 4-5 weeks, the dates just don’t add up – my immediate thought was ‘I must have miscarried early’.
Cue Google…and the curse of the expectant mother googling all sorts of scenarios and key words, to try and make sense of what might be going on in my ‘only recently recovered’ body. The search threw up results ranging from “this can be totally normal” to “definitely a miscarriage”, which made things no clearer, and if anything meant that I was even more paranoid than 30 minutes before! [Note to self: do not google pregnancy symptoms and rather just talk to the professionals].
Waiting for the hubby to come home that evening was the longest wait of my life He was due home at 5pm, so in my nesting state, I cooked a delicious supper, set the table and tried to occupy myself with Sunday night television, rather than internet searches! 6pm passed, 7pm, and then one angry phone call later, it became clear that upon landing at Gatwick, the Stag Do had actually continued on to the pub and he was (a) unlikely to be home anytime soon and (b) not going to be in the most favourable state to be told he was about to become a father! Needless to say, after hearing about them being ‘shown out’ of the pub for being too merry, the first thing I did was thrust the pregnancy test in his face, and I’m fairly sure that’s the quickest he has ever gone from so sideways to stone cold sober.
The week that followed was a long one, with lots of client bookings, but I wanted to squeeze in an early scan appointment that week at The Medical Chambers in Kensington. It was one of the only clinics that would scan from 5 weeks rather than 6, so worth paying more for the ability to make an exact appointment. At the time, I felt I couldn’t face sitting in a queue at St. George’s Hospital (which under any other circumstances is a great service to have available on your doorstep), only to be told that it was possibly bad news. As it turned out I actually sat on the wrong floor waiting for my scan, so ended up with a half hour wait anyway until the sonographer came to find me wondering why I was not outside the scan room!
Immediately on arrival I made it very clear to the sonographer that I was just coming to check whether the pregnancy existed or not. I have to say, on hearing about the bleeding which had now been going on for three weeks, she definitely did not look convinced, but carried on very professionally in any case – she must have to break both good and bad news often. The transvaginal scan used is often described as intrusive by many, but having had one before it did not phase me and I stared blankly at the black and white screen waiting for some news.
Finally, the words I had been secretly hoping to hear, but also convincing myself I wouldn’t… it was a normal pregnancy, in the correct place, measuring the correct size for a 5 week old embryo! It was now real – the one thing I have wanted to do all my life was now really happening. There was no heartbeat though, and of course, cue googling “early scans and heartbeat” bought me answers I definitely didn’t need to see… which then due to my paranoia, meant another investment of a scan with Ultrasound Direct in Wimbledon at 6 weeks to check for a heartbeat.
Most pregnancy books and manuals will suggest not telling anyone about your pregnancy until 12 weeks, when the rate of miscarriage drops significantly. However, this means you then spend the best part of three months having to hide your feelings, and very obvious pregnancy symptoms from the most important people around you – family, friends and work colleagues. I felt by doing this, I would not be practising what I preach, given I spend hours of my life talking and counselling new mums to open up and talk about their feelings. I truly believe that if we weren’t given the advice to wait, it would become a much more open forum for women to start to talk about miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and all sorts of other emotional issues that women go through in those very early stages.
There were those who were critical of my decision, and I was sometimes made to feel like I was being silly by opening up, almost tempting fate by telling people too soon – the look on some people’s faces said it all. However, most of my family and friends were super supportive although my self-protective mode still kicked-in, and I told people “I am pregnant BUT it is early stages” (maybe for myself more than anything?). No matter how many early scans I had (and I ended up having three at 5, 6 and 8 weeks), I still held back from getting too excited or enjoying it too much, until the first trimester drew to a close.
Of course, I totally understand and respect the decisions of expectant mummies who choose not to tell people until 12 weeks, particularly those who have experienced miscarriages in the past. There are definitely benefits to both; but to be able to open up and be supported through those difficult times, rather than being made to feel like you should keep it quiet, was very important to me. As with everything in parenting, pregnancy and beyond, I strongly believe that parents should do what feels right or most comfortable for them without being judged.
For me it was the bleeding that I found most difficult in the first month from finding out I was pregnant; and it would change each day from mild, to nothing and back to heavy, which I assumed could only mean one thing. Although supposedly a super special time, to have to deal with that emotionally each day, and to not know whether your child was still alive inside you does take its toll. There were days where I felt totally isolated (even from my husband) and like a completely different person, who was paranoid and worrying at every opportunity.
Looking back now, even though I am just over the hurdle of the first trimester, it is hard to recognise myself in the person I became, for those weeks. My whole journey so far has been both exciting and scary all at once, like I never imagined it could be and already I have surprised myself with appearing to know how you might react in a given situation, yet when it comes along – this does not always happen!
From Mosquitoes, Paranoia and Early Scans, to then just surviving the first trimester (part two) next week!