Would you just look at this face… I do, a lot.
I find myself staring at her beautiful face for hours – Olivia is 16 weeks old and only now I’m believing that she is real, she is ours and that we couldn’t be luckier!
What’s my point??
Well to summarise, I loved being pregnant but my mind and body, not so much…
For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a strong, resilient, positive and confident (and sometimes quite fabulous, non?) person.
The last 12 months have been a whirlwind of excitement and anxiety, of course they have, I’ve been pregnant but, there’s more. I wanted to share my story as it isn’t all new shoes, avo on toast or Insta flat-lays as you’d think (especially if you watch my InstaStories/Snapchat).
The road to this moment has been challenging, Olivia is an IVF ICSI baby. We were the ‘lucky’ ones as we caught after our first treatment, following a failed IUI (which is like ‘Fisher Price – My First Fertility Treatment’ in our case).
Obviously, when people know you’re going into IVF treatment, everyone seemed to be an expert, have an opinion or a story to tell – It’s usually the one that started with ” XX was about to start treatment and then they had a miracle and got pregnant’… I held out for this, it never happened which made me feel like a bit of a failure to be honest.
The one thing I can say about going through the treatment is that I completely underestimated it. There was relentless reminders going off on my phone each day – at it’s peak, I had 8 alarms – Inject IVF drugs, take nasal sprays, take anti-clotting injections… (Did I mention that I’m needle phobic too?), I naively thought that it was just a case of sperm meets egg, kinda’.
We had various appointments, tests (more needles) and then had to sit through a powerpoint presentation given at the hospital to a crowd of 40+ hopeful parents about what to expect. This, this I massively underestimated too. I didn’t take much in because 1) For some reason I found it really intimidating being around all these hopeful parents-to-be and 2) My eyes didn’t get the ‘don’t leak’ memo and I cried floods of overwhelming tears for the whole 2 hours!!
IVF and IVF ICSI is verrrrry clever, the wonders of medicine never cease to amaze me, however the torrent of emotions hindered me and I missed the bit where they mentioned that “less than 2% of you could have a reaction to the drugs and suffer with Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS)”
OHSS is basically when you react to the drugs (over stimulation), the follicles you’re growing become super huge and your ovaries become mutant like – Ovaries are usually around 2.5cm each, mine, at their peak went to a whopping 15cm each.
Of course I ended up with OHSS. The knock on effect to this was that I spent endless nights in the hotel NHS, was in and out of the emergency ward every few days and told that the IVF treatment was on/off more times than I could count. Along with this, I looked near 6 months pregnant, without even having a baby inside (that posed for some awkward conversations with strangers…).
The good news is that right at the final whistle, the IVF team decided to implant the blastocysts and although painful (due to the OHSS) we decided that we’d have two put back in. This now meant that I had already decided that we’d be having twins if we were successful.
The next couple of weeks passed by and we counted down the days until we were allowed to do the pregnancy test – I spent time in and out of hospital again due to the enormous ovaries but still felt positive.
The day came to do the much longed pregnancy test annnnnd there it was, the extra line we’d hoped to see so many times on pregnancy tests. We cried, stared at it, did several more and then called the IVF team with the good news. From that point, I was planning everything for two babies…Of course my head ran away with me.
At 6 and a half weeks, we had the scan to confirm the pregnancy – For me, this was all, but apparently it was also to check how many heartbeats there were… (If only I had listened and not cried in the aforementioned presentation..)
There was elation in the scanning room when the one very strong heart beat appeared on the screen…. ONE. I loved that little white beating cell from that moment and felt proud of it’s strength but felt loss and upset for the missing heartbeat.
No one ever mentioned the missing heartbeat ever again – I still think about it.
We were having a baby however, we decided not to tell anyone as I’d been so poorly and we had several scares in the first trimester – more time in hospital, lots of scans and even more highly emotional tears.
On Christmas Eve we told our families and then let the world know (via social media obvs).
Although the response was overwhelming, this public announcement started a whole new anxiety… What if we’ve told everyone and now it goes wrong???
Unbeknown to me, the first 4 and a half months (including the treatment) had sparked something inside, antenatal depression/anxiety – Who knew there was even such a thing?
I haven’t publicly spoken about it until now, I guess I didn’t want judging, feeling sorry for or, any kind of pity…There’s nothing like a pitiful stare to make you feel 10 times worse, right? I just thought that people wouldn’t understand, I’ve aways wanted a baby, why be sad now that I’m pregnant?
A week later we had our official scan (we’d had several in the first trimester due to the huge ovaries situation) and were told all looked great. At the same time, I had more blood taken…The nurse just said that they’d call if there were any problems. That was that, maybe it was all real now, it was going to be ok – for the first time I relaxed into pregnancy and enjoyed the New Year!
Four days into the year (and the first day back at work) and my phone rang, the hospital switchboard – I knew then that this wasn’t a call to wish me a Happy New Year… No, apparently my bloods had showed that there were 1 in 37 for Downs. I can’t even start to tell you how this then played out but what I can tell you is the next day, once I’d got my head back on, was that this is actually more like a 97% chance that everything was gonna’ be ok. We took support from a team at the hospital and paid for the Harmony test – a simple blood test that checks DNA etc and gives a 99% accurate result.
The next two weeks were long and full of soul searching until the call came to confirm that everything was clear, it was my “vintage” that caused the results to show higher.
As our pregnancy continued I became outwardly positive and inwardly petrified. I hated being around pregnant women.. I ordered most new baby things we needed online as I just couldn’t be around other ‘happily’ pregnant women. I only made it to Mothercare 3 times; The first time I left and took myself off for a private scan as I was convinced the baby wasn’t moving and that I’d jinxed myself by allowing myself to shop for the baby, the other two, I left in tears after a matter of minutes.
We got to week 20 and there was elation, we’d made it to that sacred point… The fact is that this was the time I had a major meltdown in my consultant’s office when she innocently asked how I was doing. It turns out that this was the best thing that could have happened to me as I ended up with the help and support I greatly needed!! I was suffering, it was a real thing and not just hormones. As a side note, the support I had from my consultant and her team was nothing less that IN.CRED.IBLE. I was overwhelmed with the personal and unwavering support they gave us, never tiring of my anxieties, just talking to me and helping.
As I was at the front of the lucky queue with regards to pregnancy health, at week 28 I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes… ‘triffic. Again, there is incredible support out there – To save you Googling it, if you need any support with this then I can highly recommend an independent page that certainly seemed knowledgeable in this area (click here). If you do Google it, you will read horror stories, Gestational Diabetes can be risky to the unborn baby if you don’t look after yourself…These stories fuelled my anxieties.
To fall in line with reaching the 20 week mark, one of my best friends (who resides in Oz) sent a balloon… A ‘new baby’ balloon. A new baby balloon that quoted Bieber lyrics. Normally I would find this hilarious however, this was symbolic to me and after 8 weeks of the said balloon hanging in my kitchen it looked sad and deflated. The thing is, I couldn’t get rid of the Bieber Baby Balloon…It was symbolic in the wrong way. I genuinely thought that if I got rid of the balloon then this would be directly linked to our actual unborn baby… In a Voodoo kinda’ way (I’m serious!!). Anyway, my other bestie came to visit and after I admitted the crazy relationship I was having with the Bieber balloon, she kindly offered to take it home and ‘babysit it’.
Although there wasn’t a quick fix, there was support and that’s what I needed. At first, being assigned a ‘mental health’ midwife was surreal however, it was the support I needed.
Post natal depression is a thing, who knew that antenatal ‘depression’ was one..?
As my pregnancy went on the anxiety continued yet, so did the support. The good news is that since Olivia has arrived, I believe that everything I’m feeling and going through now is just normal ‘new mum’ things and by facing my issues early, I’ve swerved post natal depression.
My message is that it is ok to feel all, or some of these things but, if you do feel like you want to speak to someone or just need a little support, either tell your midwife or speak to your doctor. It isn’t a sign of weakness, you just need some help with all those hormones and the life changing events.
I know that this has been a long post, thanks for staying with me and if I have helped just one person, my work here is done.
A Guest Blog Post from Karen Goodbrand