26 weeks of growing you

Your movements have returned to normal, I cross my heart and thank god, that together we are surviving this.

My brain though, my mood, my feelings are still off kilter. I don’t know how I feel anymore but I think the word best to describe it is numb. I don’t feel despairingly depressed which can only be a good thing, but I don’t feel overjoyed either. I feel like all I do is complain, I feel like all I do is feel pain. I feel like I’m blaming pregnancy for a lot unintentionally. I don’t want you to be born from these feelings but it’s very hard, so hard to feel connected to you when I myself feel so disconnected from everything and everyone. This week I had a reactivation of an old shingles virus – it’s agony, it’s keeping me awake at night and it can be potentially dangerous for you, so I have to take more medication.

I’ve been so quiet, so distant, my friends have tried encouraging me, coaxing me, offering support and I’m so grateful but I have nothing to say. I’m acutely aware that I am becoming a negative person a person whose insular and reclusive, a person who brings the mood down, a fun sponge.

You are growing and I am growing with you, finding comfort in food because I can’t move so exercise is non existent. A man from the council came today to fit me a second stair rail, I’ll be getting a bath seat too apparently and I feel eighty five years old. I feel fat, not glowing. People’s kindness in their opinion that I glow is actually starting to annoy me. I look fine so I must be fine. (Rolls eyes)

I am conflicted. I’m so grateful for the people that have rallied round and tried to make me feel supported even though I haven’t been able to be supportive of them. I take my friendships seriously and it frustrates me if I can’t give back. I don’t think it’s expected but I want to be able to be supportive of friends of mine too. In reverse there are also people that I selfishly perhaps feel should care more and have been distant.

Then I have to be stern and remind myself that everyone has stuff going on and the world doesn’t revolve around me and my pregnancy. Except that’s all my world revolves around at the moment. I’m getting fomo again of everyone’s summer plans and I’m envious, I know it’s not cute to admit your jealousy, but I am nothing if not honest. You will learn that.

Your dad and I have been trying to write a will – well I have. Who would look after you and your sister if something happened to us both? Your sister has eight godparents. It was too many and the lesson has been learnt that giving someone a title will not make them an active participant in a child’s life.

I found this online about the role of a godparent – In general, a godparent’s role is to stay connected with the child in some manner throughout life. You will be at the baby’s christening and perhaps take part in the ceremony. Most importantly, you’ll serve as a mentor and take the symbolic place of the child’s parent of your gender if that parent passes away

Your sister sees approximately three of her eight godparents. Two she hasn’t seen since her christening four years ago, but less than she’s seen them, she doesn’t even know they exist. What will happen if we die? Who will step up to the role? I’m doubtful that I would include more than one, maybe two of them as a named person in my last will and testament to care for her, so who will care for you? Should I even bother to get you christened? My circle is smaller now. I’m fine with that, but I’m also a person who takes these things seriously so I find it sad that others don’t. Again maybe unfairly, but don’t sign up for a job you don’t want.

This is anxious rambling I know that. I know this is worse case scenario stuff, but someone has to think about it, don’t they? Someone has to consider what will happen in the event your dad and I can’t take care of you.

As I write this you are kicking up a storm in my tummy, active after my last cup of tea. I’m in bed now, it’s 13:00 so the middle of the day but after the guy came to fit the stair rail and I talked to my boss on the phone, I am once again drained of all energy and expenditure of said energy cannot recommence until I am recharged.

I’ve packed away some of your new clothes, tried to think again about what you need whilst also planning for your sisters birthday this weekend. She wants to be a mermaid, her wish is my command. I hope you two will love each other fiercely but I won’t pretend that she is always an amenable character, sometimes she’s feisty like me. On Sunday night she stayed at Nanny’s and got her head stuck in a dining chair. Everyone was too panicked to take a picture but it’s a story we’ll tell you in the future when reminding you what not to do – I laughed, she is fine. I will keep laughing because humour helps and you like the sound of my cackle, the witchy tones of my voice. My underpronounced T’s and over pronounced R’s. I know this because sometimes I talk to you and you move.

You’re on your way now, growth speeds up here, and I will continue to keep you safe. Please keep moving.

25 weeks of growing you

I had a bath on Monday and got out at 7pm. Most nights we read your sister a story in bed and you kick like crazy, her trying to catch them in between prolonged pronunciation and sounding of words like the, but your kicks were gone.

Your sister went to bed sad that she hadn’t gotten to feel them and I was starting to get concerned. I watched The Caroline Flack documentary with your Daddy and it was very sad, she reminded me a lot of myself and how I don’t have the capacity to cope well with heartbreak and complex emotions, but it didn’t serve to take my mind off of you. I ate some crisps, jiggled my still soft bump and your dad made me a sugary tea. Still you stayed still, I felt like I could physically hear your silence, deafeningly loud to me.

By bed time I was frantic, I called maternity but couldn’t get through the first 14 times. My call log looking like the days when your dad used to go out ‘for a few drinks’ and leave his phone unanswered. He doesn’t do that anymore thank goodness. I tried again and got through, they wanted to see me. Or at least told me they’d need to. I haven’t driven for almost two months. It’s dangerous for me because my mobility is so bad, but I didn’t have a choice, I had to go. Your sister in bed and nobody I felt able to call at 11pm at night to sit with her. My mum would of done it, your Nanny, but I didn’t want to wake her.

When I arrived I couldn’t get through to the team again, it was dark, scary in the poorly lit car park. Me trying to swivel out of the seat and lean over for my crutches. I hobbled to the door, a midwife waiting for me ‘you should of parked closer’ she said, and I felt guilty, I couldn’t risk another parking fine, we don’t have any money. But maybe I should of drove to the door, why was I thinking about money when all that mattered was you? My brain felt fried.

She asked me about my mental health and I bristled, feeling like I was waisting her time. I’m not crazy lady, I’m here because it says on my notes, don’t delay if you notice something off with your baby. My baby boy, you, I have felt your kicks thick and fast for weeks now. I count them.

‘You’re only 24 weeks + 5 days, still early to feel regular movements’ she was trying to be reassuring but she just began to annoy me, because I know you. I know when you don’t move.

After this dance she got me on the bed.

‘Heartbeat strong, oh wait there’s only one, but don’t worry it’s your baby’s’ What the fuck was this woman on? I gave myself a shake and listened in to you. If my heartbeat was gone, it didn’t matter because in that moment I knew I was alive, all I cared about was if you were.

I feel tired, so unbelievably tired. I feel like I have nothing to give to anything else. Nothing to give to the life around me because everything is focused on getting you out in one piece.

I’m not being a very good friend at the moment, I’m not being a very good wife either, because the dwindling energy I have is focused on being a good mother. I can’t give your sister everything she needs whilst I’m carrying you, but I’m trying, and if I can carry you to the end of this pregnancy and deliver you safely, we’ll all be together and hopefully more physically able to take life by the horns as a family of four. Hang in there boy. The kicks count.

Acceptance isn’t linear

Entitled with contradictory statement maybe? Surely if you accept something, that’s it? Accepted, done, move on. Well….. I disagree.

The reason being is, take grief for example, you might accept someone is no longer physically on earth for you to love, but find it hard to accept the feelings that come with that knowledge. It’s not over just because you’ve said aloud you accept it. You can acknowledge a situation, tell yourself you accept it, and then change your mind. It’s not back tracking, it’s reality. You may start to accept one thing only to be faced with another, making your acceptance of the first, harder again.

I use grief as a prime example, Miranda Heart comedienne and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis sufferer recently said ‘With chronic illness comes a daily grief’ and nothing has ever rung truer with me.

I accepted my diagnoses a long time ago, because I’ve lived with symptoms for so long that there was no alternative to accepting their presence in my life. True and absolute. However, everyday brings with it it’s own challenge, every new symptom overshadowing my acceptance of the old ones.

With pregnancy too, because I’ve accepted I’m a person that doesn’t enjoy pregnancy, doesn’t cope well and doesn’t feel well throughout, but that acceptance doesn’t stop my grief. It doesn’t stop me wishing things were different or wanting to trade my body. You can accept and acknowledge a situation without enjoying it or thriving within it, and the goal posts can move.

I know during pregnancy my only goal is to get myself and my baby to the end in one piece, but once my son is here, the goal posts will move again and it will be back to getting through the days with chronic illness, because there is no end to them. There’s no one and only goal. Life is interchangeable and acceptance shifts. People tell me right now, that it will be worth it when my baby is here, like I don’t know that already, and they tell me to hang in there like it’s possible to do anything else.

They may or may not know, I have been hanging in there everyday for the last 5 years and more. Of course I get good days, though they seem fewer the older I become, but I don’t all of a sudden become well because I’ve had a good day. I don’t get to walk around with the knowledge that there’s only so long until better days are coming, because my good days can be equivocal to someone else’s worst.

I feel I can hardly shout this from the rooftops on a daily basis because then the few friends who have stuck with me would likely also tire of my complaints, so I have no choice but to accept my situation. Somedays I do it with grace and positivity and sometimes I do it reluctantly and with frustration.

When it comes to health of any kind I don’t think we ever agree to the offer. We look for a cure, we look for sustainable treatments and ways to better our situation. Never fully assenting to the offer of a diagnosis.

It’s true you can’t fully understand someone’s situation until you’ve walked in their shoes, and that also means what is easier to accept for one person may be harder for another. We can’t ever know how we’ll deal with something until it happens to us. We can’t ever fully accept a situation until it’s been lived in, and nobody can be blamed for that. It can’t be expected of any of us to accept everything someone else experiences but we can choose to accept their version. To believe them.

One thing I have learned about acceptance is, it looks different for everyone, including myself, for some occasions it brings peace and others it makes me want to fight back harder.

It’s not linear. It’s not complete and absolute. But it can be a starting point.

Week 24 of growing you

This week started off better. I felt like I was relaxing, thinking about taking my maternity leave early and making decisions that are best for us.

Then the anxiety kicked in. I can’t do this. I’m getting bigger and life is getting harder again. I’m lonely but I don’t want to see people. I don’t want restrictions to ease I don’t want the world to go back to normal whilst mine still feels so fragile and isolated.

I’m still feeling really let down by my midwives. Not sure if it’s their fault or my own but I just don’t feel like they’re supporting me in the same way they did with your sister and even then it was only after I made a complaint.

I’ve been taking tablets I should of stopped at 12 weeks but nobody told me. Every time I call them the receptionist has a God complex, doesn’t matter if it’s the same one or a different one, they are inflammatory, sounding harried and uninterested. When we turned up for your 20 week scan they almost sent me away saying repeatedly ‘there’s no Bethany on the list’ except of course my name is Stephanie and nobody was listening. All of these appointments are scary and maybe I’m on high alert and overly sensitive, but I just want someone to use kid gloves a little. Be a bit more mindful that we never really know what we’re walking in to as pregnant women when we turn up for scans and monitoring of our babies.

Then I feel guilty again, and grateful we have the NHS and I know their struggle is separate from my own. Different. Everything isn’t about me. Your sister has now felt you kick. It was a beautiful moment and she is getting more comfortable talking about you as though you’re already a fully fledged member of our family. Telling you she loves you, we all do.

She has enough love for all of us. She lifts me up on the dark days and she lets us know everyday that there is hope. Life is hard but then it gets great again and all of the mundane moments in between, like Frank the dog lying on your bump, are what keep me going.

There is promise in the flutters from my insides. There is promise in spring. In my family and friends. In food and comfort and pyjamas. There is promise in the stretch marks snaking their way up my belly, because they are you, and you are growing. Inside of me. I’m never alone anymore even when the world around me feels abandoned and desolate. You are here.

Week 23 of pregnancy. Growing you.

Urgh little mate, our boy, you’re really making my life difficult. There is no hope for me on the mobility front until you are here and in my arms, but I know you’re worth it. I know this struggle will bring you to me.

Your sister and I have been reading and singing to you this week. Your dad and she still can’t feel your kicks, which I find so odd because they are bloody ferocious. I’ve finally started compiling an Amazon wish list of all the things you need. So much has been forgotten since your sister was small. The trivial things, like what toys to buy and whether to buy muslins or bibs. I remember all the other stuff though. I even remember labour. I remember being high on gas and air. I remember swearing a lot and refusing to push when your sisters head was crowning, I remember her being rushed to NICU and feeling like I couldn’t help her. I remember the trauma and the tears but I can’t remember what brand of nappies I preferred or how long I waited until I got the wet wipes out instead of cotton wool and boiled water to wipe her bum.

I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated this week. I feel like whenever I try to speak to a doctor or a midwife I’m being dismissed or considered a nuisance. I know the NHS are struggling and I am just one person but I’m still a person who is struggling too.

We know your name now, but your daddy won’t let me tell anyone. Your sister helped us choose it and funnily enough she hasn’t told anyone either. She is so funny and excited and I know she wants to meet you as desperately as we do.

I feel fragile and emotional but stronger because of you. I feel needy but content in being solitary. I have a great urge to protect you from the world and the mess that it’s in.

People have been sending us food and we have had some support from my mum, your nanny, but there’s no denying that a pandemic puts a very harsh limit on people we can ask for help during a time that we really need it.

We have a dog Frank who will be one just before you arrive and we have already started to play him baby cries. Though we hope you like sleep more than your sister did. I’m awake at 2am writing this. Your sister has been stirring she has a bit of a cold. I can feel you waking up with me. I hope we both manage to get back to sleep soon.

My baby boy. 💙

I think I’m failing but my kid still thinks I’m a superhero 🦸🏽‍♀️

It’s no secret that during pregnancy your hormones are all over the shop, one minute you’re chomping on cheese on toast and the next your crying into your cottage pie that your friend drove 25 miles to deliver. It’s a funny old game this growing a human malarkey.

Because my health has been on a steady decline since my daughter was born, this pregnancy though a lot like hers, has been overshadowed with worry and feeling unwell constantly. When I say constantly I mean it. It’s either not being able to walk, migraines, sickness, feeling faint, high blood pressure and the rest, it’s been bad, and not fun. Also those people who said you never get two the same, you were wrong.

That said the guilt of ‘wasting’ days in bed in an attempt to make the next one better and unable to do all of the things I want with my family has had a negative impact on my emotions. Team this with hormones and you have me, an unstable, anxious, dribbling mess.

This week said emotions have been on overdrive and I’ve spent countless hours in tears, I’m surprised there were any left after the first ten or so. My husband has looked at me with puppy dog eyes and a need to fix my broken spirit and my daughter has looked at me with longing and frustration. I haven’t been able to meet their demands, particularly those of the little person. She doesn’t get why mummy is always in bed and at one point I was worried she was going off the idea of having a brother because he’s been making her mum so poorly. It all hit a crescendo on Tuesday when Ciara wanted 5 things at once and I couldn’t even give her the simplest one, which was turn the volume up on the TV. I couldn’t do it because the bastard NowTV remote is a dodgy little fucker and it just would not work. Off she stomped whilst moaning at the dog and calling for her dad to come and fix the problem that mummy was incapable of rectifying.

Once I heard her footsteps on the stairs I burst into a fit of hysterics, threw the remote which bounced off the bed and smashed a photo on the bedroom wall. It wasn’t my finest moment because I couldn’t even roll myself off to pick up the glass before Shaun bursts in asking me WTF I was doing!?

Picture it, 5 month pregnant woman whose legs don’t work, rolling around on the bed with no bra on and crying inconsolably. It’s not a pretty image is it?

I don’t want to do this anymore I wailed, like an actual whale. To his credit, Shaun turns the tv off and shouts down to Ciara that they’re going to watch tele downstairs instead. I didn’t see them again that evening because I cried myself to sleep and woke up at 10pm and waddled into her room to give her a kiss goodnight, something I abhor to miss.

The next day I’m feeling full of shame and still in pain wondering how I’m going to get through the days for the next 4 months. But I needn’t of worried about the rest of the family because like clockwork they traipse in from school and work with smiles and cuddles for me and chat shit about their days as if the previous ones have been erased.

Ciara was pleased that I had finished colouring in her tiger costume with a sharpie for world book day and asked if she could come and snuggle in my bed.

This morning I got up at 7 after being awake from 2am with possibly the worst nerve pain ever. I say this because I can’t treat flare ups in the same way I would when I’m not pregnant ie with heavy drugs. The pain relief I’m taking at the moment just isn’t working to the same effect. Anyway up I get and by ‘up’ I mean sit up in my bed and paint my beautiful daughter’s face and send her off to school with a smile.

It doesn’t matter that I collapsed back in bed after and slept until lunchtime, because she was happy. When she got home she found me asleep in the bath because it’s the only place I don’t feel like my body is on fire and she poked me to tell me about her day. Including poo gate by another kid in class which we all found highly amusing.

I do feel like I’m failing life on the reg at the moment and somedays I can’t get on top of those crazy emotions and pretend I’m bossing it, because I’m not. But what I do know, with absolute clarity is that when it comes to my kids my best is good enough, and the need to be moving all the time and trying harder is born out of my own insecurities, not those of my five year old. She loves me on all of the days, even the really shitty ones. She loves me for all of the things I can do, not all of the things I can’t.

Week 22 of pregnancy, carrying you, baby #2

We didn’t know what you’d be. We weren’t sure you’d show up on a scan as healthy. Our twenty week scan was nearly two weeks late and it made us impatient and anxious. We still don’t know what the outcome will be or if you’re truly ok in there. All we know is that you’re wanted.

Now I can no longer walk again it’s difficult to associate pregnancy with positivity. It was the same with your sister, causing me pain so difficult to overcome that I never really know what each day will bring. We’ve been left to our own devices by the health care system. Lots of people told me it happens with second babies. You’re an assumed pro by number two, you don’t need any support. Except I do need support. I do need reassurance. I am not a pro.

You present me, your mum with symptoms similar to the ones your sister did, but it’s different this time. They keep telling us about the risks to you, but don’t really do anything to help us overcome them. Maybe there’s little they can do, or maybe they expect me to know, I don’t. Medication that I need to function, to care for your sibling too, means you might need help when you’re born.

They have offered me mental health support that has been good, but physically I’m in worse shape than ever and I still have to care for your sister, so it’s hard.

We weren’t amongst the chaos of a pandemic when she was on her way. This time our support has lacked and your sister has been home for most of it. Waiting for your arrival with baited breath. With hope, but also with boredom. She longs for a playmate but she doesn’t fully understand the implications of pregnancy and why her mummy has become less fun.

Me, your mum, I have a few health issues already. Ones that were present before you were even a thought in my mind, a seed in my belly. Ones that haven’t gone away, that never really will, but that we’re working hard to escape. We love you already. That much we know, but each and every day that we will you to grow, we are scared that you’ll have a hard start. That your life won’t begin with all of the joys of a hot July summer. We worry that I might not be strong enough to care for you. That the help we need might not be available or accessible. Maybe we should have been more prepared but you showed up with two lines three weeks after my last period and we weren’t prepared, all we knew is that we would keep you.

I’m off work at the moment. Pregnancy isn’t kind to my health or my mind. I was struggling to hold down a job before you came along, but I’m trying. I fall into a category of disabled that isn’t well recognised or even always believed. I don’t get financial help for my disability and your Daddy works very hard but we aren’t wealthy enough that I don’t have to work. We are looking at ways to accommodate my return, and we have to hope that I will be well after your birth. Well enough to care for you. The trouble is I get periods of wellness that don’t really last. They are usually days and not weeks or months. I hope you don’t grow up having to care for me. I hope that I will always be able to give you what you need.

I love you. I love your heartbeat and your tiny feet. I love your kicks and I hope that when you arrive you will know that whatever challenges we face, my love for you will continue to grow.

I hope that you and your sister will always know that Mummy tried. She will never stop trying to give you a good life and will always be there to share it with you.

What’s it like to be half way through a high risk pregnancy?

Lonely. Because everyone experiences pregnancy differently and when you’re more worried than you are excited, people think you’re being negative.

Hopeful. Because hope is all you really have. We can’t change the future or the past but we can hope for better.

To get excited could mean to jinx it. I don’t want to rave about how excited I am when I still can’t fully envisage a happy ending.

Only another 4.5 months to go, I can do this.

Oh shit another 4.5 months left of this, I can’t do it anymore.

What does high risk mean?

Different things for different people, even pregnancies for mums without underlying health issues come with environmental risks. Sometimes the risk will be more prominent for the mother and sometimes for the baby. But risk factors can be present for both.

What does in mean in my case?

For me, it’s meant the risk of long term immobility because my Symphis Pubis is at risk of rupture and I can no longer walk. It means another 4.5 months minimum of immobility to go. If the SP ruptures it could mean further more extreme long term disability, loss of mobility, incontinence and need for surgical intervention.

Preeclampsia. You are more at risk of preeclampsia if you had it during a previous pregnancy, which I did. I have had also high blood pressure throughout this pregnancy along with chronic migraine. Migraine can be an indicator of preeclampsia and I’ve had one every 3-4 days for the last 22 weeks. So you can imagine the worry is ongoing, and the risk of early onset preeclampsia is higher. Survival rates for babies increase significantly if preeclampsia is developed later in the pregnancy.

Withdrawal. 1 in 3 babies exposed to medication in utero are at risk of being born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Ciara was born with NAS from antidepressant medication. I no longer take antidepressants but I still take medicines that I need to be able function medication that I will be on for the rest of my life in all probability. I take more medicines than I was taking when pregnant with Ciara so our risk is already much higher this time.

Underlying health conditions. Though Fibromyalgia & Migraine don’t directly impact the baby during pregnancy, the reduction in medication along with hormonal changes exacerbate symptoms drastically, and I have spent the last 22 weeks in pain, every second of every day. There are no ‘good days’ we are getting good hours and that is the best we can hope for. We know pregnancy is impacting my health, but we don’t know what it means long term.

When you tell me it’s not forever I am reminded of how long I have left to go being unable to walk, dress myself and cook, and that actually as a functional human being I was already struggling. A positive mindset is very difficult to hang onto when you lose your sense of self through physical disability. Your mind knows what’s going on but your body doesn’t do what you want it to.

When you tell me you’re excited for me I’m reminded of how scared I am. I’m reminded that I too should be excited, instead I’m fearful.

When you ask how’s the baby? I’m reminded that I’m their house and I don’t know really how they’re doing, not really, because until they are here and in my arms I won’t know if all of the above risks have impacted their development. I wish you would ask me how I am instead because that’s a question I can answer. But when you do and I’m honest I feel like it’s the wrong answer and I’m a burden, so again I feel forced to stay optimistic about something that scares me.

It’s been 22 weeks of anxiety, worry and physical disablement for me and though we have hope, hope is still all we have.

Nobody knows what to say so they stop saying anything at all and some might question why I even bothered to get pregnant in the first place if all I am going to do is complain. But my complaints are not born out of a dislike for pregnancy. They aren’t because I don’t want my baby. They are born out of fear and worry and the inability to fix a broken body. They are born from exhaustion, and guilt and trauma.

I do need help, but I won’t ask family and friends for it because it makes me feel like more of a failure and because I know that every single person in the world right now needs something. I know that people are all going through stuff, maybe worse stuff like dying and losing loved ones and everybody’s mental health is in a state of decline, so what makes me special? Nothing.

So why am I speaking up? Why don’t I do my wallowing in private? Because I still want to feel connected. Because I don’t want to be the person who suffers in silence anymore. Because if it was my daughter going through this I would want her to feel able to open up in whatever form that helped her, and incase you’re new here. Writing is what helps me.

Today we found out the gender of our baby, and all I could think was at least they’re alive. Grief does not only come from loss, I am grieving the excitement I want to feel, I’m grieving the process, and I’m grieving past pregnancy and birth trauma that still haunt me vividly whilst I wait for the arrival of my second child and hope that when they get here I will be strong enough to keep them safe. I am grateful that we have gotten this far, and I am hopeful that will can get to the end.

I’m grateful for a little girl who can’t wait to find out if she’s having a brother or sister and who has enough hope and excitement for all of us.

Pregnant and chronically ill.

Some of you might know my story already. I married my husband in January 2020, we did it just the two of us and it was amazing, but since our wedding, lockdown and covid-19 have presented challenges, as it has for everyone, I’m not naïve enough to believe I’m alone with that and I know there are people everywhere that have it a lot worse than I do.

For me though, my health deteriorated again and baby making was not on the cards for us during lockdown…. or so we thought.

We had a baby in 2016, and she’s a healthy, sassy four year old, but her start in life was hard, on her and on me.

My pregnancy was not an enjoyable experience, I didn’t feel well for a single day of it. I was debilitated by hormonal migraines and nausea throughout, and by 16 weeks I was on crutches diagnosed with Symphis Pubis Dysfunction- a condition that causes your pelvic ligaments to become stretchy and relaxed, making walking painful, the same condition had me in a wheelchair by 25 weeks completely disabled. Later I had preeclampsia, I was admitted to hospital and after several attempts a doctor finally managed to break my waters, my contractions were then hormonally induced. I often refer to labour as the easy part after 9 months of what felt like torture, but honestly, none of it was easy for me.

I was taking antidepressants throughout my pregnancy to manage my mental health, and as a result my daughter was born with Neo Natal Abstinence Syndrome.

A condition where babies are born withdrawing from drugs they’re exposed to in utero. I wasn’t warned about this, I was told the medication I was taking was safe for my baby. Withdrawal was something I assumed only illicit drug using mothers experienced, I was wrong.

She was in NICU for 10 days and then she screamed for 15 hours a day for almost 10 months. I’ve since spoken to people who were on similar medicines and they’ve had different experiences so it’s important to note, I’m not trying to scaremonger here. I believe in looking after your mental health, but there is no dressing up that it was a very traumatic time for us. I think the consensus is not to force mums to stop medication that keeps them well, and of course this makes a lot of sense, I just wish I had been armed with facts sooner. I was peri and postnatally depressed, suicidal at times, and it hurt. It massively effected my pregnancy and birth experience, my early bond with my daughter, and I don’t consider it a positive time to reminisce about.

Given the story so far you’ll have probably read/heard me freak the fuck out at the thought of baby no 2. Yet here we are, we got bored in lockdown. We ran out of things to do, we also ran out of condoms. (That was a joke btw don’t @me) Shaun always wanted baby number two, and for the last year Ciara has asked for a sibling, but the truth is I never wanted to be pregnant again.

But I am, kind of by accident, almost certainly by fate.

In truth, I’m petrified. I haven’t acted happy about it, because I’m not about being pregnant, not really. I know how ungrateful that must sound, and let me be clear, I want the baby, I love being a mother, it’s my life’s biggest achievement. What I don’t love are the effects pregnancy has on my health and well-being.

I battle with guilt daily about my dislike for pregnancy, because I know I’m lucky to be able to birth children.

In an ideal world I would have weaned off all of my medication before conception this time, but I have a chronic illness, one that takes over much of my life. I am constantly met with new symptoms, making it impossible to imagine a life without medical intervention. You know when people say ‘you’re pregnant not ill‘ – Well in my case I’m both. Most of the time giving things up in pregnancy is par for the course but what about when you’re giving up drugs that have kept you well for years.

So, I’m withdrawing from several different types of medication at the moment, but I’m still not medication free and I might not ever be. It’s hard on me mentally, to know I could go through the same thing twice with NAS and having a baby in NICU.

In my dreams this pregnancy would be totally different, I’d be fitter and healthier, mentally stronger.

Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out that way. I’m not going to miraculously become well whilst living with a chronic illness, (chronic = ongoing) if anything it worsens as the years progress. I haven’t gotten better, and I feel as awful as I did in my first pregnancy if not worse, because there’s more to worry about – a lot more.

Midwives have classed my pregnancy as ‘high risk’ for preeclampsia and SPD again (I’m already struggling with this just 14 weeks in), and for diabetes, and that’s without accounting for my illnesses and the cretin that is Coronavirus robbing us all of joy.

I feel like somedays, even before pregnancy, I was barely hanging on to my ability to cope as a functional human being, do the fundamentals like washing and cooking meals, and yet I’m putting my body through this again and it already feels hard.

So what happens if I can’t look after a new baby?

What if they cry for 15 hours a day again and I have a breakdown?

What if Shaun leaves me for our skinny neighbour with muscular thighs and perky tits?

What if, what if, what if…..

It’s a redundant question, because what if I got ran over by a bus tomorrow?

I could cite an endless lists of what ifs, but to get hung up on them means I also need to think of the flip side, that being, what if things work out ok?

A pandemic is a big deal to the most hardened of us. So being pregnant with several illnesses and a penchant for going fucking mental at the first sign of a hormone shift feels ominous, but we’re doing it.

Baby 2.0 is coming!!

Aside from being terrified, feeling even more like shit than usual and eating everything in site, I’m optimistic, because despite ALL of that, this time I really do know it’s all worth it in the end.

I’m being seen by the maternal mental health team this time, an option I wasn’t (but definitely should have been) offered in my first pregnancy. And I have a plan for my physical health issues and medicines, it’s not a great plan, but it’s a plan that involves a lot of listening to my body.

On top of that, I have a family who have my back. We’re a team and we’ll get through it because we have each other and because we are lucky, and this, however hard it feels, is a blessing.

I wanted to write this, because there still feels much stigma around not loving every second of pregnancy and motherhood.

There is never a time when I feel unlucky in motherhood. But sometimes I feel unlucky in health, and pregnancy is hard on my health, it’s hard in general, as is parenting, at times, for all of us. And it’s ok to say that out loud.

Our journeys are different and we are forever a divided world on how to parent, because there’s no rule book and we all have our own unique way.

I wish I could flip a switch and love every tender second of motherhood, but my truth is, I don’t love pregnancy and my experience of newborns brings with it traumatic memories.

That doesn’t mean I don’t love being a mother, it just means it’s not straightforward. I didn’t want to announce my pregnancy without having explained how I feel because I’m sure there are other expectant mothers who feel similar to me that don’t have the confidence to say so aloud.

There’s so much pressure to say over and over again how much you love your kids, how blessed you are, and if god forbid you forget to mention that, obviously you don’t deserve to have them.

What I actually think is, all you can do in these times is YOUR best. There will always be people that are struggling for different reasons in every aspect of life.

When it comes to your baby though, I really feel, like your best is good enough and what works for you, what keeps you well and healthy is as important as protecting that newborn head.

We will delight in the birth of our second child as we did our first and we will get through the tough times because this time, we know they really don’t last forever and the long nights whiz by with painfully short years.

Motherhood is hands down the hardest, most rewarding job and my only goal is to be good at it (and to get to the end of this pregnancy with both of us in one piece)

NB: If you’re struggling with maternal mental health please visit Maternal Mental Health Alliance for support.

For fibromyalgia resources it’s FMAUK

And for migraines it’s Migraine Trust