28 Weeks of growing you

After your sisters birthday it was my own. An event that used to have such a big place in my life but that has dwindled in importance over the years and many are now spent in recovery after the buzz of your sister’s celebrations.

We have been out a few days, me on my scooter and had some fun with it too. There’s no denying that it takes it out of me so significantly now, just popping out for a few hours leaves me feeling like I’ve ran a marathon. The SPD is worsening as you grow, and for the last few days I have been completely unable to get myself up in the mornings. Your dad is having to lift me from bed and before I’ve even got my feet on the ground I am crying in pain and it’s hard. It’s not in my nature to be this dependent on another person it’s also scary and feels like another string in my bow of can’ts at the moment.

On the plus side, and there have been pluses, mentally I feel a little less erratic and panicked and more prepared for the worst in terms of my health and mobility. We have had some changes made to the house which is enabling my independence whilst you’re inside me, and will hopefully continue once you are here. Grab rails are appearing everywhere and though cosmetically unsightly, they are providing me with much needed independence.

We will see you again this week, on a scan and talk to the consultant about your arrival. I hope we’ll be able to avoid going overdue with a planned induction rather than a cesarian, just because my recovery is already a worry, but what will be will be. Now things are opening up again and restrictions continue to ease, I hope extended family will make more effort to be involved and help with your sister if only to take the onus off of your dad. He returns to work this week after a week off, being without him will impact me again. He has been so hands on and it’s fair to say I don’t know what I would do without him how I would of gotten through these months without his undivided support. Your sister is going into holiday club for a few days this week to take the edge off and we’re lucky that she is a sociable little darling who’s happy to make new friends.

She went quiet for a while asking about you but her interest has piqued again and we are getting back to our daily chats and cuddles, though your kicks don’t seem as exciting to her at the moment, your pending arrival definitely still is. Onwards we move through the quagmire of a loose routine and no real structure, getting by on a wing and a prayer, but getting by we are with a lot of love and a little help from our friends. 💙

PMDD and pregnancy

April is PMDD Awareness Month and it’s something I’ve not talked about much since becoming pregnant again. PMDD directly corresponds with your menstrual cycle so in theory you should gain relief during pregnancy. However, and this is not fact, merely my personal experience, since PMDD causes an abnormal reaction to normal hormonal changes, whilst you may receive some relief during pregnancy it’s possible you still have a sensitivity to hormone fluctuations. As has been the case for me. Some symptoms are worse than ever before, particularly migraine and feelings of hopelessness.

The first trimester is often the worst for lots of pregnant women even in the absence of PMDD, the severity in hormonal changes tend to happen early in pregnancy and level out as your body becomes accustomed. It’s also thought women who suffer perinatal/postnatal depression may be at further risk for developing PMDD, and I can concur that the dip in hormones post pregnancy deeply affected me the first time around. With PMDD age has been another factor which effects the severity in symptoms for me personally. The older I get the worse my symptoms become. Often it has been the case for me where hormonal therapy such as contraception will provide short term relief only to later stop working with no rhyme or reason. Antidepressant medication can also help manage symptoms but again, long term they often need changing and finding the right type and dosage is a lot of trial and error.

After menarche, my PMDD was prominent, but back then at the age of just eleven nobody took my severe mood fluctuations seriously. At thirteen after attempting suicide I was prescribed antidepressants. It was only later when I started diarising my depression and severe mood swings that often included rage and toxic outbursts that I made the connection between them and my periods. Growing up, soon after enrolling in infants school and before menstruation, I was diagnosed with the hormone imbalance premature adrenarche. Though there is no scientific connection between PA and PMDD I feel this was all part of the same affliction, sensitivity to hormone changes affect me in a major way.

PMDD shouldn’t impact pregnancy in the sense that it alone won’t impact your ability to conceive. However trying for a baby whilst managing PMDD can be difficult, especially if you’re taking contraceptives to manage your symptoms, and or antidepressants. Fluoxetine or Prozac as it’s also known, is one of the more favourable SSRI’s for PMDD treatment. However it’s not recommended for pregnant women and therefore you may be asked to switch to a safer antidepressant or come off of them all together. This in itself can be a life altering (and in some cases life threatening) change that could impact your mental health during pregnancy too.

If your PMDD is severe and not responsive to treatment you may have considered sterilisation, which of course can put added pressure on you if you want to conceive. You might feel like you’re running out of time or you might feel forced to make the decision not to have children at all in order to manage your condition.

Though classified as a mental illness PMDD has many physical symptoms including joint paint, migraine and profound fatigue, that can often be mistaken or overlap with other illnesses, in my case my fibromyalgia is much worse when PMDD strikes and I know many other sufferers often get diagnosed with secondary conditions as a result of living with PMDD too.

Looking after your mental health must alway be a priority including during pregnancy, but it’s scary when you’re offered conflicting information and promises of symptom relief aren’t helpful either. ‘At least you get a break from PMDD’ is one of the most useless reassurances I’ve ever heard. Surely we know by now that even those of us with the same diagnoses will experience symptoms differently and bodily changes will impact us all in different ways. Pregnancy is one of the most obvious examples of this. Some women barely know they’re pregnant at all and others (like myself) find the process insufferable.

What’s important when considering all factors is finding a healthcare practitioner that is aware of your diagnoses and if they aren’t up to speed on what it means. They need to be willing to learn. When I found out I was pregnant this time I specifically asked to be cared for by the perinatal mental health team, this has included regular discussions with a mental health consultant that specialises in reproductive health. It’s been invaluable for me to know that I have people on my healthcare team that understand and are knowledgeable in helping me look after myself during pregnancy. My most recent appointment with the consultant included discussions around further specialist referral for PMDD post pregnancy, and also the need for me to be prescribed antidepressants again post natal. Even if I don’t feel I need them I have a prescription ready and a doctor who is helping me monitor the impact.

Pregnancy is hard on our bodies, buts it’s equally as hard on our minds, and when you are prone to mental health problems or live with a mental illness already, specifically ones prone to intensify with hormone fluctuation, the need to receive the right healthcare is critical.

https://iapmd.org/ the international association for premenstrual disorders have a directory that can help you find doctors in your area that specialise in PMDD so do check them out.

27 weeks of growing you.

It’s been a long one, one full of apprehension, appointments, medication, embarrassment, but smiles too.

Last week I had a recurring shingles infection outbreak, it meant I had to go back on antiviral medication and it was painful. During this time we had to see a midwife for a routine appointment and because I can no longer attend these appointments on my own, your dad drove me and got to hear your heartbeat live, for the first time. That was smile number one.

On Thursday I attended the hospital again for some blood tests, and also had a GTT or glucose tolerance test as they are known, to check for gestational diabetes. I have been dreading this test. I had one with your sister too, though I have diabetes in my family, I wasn’t considered high risk during my first pregnancy. This time though due to BMI and hypertension, I was convinced gestational diabetes was a given. The test was painless but it’s effects on my body, fasting, blood taken on an empty stomach with only pain killers rattling round in there made me sick. The drive was uncomfortable, the wait in between the same. I felt like dog shit. The twenty four hours that followed scared me. It was your sister’s birthday party the weekend following the test, and I was panicky about not being able to indulge in birthday cake. Thankfully though, I found out on the morning I DIDN’T have gestational diabetes, my relief was tangible, I cried real tears. Finally a sliver of hope amongst what has otherwise been an assault on my body.

Friday morning I took my recently hired mobility scooter for a spin. It pains me to say that this was difficult. It shouldn’t have been, but deep rooted in my psyche is inherent ableism. I didn’t get questioning looks, but I did get a lot of sympathetic smiles, which in truth were almost as uncomfortable as the former would of been. However, with that in mind, I enjoyed a morning out with our family, and that inspired smile number two.

Saturday arrived and your sister was buzzing for her birthday party, we’re still under strict restrictions here so she was only allowed one friend, but it was her bestie, Maddie. It was wonderful, your nanny, daddy & I all dressed up in fancy dress and I painted your sister and Maddie’s faces. Using the crutches has become increasingly difficult and painful for me, making my fibromyalgia scream, so after a few hours I was beat. But smile number 3 was the best, seeing your sister’s happy face and feeling like under the circumstances I had given her the best possible birthday party, was a moment to cherish and be proud of. I couldn’t sleep last night because the pain following has been so unbearable and today your Daddy took your sister out for the day so I could get some rest. The pain of carrying you on top of my illness is becoming harder to control the more you grow. The hardest part of all this is the limitations on the medication that is safe for me to take whilst carrying you. I worry how I will care for you when you arrive.

In under two weeks time we have another scan to check your growth and also to discuss how you might enter the world. I think I’d like to have a planned induction this time if it’s possible for me to avoid cesarian. Your sister was induced and it definitely wasn’t easy but in comparison to pregnancy, labour isn’t something that scares me.

Tomorrow is your sister’s fifth birthday and we will celebrate again despite the pain I’m in, because us mums push through for our kids, but I know I’ll need time to recover again afterwards. I have an occupational therapist visiting next week to see if I am suitable for some more adaptations to help me see out the rest of this pregnancy with limited mobility.

I am staying strong, and so are you. Keep it up. We’re doing okay you and me.

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.

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. 💙

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