I cannot believe it was a year ago since I packed up for maternity leave. I’d wanted a nice run into having baby and getting everything ready knowing I could like a lot of people do, bolt accrued holiday on at the end of the leave in case baby came late.
At this time, John, Rupes (dog) and I were in our rental house while the work on our actual house was being done. I loved our rental. It was on a really leafy park estate. It was a terraced house and we had a neat little garden, 3 beds and a park right on our doorstep. It was quiet, away from roads. The housing there had been converted from an old hospital. And very conveniently it was a 10 minute drive to home-home.
When Facebook reminds me of things that happened a year ago, it’s sort of weird to see no pics of what actually was going on. Because John and I had agreed to go social media secret squirrel about the pregnancy. I think from some pics of my face alone you can totally tell but no one asked and we chose not to share.
After trying naturally for years, the endo stuff, the IVF and subsequent surgeries (both failed and successful) and the cervical ectopic, our final NHS funded IVF round felt so, so important. Precious.
When I tested early to see that I was miraculously pregnant but then bled at around 7 weeks and rushed to a&e with another suspected ectopic/miscarriage I decided then and there that if this pregnancy was a-ok and on track that we would keep the precious baby and my blooming body secret.
So, no clever fancy set-up announcements, no scan pics, no nursery renovations. Nothing. And this comforted me so much. It took a load off. Because ultimately I was afraid. Not a nice feeling to experience at what should be a joyous time, but I found it hard to believe (and still do!) that I had a baby growing inside me. I’d stared infertility in the face and had on occasion buckled at its glare, thinking ‘ok maybe this way of having a baby is never going to happen’. I honestly don’t know what we would’ve done had the last round not worked because I hadn’t let my mind travel to surrogacy or donor bits or adoption purely because I wasn’t ready to, even though people seemed to love making those suggestions to me.
I didn’t want to leap ahead. Somewhere in me there was still some faith. And writing for my blog and chatting privately to people going through fertility struggles on social media I know that faith can get completely dumped on when you’re going through unimaginable and totally unexpected struggles. Some of the stories people have shared with me have astounded me. But if there’s even the tiniest shred of ‘…but maybe, just maybe’ inside of you, I think its so important to just focus on now. Right now. What are the options in front of you, how do you feel, what could help you at this time?
I guessed that if I shared the news I would ultimately feel more overwhelmed than happy so with that in mind I chose to be left alone. Well meaning questions about the pregnancy might have been badly timed with a moment where I was on the floor in pain many times during it. I still to this day don’t know what those pains were. They didn’t completely fit the description of round ligament pain but they were so very frightening; a sharp, intensifying, sweeping pain that would bolt along under my bump from one side to the other. I ended up in hospital because of this too once in the early hours, combined with a sharp pain in my side that they were concerned was a pulmonary embolism. I remember so vividly a time it happened on New Years Eve when we were away at a hotel. I literally fell to the bottom of the shower cubicle. Each time that pain happened I would have an absolute panic, thinking ‘this is it then’ and feeling so very desperate while motionless, willing it to pass as I tried to keep baby safe and well, waiting for a kick or a hiccup to reassure me.
Please don’t think for a minute that I didn’t enjoy pregnancy. I’m likely making it sound as though I was fraught and terrified throughout it. No. I loved it. I miss my bump. I just couldn’t believe it is all. And any time there was a (more frequently occurring) severe pain or anything that made me feel for a second that it was going to be taken away from me I would crumble.
Now obviously work was a weird one as everyone there knew and that was fine, however I still hardly ever wore clingy clothes over the bump. Something in me just wanted to get through the days without much outside interest in it all. I just wanted it to be me and my bump in a little cocoon of safety and warmth. The protective instincts were strong.
At home it was of course completely different. I’d get the bump out all the time, marvelling at it, watching it morph into weird and wonderful shapes before our very eyes.
I thought it would be a bit difficult actually, keeping it underwraps. but actually it just took mentioning it once to people and it was totally adhered to. No one took a pic of me and uploaded it forgetfully. No one let anything slip, not once. And there were some occasions where it would’ve been easy; in the Feb (6 months pregnant) I did a little party for John’s 40th of which photos were of course taken. But I was sober and turned myself into the photographer. In the March (7 months preg) John did a video interview with me for Endometriosis Awareness Month and I sat right up against the table’s edge. And then April I had a work leaving lunch in the sunshine at a London pub, again quite a few snaps. Days before she was born (almost a month prematurely) I had a few girls get together at a pub for my non baby shower. I really didn’t want one of those. We just went to a pub and had food. I kept the numbers mega low. Yes I got gorgeous prezzies because they are all just the best, but I couldn’t think of anything worse than all gathering around my bump, playing fucking games or wearing a sash. Not my cuppa tea AT ALL. Each to their own.
It’s a strange world we live in isn’t it really, where we without much thought most of the time, share such personal things online where largely the audience are absolute strangers. I flip flop between thinking I will change my settings on Instagram to private or just leaving them as they are and changing what I choose to share. I’ve totally honed in Facebook, omitting a huge number of ‘friends’ from my (increasingly infrequent) updates. I deleted Instagram for just over a week recently and had a whale of a time. I’ll be doing more intermittent ‘gram fasting I’m sure. It opened up space in my life. Space for nothing and everything and it was great.
While I didn’t share arguably the most amazing, scary and unbelievable part of my life on social media, I still have it all. Every last bit of it. I have all the pics of the bump. Videos too. The scan pics, and the snaps of the growing collection of teeny clothes. I kept a pregnancy diary which I will share soon because I didn’t want to forget anything along the way, good and bad. And perhaps I wouldn’t have kept that diary had I been busy sharing it all in realtime on social? But I often have a read of it and it makes me beam.
I was scared, I was thrilled. I was nervous and I was strangely perhaps the most confident I’ve been in my life at times throughout it. My bulging body didn’t impact my image of myself. I felt beautiful and magical. I was so very grateful for each passing day that my baby and I were well. Did I just want to get to the part where she was in my arms because then it would all be ok? Sure, sometimes yes. However, when she was in my arms that’s when some mental anguish really set in. Maybe I’ll write about that too soon as I’m still unpicking it a bit. I don’t think I got post natal depression, but I am pretty damn sure I got and am working through post natal anxiety.
Knowing myself so well, I truly think that adding social media to those 9 months would just not have served me well in any way at all. Of course I would’ve been in control of what I posted and how often but still, scrapping it altogether was absolutely the best option for us.