In the last six weeks the Stork has been bossily over-seeing my nesting activities at home and in the workplace. There’s a bathroom to be renovated, a nursery ceiling to be re-painted and a whole business to be re-structured in time for me going on maternity leave. Last week I woke up in the middle of the night convinced I’d be a terrible mother because I can’t cook or drive so the Stork has been urging me to get on and bake a damn soufflé while getting to grips with reverse parking.

Now we are entrenched in 2011 I find myself firmly on the other side of the Christmas threshold, staring Feet’s (from Foetus) arrival – on or around 18th April – squarely in the face. The race is on to ensure everything is in place at work and in the home. I know I will wring every last bit of Control out of the coming months, regardless of whether I should be resting or not, in the knowledge that when he/she/it finally does arrive Control is something I’ll be waving Goodbye to for a long time to come.

Otherwise, and most importantly, our 25 week old little Feet enjoyed its first Christmas problem free apart from the stretching aches and pains that had its Mummy pacing the flat like a caged tiger. It spent time continuing to build its house, now fully insulated with mince pies, two Christmas dinners and a double glazing’s worth of chocolate.

Happy New Year, everyone. If your Stork has arrived, I hope it continues to watch over you and fluff its matronly feathers. If it hasn’t yet made an appearance, I hope your 2011 flight path is clear and the landing strip well lit.

I’ve been absent from the blogging world for a bit due to an overpowering superstition.

In the past four weeks of pregnancy I have been experiencing bleeding and prolonged periods of spotting. The bleeding turns up out of nowhere and is followed by spotting that hangs around and then suddenly disappears for days at a time. Just when I am lulling myself back into feeling safe and confident about my pregnancy, it returns, a reminder that I must not be complacent about the growing being inside me.

So I swing from calm acceptance to periods of catatonic anxiety. I considered blogging about it all on a daily basis but, as things changed so quickly I held back – to me, there’s something haunting about a written record of “things are fine now” and the possibility of reading back those words when things might have taken a very bad turn. I’d feel stupid, complacent and capricious for feeling better about something I had no control over, something that could take me off in a painful direction.

I’ve had two extra scans since my 12 week turning point. They say it all seems fine, that there no explanation for the bleeding. That doesn’t stop me from thinking they’ve missed something.

I was recently due to travel to America for two weeks and I bled the night before I left. It wasn’t heavy but it was enough to keep me up worrying all night about whether I should go. It was all I could do to allow my rational side to pull rank – to say that I should not stop my life, that I could take things easy, that I had health insurance and that even if DH wasn’t going to be with me for most of it, I would deal. As it turned out, I spotted, but I was fine. I didn’t need to cash in my medical insurance. I returned to the UK unharmed and probably stronger for having to deal with the anxious periods alone. See, I can write about that, because that journey is finished.

As for the journey we’re still on, it’s mixed up – times of happiness, gratitude and anxiety but I think increasingly this is how it was meant to be. The anxiety is almost never about the lifestyle change in front of me – I feel like I had a lifetime to think about that before I got pregnant. The anxiety, of course, is about losing the life we spent so long waiting for. DH said that as the child was born, got sick, then better, then grew up and went out drinking and got back later than we’d hoped, that we’d be living with these periods of anxiety and calm our whole life. Pregnancy is a trial run for that and it’s something we must get used to it. He is, of course, right. But he is stronger than me.

When I wrote Golden Scans Part 1, Part 2 was going to be about the sonographer’s comicly inept assistant who failed to put crucial scan measurements into the computer, resulting in DH and I being told that we had a much higher than usual chance of delivering a Down’s Syndrome baby. That was a skickening rollercoaster to ride as we were presented with our various amniocentisis options. Once the inept assistant (who also took a blood pressure reading from me that, if actually correct, would have meant I was dead) had been picked up on her errors, everything was fine.

As it turns out, Part 2 exists in another form, although also taking the shape of a dramatic rollercoaster ride. Two days ago I went to the loo and found that I was bleeding, enough to think “I shouldn’t be getting a period right now.” Of course my heart stopped. There was only one possibility in my mind. I was miscarrying. In the sodding cinema.

I spent that night awake, preparing myself for what I would do next. What we would do next. I saw my GP first thing the next morning who sent me straight to the hospital for a scan. The baby seemed, in their words “unharmed by the bleeding” which was the most unexpected news. I’d heard bleeding was common in pregnancy, but it wasn’t the first factoid that sprang to mind when it happened to me.

They think it was to do with a low lying placenta, or, rather like my seven week scan (when they found blood in my urine) something to do with me and my lovely kidneys. So more tests for me.

It was a happy ending. I am pleased to say. Please, please can I have a bit of flat land before the next big dipper?

In the two days before my 12 week scan I reverted to the teenager I was in the run-up to exams. That teenager would have a bath at 7pm the night before the exam, both to relax, ensure a good night’s sleep and, crucially, not to waste precious time in the morning when she could be swotting up on notes or arriving three hours early for said exam. That teenager would gather her pencils in a special case, open and close it twice for luck, three times for some extra special blessings, then shuffle, read and re-read any necessary papers. She would lay her clothes out in neat piles and set two alarm clocks.

I did all this and more in the run-up to the scan. I jumped over paving stone cracks, avoided ladders and bought a second alarm clock.

None of it stopped me from feeling so nervous I nearly didn’t turn up to the scan, so desperate was I not to get bad news.

But it turned out the paving stone crack avoidance technique worked. Because I have a healthy baby growing inside me and I’d leap oceans to make sure that carried on for longer than I will ever be alive.

Have been nerve-wracking. I’ve barely been able to talk about my pregnancy let alone write about it, for fear of hexing it.

The anxiety has built steadily in the weeks leading up to the 12 week marker point, this coming Wednesday – and it was never more pronounced than in the last few days. As I cramped and started spotting what I think, now, was old blood, I was prepared myself to lose the game again. There’s a reason why you’re not safe until 12 weeks, I thought, that doesn’t mean something won’t go awry at 11 weeks and 6 days.

But, fingers crossed, the spotting has recently stopped. Looking back on when it happened, it coincided with when I might have had my period but I’m not sure whether that’s a helpful or scary thing to know at this juncture – the idea of the foetus trying to take the next available exit freaks me out.

My scan is a week tomorrow and I’ve decided to wait it out quietly. Even if the spotting started again, there’s nothing an earlier scan could do to change the outcome. So for now I am going to sit with as much hope as I can muster, sending all the strength and love I have to the little thing that’s growing in my belly.

Meantime, I feel I should be getting in touch with a few of my close friends to tell them the news before the 12 week scan happens. I went on a journey with one in particular who is still trying to conceive herself. But I can’t summon the energy to make the call. I don’t want her to feel as if I held it back on purpose, but I feel too wrapped up in my own anxiety and superstition to pick up the phone. It also occurred to me that I’m being a coward. I know what it felt like to be told that another good friend had fallen pregnant. Sure, I was happy for them but it tore a little piece of my heart. And I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone.

My most recent post, Just Do It, has been playing on my mind all day.

I apologise to any new Mum who read it, not that (said entirely without sarcasm) if they had any spare time, they would choose to read my blog.

I have no right to judge the opinions and thoughts of new mothers any more than I have a right to judge the thought s and opinions of anyone else.

I’m not going to blame hormones and a natural leaning towards oversensitivity. The problem is that I feel a bit like a kid in a playground who doesn’t belong to any group at the moment; I may be pregnant but I still feel like I’m where I’ve always been in the baby making process – scared and without any guarantees. And so it seems I’ve developed an attitude. Forgive my lack of elegance – I’ve absolutely no idea where I belong right now.

“Just you wait, when it happens to you, you won’t have time to write / see your husband let alone maintain a happy marriage / eat / finish a sentence…” – we all recognise this as the refrain of new mothers round the globe. Whether you are pregnant or not, new mothers are keen as hell to communicate to the world (usually accompanied by an Olympic eyeball roll) that they don’t have time to do, literally, ANYTHING. True as that may be, when I wasn’t pregnant, their complaining and misguided assumptions pissed me off.

Now I am pregnant, their complaining and misguided assumptions piss me off.

I occasionally see a shrink in North London who has been of medium to low help in the past year, mostly because she uses her training as an actress to re-enact what she perceives to be my more dramatic moments e.g. she’ll flounce to the other side of the room, all the while pretending to me, saying (albeit in different, shrink-wrapped words) – “Oh no, my diamond shoes are too tight”. I find it alarming at best, offensive at worst. Anyway, she, being a mother of two toddlers, actually raised her voice and threw her head back in mock disgust when I suggested I might try and do some writing on my theoretical maternity leave if, I qualified, it ever comes off, fingers crossed and avoid walking under ladders etc. “What do you think this will be exactly, Summer Camp?” I think were her words “you won’t have time to sit on the bog let alone write a sentence.”

So, aside from the discomfort I feel at anyone assuming everything is definitely going to be alright with this pregnancy, I also wonder whose world is actually being aided by the stroppy advice of women “who’ve been through it”. Other than to give them a chance to let off steam and occupy the moral high-ground for a while, for my part I just think – Hasn’t this process been hard enough? Doesn’t it continue to be stressful and unknown? Won’t it continue to present difficult decisions and questions without other women – lucky enough to be blessed with children in the first place – insisting that I’m going to have to wise up, like seriously, at some point in the future?

Whatever happens to me in the coming months, whatever sacrifices I have to make and, God Knows I’ve been preparing to make them for some time now, it certainly won’t be the “told you so” advice I remember. It will be the wise mutterings of the God of Nike who once said “Just Do It.”

A week baking ourselves in Sicilian sunlight has exposed more than a need to observe the damaging effects of UV rays and, in the case of DH, the local wine. The change in pace has, somehow, put a big neon arrow next to our strategy for coping with the early stages of a pregnancy immediately after a miscarriage. Who am I kidding? It was the giant, massive, minutes-before-your-head-hits-the-pillow-argument we had last night (a few hours after returning from holiday), that cranked the wattage up on the neon arrow. Fuelled by a storm of hormones, sickness and the treacherous line you tread between buying into what’s going on and not buying in too much, we stamped our feet like enraged toddlers at how our individual needs were going unmet (mine – empathy, his – civility).

Enough was enough. But first, how did we get ourselves into this mess?

Five weeks into this pregnancy, neither DH nor I could think of a way to deal with the ponderous tick of the developmental clock as it moved to 12 weeks, other than to stick our heads in the sand like disgruntled ostriches and try to get on with our lives. But, while slowly suffocating on mouthfuls of sand, termites and whatever else it is that an ostrich likes to stow its head at while avoiding life, we’ve managed to put our lives on hold. All discussions of future plans – and that includes holidays, weekends away, writing sabbaticals, maternity leave, where we’re going to live, how we’ll manage our finances and careers – have been frozen, in case the baby that glues it all together doesn’t turn up.

We have become the kind of joyless, bickering couple you overhear on a train and hope to god you never end up like that thank you very much.

And here we are, at 9 weeks and 3 days with a stretch of unknown, foggy future to navigate. We’ve decided to chuck the current, crap map and change tack. We have decided to stop editing our conversations like Stalin and permit ourselves to dream about a future with a baby in it. And if it doesn’t come to fruition? We’ll have more to worry about than whether we allowed ourselves to dream.

It all started at 2.30am this morning when a Caterpillar Truck crushed the left side of my body. Or at least, that’s what it felt like. The pain moved to my abdomen and was still there in the time it took me to shake DH awake, appraise him of what was happening, ask him what I should do and field his comments about turning off the light.

When the pain turned to dull ache and my anxiety hit the roof, I resolved to report my fractured physical status to the doctor first thing in the morning.

By 8.01 a.m. I was sitting in her surgery, apologising profusely for being there twice in one week (the first was to finally convince her of my pregnancy so in retrospect I regret my too polite apology). Having explained my symptoms, she took a urine sample to identify any signs of infection and suggested we go to the Early Pregnancy Unit for a scan that afternoon.

It sounded like a plan, so I coaxed my anxiety levels down by reading The Daily Mail in reception as the doctor typed my referral letter.

No sooner had I started to engage in the sordid details of our MP’s sex lives than the doctor called me back into the office to watch her “print” my referral. Unless she wanted a hand getting the printing press out of cold storage, I had a feeling that something was up.
She told me she’d found blood in my urine and that we should make our way to the Early Pregnancy Unit immediately.

My anxiety levels returned to the stratosphere.

On the way to the hospital DH and I did not speak, in fact we sat at opposite ends of the bus. Not because we don’t love each other, not because we weren’t supporting each other but because I was enveloped with the feeling that I was going to lose our second baby, so wrapped up in the size and weight of that feeling that I think it was impossible for him to get near me. I felt like I was walking around in a force field of anxiety whose only sounds were the muffled rumblings of how I, then we, might deal with a second miscarriage. How I’d feel – much worse, how we’d deal – much worse, what we’d do next – pass..

It was a long wait for the scan but I managed to force down some pasta in the canteen and throw back a handful of ante natal vitamins like it was some awful Last Supper.

The woman who scanned me was blonde, unlike all the other women who have scanned me in the past year – and that’s been four in total. She was happy and positive and she smiled, unlike all the other women, as I explained the past three months in tones so hushed and funereal she actually asked me whether the pregnancy was wanted.

And so she shuffled around with the dildo of doom and in a moment, there it was… the little tadpole appeared, with a head like Jack Nicholson, a tail like The Little Mermaid and a heartbeat like someone falling in love. I cried, a bit, with relief, in amazement but all the while feeling like a headmistress was watching over me, warning this was not the right time to get too attached.

It was hard not to. It was hard not to get attached to life.

Safe in the knowledge that the embryo was ok, I was dispatched back to the doctor to deal with the crushing pains and blood in my urine. I saw an old man doctor this time who took several minutes to line up the cursor with a link on his computer screen in a bid to explain to me why he thought the crushing pain had been muscular. Then he happily splashed my urine sample over his desk and my handbag as he explained he couldn’t find anything suspect about my urine but would send it off to the hospital for further testing post haste.

As long as the life in my tummy was ok, I figured that whatever the pains and the blood were, it would be ok eventually.

In this moment I have the memory of it being alive. Tomorrow my anxiety may cause me to feel differently, and indeed whatever comes next might change all this entirely. But for now, I remember. And I will its little heartbeat onwards now, and for the rest of my life.

I started feeling nauseous today – at 4am, then again at 6am and so on, for the rest of the day.

I shook DH awake on the second visitation and told him, “I’m feeling sick,” I said, hoping he’d spring to his feet and make me a marmalade toast. “That’s great news,” he said, before turning over and falling back asleep.

I met my sister for breakfast and told her of my malaise. “I don’t feel so well myself actually,” she said, “I’m very run down at the moment.”

I called my Mum this afternoon for advice, “I don’t have any” she said. Then Dad came on the phone “I don’t think you’ve got morning sickness,” he said, “it’s not morning. You should see a doctor.”

I’ve given up trying to explain to my Dad how a DVD player works, let alone the biology of morning sickness so now I find myself with only a box-set of 80s Brat Pack movies to keep me company as my stomach turns cartwheels.

I re-visit the GP tomorrow to re-convince her of my pregnant state. Maybe she’ll take me seriously if I vomit on her shoes.

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