The first tr(Y)mester of a pregnancy after loss

Baby B 12 weeks 4 days

It’s only 12 weeks/3 months but the first trimester of a pregnancy after loss is exhausting and here is why mine was:

The first week or so is spent with you daring to believe the pregnancy test result, or in our case ‘tests’. You carry on daily life a bit numb and then you’ll be sat at your desk at work and WHAM a wave of reality hits you. You might be pregnant again! You go through all the emotions from shock, disbelief, nerves and terror to over the moon. Hopes and fears all mixed in to one. Hopes that the baby is healthy, I have a healthy pregnancy, we are looked after properly, the baby is born crying and we get to keep this one. Fears that my second baby will die like my first, that I will miss any important signs, that family will overwhelm us, that work will stress me out, that we can’t enjoy this pregnancy and that I won’t have a natural unmedicated birth like I really want.

Having been pregnant before I knew that the first thing I had to do was arrange an appointment with my doctor and a blood test. I went to my appointment and it was such a relief to tell someone, well anyone our news. Saying it out loud to someone in a healthcare profession made it feel more real. It didn’t take long for me to break down into tears on my doctor though. Not surprising really seeming everything that was going around my head. I couldn’t help but think that I’d done this before and it didn’t end well and what would make this pregnancy any different. One of the first things I noticed was how much extra attention, care and support we were already being given.

Next was to pay a visit to my gynaecologist. I had a meeting set up already because it would have been eights months after trying for a baby at this point and we were due to discuss the next steps. When we told our gynaecologist that we thought we were pregnant, it was so lovely to see his surprise. He couldn’t call our pregnancy viable at this stage as a heartbeat hadn’t been seen as it was only 5/6 weeks gestation but seeing what we could on the screen was amazing. We couldn’t help but feel blessed.

Our gynaecologist commented how his job can be very hard sometimes but finding out our news had made his week which was lovely to hear. However I came away not satisfied and thinking what we had found out at the appointment wasn’t enough for me. I needed to have firm confirmation that our baby was alive. Despite not having another scan for a further two weeks we had decided to share our news with close family so they could understand what we were going through. My sister and I had a joint birthday celebration with family coming up and my husband and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share the news.

The two week wait between the scan and birthday celebration was so difficult. I had this big secret and was trying to cope with all the emotions it was bringing. I managed to lose half a stone in weight in those two weeks which I put down to the stress and worry plus starting to feel a little nauseous. I was very nervous the day of the family gathering but it felt more real than when I was building up the courage to tell them with our last pregnancy.

I decided to reveal the news to my sister first in a birthday card from her nephew angel Freddie. It said he thanked her for being a great auntie to him but now it was time for her to be auntie to his little sister or brother too. She read the card and I can’t repeat the words she said but she was in shock and unbelievably excited. My mother and step father were close by and couldn’t understand what was going on. My sister handed my mother the card to read and they gave each other a massive hug. We were delighted to see their excitement and didn’t want to put a damper on things but we were also trying to be realistic and kept saying it was early days and we were waiting to see the heartbeat. I then texted, Skyped, phoned and told other family members and work colleagues. It was such a relief and felt more real as we shared the news with other people.

At my next scan we got the news we had been waiting for and saw a strong heartbeat. It was reassuring to finally know that there was a baby growing inside of me, albeit a very small one that doesn’t resemble anything like a baby at this stage, but it was ALIVE! We were still a bit in shock I think but believe it or not I still wasn’t 100% satisfied though and couldn’t work out exactly why I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with excitement. I talked about it with my husband Rik and we came to the conclusion that it still felt unreal to me and that I was waiting for the bad news. It’s so hard once you’ve been ‘the one’, to think that this time everything might work out okay.

We were just starting to believe it all and beginning to enjoy it when at 10 weeks I had a bleed at work. I had not really bled that much during my last pregnancy so immediately thought something must be wrong and that I was losing the baby. I phoned my husband and told him to meet me at A&E and somehow managed to drive myself to the hospital whilst repeatedly telling my baby to stay with us. We had an hour’s wait in A&E to be seen which was so hard.

Whilst sat in reception I kept popping to the toilet to see if I had bled anymore. I hadn’t so this gave me the tiniest bit of hope. However, my brain had already started processing the fact that this wasn’t going to be good news and thoughts of how to tell my family we had lost the baby and having to start trying again went through my head.

My husband and I had mentally prepared ourselves for the worst during that wait. I was seen by a doctor who said my stomach felt normal and that we would have to wait a further half an hour to be seen by a gynaecologist. I lay there on that bed and just tried to relax but it was so hard. They eventually scanned me and for a minute or so I couldn’t see our baby move and even said out loud “There’s nothing there” but we were reassured with a visible heartbeat. They put it down to just one of those pregnancy bleeds possibly caused by a burst blood vessel.

We went home that day mentally exhausted and trying to take it all in that our baby was still alive and okay. This really made us take things a bit slower and appreciate our baby still being with us. We had moments where we were scared to plan but then determined to keep going as before.

The next week my mind was fortunately pre-occupied as Guernsey Sands (Stillbirth & Neonatal Death), the charity I am a committee member for, were to donate a cuddle cot to the hospital. I knew it was going to be a hard week visiting the ward but it didn’t even cross my mind that the press call might take place in the very delivery room I birthed Freddie in. It was the first time I had set foot in that room since being wheeled out that night having given Freddie my first and last kiss. Ideally I would have wanted to be with my husband the first time I revisited the room but the other committee members were there with me.

The room had been redecorated and the layout changed and it was a nice bright day compared to the dark night when I’d been in the room last. I coped though and had the courage to get through that day, partly due to knowing I was carrying Freddie’s sibling. I went home that night and told my husband how I was worried that the new vision I had of the room would somehow wipe the memory of the special day we met our son. I managed to reassure myself that my brain would be able to separate the two.

The next week was well and truly needed as we had our 12 week scan at what we thought was 11 weeks and 4 days gestation. We were so scared but also looking forward to it and hoping that it would give us some much needed reassurance. The two days before the scan I had to take off work. I was just not feeling right. Emotional, tired, weepy and fuzzy headed. We had a lovely sonographer who really took his time and understood our concerns and worry. At the scan we got the reassurance we needed. A moving baby with everything looking as normal as possible. It was amazing to see our beautiful baby with its cute nose, just like Freddie’s. It even had its thumb in its mouth which was adorable and we joked was just like me. The baby looked softer than Freddie and both Rik and I thought it was a girl. We were also informed that the pregnancy was further along and our baby was measuring 12 weeks and 4 days gestation instead!

We were so proud to finally share our exciting and scary news with everyone. We decided to announce our pregnancy in a video which respected and included Freddie but was all about his little brother or sister. We wanted to show how we were just as excited about this pregnancy as with Freddie’s. We then posted some scan pictures to show how beautiful our baby was, how proud we were and how already loved our second baby was.

The truth of trying to conceive after loss

Is it positive?

It’s been eight months since my last post on Freddie’s First Birthday Memorial Event and a lot has happened in this short time. The biggest most exciting and scary thing is what I will be blogging about in the future, but first I must explain a few things in this blog post.

In April 2014, my husband and I decided that we would like to start trying for a sibling to our son Freddie who was stillborn in August 2013. We weren’t 100% sure how long it would take or how we were going to cope when/if we got a positive pregnancy result, but we knew that however much we were still grieving for our son, this would never change. We could be grieving all our life so there was no point waiting for it to be okay one day.

The fact that we were both ready was the most important thing. If I am being honest I would have starting trying again the day I walked out the hospital with a memory box in my arms instead of my son, but I respected my husband’s need to wait and in hindsight realise that I had needed time to grieve my loss and make memories for my darling Freddie.

We were aware that we conceived Freddie the first month we tried but knew that it may not happen this quickly again. As each month passed and another negative pregnancy test result was thrown in the bathroom bin, I started to wonder if we were doing the right thing. I’m not talking about where ‘it’ goes but were our bodies telling us we weren’t ready.

In August, the month of Freddie’s anniversary, we prayed that he would show us a sign and we would be honoured with news of his sibling but what we experienced was confusion and worry. At the time I was expecting my period I started bleeding but it felt different to normal and lasted two weeks. By this point I was a bit concerned about what was happening and got checked out, but the bleeding had stopped. I was obviously worried that this was very out of my normal routine (I’ve been tracking my cycle for years) and a part of me thought that either I had experienced a very early miscarriage or that maybe it was my body remembering a year ago when my cycle returned after Freddie’s birth. We will never know but we picked ourselves up and said we would keep trying.

However the next month Rik was diagnosed with a hip/groin hernia and needed an operation to sort it out. This put a hold on our plans for about a month and a half whilst he recovered. My biggest concern was obviously making sure my husband was resting and recovering well but I would be lying if I said that a part of me wasn’t counting down the time thinking it was a lost opportunity. I appreciate that might sound harsh but it’s the truth. We turned our baby making down a gear for the first month or two after his recuperation but it was spirit lifting to know that again we may have a chance.

As the end of the year approached I couldn’t help but count down the months left that we had to conceive in 2014. I know this probably wasn’t helping our situation but I couldn’t help it. I appreciate some people try for years and some can’t conceive naturally at all and don’t want to sound like I don’t, but when you have been so close, so very very close to bringing up a baby and then get it taken away from you, each month feels like a year.

With a new year I decided to have a different approach. I was in the mind frame that I was leaving the baggage from 2014 behind and starting again. In my mind I had a whole 12 months to get pregnant after all! I was determined to just relax about it all. I went through the things we bought in preparation for Freddie and decided to sell a few bits that I didn’t feel we needed to keep.

I also started being more open about that fact that we had been trying. I talked to my mother and told her how hard the months trying had been and she finally opened up about how she had been worried that losing Freddie had put us off trying again. I told her about how frustrating it had been hearing comments from people that we should just ‘get on with it’ when we were but didn’t feel it was anyone’s business.

I hoped that the more I opened up and was honest with myself and others, the less stress I was putting on myself. Rik supported me with whatever I wanted to do and whenever I wanted to do it. We had just wanted some time to ourselves to try and see what happened but were now both ready to gain support and advice. We also decided that we would do Dry January when you abstain from drinking alcohol for the month of January. We do it every year but I had heard some people say that they decided to not drink any alcohol and then fell pregnant so thought it could help. I had been receiving monthly reflexology treatments too up to the end of 2014 which I thought would help me relax.

The end of January and Dry January was nearing and we decided to plan a fun night out at the end of it to enjoy some good food and wine. I took a pregnancy test a few days before my cycle was due to start and it was negative. I then had some spotting over the next few days and thought it was my cycle starting, however it didn’t feel quite like normal so I took another test on the morning of our planned meal. I was now a few days late and it was negative again. So we went out and I enjoyed letting my hair down and enjoyed several glasses of wine. We had a great night.

Over the next day or so I was waiting for my cycle to really get going but it had stopped. I didn’t think I needed to take another test but as each day passed I became more confused. I hated my cycle for teasing me this way and playing with my mind. Just when I was getting used to it being another unsuccessful month, this happens and I am back to thinking ‘what if?’.

So we had some cheap pregnancy test strips in the cupboard and I did a test with one of these. Rik wasn’t home from work yet and as I looked at it, the more I could see a faint second line. It was really faint though so when Rik got home he honestly thought it was negative but I had read somewhere that even if it is faint, it could be a positive. I kept staring at it and tried to convince myself that I was just seeing things so as to not get my hopes up. I had even read that if you take a picture of a test and make it black or white or negative that it is easier to gauge so I tried everything.

Now even more confused I dug out a digital pregnancy test that I was saving for this type of situation and did the necessary. I placed the test on a bookshelf dedicated to Freddie and in front of his picture and in my mind thought he is now in charge of our fate. I kept myself busy for those pain stacking few minutes and as I glanced at the test, the result popped up in front of my eyes ‘Pregnant 1-2 weeks’. I couldn’t believe it. No really I couldn’t. I knew what I was seeing and what it meant but my head was still in ‘i’m not pregnant this month’ mode.

Instead of the shocked, joyful and exciting feelings Freddie’s result brought, this one was met with shock but also with numbness and disbelief. I told Rik the news and I think he just carried on as normal like I had just told him I was going out to the shops or something. It took a while to sink in but over the next few hours the numbness slowly disappeared and the true reality of the situation hit us…WE WERE EXPECTING ANOTHER BABY!

With this came many happy feelings but also many fears as you can imagine. We were delighted as this was the first day of our lives as parents of two children, but this was also the first day of nine months, and more, of worry and so many questions including…

If we allow ourselves to be happy and hope, are we setting ourselves up to have our hearts broken again?