It’s a word used for weddings, engagements, exams results, new homes and births. For me, it’s not a word that sits well with pregnancy. When you tell someone you are pregnant, it’s an obvious exclamation – it is, of course, a nice thing to say.
But what is doesn’t account for is the deep-rooted anxiety that you’re not even out of the starting blocks; that your uterus has every chance of being the one to fail at carrying that life. How can you congratulate a 1500m runner at the 200m mark? Perhaps ‘keep going’ or ‘c’mon girl’ fits the bill but for me it isn’t (I’m 8 months pregnant) or wasn’t (I have a three-year-old) a celebratory time.
For every moment I allowed myself to ponder that flicker of life inside, I would be jolted out of those musings by a sickening fear that this one wouldn’t make it to the finishing line. There was the fear of decorating the nursery too soon; the fear of choosing a name too early; the heart stopping moments of waiting three seconds too long for a heartbeat at a routine scan.
While I have miscarried along the way to procreation, I don’t think that fear is shackled only to those who have suffered loss. Everyone questions the viability of their uterus at some point; Anyone who knows what it is to love someone knows what it is to lose someone.
In this pregnancy, I was in hospital at 4 months with dehydration because of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). I’d heard all about the ‘glow’ you get through pregnancy, I knew about the cracking boobs that came with the maternal package – I was even genned up on the best post-partum sanitary pads to invest in.
But what I hadn’t been aware of was that HG dehydration could cause a foetal heart to stop.
I didn’t realise that bleeding throughout pregnancy was fairly normal for some women and a sign of an ‘inviable foetus’ for others. It was a game of biological snakes and ladders where the Internet could offer up two extreme answers for every one scenario. My Google results ran the full gamut of ‘this is normal, all will be well’ to ‘this is a sign of miscarriage, seek medical help immediately’ from one simple search word.
Despite never being a worrier previously, here I found myself in no (wo)man’s land; It was (and still is) a confused arena of fear and excitement – the former often overpowering the latter.
All I do know is that the Internet does not have all the answers; the Internet cannot listen to your body or look you in the eyes and see that primitive maternal fear. It cannot listen, only broadcast. When the Internet was telling me that mild Braxton hicks contractions were normal at 28 weeks with my daughter Mae, I questioned the pixels with a visit to an actual human – my midwife who confirmed I’d gone into labour.
Without listening to instincts, I wouldn’t have been administered steroids to halt the contractions and my daughter would have come prematurely at 28 weeks.
When Mae was born ten weeks later, I lapped up all the ‘congratulations’ people could muster. For then, after what had been a journey of significant peaks and troughs, I could truly sit back and feel like I’d actually won at pregnancy.
Tommy’s, with King’s College London and Babycentre.com, has launched a safer pregnancy campaign to empower pregnant women to overcome fears about speaking to professionals about health concerns. The aim of the Always Ask campaign is to reduce the number of women who end up with serious pregnancy complications or loss. Research from King’s College London has shown that women’s knowledge about their own changing body is invaluable in contributing to safer pregnancies but that they often struggle to voice their instincts and concerns.
First publishing in Goodtoknow Magazine.
Written by: Anna Whitehouse.