I previously wrote about trying to conceive, and the setback of being diagnosed with endometriosis. When I last wrote several months ago I wasn’t sure of the extent of the problem, or what (if any) help might be needed.
I eventually got a copy of the surgeon’s report and learned exactly where all my endometriosis is. My bowels, bladder, appendix and other other digestive organs seem to be fine – it’s mainly just the reproductive bits that are riddled with scar tissue and stuck together.
At the follow-up appointment in July, the doctor advised that IVF was an appropriate way forward, without treatment of the endo, and that we qualified for a couple of cycles on the NHS. The waiting time is a year, so we could go on the waiting list, keep trying, and have time to mull over the IVF option properly. So we went with that.
I thought about what I could do that might help my body beat back the disease. I went on a gluten-free diet in August, and started gearing up for a fitness drive. I don’t know whether it was just a coincidence but I felt better in August than I had for months: full of energy, like I could walk all day long.
But I never got to continue my experimentation with diet, nor did I buy that FitBit and start properly working out, because on a holiday in Spain in early September, this happened:
Needless to say, we were shocked! I’ve taken a lot of tests but I’d never seen that second line before. My first feeling on seeing it appear was actually confusion: what is this?! Quickly followed by hyperventilation… delight and terror in equal measure.
I’m now 15 weeks along, and I guess I should feel reasonably hopeful that I will actually have a healthy baby in my arms around next May. The miscarriage risk is higher with endometriosis, but should have dropped to very small by now. The risks of various other complications are also higher. I will need to educate myself more, but also remember my Stoic practices. It’s all too easy to become overwhelmed with concern over uncertainties that cannot be controlled.
As fortunate as I feel to be in this position, I must admit I have not enjoyed pregnancy so far. The first trimester has been grim. Really grim! Around 6 weeks I was struck down by what I thought was a virus, but turned out to be pregnancy rhinitis (who knew that was a thing? Still sneezing 9 weeks later!) coupled with the yucky, shivery cloud of exhaustion that would hang over me for months. I have hardly been able to do anything besides work, spending so many evenings holed up under a blanket, sleeping almost all weekend sometimes. A 10-minute walk can wipe me out. Even now I am desperately awaiting my second trimester renewed energy… it’s not here yet! At least the powerful nausea has gone. There are other weird and wonderful symptoms that probably will not go: a desperate aching thirst and horrible taste in my mouth; strong, off-rhythm palpitations that occur when I lie down as my heart struggles to deal with the extra volume of blood in my body.
All in all it has put me to the test like nothing else has. Is it my age, am I too old for this? Fasting the month of Ramadan was a walk in the park by comparison; doing a full day’s work after insomnia robbed me of any more than a couple of hours’ sleep, no problem. I thought I was strong and capable. But the relentlessness of the struggle to carry on daily life these last few months has really worn me down at times.
It doesn’t help that the outcome of the pregnancy has to be regarded as pretty uncertain for the whole first trimester. To think that it could all be for nothing! And because of this fact, we have developed this compelling cultural taboo around making the pregnancy known until after the 12-week scan – which leaves you somewhat isolated in your suffering and having to try and hide the effects. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the cruel, complicated effects of our collective phobia of bad news – and Brene Brown’s thinking around this.
(Actually, I told quite a few people: people it felt natural to tell; people whose support I would need, anyway, if something went wrong. I even gave in and told my work team around 10 weeks – although that did feel strange – but I felt I needed to offer some explanation for why I was so off-colour; oh and, of course, the early morning crisps-and-diet-coke binges and the ridiculous stash of comfort food on my desk! 😆
As for how I feel about becoming a mum now, I can’t say my ambivalence has totally settled. It’s hard to feel excited when you’re feeling so rough, and there have definitely been some spells of “Oh my God what have we done?!”. But I’m glad it is happening. I am ready for this journey – or as ready as I’ll ever be 🙂 I surprised myself with a flood of adoration at the sight of our baby’s face in profile on the ultrasound. Those scan pictures never really meant much to me before, but it turns out when it’s a baby we have made together, it’s just so, so precious. Being given newborn clothes and other items by my mum has also triggered a peculiar rush of blissful disbelief – accompanied by a ramped-up dread of the worst happening, as if it is simply too much good fortune to really be happening to me. It’s never been easy to picture myself having a child, for many reasons; but it wasn’t easy to believe that buying a home or finding a job I could thrive in would happen either: at least a part of it is just my habitual belief that things I might want are out of my reach. I guess the silver lining of such a pessimism is how amazing it feels when it starts to look like you were wrong.