Just another day
Just another day. That little phrase sounds so simple, so easy. However, as I learn to overcome my anxiety, cope with grief and surviving pregnancy after prematurity and baby loss, that day can either feel like climbing a mountain or a warm summer’s breeze.
Without taking all my pregnancy hormones into account, when my day is mixed with the fear of my waters going early, the fear of losing another baby and not knowing whether I will get to take this baby home or not, then that day can be a heavy weight upon my shoulders and often leaves me feeling lost in a welter of emotions.
When I feel lost, that day can feel like I am struggling through a heavy fog. It can take a while to work out whether the fog is grief, fear, longing, baby brain, tiredness, or just hormones! It leaves me feeling troubled and daily chores are often confusing to work through.
On good days, when my anxieties are minimal and my day or at least parts of my day are quite simply beautiful, I am left feeling so happy and content. It is these days that I try and hang onto and use them to help me through the harder days.
By the time I get to the end of a day, there is a sense of achievement. No matter what kind of day it’s been, I have worked through it. Whether that was coping with my anxious mind, dealing with my grief, seeing twins, being mum or surviving another day of this pregnancy. It was simply just another day.
Although I am finding it difficult, I am trying to understand that this pregnancy is completely different and not to make comparisons. Not only is it one baby, this time but it is also a boy.
I have achieved my first milestone and sailed past 24 weeks plus 3 days pregnant (the date Charlotte’s waters went). As it happened, that day turned out to be just like any other day in this pregnancy, where baby stayed happily wriggling in my tummy, I ate a packet of biscuits and annoyingly suffered heartburn every time I bent down. I was lucky to have a scan that day to find out everything was how it should be and we then celebrated by going to buy Charlotte her first pair of shoes. A day I had dreamt of for so long and when it came it was just beautiful… also extremely funny when Connor was introduced to the world of little girls’ shoes and their price tags!
My anxieties always seem to be worse leading up to any day like that which I am not looking forward to. The day before a part of me wanted to go and camp outside Leeds General Infirmary, waiting for my waters to break at 9am, a part of me wanted to do an all–nighter with my legs crossed, a part of me wished I could accept that everything would be fine, knowing that this is a different pregnancy and hoping I will get to full term, and a big part of me just wanted to go to sleep and forget that any of these anxieties existed.
No matter how exhausting pregnancy after loss is, the main thing is, is that I am surviving it, baby is staying put and growing bigger and stronger each day.
I am hoping that I will get to third trimester (28 weeks) with my weeks being filled with ‘just another day’.
Since becoming pregnant I have anxiously waited for the dreaded second trimester weeks of 24 to 27 weeks pregnant. This was the time when I was pregnant with twins, that Twin 1’s waters went, I had seventeen days filled with fear on the antenatal ward and then I gave birth at 26 weeks plus 6 days. I have mainly frightening memories of this period of my last pregnancy, not knowing when I would go into labour and the torture of whether we would lose both girls. It has been a challenge to ignore the anxieties of history repeating itself and as I hit each of these events I relived the fear that I experienced and the terrifying jolt of living through hell again.
I look glowing in the last photograph I took at 24 weeks pregnant with twins. A point in my pregnancy where despite still being very anxious about the various aches and pains, the nausea had lifted, I could feel two babies moving and I was beginning to get so excited and nervous about raising twin girls. I had begun researching how mums of twins survived motherhood, I was planning a baby shower, I had started buying a few outfits and had begun putting together a ‘to-do’ list of what I needed to get.
Ah, I was blissfully unaware of prematurity and ignorant that sadly not every baby makes it home. However, when put in a situation where very little was in my control, I had no choice but to live each day or hour as they came. I learnt more about myself and the strength of my marriage in the space of a few months than I imagined I would in a lifetime. That in itself, I am grateful for.
Other than the nausea, heartburn, sciatica and the mental battle of coping with pregnancy after prematurity and loss, 24 weeks with a single baby has been a dream. In comparison to carrying twins. It has, so far, been easy. I can enjoy sitting on the sofa or on a chair to eat my dinner, with twins this was extremely painful and I found it difficult to sit still for longer than five minutes. This time I have very few aches and pains as my body grows a human, whereas before everything ached, hurt and felt heavy as my body was stretched at double the pace. I panicked and my anxiety went through the roof as I experienced each new painful or unfamiliar movement.
This bump has been a dream to carry and I know that the few aches and pains that have come along with growing this baby aren’t linked to signs of early labour. I guess part of that comes with it being a second pregnancy and another part comes with feeling more in control of my anxiety, and understanding I have lived through the worst. So, if anything was to happen, deep down I know I could survive.
Unlike my first pregnancy when I downloaded every pregnancy app, made ‘to-do’ lists of what I needed in preparation for the girls coming home and started buying things, this time around I have done none of the above. I occasionally Google ‘baby at x weeks’ and have a browse through the information but that is it. I have no real interest in it nor do I have any inclination to bring anything for this baby through the front door.
At 24 weeks I woke up feeling pleasantly surprised and relieved that I had reached 24 weeks and felt no different. I was also really looking forward to going to my friend’s house and collecting all her boy’s clothes she had kindly saved for my little one.
My day took a turn as we were about to set off and Charlotte face planted the floor from the sofa and threw up. I raced for the frozen peas, feeling sick and like a terrible, irresponsible mother. Charlotte cried, I cried, but luckily after talking to my GP and being comforted by friends, after plenty of arnica cream, she was just fine. She is one tough cookie.
I had a lovely time with my friend, the guilt eased, and I set off home with the clothes. Although Charlotte’s nap time would have been the perfect time to go through them, I decided to do a very rare thing, polish the house instead.
It wasn’t until I finished polishing that it dawned on me the clothes were still in my car. I realised I had no intention of going through the clothes, which upset me as it meant I couldn’t have anything physically to do with this baby in the house. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t, I wasn’t ready.
What I found upsetting wasn’t the fact that I couldn’t open the bags but realising how fragile I am because of my belief/fear that this baby will not come home. I know the time will come when I feel ready, and I’m not putting any pressure on myself to get to that point, but it just shocked me. I phoned my friend and she understood why I was upset. She told me to put the clothes somewhere until that moment came, there’s no rush. And that is what I have done, they are now sitting at my Mum’s house until then.
It’s not to say I’m not hopeful or I don’t love this baby any less, I’m just not in that place yet. The time is not right. Yes, getting to my third trimester, I realise I have had another week of ‘just another day’, I am beginning to feel more hopeful and am coming round to the idea of having baby things in the house, but I’m still not ready to fully embrace the idea that this little one will be coming home, that I will get a chance to mother him and that Charlotte will have another sibling by her side.
I felt desperate to get to 28 weeks (third trimester). It couldn’t come quickly enough. Even though the weeks are ticking by, 28 weeks felt so far away. This was the final goal the consultants had said would be great to reach, as babies stood a much better expectation of survival. In my last pregnancy I didn’t get the chance to reach 28 weeks. Unexpectedly, at 26 weeks and 6 days, Charlotte and I had caught an infection, I was rushed into theatre for an emergency caesarean and within the space of twenty minutes I had become a mother.
I am enjoying taking this pregnancy a day at a time. I love that my bump is getting bigger and his kicks and movements are getting stronger. I’m excited anticipating the day when Charlotte looks at my tummy and sees or feels it move and, more often than not, it feels refreshing that I am taking it day by day and not worrying about getting anything ready. I am looking forward to fully embracing that, when it feels right.
However, that’s not to deny the honest truth that I am in fact winging each day. There is a whirlwind of emotions that come every day with pregnancy after loss – fear, hope, anxiousness, worry and happiness to name but a few. Some I have anticipated but many have caught me off guard.
The anxious thoughts that something might be wrong rocket so fast. I find I quickly go into panic mode if I think I haven’t felt the baby move for a few hours and have to sit down until he wriggles. Or the time when I got a urine infection and felt so uncomfortable that I was convinced something wasn’t right. Before going to sleep, I returned to Googling what was wrong and freaked out when I read kidney problems can lead to early labour. My mind wouldn’t relax and I phoned the delivery suite at half 11 that night and explained about my last pregnancy and symptoms. Luckily, she was a very understanding midwife who calmed me down and put my mind at ease until I got the results back and was put on antibiotics.
At 23 weeks pregnant, I received a phone call from the hospital to say I had been tested positive for Group B Strep. Not knowing anything about it, I went into panic and my hope for delivering a healthy baby boy and bringing him home disappeared before I knew it. This confirmed that although I am enjoying each day of this pregnancy, my fears of history repeating itself are lying only just below the surface. I try my hardest to maintain a positive mindset as I know that this, along with the help of family and friends, is what has got me through my darkest of days, but I also know that after having a premature birth and losing a baby these thoughts are perfectly normal and understandable. Thanks to being under such close consultant care, I am pleased that the Group B Strep has been detected. I am glad to be so closely monitored and it is really helping me to enjoy this pregnancy and feel in safe hands.
I initially found it difficult when my husband told me how he was coping with this pregnancy. Connor never really shares my excitement when there is an opportunity to feel this baby kick nor does he really talk to me being pregnant, except on the fortnightly scan days. I was 25 weeks pregnant and getting ready for bed when he couldn’t believe how big my bump had got suddenly. “Wow,” he said, “Where did that come from, you look really pregnant now!” I laughed and replied, “Well, I am six months pregnant.” He then admitted he switches off from me being pregnant in the weeks between the scans. He’s not overly keen about feeling the kicks as they kind of freak him out. He did say he got excited about the baby at the fortnightly scans as he was in a safe place.
When I heard this I immediately felt quite alone in this pregnancy. Knowing he has a choice of switching off from the terrifying thoughts and emotions when I don’t have that choice because I’m carrying the baby was hard to hear. It felt unfair. However, after sleeping on it, I was grateful he had opened up to me about how he is getting through it. At times, his emotions are such a closed book that it was revealing to gain some insight into how he was coping and I respect that. If he hadn’t said anything, then, yes, I did find it a little strange he didn’t want to feel the baby move, but not for one second have I ever doubted that I have his full support.
If I’ve learnt anything from my marriage, I know he is always there for me 100% and it’s not that he’s not feeling as anxious as I do about this pregnancy, it’s just his way of dealing with it. We are just winging it in our own different ways.
My little big fighter
As a mum to a premature baby I do sometimes find it hard to see other toddlers that are younger than, or the same age as, Charlotte and way more advanced. It’s not that I would change or advance her development in any way, I know as her mother she will get there in her own time and is a very happy, content girl. But at times everything feels like it has always been that bit more of an effort, that bit further to go before reaching those milestones, that bit more explanation as to why she is nineteen months and not running and pottering around and the need to sometimes justify why she looks like a sixteen month baby. I’m not wanting sympathy, I’m just saying that at times it feels hard. Sometimes when I don’t justify Charlotte’s age or size this is followed by a quizzical look, a comparison to another nineteen month old (or younger) or a comment, “Isn’t she small for her age”?, and so the justifications begin. It is at these times that I wish people wouldn’t make comparisons and it hurts when they say how tiny she looks. If only they knew! As my counsellor once said to me, “You are better than that Amy.” I must learn to take no notice of these comparisons and also to let go of the day to day challenges which prematurity brings.
On the positive side of accepting those challenges, I feel I have reached a point where I am beginning to let go of my anxieties about Charlotte’s physical development. As with each therapy goal that is set, she conquers them all in her own time. This in itself feels a huge step for me. I realised this one time when I was just happily playing with her and, although in the back of my mind I was checking her right hand wasn’t clenched and her right heel was down, I was simply enjoying playing with her as opposed to doing her therapy through play. I had waited so long for the moment when she found the strength to climb on me or to reach for me, it felt incredible. A fabulous day of seeing my girl go from strength to strength.
That same week was Charlotte’s therapy appointment, which we attend every six to eight weeks. I realised as I was brushing my teeth that morning that it was the first appointment that I had had no anxieties about beforehand. We practically skipped into the therapy room. The physiotherapist and occupational therapist were absolutely delighted with Charlotte and very impressed with her progress. They were pleased with how well she was using her right arm, that she was placing her right heel down when standing and she was now bringing her right leg up, which initially used to drag behind, to army crawl across the mat. I was of course smiling like a Cheshire cat!
The therapists did bring me back down to earth and said Charlotte has a weaker right side and most likely will diagnose her with developing mild hemiplegia. Although I was more than aware that she had a weaker side it was still hard to hear this, however, it didn’t hurt as much as it once might have done.
Charlotte is such a determined girl (as am I) and I have learnt that although at first she finds something difficult, she works at it and progresses so that her initial stiffness disappears. Our next goal is for Charlotte to take steps all by herself. I’m pretty certain I will burst into the proudest of tears when this little, big fighter achieves this.
I am a mummy of twins
In mid February, we went to our first playgroup. It was a total success and like most things with Charlotte, she dived straight in and loved it. I felt quite emotional but was fascinated watching my little, big girl standing at the messy tray table (her first choice) stuffing her face with rice crispies and quietly observing the other boys and girls with sparkle in her eyes.
It wasn’t until snack time that I realised there were twin girls sitting at the table. Both noticeably similar but very different in their own ways. I found it hard to take my eyes off them and how their mum mothered them. I wanted to engage in conversation, I wanted her to know Charlotte, just like her gorgeous girls, was a twin too. I asked her if they were twins and then how old they were. 18 months. Although they looked much older, they were a month younger than Charlotte. I left the conversation at that.
I drove home feeling lost. I didn’t feel jealous of her or cross that that wasn’t me bringing Charlotte and Esme to playgroup, or that it wasn’t me trying to cope with one being able to run and the other having learnt to walk two weeks ago. I just felt a strong longing. A longing and sadness that I will never know what it would be like to raise Charlotte alongside her younger twin sister, Esme.
Unlike on previous occasions, I didn’t feel sad that Charlotte wouldn’t have Esme at her side for every new adventure. She showed that day just how independent and sociable she is. I watched her with what I can only imagine was a very proud mum look on my face as she army crawled around the room, staring at everyone until they smiled and interacted with her. I often wonder if her amazing social side is the twin in her.
I also wonder if the intense longing to be that mother of twins I once imagined I would be will arise every time I see twins (especially twin girls) or will it lessen as more life experiences surround my grief?
When happiness surprises you
One of the best feelings is when happiness surprises me. It doesn’t matter how long that feeling of pure happiness lasts, I bask in it and hold on to it for all it’s worth.
So far, at each of my six aquanatal classes I have told the girls a bit more about having Charlotte and Esme prematurely, having a surviving twin and my anxieties about pregnancy after loss. As each week goes by, I am talking more openly about carrying twins, being a mum of twins and my desperation to reach third trimester.
On my sixth session, I spoke so freely, naturally and happily about my twin pregnancy and about Charlotte and Esme. More often than not, when I see twins or mums of twins, I have this feeling that I want to prove I am one of them or that Charlotte is a twin too but that night felt different.
It felt so beautiful to be able to talk about ‘my twins’, to say the word ‘twins’ without feeling pain and to remember the times when I had equal memories of both my girls.
The happiness was the realisation that I have nothing to prove, I am and always will be a twin mama. It just takes a while for me to adjust to my real life as a mother of twins as opposed to the one I dreamt of being. I hope to hold onto this happiness, especially during the time when the longing to hold both my twins in my arms feels too far out of reach or too distant a memory. The happiness was also a nod to Esme that although she was only here for a short time, she was here, and her little life will stay with me forever.
I feel Charlotte and Esme have both taught me how to be strong, courageous and brave and that night was a proud moment of being their Mummy.
I was very close to not going to aquanatal for fear of painful memories returning, such as being pregnant with twins, being so excited to have twin girls, then going into premature labour and finally not having the chance to raise both the twin girls, which was why I excitedly and nervously spoke about it all so often in my classes. However, the beautiful thing is, in actual fact going to aquanatal again and talking about those memories has only brought me overwhelming happiness and helped me to find peace after the trauma of prematurity and losing a baby.
I have learnt that tackling my anxieties and facing my fears has only made me stronger and enabled me to enjoy this pregnancy.
When I reached 26 weeks and 6 days pregnant, the gestation that my twin girls were born, it was a day that I had dreaded in this pregnancy. I feared knowing what can and did happen – I delivered my girls three months early. What if it happened again? However, as it happened, I felt great and it was just another day.
I am looking forward to embarking on a new pregnancy journey with this little bean. There is nothing in my previous pregnancy with which I can compare this part. A part in which I know, as each day goes by, this little one grows bigger and stronger.