After four lost pregnancies, each little kick looks like a wonder: the story of an expectant mother

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Here is a sentence I almost dare not write: in less than three months, I will have a baby.

My official due date is no longer a vague point on a hazy horizon, but gallops in clear clarity.

Not that you would guess as much, if you asked me or my husband how the preparations were going.

We haven’t decorated the nursery yet, or even looked at a stroller. I have not made a birth plan or decided when my maternity leave will start. We didn’t even discuss the names.

Jenny Agg (photo) to give birth in three months, but has not yet decorated the nursery or prepared a birth plan

Jenny Agg (photo) is due in three months, but has not yet decorated the nursery or prepared a birth plan

None of this is accidental. We are not one of these charming and disorganized couples.

Nor were we caught off guard by a happy “surprise”. This pregnancy is something we have been hoping for – for a long time – for four years.

No, what we are afraid of. Afraid that this pregnancy – my fifth, after four miscarriages – also ends without a baby in our arms.

We are all too aware that a completely deceived nursery could remain unused, haunted by the image of an empty basket of Moses, deeply afraid to stage our own version of the famous story of six words, sometimes attributed to Ernest Hemingway , “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn”.

For this reason, we waited until we passed 24 weeks before buying even one Babygro.

Jenny has already had four miscarriages, all before the 12-week period, and is concerned that something may be wrong with her pregnancy. On the photo, last June

Jenny has already had four miscarriages, all before the 12-week period, and is concerned that something may be wrong with her pregnancy. On the photo, last June

Despite our fears, we wanted to mark this stage, which we had never reached before and which seemed particularly important, because 24 weeks are widely regarded as the point after which a baby has a chance to fight outside the womb. uterus.

So Dan and I gave John Lewis 20 minutes (pre-lock) in a happy and suspended reality.

We pretended that we were like any other pregnant couple, all innocent, excited smiles when the checkout assistant asked when I was due.

“A summer baby – how beautiful! She said, and we beamed.

When we got home, our price – an implausibly small pajamas in white cotton, embroidered with rabbits – was quickly put in an upstairs box, carefully stored in tissue paper, with our fragile hopes. Out of sight out of mind.

Perhaps, for a stranger, all of this seems unduly pessimistic. Surely we can see that things are different this time? Surely we can relax a bit, now we are so much more advanced?

On Saturday, I officially entered the third and final quarter – the home stretch (no pun intended). In comparison, all of our previous pregnancies ended before 12 weeks.

But if a recurrent miscarriage teaches you anything, it’s that there are no guarantees.

Future mother feels blessed every time she feels her baby kicking because it is a reminder that her baby is still safe and healthy

Expectant mother feels blessed every time she feels her baby kicking because it is a reminder that her baby is still safe and healthy

After some early bleeding during our first pregnancy over three years ago, we went for an ultrasound and were shown a wobbly but insistent six-week heartbeat.

“This is a very good sign,” said the midwife. “The risk of miscarriage decreases as soon as we see the heart rate. And so we reassured ourselves – that we wouldn’t lose the pregnancy until six weeks later, in a rush of blood and panic in an A&E room.

Subsequently, we were told that although a miscarriage is common, it is unlikely to happen again. Or a third.

After the third, and tests that concluded that there was no medical reason for my body’s inability to hold on to a pregnancy, the consultant we saw coaxed us saying that the chances of ‘a healthy baby next time were always very much in our favor, if we would only try …

But after hitting an unlucky knock for the fourth time, six months later, it was difficult to know who or what to believe.

Even now, after several scans showing everything is fine (we’ve already had six, where most people would have had two) and two perfect ultrasound images pinned over my desk to prove it, not to mention the bump fledgling, it’s hard to be truly reassured when you’ve had so many false assurances in the past.

Being prepared for disappointment becomes a habit. What used to be the fear that we could not get out of the starting blocks has turned into fear of falling at the last obstacle. (And that was before a global pandemic was added to the mix.)

I realize that our approach to this pregnancy may not be easy for our friends and family.

We still find it difficult to talk in detail about our plans for “when the baby comes” – words that we never use ourselves. It’s always “if everything goes as planned”, or “everything is fine”, or, vaguely, “after July”.

Parents will say, “I know we are not yet allowed to get excited” or “do we have the right to congratulate? “

My mom can double check before texting me pictures of the things she knitted and sewn for us (and even then she had strict instructions to wait after 20 weeks – halfway) .

I sometimes worry about being such a killjoy – that it even looks like a churlish.

However, I also know that we cannot be alone in feeling and behaving this way. After all, there are so many potential obstacles that can steal some of the joy and innocence of having a baby.

Until one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage; one in 90 pregnancies is ectopic (in which a fertilized egg is implanted outside the uterus, where it cannot survive); and one in 250 babies will be stillborn.

There are many people who could embark on their next pregnancy in the shadow of grief and fear.

Then there is a couple in seven who have difficulty conceiving, who can endure the intimate torture of failed IVF cycles before getting a positive pregnancy test.

Others believe the pregnancy may be clouded by a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes – or by news that their baby is not well and may need serious medical treatment soon after birth.

Whatever the cause, anxiety affects half of all pregnant women, according to a 2017 survey by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Yet this is not a side of the story of pregnancy that we hear very often. Instead, “cute” Internet pregnancy announcements, perfect baby showers on Pinterest, and sex reveal the holidays are getting attention.

Bold advice and breathtaking daily updates can be delivered to your smartphone via pregnancy apps that seem built around a naïve guarantee that two pink lines on a pregnancy test will always be added to a baby in some months.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that just because pregnancy isn’t always fun for some of us, there should be no fun for anyone. But he can start to feel alien and alienating in a pregnancy like ours.

Ditto the pregnancy books that talk about “giving power” to birth choices and ensuring you get the happy birth, led by a midwife, that you have meticulously planned, until the last soothing whale sound .

Make no mistake, it’s a woman’s right to give birth the way she wants. But I absolutely cannot identify with that. As difficult as I try, having birth “preferences” is too much like pushing my luck.

I feel cut off from the normal pregnancy scenario. The expected wrinkles are uncomfortable and false in my mouth.

“Is this your first pregnancy? Is a question that has been asked countless times, from hospital receptionists to yoga instructors, and I still don’t know how to answer it: at least not elegantly.

I usually look at my shoes and nod my head stupidly. No need to fill in bloody details for relative strangers.

It’s even more difficult with other pregnant women; the women you hope for could become friends if you find yourself with babies of the same age.

An obstetrics story like ours is not easy to talk about in a chat. When do you explain yourself? Is it ever fair to charge these other pregnant women with this knowledge?

And if you do, do you risk becoming the ghost of the party forever? The subject of playdate whispers: she was the one who had all these miscarriages.

In a way, it seems safer to say nothing. While that would help explain why I’m so neurotic about certain things – decaffeinated coffee, properly cooked meat, without dyeing my hair – but seemingly relaxed about anything that involves planning, like buying a cot or car seat, or breastfeeding lessons.

Even so, staying silent comes with a boost of guilt. In recent years, I have connected with many other women who experience the invisible grief of miscarriage, infertility, stillbirth, neonatal death or termination of pregnancy for medical reasons, by writing about my experiences and sharing other people’s stories via my blog (uterus.com monologues).

It is a cohesive and ferocious community, forged by a shared conviction that there is not enough knowledge or openness around these subjects.

So my own tactical silences can now look a bit like hypocrisy. And I have often wondered, when I was chatting with other pregnant women, if they too could harbor a story not so different from ours. That’s how taboos get worse.

None of this means that there are no benefits to a pregnancy like mine. Even in the midst of anxiety, worry and, yes, sometimes fear that something might still go wrong, there is also a delicate thread of pure and golden joy.

I’m incredibly grateful to be pregnant. Watching the needle on the scale up every week is a pleasure, not an imposition.

Even morning sickness has sometimes been a reason for celebration. Although I had bubbling nausea during my five pregnancies, it was only this time, during week 13, that I really vomited.

I cannot say that I am exactly smiling when I hugged the toilet bowl, but I felt a mad wave of happiness and hope.

Pregnancy is not uniformly magical, of course not. Even I am struggling to give a positive turn to the constant ebb that I seem to be getting. But other minor indignities, such as having to withdraw my wedding rings and engagement when my fingers swell, looked like little triumphant rites of passage.

When things go as promised in the pregnancy textbooks, for a second, you feel normal and your world feels safe and predictable.

Sometimes I feel like I can stay happy awake all night, counting each kick and twist, hypnotized as the skin on my stomach ripples and dries up.

A private and semaphorical conversation between me and the brand new person just below the surface: Hello, hello again, you are really here, I know you…

These are the tiny moments of grace that you have to hang on to, I think. And if I could look back and tell myself anything, it would be this: all these things that you have dreamed of for so long, they will feel as good as you would have hoped and then certain.

If something is going to pull you through the dark, hectic hours, days that last up to a week, weeks up to a year, expecting to bleed every time you go to the bathroom, holding your breath for bad news with every scan and blood test is the promise of those moments.

This is also what I would say to anyone who is where I was almost two years ago, shaken by another loss, another disappointment, and the feeling that you cannot get out of it.

Finally, holding this scan image in your hand, the hug of elastic maternity jeans around your waist, the first kicks… they don’t make it easy, but it seems to be worth it after all .

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