I didn’t sleep well the first night after finding out I was pregnant because I was anxious and I had no idea what to expect from my body now. I told my Mum and Sister straight away because we were far too close and there was absolutely no chance that I’d be able to hide it from them for 3 months. But other than that, the secret remained ours.
It’s strange really because no one actually confirms you are pregnant until your first scan at 12 weeks. I couldn’t quite believe it so I think in the end I’d collected 9 positive pregnancy tests in the first two weeks, just to make sure it hadn’t disappeared overnight. I took a digital test each Sunday to make sure the week numbers increased as this little thing developed inside of me. Eventually, I believed it enough to stop testing.
I had no idea what to expect and I had a bump that would come and go – turns out the majority of the time it was just bloat! I’ve never been someone who really suffers from anxiety, nor have I ever been much of an over-thinker but being pregnant completely changed me and I hated that I couldn’t relax! I would stand in the mirror and suck my belly in and ask James where it was? I’d be shopping and feel a sharp pain in my tummy so I’d find myself sat in the car wiping myself with a tissue checking for blood. I read about what you could and couldn’t eat, would worry if I’d nibbled something I probably shouldn’t have and referred to Dr. Google an extremely unhealthy amount – oh the joys of a first pregnancy!
I bought and read the book ‘what to expect when you’re expecting’ that actually gave me zero detail on what to expect at all. The book would tell me that I’d start feeling tired, and I didn’t. It said morning sickness was about to start, but it never did. In fact, there was not a single part of that book that matched what I was going through. To be honest, with the exception of some questionable burps, the majority of my pregnancy was an absolute breeze.
The first 12 weeks felt like forever, despite being preoccupied with house renovations and decorating. Finally, we were sat in the hospital waiting for our first scan and I remember the butterflies in my tummy. What if I wasn’t pregnant after all? Within seconds of that machine probe touching the gel on my belly, little bean appeared on the screen wriggling away. Its arms were up in the air and it was kicking its legs around. It was so strange to see, because I felt absolutely nothing inside.
During the scan, the sonographer told me that I had an anterior placenta, this meant that my placenta was covering the whole front of my belly so it might take me a little longer to feel those kicks. We took our scan photographs home and decided to call around and tell the rest of the family. There was something about this that made me feel really uncomfortable. I could quite happily have kept it a secret forever because as soon as everyone knew, I just felt this massive amount of pressure and it was unnerving.
I’d seen so many people reveal their pregnancies on social media, but that just wasn’t for me. For some reason I didn’t want to bring any more attention to this pregnancy than what was needed. After everything in my life, I sometimes find it difficult to be excited, because unfortunately I know things can be taken away from you so quickly. I ignored people who constantly text me about baby showers and baby names and had to ask others to appreciate that I didn’t want a fuss. I almost felt sorry for myself that I wasn’t enjoying this like others had, but I wanted that baby safe in my arms first. There was no reason why there would be a problem, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up for it all to come crashing down on me.
Because of my lack of bump, I felt like such a fraud shopping for anything baby related. We’d made the decision that we wouldn’t buy much until after the 20 week scan because we felt like we were jinxing it buying anything before. I suppose I’m really cynical but it doesn’t half piss me off when people refer to this as the ‘gender scan’. It is not a gender scan, it is a scan that checks everything is okay with your baby. Working in HR, I have unfortunately come across several women who attended this scan to find out something was wrong, so naturally this was a huge milestone for us.
The 20 week scan finally arrived and the sonographer conducted in-depth checks on baby. We didn’t want to find out the gender as we wanted a surprise, so we didn’t watch the screen much in the event we saw something we shouldn’t. Everything was perfect but because of the position, she couldn’t see all four chambers of the heart. She was moving the probe around my belly, prodding and poking with still no luck. I began to panic a little as the look on her face changed.
She told us that she was happy with everything else, but she couldn’t say she was comfortable with the formation of baby’s heart because it was at a funny angle. I thought she might send me out of the room for a bit of a jump around but instead asked me to come back and see one of the consultants. At this point I felt nauseous. Why can’t I just wait around for a bit? I’ll drink some fizzy pop and see if I can get baby to move?
Thankfully, there was a slot with a consultant a few hours later so we drove home, I took a nap to help pass the time and we ventured back to the hospital. Within minutes of him scanning me, he was more than comfortable he could see everything he needed to and he sent us on our merry way. I had worried for absolutely nothing and felt like such a div. I mentioned to him that I hadn’t yet felt any kicks but he said not to worry, because of my placenta I probably will do soon – baby would just need to be a bit bigger first.
I lost count of how many times I rolled around on the floor, lay in a nice warm bath or ate some chocolate waiting for this little thing inside me to start kicking away but it never happened. It didn’t help that I had absolutely no idea what I was looking out for or how it was supposed to feel, but I remember joking to friends hoping baby would be this lazy when it was born.
James’ Auntie Jane became my best friend. She was a midwife and had spent 30 years knowing the ins and outs of the female body and absolutely everything you needed to know about babies. The fact I could call her at any hour, text her whenever my mind wandered somewhere it shouldn’t and that she was exactly like me, straight talking and no bullshit was an absolute life-saver.
Someone had mentioned to me that you can join Facebook groups full of women who are all due the same time as you, so I found one and became part of the ‘due in November 2019’ gang. This was such a strange platform, full of women sharing best buys, previous experience and updates on their pregnancies. By 21 weeks, almost every member of this group had shared a video of their babies kicking away, it looked so weird and I hadn’t experienced anything like it.
Because of my placenta, I’d agreed with the local midwife that I’d see her every Thursday and she would use her doppler to listen in to help reassure me that everything was okay. The heartbeat was always there and it was always strong.
It was a Monday morning and I was around 22 weeks, James was working abroad and I was working from home. I was scrolling through the Facebook group on my phone to more and more videos of babies kicking away, even the other anterior placenta Mums were now sharing theirs. I couldn’t shake the feeling of worry so I decided to make a phone call. The local midwives only worked in the morning and I’d missed them by 10 minutes, so I rang the hospital triage using the number from my green book. I spoke to a lovely lady and I explained the situation to her. She was extremely reassuring and told me it was only natural to worry and if I wanted to, I could come in and have a listen to the heartbeat to put my mind at ease. So to settle my nerves, I drove into hospital.
When I arrived, she immediately lay me down and placed the doppler on my belly. The heartbeat was really loud and then there was this ‘swishing’ noise. She said that sounded like the baby had just moved and asked me if I could feel it, but I felt absolutely nothing at all. But at that point, I felt totally reassured and realised how silly I was probably being.
Now what I didn’t realise, was that if you go into hospital to the maternity triage unit, they only recommend you leave once a consultant has reviewed your notes and confirmed they are happy with everything. I waited around, for almost 2 hours until someone was available – I was absolutely starving! When the consultant finally arrived, she asked me what the problem was and I told her how far along I was and that I hadn’t yet felt any movement. She looked perplexed and told me that I should have felt something by now and she wanted to scan me to see what was going on.
They wheeled in what looked like the oldest machine in the hospital and she ran the probe across my belly for a couple of minutes. No movement. You could see the heartbeat popping away but baby didn’t move at all. I kinda brushed her off and said it was probably because I hadn’t eaten in about 3 hours and I hadn’t walked around for a while, but nevertheless she wanted to refer me to a consultant to take a closer look at the end of the week.
I left the hospital and drove home and as soon as I stepped through my front door, I burst into hysterical tears. I rang James who told me not to worry and that it was probably because they couldn’t tick a box and then I rang my Mum to cry to her down the phone too. A few hours ago everything was fine, but now there could be something wrong? I was completely overwhelmed and felt really alone.
The week passed us by and James was still away so my Mum accompanied me to see the consultant. As soon as he started scanning me, he said ‘oh a little wave, that’s a good sign’ and then proceeded to scan every single part of our little baby. I immediately relaxed and thought, this is just like the 20 week scan, thinking there was a problem when there actually wasn’t. My Mum was in absolute awe because she’d never seen a baby on a screen before and this was the first time she heard that little heartbeat too. He read out all these numbers, kept saying perfect, that things were measuring exactly as they should be. He mentioned my amniotic fluid was a little low, but not enough to worry about. He spent 30 minutes inspecting that little baby inside of my belly until he pushed the machine to one side and said ‘everything looks absolutely fine but I have been scanning you for over half an hour and baby hasn’t moved position’. He said that they generally have these sleep cycles so it should be awake and moving by now, but it wasn’t.
He asked the midwife for some kind of zapper, apparently it’s a device that you put on your belly and it sends a loud noise into your womb waking up your baby (mean right?). The hospital didn’t have one, so he told me to get something up on my phone. I searched ‘really loud alarm’ on Youtube and pressed it against my tummy. Nothing. I did it again. Nothing. He looked at me and said ‘if I have a concern, it’s a low one, but I need to refer you to fetal medicine in Manchester.’ Why was this situation getting worse?
I sat with my Mum in this small side room whilst the midwives made a few phone calls. They gave me some information about fetal medicine, how to get there, where to park and what to expect. I just kept looking at my Mum, confused and worried but the midwives were being awfully nice and spoke to me so calmly. I’m not sure what I was thinking by this point. Half of me thought, well that follows tradition, sit in front of a doctor and be given bad news, but the other half just kept telling myself it was a tick box exercise and they cannot release you from their system if they can’t prove everything is okay.
Fetal medicine contacted me later that afternoon and booked an appointment with me for in a fortnight, they explained that they wanted something to compare to, so by waiting they could review any growth changes from the scan I’d just had. James flew home and I tried to preoccupy myself with work. Because of the comment about low fluids, I’d read that this could potentially reduce the amount a baby can move, so I spent the full two weeks drinking as much water as possible to rule out this problem. I also reluctantly danced around my kitchen to The Greatest Showman, in the hope that this encouraged the little bean to move around a bit.
So many people told me not to worry and that they had also just had lazy babies too. One friend said that their baby also never moved on scans and was just always asleep, but now their little boy was an extremely mischievous 3 year old. I found myself wading through the darkness of the internet, trying to find success stories or someone who had been through this as well. I kept having to remind myself that when things went okay, people didn’t share stories online. People generally only share things online when its bad news. You never really read the story about the woman who had the lump in her boob checked and it turned out to be fine. Every symptom you search diagnoses you with cancer. I was stuck in this spiral, reading website after website – the problem being you just keep going until you find the answer that you WANT to read, something that might not even be true.
The date of the appointment finally arrived and we drove into Manchester. Whilst it was a quiet drive, we were both full of hope, hope that this was all just a silly misunderstanding. That we just had a lazy little baby and that as soon as we got there we would see that little thing, racing around the screen being all pleased with itself that it had caused this much anxiety so early on in it’s life.
Never in a million years, would I have imagined what was coming next.