The past few years have seen increasing numbers of migrant workers (particularly from Poland) seeking employment in the UK. These migrant workers tend to do the type of poorly-paid, back-breaking jobs that many Brits seem to consider beneath them. The situation has sparked any number of jingoistic, xenophobic articles in the tabloid press: many commentators seem to feel that the UK is being invaded by vast numbers of Poles who are stealing 'our' jobs, and taking up beds in 'our' hospitals, etc, etc. These hard-working individuals are blamed for any number of social ills - from increasing knife crime to the number of uninsured drivers on the roads. And now they are also apparently to be held responsible for the rise in the number of recorded cases of sexually transmitted infection.
Yesterday, I had my first ante-natal appointment with the midwife at my GP's surgery. She took several vials of my blood - far more than I have ever had taken as part of an IVF cycle. What on earth did she need it all for, I asked. She rattled off a huge list of things that I need to be tested for - including syphilis. In my mind, syphilis is primarily associated with nineteenth-century men about town: I think of Baudelaire, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Maupassant. I explained as such to the midwife. "Oh no," she replied, "syphilis is becoming increasingly common here in the UK. It's all thanks to the Poles."
Even without this jaw-dropping aside, the appointment was a little overwhelming. We filled out a lengthy form about both my own and Mr H's medical histories, including all my previous surgeries, IVFs and my earlier miscarriage, and she also went through a vast amount of information regarding what care I could expect to receive during my pregnancy, what I should and should not be eating etc, etc.
There was also a great deal of talk about "when you go into the hospital to have the baby" and "after you bring the baby home".
This unwavering certainty that there would be a baby at the end of it is, I think, what troubled me most about the appointment. So far, I've been doing a pretty good job of living in the present of this pregnancy. I focus on making it to the end of each day, possibly to the end of each week. My imagination simply does not carry me any further than that. I cannot project myself forward to some mythical point in the future when I am safely delivered of a healthy baby.
But now it seems that this pregnancy has assumed a momentum independent of that which is going on inside my body. The form which I filled in with the midwife has been sent off to the hospital, and it will be logged in their registers. In due course, I will be sent a number of other appointments: for a 16 week check up with the midwife, for a 20 week scan at the hospital. I am 'officially' pregnant, and there is a paper trail to prove it.
And so, for the first time, I am beginning to feel the weight of the external expectations surrounding this pregnancy - and this before we have told either of our families.