Wednesday, 17 December 2008

End of term

I have made it to the end of term with my sanity still reasonably intact. The flood of anxious emails has slowed to a trickle, and I at last have time to breathe, to think and to write.

On the pregnancy front, I am now a little over 22 weeks (although the bloody maternity jeans still won't stay up!). Everything looked as it should at the twenty week scan, and Mr H got to see the baby for the first time (he wasn't able to come with me for the nuchal translucency scan as he was away on work). We decided in advance that we didn't want to find out the sex: although I felt that I'd quite like to know, as parenting a boy or a girl each seem to me to pose their own unique challenges, Mr H was adamant that he didn't want to know - it would, he felt, be rather like knowing in advance what you're getting for Christmas.

At just over half way through the pregnancy, it feels a good time to try and reflect back over some of my feelings so far. There is a great deal of popular literature devoted to pregnancy, much of it emphasising what a special time this is in a woman's life. These guides are full of handy tips on how to nurture the unique bond between mother and baby.

In comparison with these somewhat idealised descriptions, my own experience of pregnancy has felt far more replete with anxiety.

In my weekly therapy sessions, I continue to worry that I do not feel the way the books tell me I should feel. I agonise over the fact that I was not able to experience such an immediate and instinctive bond with my unborn child. Did this perhaps mean that, even after all I have been through to get to this point, on some deeply unconscious level I do not really want this baby? In the session before we went for the 20 week scan, I voiced my deepest, darkest fears: what if the scan revealed that there was something terribly wrong with the baby? Would I be able to go ahead with a termination? If we decided not to terminate, how would I cope with raising a child with significant mental or physical disabilities? My therapist gently suggested to me that such anxieties were an inevitable part of the pregnancy process. While many women found them simply too terrifying to contemplate, others were more clearly able to acknowledge them.

I have found her remarks extraordinarily helpful in beginning to manage my conflicting feelings about this pregnancy. My previous experiences of infertility and miscarriage mean that pregnancy cannot be a time of unconditional joy; I remain too acutely aware of all that can go wrong. Somehow it still seems too much to hope that, in April of next year, I will give birth to a live and healthy baby. If I were to deny these anxieties, they would no doubt re-emerge symptomatically (perhaps in the form of postnatal depression, or else in my interaction with my child during the first few months of his or her life). But by exploring them, I can allow them to enrich and transform my experience of pregnancy and motherhood.

With my first pregnancy, I immediately expected to be transported into the state of blissful union that I had read about in the books. I felt an instant connection to that tiny little embryo burrowing its way into the deepest recesses of my body. That bond was abruptly shattered when I started bleeding. This time round, I could not allow myself to feel those emotions. For the first three months, I held my breath and I waited. And I felt guilty. I worried that I had in some way failed to 'bond' with my baby.

Now, however, I realise that pregnancy is a far more gradual process than the books would have us believe. Sometimes it takes a little time before we can allow ourselves to enter into such a fragile space of co-becoming. And it is only over the past few weeks, as I have begun to feel the first flutterings of the baby's movement, that I have been able truly to open myself up to the possibility of being transformed by the new life growing inside me.