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.


annacyclopedia said...

This is such an amazingly beautiful post, Ms. H. Your insight rings very true for me, although I've yet to be in your (hopefully not growing) shoes. And I think this is true not just for those of us who struggle to have a child, but also for many women who conceive easily. There is so much pressure on us to bond instantly, to start glowing immediately, to be radiant with motherhood - and it's all just more of the usual crap we face as woman. The fact is that what you are doing in bringing a new life into the world is incredibly heavy and life-changing. My experience with heavy and life-changing experiences is that they are rarely blissful, but instead fraught with anxiety, struggle, doubt, and a deep questioning of everything. I am so glad that you have reached the point of being able to start to open to the fluttering little one's presence and all that comes with that, and I am also very glad that I have the benefit of hearing your honest and truthful account of how you got there. Thank you for this post.

I especially love this: "Sometimes it takes a little time before we can allow ourselves to enter into such a fragile space of co-becoming." I think that might have to go up on my fridge for a while - there is so much truth in that for life in general, not just for pregnancy.

Wishing you much peace for the holidays and for the New Year.

womb for improvement said...

Good to have you back. I'm not surprised that you are having difficulty letting yourself bond, you're still in self protect mode. (How's that for pub psychology?!) How exciting to feel the movement though.

Lisa said...

Of course you're not bonding immediately. One of the side effects of infertility is an utter disbelief that what's happening is actually happening. When we expected to be pregnant and aren't, we're surprised an in some level of denial. So, why should it be any different when we've had so many disappointments to completely believe and accept that we are, in fact pregnant.

But, my dear, you are 22 weeks already!! You are, indeed, pregnant! Very pregnant!

The secret diary of an infertile said...

Welcome back! 22 weeks, wow! I hate the fact that infertility takes away the (textbook) enjoyment of pregnancy. I think if I had managed to hold on to the pregnancy I had after only three months of trying that I would have been one of those blissful expectant mothers but (fingers crossed) if I get pregnant again I know that I will struggle to enjoy the experience as I will be so worried about what could potentially go wrong. I will also stop myself from connecting to the baby until it is crying in my arms. Don't beat yourself up about the way you are feeling. You will love this baby when you hold it in your arns in April.

Shinejil said...

I think this idea of bonding is a new one, cultural rather than biological. I don't think it's a reasonable expectation for women like us who have not had the easiest time with these transitions. I think setting the books and the expectations aside and just letting what will happen emotionally happen might make things less painful. Sounds like your therapist is providing excellent support.

My suspicions are that the myth of glowing pregnancy is a ploy, to get us to love what is essentially a pretty rough process physically and emotionally, or at least to save others from our suffering by pretending to love it.

You don't have to love it. You can be scared. You're going to make it through. This is your unique experience. It won't be by the book, emotionally.

Sending warm wishes for a hopeful and happy holiday to you and yours.

luna said...

this is a lovely and honest post. I especially love the line anna singled out too.

glad your therapist has provided such consistent solid support. and hope you may enjoy the rest of your time until you meet your little one.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Have a great Xmas and New year. There is no right or wrong way to experience anything - least of all something like pregnancy. You will find your own way through this, together.

With much love and kindest thoughts

Mrs.X said...

As with all aspects of this pregnancy, you have had to make your own way emotionally and I think you are doing beautifully. Truly, a blueprint for the rest of us who deal with pregnancy after loss.

As for the books, I say write your own. I would read it. Congrats on your continued success and I so look forward to your continued good news, now and in April.

Pamela Jeanne said...

As others have said, there's no right or wrong...and it's completely understandable why you would want to move slowly with bonding as a form of protection.

Wishing you much joy and happiness as you celebrate this holiday season.