I look at the pregnancy test, taken only to confirm what I already know – another month without getting pregnant.
But hang on a minute, what’s that? I can see a faint greyish smudge on my cheapie pregnancy test strip, I’m sure of it. I’ve already thrown my pee away, so I can’t test again right now. I’ll just try again later.
Later’s test shows the same greyish smudge. I don’t know what to think. I’ve had evaps on these tests before, it’s probably another of those.
To know one way or the other, I order some FRER (First Response Early Result), the most sensitive tests I know. They arrive the next day, I dip one and…within a minute a pink line appears.
This isn’t the reaction I want to have. The first time I saw a positive pregnancy test, I could barely contain my excitement. But after 3 miscarriages, a year of male factor infertility, waiting in line for IVF, and still no live children, I no longer feel like celebrating when I get a positive result.
I show my husband the test. We hug. No smiles, just looking at each other with battle-weary eyes as my husband says: ‘We’ll get through this, whatever happens’.
It makes me angry that this is what our fertility life has come to. I begrudge the excitement being stolen from us. I miss the joy at creating a new life and the innocent expectation of welcoming that new life into the world.
I know I’m not alone in experiencing these emotions. This Miscarriage Association webpage shares just how conflicted womens’ feelings about being pregnant after loss can be. But knowing that I’m not alone in feeling this way doesn’t seem to help.
Here’s an excerpt of a post I wrote a week ago, when I was 4 week 3 days pregnant and really struggling:
I found out 6 days ago that I’m pregnant. Those 6 days have passed very slowly. I don’t know how many tests I’ve done, but it’s a lot, and of course I’ve been here before. Pregnancy number 3 saw me spending £100s on tests to reassure myself the pregnancy was progressing and that I could finally feel safe. That pregnancy lasted until the 10 week mark, with our baby’s heartbeat stopping at 9 weeks. So I know that a rising hcg level isn’t enough to guarantee a safe arrival. But somehow I can’t stop myself.
And this pregnancy has the added worry of taking place during the COVID19 pandemic. I mull over what it could mean for our recurrent miscarriage treatment. We would have scans at 6, 8 and 10 weeks normally, but will these still be taking place? And, if they are, can I face going to hospital for a scan by myself, knowing I may hear bad news? (Two of my three losses have been diagnosed as missed miscarriages at a 10-week scan).
These new fears, along with the ‘standard’ pregnancy after loss fears, have seen my panic levels rising. I’m scared to live through the next few weeks. I want a psychic who can tell me what will happen. Or the ability to mindlessly sleep through the whole time, unknowing and unworrying. But I know that I need to live through it, every excruciating, worrying, symptom-spotting, internet-trawling, test-evaluating second of it.
I remember only a few weeks ago, I saw a pregnancy announcement and wondered to myself if I’d ever get to experience being pregnant again. If I’d ever get to imagine a tiny person developing in me. To faux-grumble about the nausea and sore breasts that I’m secretly enjoying. And this just makes me feel worse. That this is what I wanted, what I thought would never happen again, yet now it’s happened, I can’t even seem to muster any gratitude.
In the week between writing the above and now, I’ve noticed my reaction to the pregnancy is changing. Me and my husband are referencing it in conversation. I’ve told my GP, spoken to a midwife, and have made my booking appointment, so it’s now officially on record. I’ve started taking prescribed medications. We’ve even told some friends and family.
We may also have made ourselves ineligible for funded-IVF. I had pinned my hopes on an IVF pregnancy, believing that we would have a better chance at success if we were monitored and medicated. So, in some ways, getting pregnant naturally seems irresponsible. But with IVF cycles delayed for an undetermined period of time, and me already turned 41, we didn’t feel we could wait any longer and had actively started trying again. Will it be the right decision? We can’t know that yet.
But at this point, I certainly don’t trust my body. So for me, being pregnant this time is like meeting a friend who’s let me down. I want to lean in and hug them and pretend nothing has happened. But my feelings of hurt and betrayal stop me. I want to allow the bond to form with this tiny but rapidly-growing baby, but I don’t know if I can wholeheartedly welcome this pregnancy yet. Not when the danger of miscarriage is still so present.
The fear over symptoms is also very prominent this time. Mid-way through the week, I woke up spotting and felt decidedly period-like cramping kick in. As it gradually got worse throughout the day, and I had a small amount of red blood when I wiped, I internally shrugged. Well, what did I expect? It wasn’t like it was ever going to work, was it?
But the next day, the cramping had eased off and I was back to just spotting. I was still on high alert, but now, a few days later, everything seems within the confines of normal again. And with that return to normal my brain is, for the first time, allowing me to hope.
And I think I have to go with the hope for now. It’s going to hurt if the pregnancy fails, whether or not I acknowledge it, or tell other people, or believe it might work out. So why ruin this early part of pregnancy? Instead, for now, I’m going to allow myself to actively and enthusiastically ‘be’ pregnant.