I got knocked up… what’s next?

decorative photo of elena and alex's ultrasound scan of niko

If you follow me on socials you may have spotted that I made a very small announcement a few weeks ago: Alex and I are expecting a baby in December!

We’re really excited to bring our tiny human out into the world, especially as getting pregnant was less than straightforward. I was diagnosed with severe PCOS, and had to take a medication called metformin to get my ovaries to work. Metformin is primarily a diabetes medication used to stabilise your blood sugar, but one of its unofficial uses is for encouraging ovulation in people with PCOS. It has some pretty significant side effects, mostly by giving you IBS-like symptoms, but in our case it was worth it, because it actually worked.

That positive test was life-changing, and we were so excited. For about a week I was a bundle of energy, chirping about all the thoughts in my head, making appointments with midwives and really struggling to keep our tiny secret under my hat. But after that first blissful week came the sickness. Jesus christ, the sickness.

My mum had hyperemesis gravidarum with me, so I knew that extreme pregnancy sickness was a possibility. From six weeks pregnant I was an exhausted puke fountain, living in fear of overwhelming smells or driving around roundabouts. 90% of food was suddenly off-limits, and the only things I could consistently keep down were ice pops and Powerade. This culminated in an admission to hospital for two bags of IV fluids and several hours of monitoring because I’d started vomiting blood and couldn’t even keep water down.

The sickness has been pretty grim, and has actually made furlough a blessing in disguise. I got furloughed back in March and haven’t worked since and, while it has been driving me slowly mad and a paycut is never a welcome change, it has meant that I can nap and marathon Treehouse of Horror episodes fairly guilt-free. If I feel like I haven’t done much in the past three months it’s because, honestly, I haven’t. Growing a human has been my sole covid-19 lockdown achievement. I couldn’t even do the paint-by-numbers I ordered before one of my cats threw up on it.

Speaking of covid-19, it has made the whole pregnancy experience quite odd. I was referred to my local Early Pregnancy Unit a few days after my positive test because I’d been bleeding and having stabbing pains, and I had to get a pelvic exam from an out-of-hours doctor in full PPE, which was rather like being fingerbanged by a welder. Then I went for a transvaginal scan, again from a team with masks and visors on. I still haven’t met my actual assigned midwife, or had an opportunity to tour my birthing unit. When I was admitted to hospital this weekend I didn’t see a full human face for nearly 6 hours. While I absolutely appreciate the need for PPE it is odd putting yourself in the hands of people whose faces you can’t see.

Alex has been my absolute hero through all of this. Despite the fact that he’s still working (and bloody hard, far longer than his contracted hours) he has looked after me, the cats and the house while I’ve been a floppy mess. He’s held my hair back, fetched puke buckets and bought me nice bread. He hasn’t been allowed to come to my NHS scans with me to see the baby, which has been really tough on him, so for an early Father’s Day gift I booked a private scan in Bristol, where we both got to see baby’s heartbeat for the first time. It was worth every penny for him to get the chance to see our child kicking their froggy little legs, live on screen.

As of today I am 15 weeks and one day pregnant, with the baby due on December 14th. I have a little over five months left of this pregnancy, and I’m slowly starting to get some energy back. I have so much I need to do with the house to get ready, and thanks to furlough I have a teeny tiny budget within which to achieve all of it. It’s really strange to think that I might only be back at work for a month and a half before I go off on maternity leave – it’ll be the least I’ve worked in a year in my whole adult life.

I don’t intend to suddenly become a mummy blogger (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but let’s be honest, I’m hardly a regular poster) but as and when I feel like I have something to say that won’t fit in a Tweet I might find myself here, typing away. For now, I’m going to go and research hypnobirthing courses and book a timeslot at my local dump. Gosh, pregnancy is exciting.

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Changing My Mind About Motherhood

Throughout my teens and early 20s I was fairly adamant that I didn’t want to bear children. I thought that, maybe, I might adopt one day if I really wanted to start a family but otherwise I had no intention of inviting a child into my life on any kind of permanent basis. As far as I was concerned, I had more important and interesting things to do than childrearing.

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly maternal individual. I have two younger brothers and nearly a dozen younger cousins and, while they’re brilliant humans and I love spending time with them now we are all adults, there were times throughout my childhood where I, precocious and difficult as I was, found being surrounded by young’uns a bit of a chore. This is a failure in myself and not in them, but maybe that accounted on some level to my apathy. When my youngest brother was born I used to spend a lot of time singing to him in his little bedroom, but I was sent to boarding school when I was 8 and he was 3, and missed seeing him growing up. At boarding school I was bullied pretty badly and, aside from a couple of sweet and wonderful friends, it was a rocky decade. To put it simply, I didn’t even like children when I was one.

During my awkward young adult phase at University I was still broadly disinterested in having a kid, and paranoid about pregnancy, especially after having a miscarriage when I was 18, losing an embryo I didn’t even know I’d been carrying. This experience only made me more averse to the idea of ever getting pregnant on purpose. Anyone I dated from 2008 until now will tell you that I am prone to panic, buying pregnancy tests in bulk and squinting at them for the merest hint of a suggestion that my eggs have defied all the odds (and all the contraception), found a stray sperm somewhere and got fertilised without permission. Stupid eggs. Why can’t you just stay in my ovaries until you’re called upon?

Maybe it doesn’t help that, as the eldest in my generation of my extended family, I didn’t know many people around my age with babies. Broadly speaking, that’s still the case. Without spending any real time with small children I had built up an aversion based on my perception of strangers’ babies and toddlers in public places; screaming, mucky, sticky, inconvenient and wearisome. I wouldn’t say I actively disliked children but I sure as hell didn’t want one.

Whichever way I pictured my life, there were no children in the frame. I didn’t quite have a handle on how my career or home life were going to develop but I planned to be too spontaneous, too busy, too chaotically creative and itchy-footed to procreate.

What I did want, and have always wanted, is a life filled with animals. Lucky for me that’s exactly what I’ve had. There were always dogs in my family, but for the last 5 years I’ve had pets of my own, from a small fish bowl (which was fairly quickly upgraded to a tropical tank), to “just one” rabbit (which ended up being 13 adult rescue bunnies and two accidental litters over 4 years), an ill-fated dog adoption, three fostered semi-feral tabby kittens and, finally, two weird, wonderful, stroppy adult cats who have claimed my home for themselves and are kind enough to let me lodge there as their live-in butler.

I don’t know how, with all this in mind, I found myself staring at a negative pregnancy test two weeks ago, filled with unexpected disappointment. I’d taken one because my ever-unreliable period was even later than usual and I was due for a brain scan, which I wouldn’t be allowed to have if I was pregnant. I needed the test to be negative. My partner and I are not trying for a baby, nor are we ready for one. So why on earth was I upset by the result I expected?

As it turns out there are a few possible culprits for my unprecedented broodiness which, looking back, has been making its presence felt more and more over the last year or so. While I don’t think I’m especially affected by the number of acquaintances in my social media feeds who are expecting, or have recently had babies, I do hold my friend Jess partially responsible. Last summer she had her first baby, an amazing tiny person, and spending time with them both has got my uterus glowing. Jess is so capable and so engaged as a mum, and I swear she has magic powers (including a song about corn which stops baby tantrums in their tracks like a mute button). Even her birth story, which is more of a cautionary tale than anything else, didn’t silence the voice in the back of my head saying “You want one of these mini people.”

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To a certain extent I think my colleagues have had an impact too. I’ve never worked with so many parents before, certainly not young, creative, ambitious ones. Seeing them juggle parenthood with a hectic and demanding career, in a company that respects their home life, has opened my eyes to a modern parenthood that I saw as an ideal rather than an achievable possibility.

I definitely blame my wonderful partner, Alex, who is already a parent. We were friends for years before we became a couple, and the photos and stories of him with his daughter (who was 4 when Alex and I first met and is 8 now) always made me melt a little. The way he talks about the number one girl in his life means I’ve never struggled with the fact that I am, at best, number two. I have yet to meet her, but I know enough about her to write a compact encyclopaedia. I don’t think anyone has a longing to be a step-parent, but I can’t wait to take a more active role as “daddy’s girlfriend”.

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Don’t get me wrong, I (and we) are categorically not ready for a baby. We don’t live together, and my house is still not finished. Technically, though separated, Alex is still married, and although we’ve been friends for nearly 4 years we’ve been a couple for less than 6 months. I’ve only just made it through the probation period of a new job and have barely done any of the things most people want to cover off before introducing the encumbrance of an infant. But, all that aside, I think it’s safe to admit that I’ve changed my mind on motherhood. It might not ever happen, and if it does it shan’t be soon, but one day I would like to have a baby. Maybe. Just the one. Or maybe two. And a dog.

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