My first shot at pregnancy happened when I was 16. I was in a relationship, and being responsible and using 2 methods of contraception (pill and condoms) and both failed. Took the morning after pill, but that didn’t work either. At 9 weeks (I had been being sick for 3 weeks) I ended up having a termination. It wasn’t my finest hour, but it was certainly the right decision for me.
Fast forward to 2008, and I fell pregnant again. I was married (still am!), and I was working full time in a retail job. This was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.
First, it was the sickness. I couldn’t even open the fridge without being sick. It smelt of “fridge” and this, apparently was not to my stomach’s taste. Neither was the kitchen bin. Neither were certain shops. I felt like I was welded to a washing up bowl and a bottle of water for the first 20 weeks. Including at work, on the shop floor. I remember going home for lunch to let the dog out into the garden. Eating lunch whilst at home, and then promptly throwing it all back up again right before I left to go back to work.
Then it was the crashing tiredness. I was bordering on the narcoleptic. I would sleep, go to work, come home, sleep a little at lunch, return to work, and then sleep all evening. If I wasn’t sleeping, I was in a zombie-like state, usually prodded awake by the Husband to make sure I wasn’t dead, and to offer me food.
After the tiredness came the aches. The aches turned into stabbing pains, which actually made me catch my breath and nearly fall over. The stabbing pains (sciatica) then turned into PGP (Pelvic Girdle Pain, formerly known as SPD) which meant I was referred to physio. When I turned over in bed I could feel the bones in my pelvis moving about at the front. Until now I had no idea that the pelvis wasn’t a solid ring of bone! This meant I was on crutches from about 14 weeks until It got better, which was around 29 weeks- which coincided with me starting maternity leave.
All this time, with the tiredness, the sickness, the gnawing aches, pains and general feeling that your body that has functioned in a particular way for the past (in my case) 28 years, and it’s Not Meant To Behave Like This was then compounded by having a less than understanding boss at work. When I’m not pregnant, not much fazes me. I just get on, I cope, and I get things done. This has been a huge shock to the system. Simple things such as not being able to carry something, bend down to pick it up, stand up straight, stand up… It’s just such a culture shock to me because (and I am sure the Husband will confirm this) I am most vehemently independent in a capability sense. That is, if flat-pack furniture needs assembling, he doesn’t get a look-in. Same for any shelves needing put up, the garden, the painting, car maintenance, carrying something – you name it. I am just not a lady-like girly-girl. I have felt so weak and feeble (that came out as feak and weeble in my head – weeble wasn’t too far from the truth, lol), having to ask for help was another shock too. Luckily the Husband is one of a very rare breed of gentlemen, and, I think, almost enjoyed being able to help his wife. It had never happened before.
Back to the boss. She didn’t understand, as much as I could tell her, that I couldn’t do certain things now, like work over 5 days in a row (I was nearly dead after 3) or do 12 hour shifts (I could barely keep my eyes open after 6), or lift a box, or remember things without writing them down. She didn’t bother to read the company’s maternity policy, which explained in fairly minute detail about extra things I was allowed (extra breaks, risk assessments, uniform, etc) and went about her duties being almost deliberately obstructive. This caused me no end of stress, which compounded everything I’ve mentioned so far. I lost count of the number of times I got home and just sobbed because it was all too much. For the time that I was pregnant and still working, I pretty much only ate, slept, cried and was sick when I wasn’t at work.
On the advice of my physio, I was no longer able to stand for 8 hours a day at work. Rather than sign me off or find something else for me to do, they hired me a wheelchair. Which was actually great as it meant I could get around with minimal fuss and not be on my feet. The difference in attitude from customers was amazing too. I would be blanked totally by some people some of the time. Not once was I blanked when I was on wheels. I mean, what sort of person would be rude to someone using a wheelchair? It just proved to me that however people might see you, they do see your disability too if it’s got a visual cue.
After the sickness and the tiredness and the aches and the pains and the rotten boss, came the fainting! At about 25 weeks, I started fainting if I stood up too quickly, or if I sat up a bit too fast from lying down. I discovered this by taking Buddy and his sister for a walk along the canal towpath near our house. Or rather, they took me. The day was particularly humid, and in order to get back to our house, we had to walk up a large flight of steps. The dogs may be small, but they are also mighty, and they towed me up them faster than I would have liked. When I got to the top I was seeing stars, and I had an amazing moment of clarity in which I realised that unless I sat down, I was about to fall down. So I sat down pleading inwardly with my brain not not let me faint. If I did, I would have let go of the dogs’ leads and they would have run into a main road and in all likelihood would have been squashed. So I sat there, breathing deeply, and a van pulled in and was about to call me an ambulance when I asked him not to as I was just a bit light headed. I sat there for another 5 minutes, and regained composure. Bless that guy for stopping though. At this point, I got signed off work. They had said that due to the number of entries in the accident book, if there were any more entries, management in the store would be given disciplinaries. This included me. So, basically, if I fainted I’d be given a disciplinary for it. Charming. The GP agreed and signed me off for my last two weeks.
As well as all this, the hormone levels in my body had given me back my teenage acne-prone skin, and my face and back were just a huge mess. I looked like a spotty, pre-pubescent teenager. It was awful. All of my preggy friends just glowed. I looked and felt awful. I felt like such a freak of nature.
The fainting thing continued a while, and then it gradually phased out. For about 2 weeks I felt almost ok – back not too bad, hips although sore, were tolerable, skin not too good, but apart from that, not doing too badly.
And then the itching started. I started to itch on the soles of my feet, which I thought was just a sign that they might be a bit swollen and I might need to get the pumice stone on them in any case. Then it spread to my palms after a few days, and then one Thursday I woke up itching like I never have before in all sorts of places – thighs, backs of knees, calf muscles. All without a hint of a rash – just red claw marks that I had left on myself.
So, I phoned the community midwife number who suggested I go to a chemist and get some cream for it. This rang alarm bells as I knew from somewhere that you should keep an eye on anything being particularly itchy. so I rang the hospital, who had me in within the hour for blood tests, foetal monitoring and urine samples.
They called me back at 6pm the next day with my blood work and said I needed to go in the next day to begin treatment for Obstetric Cholestasis – whose classic symptoms are itchy soles of feet and palms. With this nice liver complaint, they like to evict babies a little bit early. So at 38 weeks… I was booked in for induction.
Pregnancy really turned me into a moany old cow, and I didn’t like it one bit. I looked forward to being induced for 2 reasons – I would get to meet this fantastic little person who has been making me laugh and wince in alternate measures, and also I would get to be not-pregnant-any-more.
The baby boy turned up at 38+3, after being back to back, with the cord round his neck (twice and tight) and was delivered in theatre by forceps. I was epiduraled up to my eyeballs.
Hardly the easy, natural birth anyone strives for, eh?
After the memory of how hideously difficult his pregnancy and birth was had faded to being less than my desire to provide a sibling, I embarked on trying for number two. Took a while, but on November 15th 2010 I once again peed on a stick… and got 2 lines (I was half way through laying a carpet at the time – see what I mean about the DIY?!).
I’ll be back to finish my potted history tomorrow. I need to sit and do nothing for a bit to get over writing all of this out.