Not so new arrival

Only now do I realise how much I needed this blog while I was pregnant, and before that, in the impossibly difficult time of trying again and attempting to cope with the likely outcome that things wouldn’t work.

I thought about writing in the weeks leading up to delivery but was so tired I couldn’t make sense of my hopeful, but also terrified, thoughts. I have not thought once about writing in the seven months since the birth. 

Here he is, our little joyful wriggler Keir. He is such a tonic and has been a light in dark times for my whole family after losing my Mum when he was just six weeks old.


I feel I have to some extent put my grief for Ryan and my Mum to one side to be consistent for this wee one. But it was definitely not a conscious thing, maybe that’s what hormones made me do. Only recently, as Keir beccomes more independent and able to spend time with his Dad, have I felt grief creeeping in in glimpses. 

I don’t often think of what Ryan would be like now, it’s too painful and doesn’t help me function in the present, but I do sometimes wonder what they’d be like together. A pair of rogues giggling away I’m sure. It’s a bittersweet thought, mixed with a strange combination of emotions, because in all likelihood, Keir would never have existed were it not for what happened to Ryan.

The Moon Princess


We like to think that Ryan is hanging out with David Bowie, wherever he is, and making him constantly reenact the Magic Dance song from Labyrinth (‘again, Mr David, please!’ ‘OK little Ryan, one more time… You remind me of the babe…’ Squealing: ‘WHAT BABE?!’ and so on. *Ryan dissolves in a fit of giggles*). Ryan has always been our starboy.
When he was born we got a lot out of reading the Little Prince (Ryan means little king) and I now have a necklace which reads ‘I use the stars to find you’ which is attributed to the Little Prince, but I con’t actually find the quote in the book. It captures the sentiment of the final few pages regardless.

When Ryan’s body was released after his post mortem, we arranged with the funeral parlour to put some letters into his tiny coffin with him. He already had his white handknitted SiMBA teddy. It was an incredibly difficult experience writing my letter, but so great to do it, and even better to read the words of pure love from Niall and my family. My Dad woke up at 3am on the morning we were going to drop off the letters and wrote this story in one sitting. It’s still difficult for me to read it, but I think it’s a perfect fairytale of Ryan’s birth story.

 

The Moon Princess

Once upon a time there was a prince who slept a deep sleep in a cave beside the sea. There he dreamed and in the dream he saw the moon princess and she called him; her arms stretched towards him.

A beam of moonlight reflected off the waves sparkled on the cave walls and the prince awoke and remembered his dream. Quickly he made ready for the journey, left the cave and walked along the seashore to the ferryman’s house.

“Ferryman, ferryman!” he called, knocking on the door. “Please take me over the sea to the farther shore, I have to meet the moon princess.”

The old ferryman stepped out of his house, his long grey hair and beard stirred in the sea breeze like spindrift.

“Alas,” said he, “my boat has been dashed to pieces by the last storms. But come let us go to the boat builder and see if there is a new boat we can use.”

Together they walked along the beach to the little harbour and there, tied to the quay, was a beautiful new boat, its freshly varnished planking gleaming in the moonlight.

They climbed in and cast off. The ferryman plied his oars and with strong strokes rowed out of the harbour and into the waves of the ocean.

The spray of the waves that slapped the side of the boat was blown over them and the prince,  licking his lips, laughed. “Why is the sea so salty?” “Oh,” came the reply,  “that is the tears of those on the farther shore.”

The Prince was silent for a while watching as the water parted, as the boat cleaved through the waves which rippled past the boat, sparkling. Then he became merry again, dipped his hand and let the water pearl through his fingers. “Look how it sparkles” he exclaimed. “That is because of the laughter and joy of those on the farther shore,” the ferryman explained, “now settle down, it is a long journey.”

And so it was. The sun rose and still the little boat travelled on. The Prince could hardly settle though, he was full of excitement. looking over the side he saw fishes gliding beneath them. He watched the birds flying by and tried not to miss a single thing, so that the ferryman grumbled, good-naturedly, that if he didn’t settle down he might upset them both. The Prince laughed in reply.

As the sun was setting the prince saw far ahead of them the hills of the farther shore. “Soon we will reach land!” he said.

The ferryman answered “it will still be some time, the tide is against me and my arms and back are tired.” So the prince settled down to watch the approaching shore. As he sat his eyes grew heavy and he fell asleep.

The ferryman rowed steadily on as the sky darkened and the stars began to show. Then softly, slowly, silently the moon rose, its beams picking out the pebbles of the approaching shore, making them appear like a silver arc edging the dark waves.

Stepping down the moonbeam the moon princess arrived on the shore and waited as the boat ran up the shingle. The ferryman stepped out, pulling the boat out of the waves.

“Come on prince,  you must wake up now, we have arrived”. But still he slept. The Princess approached the boat, smiling at the ferryman.

“Look!” he said, pointing to where the prince lay sleeping, “he doesn’t wake. He was so excited about meeting you and being with you here on the farther shore.” The ferryman’s face grew sad. “I don’t understand.”

“It’s alright,” said the princess, “if we cannot be together here on the farther shore, I will take him to my home.” She bent and lifted the sleeping prince and, stepping onto the moonbeam, softly and silently carried him to her home.

Slowly the ferryman pushed his boat back into waves, climbed aboard and began his long journey home. His eyes were filled with tears that flowed down his cheeks and the sea became just a little bit more salty.

The moon rose steadily into the sky and at the midnight hour the ferryman rested and gazed about at the sparkling waves. He dipped his hand into the sea letting the water pearl through his fingers, and he smiled.

Is this your first baby?

Do you have any idea how complicated a question that is?

Unfortunately, I do not do pregnancy subtly or gracefully, I’ve been showing from around six weeks this time, and had to make massive excuses up until the 12 week scan. I really didn’t want to tell anyone, but because of my giant bump it became a relief to finally admit it. Part of me still wants to keep this secret, it’s just so scary to expose our vulnerability to everyone. The only way of managing to be secret is to hide away in a hut for five more months, which does have some appeal. It is unbelievable how many people ask the ‘first baby’ question, which I was really dreading to begin with. I did answer one person with ‘I hope it will be my first living baby,’ which she took quite well considering. Niall and I were at a wedding recently and I really didn’t want to talk about my precious Ryan with people I hardly knew, so I answered with: ‘more or less.’ Mostly, though, I’ve been telling the truth.

I went back to work last week and have had nine new patients so far. Of those, four have asked the question. As I hope to continue working with them, I told them about Ryan. They are always so shocked to hear it and I feel I have to make it easier for them by offering platitudes about having another on the way, even though all I want to do is point out how nothing is guaranteed and we are actually shitting ourselves.

We have had a couple of gifts for Zippy which I find so strange, I have tried to accept them graciously, but all I want to say is, ‘are you sure?’

I’m so grateful for our maternity leave allowance, and being allowed to take the full time and pay even in the case of the baby being stillborn. I have been off work for nine months and I don’t think I could have gone back even a month ago. I work so closely with people (new patient appointments are an hour) that it’s nearly impossible to avoid questions about myself. I am a woman in her mid-thirties, it seems the most obvious thing to ask me about is family. I used to find this hard when I was going through infertility and IVF, but learned to brush it off with something along the lines of ‘oh no… but we have a dog.’ I knew this was going to be an issue with coming back to work, a couple of days after Ryan was born I thought I’d never make it back for that reason.

Thanks to SANDS Lothians, I have had several counselling sessions which were incredibly difficult initially, but helped me to talk again and again about what happened. So although I still feel so sad about what happened to Ryan, I can talk about it as a fact, and separate the talking from my feelings. In a way, this feels like something of a betrayal each time I have to do it, but it is the only way I have found to function with these difficult questions.

I am now 18 weeks pregnant with Zippy and (s)he gave me a kick today which I felt on my hand. This is a week ahead of when we felt big Bro Ryan’s kicks from the outside for the first time, looks like we’re in for another strong baby. Ryan’s kicks, with his massive feet, got pretty painful towards the end. It is impossible not to make comparisons between this pregnancy and the last, even the profile of Zippy’s  face in the recent scan is so similar to Ryan’s.

With all these comparisons, I think I want to find out Zippy’s sex. Niall wasn’t so sure, but I have twisted his arm. I posted on the private facebook group that SANDS have set up for support in a subsequent pregnancy, to ask if other people had found out the sex of their rainbow babies. It was really interesting to read the answers and hear the measured opinions of everyone who has been through this before. The answers were as varied as with people who hadn’t had a loss, but the reasons had a different tone to them. From those who didn’t want to know as they just wanted this baby to be healthy, to those who wanted to give the baby a name, so they could talk to it and pray for it. The story which struck a chord with me was from someone who hadn’t found out after their boy had died. Her next baby was a boy and she said it was totally overwhelming, when he was born it all hit in one go – another boy, looking so like his brother. I have had a feeling I might feel the same if we have another boy – I would want to do a lot of work to tell myself it’s a different boy from Ryan.

I worked out the other day that over £5000 has been raised in Ryan’s name, what an honour, and what a loved boy. People want to do something, at least we can help to fund the services that we have benefited from for those who come after, it seems so unfair that it stillbirth will still happen.

A friend of a friend who was at the same stage as me, and who had said we should take the prams out together to which I wasn’t very enthusiastic, thinking that I would be the one who wouldn’t be there, lost her baby at 16 weeks. All I wanted to do was to take it away, make it not have happened. I sent her a couple of messages, and found it so hard to know what to say. It’s impossible, I’ve been there and I don’t know what to say, I’m not surprised that so many people I know struggled for words when Ryan was stillborn.

Last weekend I volunteered for SANDS at the Edinburgh marathon, doing massage for the runners who were raising money for them. It felt really good to give something back. As always, the ones doing their first marathon, who were absolutely cracked, made me pretty teary. This was amplified by having the connection to a lot of them in the reasons for doing it.

Depleted resources

I’m coming to the conclusion that Ryan really got the best of me and poor Zippy is left with whatever s/he can glean from my seriously depleted stores of nutrients. This article was really fascinating but also highlighted that my body is not really prepared to support another pregnancy. Which is kind of depressing.

I do wonder though, if the results were corrected for surprise pregnancies, where the mother was still breastfeeding and hadn’t taken any prenatal vitamins. I’ve been taking seriously expensive vitamins since it occured to me shortly after Ryan’s funeral that it would be necessary. I’ve also been resting a lot – last night I went to bed at 10 and was woken at 9 this morning by my alarm. I could have easily slept longer. After taking the dog out for a walk, I had lunch and headed to bed again, unable to keep my eyes open. I slept for about an hour and have finally found enough energy to write.

I can’t believe I was working full time at this stage last time (9+6). I taught two Pilates classes back-to-back this week, felt utterly awful before and during the classes, and remembered that this was just how I made it through in the past. It really surprised me to remember how easily I can fake it when I have to. Niall has been warned that there will now be a month of sleeping. Sadly, pelvic girdle pain has kicked in already. It started last week with right SIJ pain after a long walk. I got the serola belt straight out, but as of last night it’s in my pubic symphysis again.

Physically, it is probably a terrible idea for me to be pregnant just now. But psychologically, I think it is helpful. Little Zippy is such a magical presence in our lives, and I like to think that Ryan is looking forward to having an Earth sibling. We are amazed with every day that passes when s/he’s still here, I just have so little faith that this one will make it. We saw the tiny little flickering pixel of a heartbeat on the ultrasound screen at 7+3: ‘oh, you’re really there!’ The IVF clinic nurse told us there was only 1% chance of miscarriage after that, but really that means nothing to me, I’m used to being the rare event, rather than the expected outcome. That evening, when I was just about to go to the subsequent pregnancy support group at SANDS, I had a little spotting. I shit myself and chose to stay completely still for the rest of the evening, too terrified to move! Luckily the spotting seemed to settle in a couple of days, but I still want to examine the toilet paper under a microscope every time I go to the loo.

The last few days have been tough, yesterday was my birthday and the anniversary of Niall feeling Ryan’s first kicks from the outside. I was exactly 19 weeks pregnant, and  it was a beautiful birthday gift to all of us. I’ve been so aware of the memories of him making his enthusiastic presence felt, then I can’t help but compare that to his lovely cuddly, but lifeless, body 22 weeks later. It still seems incredible that all the energy and strength he had just slipped away as he was about to be born.

Other than the most recent days, I have been amazed to discover that I have just been remembering him so fondly, and mostly with happy memories of his chin, his tummy, his great big kicky feet.
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I don’t know if it’s just pregnancy hormones protecting me, or if time has made things feel a bit easier and much less heavy. Time is a great healer, but it’s only through experiencing it that it becomes true. All those people who told me that at the beginning had good intentions, but there was no way I was going to believe it. It made absolutely no sense at the time. And still, time offers no guarantee of not being hit by the disbelief and grief again without a moment’s notice.

We had the meeting for the adverse event review last week, where we met with the same obstetrician and neonatologist who have been involved since Ryan’s birth as well as our community midwife. It was much less fraught and anxious than the post mortem meeting. We went in having seen the report and having been previously told about what it contains, and had the opportunity to email through some questions beforehand. In Ryan’s case everything was done correctly, and I’m grateful that it means that don’t have to blame someone for not doing something. They again said how surprised how unwell Ryan was given his perfect CTG trace. His little heart was beating at 140bpm, except for the expected dips during pushing, until 15 minutes before he was delivered, when it just trailed off and the decision was made too deliver him by emergency C-section. Blood tests after he was born showed that he had been really unwell for quite some time. He had a blood pH of 6.5, my sister who is a peadiatric nurse says she’s never seen anyone survive with that level of acidosis.

This means that I will be unlikely to trust so-called ‘gold-standard’ monitoring at all throughout the next pregnancy. It was bizarre to hear how very confident they are for a good outcome for Zippy. I wish I could share that.

I felt an odd mix of despair and gratitude to hear about everything they did to try to revive him after he was delivered. They didn’t say so, but I think the steady heart rate shows what a strong and brave wee boy he was.

Testing, testing

After a migraine where I thought I was having a stroke, going to bed for 12 hours and sleeping for 3 of them, I finally got up five minutes before Niall’s alarm went off and peed my precious saved FMU on a piddlestick.

My eyes were a bit blurry, so I couldn’t focus on the test, but I strained them to look at the test window. The control window had a bright bright pink stripe. I got up and washed my hands, still nothing. Feeling really sad for Zippy who hadn’t made it, really down and gutted.

I heard Niall’s alarm and him getting out of bed and thought I’d have another look. Really squinting, I thought I was seeing things, but there was possibly the finest of pink lines in the test window. Oh Zippy, are you there? I showed it to Niall, ‘it might be a line,’ I said. He thought there probably was and we had a big hug, not really feeling excited, just relieved, this is a thing we have to do.

I went back to bed as Niall showered and continued to look at the stick. The line got a bit more defined and I was able to shout to him as he left that there was definitely a line there!

Had the doctor take my blood at the hospital and spent an anxious morning waiting for the results. I finally got through after 12 calls or so (very cool of me I thought), and got the result: looking for level over 50 and Zippy got 205. Very proud. Was so exhausted I slept for three hours that afternoon.

Caught between two states

It’s test day tomorrow, and I have identified ten signs that I’m almost definitely, and equally almost definitely not, pregnant. In short, I’m driving myself crazy. In no particular order, here are my symptoms:

Random hip pain

When I first start walking I notice that it feels like my right hip is going to give way beneath me and I get a strange pinchy twinge which settles within about 5 minutes. I’m pretty sure I had this early in my pregnancy with Ryan and I’m telling myself it’s the relaxin hormone loosening my joints. Alternatively, I could just have a random painful hip.

Increased discharge

I was plagued last time by the various corrosive juices of pregnancy, and I think that’s started again. But I have been shoving the progesterone pessaries up my foof and they are very likely to be upsetting things in there regardless.

Tired

Oh my word, I am walking around in a fog. It seems vaguely familiar, or it would do if I could think straight enough to remember if this is what I felt last time. Alternatively, I could be coming down with something.

Thirsty

I didn’t really notice this so much last time, but my thirst has gone through the roof and I really notice dehydration creeping in. Again, I could easily be getting ill.

Headache

This seems to be a low level thing, but worse in the evenings, which I think it was when I was pregnant with Ryan. Or, I’m just overthinking things and giving myself a headache, this is entirely possible.

Dry hands

This is a bit of a weird one, but last time I was pregnant I had to put on hand cream every evening because my hands were so dry and flaky. It could be that I’m drinking so much more, and I keep going to the loo to check whether the worrying gushes of discharge are my period starting, so I’m just washing my hands lots and making them dry.

Twinges

Slightly different to period pains, a bit sharper maybe and not such a heavy dragging feeling. Or, it is just my period and it’s ever so slightly different this time, because it’s slightly different every time.

Weird dreams

Definitely a hallmark of pregnancy for me, but also a hallmark of me. And I’m up to pee so many times (not listing peeing as a sign because I’m drinking way more and keeping myself awake wondering what’s going on) so I’ll be noticing the craziness of the dreams that I normally wouldn’t.

Unable to regulate temperature

This was definitely a problem last time. I’d do very minimal exercise and be boiling hot, but then sitting for a few minutes without being wrapped in blankets has me feeling freezing. As with so many of the other options, this may mean I’m coming down with something.

Possible Implantation bleeding

On days two and three post-transfer, while I was cleaning out the waxy leftovers of the progesterone pessary (eww, but needs to be done, otherwise thrush kicks in) I noticed a tiny pinkish tinge in a couple of bits. This would equate to 7 and 8 DPO, good time for implantation. But, as I already implied, the pessary is so gross and invasive that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was damaging the epithelium and causing trauma to my precious vaginal tissues, and all I was seeing was a bit of bleeding as a result of that.

So, tomorrow I am either going to be pregnant or ill, or both.

What I have been impressed with in myself is how calm I have been. I was expecting a next pregnancy to be terror-fraught, but I’ve got much more of a ‘whatever will be, will be’ attitude. When I was in my 2WW and first pregnant with Ryan, I was so so worried I didn’t lift anything, play tug with the dog, have sex or do any bouncing or running. This time I have rationalised that the progesterone makes me so constipated, I am creating much more intra abdominal pressure by emptying my bowels than any of those other things. I’m being pretty sensible, but enjoying not being terrified. Long may it last.

Last night it was clear and the dog and I were walking along the beach. Oh-Ryan was keeping us company up in the stars, just to my side. If I looked straight ahead, the cold wind was coming from the same side as Oh-Ryan, and I felt like his little chubby cold hand reached out and caressed my cheek, blessing his potential wee sibling. It’s so nice to think that he’d want this for us too.

Introducing Zippy

On Friday (12/2) I went in for egg collection, really not sure what to expect – swithering between expecting none and a bumper harvest. I was 6th on the list, out of 7, so I had to wait a couple of hours. I made good use of it though and did some writing – I’m getting better at writing in distracting environments. The nurses were so unbelievably friendly this time, all quietly offering their condolences about Ryan without getting too heavy about it, and being very positive about the op.
Niall produced his ‘sample’ with ease (as far as I know) – he told me the reading material in his little cupboard was very engaging! And proudly announced that he didn’t spill a drop!
I was prepped and headed through to theatre, while they chimed my name several times, checking various documentation to make sure they have the right person, and will make sure my eggs don’t go to anyone else. The anaesthetist told me I’d feel drunk and I hilariously told her about trying to tell everyone how drunk I felt last time. Then I started to feel the sleepy feeling slipping over me and decided to give into it this time. Closing my eyes, I remember nothing more after that.
I started to wake a little as I was being wheeled along the corridor and I’m sure I remember the anaesthetist parking me and telling me that they got 9 eggs from the right ovary and she was going back to cheack about the left. Niall tells me nothing like that was said. As soon as I was awake enough and a nurse came through I asked her immediately how many eggs they got. She disappeared off and came back pretty quickly to say 12. Niall was standing close and holding my hands. I kept confirming with him it was 12. Somehow in my confused state, Niall said something about the eggs Zipping around, and I said if there was an embryo it should be called Zippy, we were pretty definite about that.
It was much more painful than last time, and when the anaesthetic wore off my ovaries felt so tender as I moved about. There were far more follicles this time, and it was a different doctor who did the operation, so maybe he had to use more invasive techniques.
The next day I had to walk the therapet in the morning, and I went so slow, every step feeling like my ovaries were bashing side to side, newton’s cradle style.

During the walk I got the call from the lovely nurse at the hospital who was there for the operation (and Ryan’s embryo transfer) to say, good news! Ten have fertilised! Amazing. Average is 60-70% fertilisation, this is 83% (I had to work it out). Last time we got 50%, so I suppose this averages it out.
I was far less worried about them over the weekend than in the one day of waiting last time, I guess because they all have each other this time.
On Monday (15/2) we got the call that we were going to wait for a day 5 transfer, which meant that there were no concerns about their development, so really encouraging.
It was only really last night that I started to get a bit worried. What if they all just stopped developing and didn’t make it to blastocyst?
All this morning I was waiting for the phone to ring, or willing the phone not to ring, a call this morning would have been bad news, they didn’t make it. But 10 o’clock came and went with no call, so hope starts mounting. I think we’re going in for this now.
Only had to wait a minute or so in the waiting room, before we were whisked through and I changed into my nightie, Niall into his scrubs. We found a pair of clogs each to squeeze into (me) and swim about in (Niall) and were taken through to theatre. The embryologist introduced us to our blastocysts – one 5AA which we are getting today, and four others suitable for freezing today. There are two more which might make it to freezing over the next day or two, if they form blastocysts. At least 50% fertilisation to blastocyst rate – again better than the odds – average is 40%. I don’t know too much about the grading system, but a bit of internet searching seems to indicate a 5 is hatching out of its shell (ready for implantation). The A’s relate to how many cells there are and how they are arranged, it looks like A is the best. I’m going to believe that anyway.
The doctor prepped me, jacked me up with a speculum and cleaned up my cervix – I wonder if there were any leftovers from last night’s attempt to mreate a welcoming environment with some familiar sperms hanging around?! Eek. The cannula was put into the cervix and the embryo came in in its tiny tube, which wavered a bit as it was passed over. I hope that wasn’t it being flicked out the end of the tube! In it zipped, and we got the lovely ultrasound picture of my bladder with the tiny flash of opaque gel that the embie gets transferred with – our Zippy. Love her already.
The doctor was pleased with the straightforward transfer and gave us a pep talk. ‘Carry on as you have been’, he said, looking pointedly at Niall. Oh no, he knows! Also, we’re to maintain a positive attitude as this is known to help with outcome. No bother! I had heard that on various online chats but this coming from a very serious doctor is a very strict instruction indeed.
So Zippy is on board. We are completely in love with this one already, I keep kissing her little ultrasound picture, which is a bit weird because I’m really kissing my full bladder and uterus, but I’m sure madness helps too.
Oh, by the way, this one will be alternating sex week by week, so today she’s a girl.
I have introduced her to Ryan already, telling him he’ll always be our star boy, but maybe we could have an Earth baby too. He thinks that sounds like a great idea.