I’m part of an online group for people who are pregnant through IVF, and it’s been bringing me back to last December full force. The minute clocking of how many days and weeks along, the agonizing over whether taking your medication early or late or not at all that day will cause an irreparable issue, the wondering, wondering, wondering.
I’ve already written a bit about the early days and weeks of my pregnancy with HB, how worrisome it was for me. There was literally nothing else on my mind. When I had abdominal pain acutely on one side of my belly, I was absolutely convinced I was having an ectopic pregnancy, which mandates “cancellation” of the pregnancy. This fear has to continue until the embryo is large enough to detect on an ultrasound, which means you’re even more pregnant than you were with a potentially non-viable pregnancy, which also means you’re even more invested in it going well, you’re even closer to seeing it come to fruition.
At my earliest possible time, I came in for an ultrasound because I was convinced my abdominal pain was the portend of bad news. She’d told me it was early, that just because they may not detect anything didn’t mean it wasn’t there. My blood levels were continuing to rise apace. Then, the frozen agony as she angles around with the wand like a spotlight in my body, searching, searching for life.
And there it was, a flutter on the black-and-white screen. A flutter in my uterus where it should be. She turns on the sound, and there it is… a heartbeat, an honest-to-goodness heartbeat. Not my own, something new, something hers. Her. New. Yes.
And this is how it was for every minute of every day for me. A terrified conviction that any moment could be the last, as it had been several times before. It was this way until my 20-week ultrasound, an in-depth three-dimensional view of the growing body inside me. I would not, could not with a fox, allow myself to breathe until that 5-month test. I know personally three women who’d had “bad scans” at that critical appointment, all three who’d had to make haunting, heart-breaking choices, and I could not allow myself to plan for the arrival of a baby until then.
To be honest, it was only a few weeks to the end of my pregnancy when I was posting in a group about my terror that it would all come crumbling down. This feeling didn’t abate until she was safely, healthfully in my arms in the hospital bed. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s a horrible cloud to live under during a time that many people feel can be the most blissful and abundant.
And this was usually the kind of content I gave when friends asked how I was feeling. The emotional piece. I expressed how difficult it was for me to trust, how I was awaiting the 20-week scan to really believe this would happen, how I was having a hard time wading through my own trauma. Funnily enough, after several minutes of my talking in this vein, friends would often say, “I meant, ‘How are you feeling physically?'” but I knew what they meant. That aspect just wasn’t that important for me to talk about (see previous blog!).
But there she was at 20-weeks, a face, eyes, nose, heart. Four chambers of a heart. All moving blood, red and blue pulses of light on the screen. Pulses of life.
Til the end, this is how it was, checking my underwear for spotting each time I sat down to the toilet. She was still right-side-up as my time came closer, and this worried me. (She did flip on her own eventually.) Two weeks to go, I hadn’t felt her move in over a day. I drank juice, did jumping jacks, drank cold water, and sat quietly in the dark awaiting her movements to confirm she was still there. Really there.
I came downstairs streaming tears. J drove me to the hospital. And she was there, really there, just moving less but healthy, beating, “breathing.”
Everyone does what they can to assure you, assuming things have been going well, that they will be well. Everyone with the best of intentions and with all the love they can muster try to hold your hand, physically or virtually, as you wade, slog, crawl through the darkness that creeps into the side of your vision. The unbidden thought. The momentary arresting of your breath.
So, How Was It?
Pregnancy is a nine-month mental labyrinth, regularly gnarling your joy into a Gordian knot.
Until it’s over. And the knot unravels, cascading open to reveal the most tender pulse of awe and magic this side of the veil.