18 Week Pregnancy After Loss Update

And we are back for another fortnightly pregnancy update! I do actually feel pretty chipper right now. Did that sound a bit weird? Well, its true, things seem to be looking up and I can’t help but feel positivity starting to creep in. I’m not going to say its been plain sailing, I’m still grieving and at times it is a complete head fuck trying to grieve and be happy at the same time. It feels like the two can’t coexist, as if I should be either happy and have moved on, or I should be crying inconsolably in my bed. But that’s just the thing, I’ve done both and I’m constantly switching how I feel.

beau and bump

I do find sometimes I am so focussed on this pregnancy I almost don’t think about Silver as much as I think I should be doing. I have moments where I feel a twinge of guilt as I realise I’m not constantly dwelling on her loss. At the same time though I suffer mental health problems at the best of times and suicidal thoughts can come quite easily to me. I think sometimes having something else to focus on and basically blocking all thoughts about the loss is actually my own protective mechanism. I love to think about her and she’s always in my subconscious mind but I need the break. I can’t live in a constant barrage of grief and expect to feel healthy or mentally stable.

So when I say she’s always in my subconscious mind I really do mean it. Its actually been quite upsetting but for some reason I keep almost calling this baby in my belly Silver. Not only that but one of our cats I keep almost calling Silver! In all fairness that did used to be her nickname, we used to call her the Silver Slug as she would fall asleep in one long blob shape with no protruding limbs. The other day however I was messaging Fabian and was about to tell him this little one was wriggling and was so close to typing Silver. I had a little cry when I realised and then unfortunately I crashed down to reality as I looked to my side to see her shelf and picture.

I’m not sure if other people do this or its just something I do. I wonder if its related to my mental health but a lot of times my coping mechanism is to avoid reality. I was severely depressed and suicidal when I was fifteen/sixteen and my coping mechanism was books. I still go through phases where my only way to cope with how shit my reality is, is to immerse myself in a completely different reality and not acknowledge my own. I never said this was healthy but at the same time its probably also the thing that’s kept me alive. Just as I use music to block reality out or sometimes I sleep excessively because my dreams are better than my real life. I haven’t actually been doing any of these mechanisms really since losing Silver but I would say focusing on this new baby has given me a “happier” reality to escape to at times.

Then again, I would say from that first phone call with the geneticist at the start of the pregnancy where she told me about the possible one in four chance up until seventeen weeks its been a pretty miserable distraction. I’ve instead had a reality filled with anxiety, flashbacks, intense nausea, migraines and an anterior placenta meaning movements have taken a lot longer to be easily noticeable. Who said pregnancy was fun? I don’t want to complain because I am so lucky to be pregnant but it’s not been easy. In hindsight I look back at my son’s pregnancy and realise how easy and straightforward it was. How I never had a worry in the world and it never crossed my mind that my baby could die. Now it’s a constant worry, despite whether this baby is confirmed healthy or not.

Perhaps I should tell you how my seventeen week scan went? This was my second scan of crying in the waiting room before the scan even started. I had realised a couple of days before this scan that if this baby measured on par it was actually already doing better than Silver. She measured about fourteen/fifteen weeks at the nineteen week scan. So for this baby to measure seventeen weeks would be the first time we would really have a big indicator whether this baby had the same illness. The scan didn’t get off to a good start however. There were two sonographers in the room. One which had seen me hysterically cry the week before. Instead of getting on with the scan they started questioning me why the eighteen week scan had been cancelled when it was my anomaly scan.

This is when we realised there has been a miscommunication. We thought we had made a plan with our consultant for a scan at fifteen and seventeen weeks to work around Newcastle requesting one at sixteen weeks. Not once had we been told the eighteen week one was my anomaly scan and we presumed there was a mistake. It was our midwife who rearranged the scan as she agreed it was more in keeping with what Newcastle had requested. Trying to discuss this and explain to the sonographers when I was already terrified was not a pleasant experience. I got very upset and I honestly got to the point I just didn’t want to have the scan anymore. The woman I had seen from the week before was not very friendly and presumed these regular scans were making me more anxious and suggested I don’t have them as regular.

Are you kidding me? I’m anxious because my baby died. Its natural and normal to be terrified at each and every scan. The scans keep me going every few weeks and provide the reassurance I need to mentally withstand the next few weeks. I don’t love the scans, but they are invaluable to me being able to process this pregnancy after such a recent loss. Naturally I have a lot of recent memories of many awful scans. I lost count of how many scans I had with Silver and I was always told bad news. I’m already terrified that after twenty weeks I’m not going to be scanned as often and I’m going to have to find other ways of trusting my body and my baby and know that baby is okay without the constant scanning.

Anyway, the woman who wasn’t so friendly basically walked out and left me with quite possibly the kindest sonographer I’ve ever met. She gave me an abundance of tissues and did me a reassurance scan. It turns out the woman at Newcastle knows nothing about scans and asking them to look at the kidneys at sixteen weeks is not something they can easily do. It is from eighteen weeks when they can properly assess the kidneys! So I’m pissed at Newcastle but I am so happy with how the scan eventually went and glad I didn’t walk out. She showed us baby was measuring exactly on point and fluid was great. She could see fluid in baby’s tummy and so far everything she could see anatomically was looking normal. She also had a look and told us the gender. Well, she said she was 90% sure and could check again at eighteen weeks.

17 weeks scan

I wish we could have been one of those people who didn’t find out the gender. We were those people in our first pregnancy. I never really was bothered about buying gender specific clothes and loved all the neutrals anyway. The reason we wanted to find out however was because during Silver’s pregnancy we said we didn’t want to know initially. It was the first thing we said at that nineteen week scan, never considering the potential for problems to arise. I often wonder if she could have seen the gender that day. The fluid was low but not completely gone so there might have been a chance Silver wouldn’t have been as curled up as she was every time afterwards. Both Leeds and Newcastle tried to find out the gender but with no fluid it was impossible and only after having a CVS genetics test did they confirm gender for us.

Having a baby you’ve been told is going to die you suddenly realise how much it means to call them by their name and not say “it”. It took so long before we ever found out her name however that for Christmas we had actually wrote her two Christmas cards, a son one and a daughter one. It was a boy name I absolutely loved and after much thought I’ve realised I can’t come to ever use that name for another baby. In my head that name also belongs to Silver. I’ve never actually shared it before because I wondered about using it in the future but since I will no longer be doing this her boy name was “Avery Alexander”. Avery is a name I fell in love with from watching the TV series Nashville and Alexander is one of Fabians middle names (yes he has two… Fabian Alexander James). We felt it rolled off the tongue and was our perfect boy name.

So why is gender so important? Its actually more than just not wanting to call baby an “it”. There’s one thing I never got to do with Silver and it breaks my heart. I never got to nest. Before her nineteen week scan all I’d bought for her was one vest (for my brothers wedding), a teething toy and a squeaky toy. When we were told the news I stopped looking at baby things and it was painful when we did. The only other things we bought her was a blanket, knowing this may very well be just to hold her body in, and three sleep suits. We bought a sleepsuit to celebrate finding out her gender, as we had never bought a girls outfit before and she deserved one. Of course, being big Disney fans it was only natural it was a Minnie mouse tiny baby size sleepsuit. The last two sleepsuits we bought were when some fluid had appeared back in the womb one week and her kidneys had reappeared. We naively got our hopes up and chose one outfit each which just so happened to have elephants on both.

 

So for us to know the gender I feel maybe this time I can actually nest. I’ll always have worry in the back of my mind but to have reassuring scans I think over time will allow me to enjoy this pregnancy a little bit. I desperately want to be able to look forward and believe a baby will be coming home. I want to buy clothes for the gender and I want to be able to get Beau’s play mat out and all the new born essentials that have been stored away. I never even got chance to contemplate getting any of those things out ready for Silver and it breaks my heart. Then again, I’ve seen a lot of stillbirth stories and can’t imagine how that feels, to have nested and got all prepared and then not bring a baby home. It is honestly my greatest fear within this pregnancy.

Talking about stillbirth, one thing that’s been happening over the past two weeks is I keep waking up on my back. I know how important it is to sleep on your side and how sleeping on your back can be linked to stillbirth but I go to sleep on my side only to wake on my back. I did mention this to the midwife and she said that’s completely fine and not to worry as its not something within my control. She advised sleeping on my left is best for blood flow to the placenta but for some reason over the years I’ve gone from being someone who doesn’t fidget at all in bed to someone who can’t lay still. Every time I’m pregnant I feel so bad for the baby because until I fall asleep I turn over every five to ten minutes!

I presume the majority of seventeen weeks was uneventful because looking at my diary I haven’t wrote anything for several days. I just get so tired on a night and by the time I decide to sit down and write up my diary I’ve forgotten half the stuff that’s happened. I blame baby brain. I wish I could say the latter part of seventeen weeks was as uneventful as the earlier days. I managed to have a complete mental breakdown on the Saturday following an argument with Fabian which spiralled downhill. I think we were both simply very stressed and exhausted and took it out on each other. This pregnancy despite some good parts has taken a toll mentally on us both as we’ve navigated through grief and constant anxiety over a possible reoccurrence.

Over the many years struggling with borderline personality disorder (six years) there is a lot of things I have managed to improve, learn to control and identify. One trait that is still unfortunately very rife is my ease of suicidal thoughts being triggered. Its very hard for Fabian to offer me the support I need when I feel suicidal at the same time as looking after Beau. Fabian therefor arranged for my parents to come collect Beau and eventually we both calmed down and thankfully with support I was able to bring my thoughts back under control. Its one of the hardest parts of my illness, dealing with intrusive thoughts that seem to feed off each other.

Whilst it was good that I was eventually calm I then had a niggling worry in case the stress could have affected baby, especially since I hadn’t felt movement all day. Perhaps a rational person would have took into consideration the anterior placenta and the fact I’m not feeling strong regular movements anyway but suffering anxiety I couldn’t relax. I needed to know baby was okay. Normally labour ward won’t see anyone before twenty four weeks but they were very understanding and told me to come in for some reassurance.

Walking into the hospital I reverted back to the heavily grieving mum side of me and was naturally terrified. I felt so guilty for the happy couple who must have just been discharged from the postnatal ward with their new born but walking towards them in the corridor I just burst out crying. I don’t want them to feel guilty and I hope I didn’t look like a crazy lady. Fabian reassured me that they will have seen my green notes and presumed from me crying I was getting checked out for concerns over baby and probably completely understood. Can you imagine that being your experience taking your baby home though? To walk out and instead of people going “aww” or “congratulations” your new born baby instead puts someone in tears. As I said to Fabian, which I think most pregnancy after loss mums will wonder too “what if I never get to do that?”.

I couldn’t however have asked for a better reassurance visit. Not only did I have the midwife who delivered Beau which I have never once seen since his delivery but they also scanned me! The midwife was lovely and very humorous, claiming it was her fault he was a very calm baby but she definitely isn’t to blame for the terrible twos. She also explained to me more clearly that my anterior placenta doesn’t necessarily block movements or mean I’ll feel movements less, only that the movements may feel different than in my other pregnancies. I have since realised this is true and I am now more aware and able to identify the movements more easily.

She gave me two options for reassurance, a doppler or something else. I presumed she meant to be hooked up to the monitor so I opted for the second option. I was pleasantly surprised when a lovely female doctor walked in with a bedside monitor which could perform an ultrasound. She said she couldn’t measure anything but could show me baby moving and show me the heart beating. One thing she did that really meant a lot to me was she kept pointing out large amounts of fluid, all very reassuring when Silver had none. I left that appointment feeling so much happier after walking in with tears streaming down my face. I was ready to bring my focus back to myself and move forward with a hopefully more peaceful pregnancy.

All good intentions but sometimes fate happens, or should I say shit happens. Yep, the next day after setting off so positive and having a good day at a car show despite the rain we managed to have a car accident on the way home. Thankfully there was no impact to my bump and the car was actually driveable afterwards. It had been torrential rain and one of the wheels slipped. We’ve only recently got a 4×4 car which is a lot heavier to manoeuvre apparently and in hindsight it was apparently Fabians judgement error with a car he is still getting used to. We simply started to spin and did a 180 before crashing into the hard shoulder. When I realised what was happening it truly terrified me, naturally.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that it wasn’t a collision with another vehicle. Not only that but a car that witnessed it came to check we were okay. I was completely shaken and crying, I didn’t even think about Beau at first but he never made a sound so my main thoughts were how baby was. The woman from the other car came to check on me and Beau while Fab assessed the damage. I then realised and made sure Beau was okay, surprisingly he seemed completely fine and not scared at all. Both the woman and myself agreed I needed to go get checked at the hospital. The guy helped stop traffic to allow us to turn around and we slowly made our way back home.

Eventually we managed to get hold of my parents and my dad drove through to watch Beau while we went to the hospital. As always, I was nervous walking into that labour ward. I’d gone in so many times before to have monitoring for Silver and despite always having a good heartbeat the midwives were always realistic with me and had a sad look in their eyes. I had actually only ever been monitored with Silver once in the main assessment room which hosts four beds behind curtains. The rest of the time due to the sensitive nature of the situation they always gave me an actual delivery room, in hindsight I wonder if they were expecting there to not be a heartbeat. Going into the assessment room she gave me the option of which bed I would like and I made sure to avoid the one I had been in with Silver. I know its superstitious and I had actually been in that bed with my healthy little boy before but I couldn’t go back to somewhere where I remembered her being alive.

It was actually a third year student who saw me but lets be honest, sometimes the students are even better than the real thing at times! In midwifery terms I’ve always had fantastic and highly competent students. It just so happens the student recognised us and had actually seen us when we were pregnant with Beau, our now two year old. She was lovely and very understanding of why I wanted to be checked. It took a while for her to find the heart beat due to the anterior placenta but we had a good listen once she found it. I believe the heart rate was around 150bpm. It was a quick check but I am one of those mums who will happily go into the labour ward every night if I need to and I know they’d rather I did that than leave it too late and something went wrong.

A couple days later and I turned eighteen weeks. The day had finally come. My big anomaly scan (which hadn’t been cancelled as we originally thought). Through this whole pregnancy my anxieties have been focussed on this one scan. This is after all the scan where it was picked up that Silver was in fact very sick and it became apparent there was something seriously wrong when we were immediately referred to an emergency appointment at the largest hospital nearby (over an hour away). I am so glad this scan was done at eighteen weeks and not twenty weeks as I originally expected because it has given me two more weeks of actually feeling I can enjoy this pregnancy. Yes, I am actually starting to enjoy this pregnancy now because all was normal on the scan!

 

Our little one was measuring perfectly, kidneys looked great which was Silver’s main issue, fluid levels were great. The only thing she wanted to double check was a rescan on the baby’s heart. From what she could see she was quite happy but apparently at eighteen weeks the baby’s heart is the size of your little finger nail if not smaller. So to look at the intricate structures of such a small mechanism is quite difficult. I know this is going to sound very random but I actually didn’t panic too much about the heart as perhaps the younger more anxious me would have done. Instead my predominant though was wow, this baby is the size of a sweet potato and its heart is that small, can you imagine how small a hamster’s heart is… Can you tell I’m an animal lover?

The only actual worry I had during the whole scan was that to me there were times when I couldn’t see a lot of fluid. I was very lucky to have the lovely lady from the week before scanning me and felt completely comfortable asking questions. She immediately reassured me the fluid levels were absolutely fine and showed me where the fluid was. She was very thorough and explained absolutely everything anatomically and of course pointed out adorable things like little toes and sucking thumbs. We also saw the baby taking a drink which we’ve never seen before as well as the baby’s hand where we saw each and every bone which was amazing!

After the relief of knowing baby was okay we then got to do something we have never done before. In this nicest possible way, we got to see whether it was a girl or a boy! As I mentioned earlier, she was 90% sure the week before but confirmed 100% she was correct. We have been toying around with gender reveal ideas and I’m pleased to say I think we have got a good idea planned. We are hoping to be able to announce this news on the 16th September along with the baby’s chosen name. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to quickly correct myself writing this blog that I’ve accidentally revealed the gender!

I just thought I’d quickly mention here that yet again I got a free scan picture! At seventeen weeks she gave me them for free because of how hysterical I had been at the start and at the eighteen week one she forgot to write a measurement down. We were sat in the waiting room when she called us back in and had to quickly scan me again to retake the measurement. She printed an extra photo and for the “inconvenience” gave me all the photos for free again. I feel for my growth scans I’m going to be less likely to be hysterical, I actually didn’t cry at all at the eighteen week scan one as I felt confident from the week before. It was my first scan not crying! I think at my growth scans they’re finally going to start charging me though, at least I’ve saved quite a bit of money really.

Due to our car accident on the Sunday the majority of eighteen weeks Fabian was actually at home. In some ways this was handy and I managed to get plenty housework done however I did realise sometimes I overdid it. I can at times get carried away when I get bursts of energy but then I realise I don’t feel baby as much during the day which of course panics me. Its probably due to me constantly moving and baby still being small however. I do think I also felt Braxton hicks for the first time this week due to having to walk to the supermarket about twenty-five minutes away. I did realise this was unrealistic to keep doing as it was exhausting and I was definitely pushing my body too far.

Whilst we are talking a bit about baby movements I am so pleased to say this week has been the best week by far for movements. I’m feeling movement every day, its getting stronger, more frequent and easier to detect. I’ve realised this baby is more of a night owl and absolutely loves to wriggle in the bath, just like Beau and Silver did. The difference this has had on my mood has been apparent to everyone. I have had a bath every night just so I can bond with the baby and try talking to him/her whilst listening to the same music I used to listen to with Beau and Silver. I feel like I can now truly allow myself to fall in love and look forward to the future.

after scan 2

I do have some serious mum guilt at the moment I want to share. You know earlier I said how I keep almost calling baby Silver. Not only this but I’ve been struggling to actually verbalise this babies name despite it being 100% decided. I absolutely love the name but for some reason whenever I talk to Fabian about the baby I either say the gender pronoun or I say “the baby”. I feel awful but feel something is holding me back. I’m not sure if it’s the fact I am now trying to come to terms with the fact that this baby is in fact not Silver. Its maybe a second chance at having a baby and bringing a baby home, but its not a second chance with her. I already have a feeling this baby is a more mellow character than Silver and will be very much unique but I now need to come to terms with their individuality and learn to love them for who they are on their own.

I think this is probably a natural feeling for mums who get pregnant so soon after a loss. It’s not that I don’t want to love this baby as its own self, I just still find it hard to comprehend that Silver is gone. It’s something I don’t want to come to terms with and being pregnant again it almost feels like a continuation of Silver’s pregnancy and I’m still just waiting for her to come home. I do feel once we have done the name reveal and can openly say the name it may help me come to terms with this being a different baby. I already feel I’m bonding with it but sometimes the wires simply get crossed in my head. I am absolutely in love with the name and can’t wait to be able to say it aloud so hopefully it will help me process things differently.

So probably the last thing I want to touch on in this pregnancy update is a symptom I’m really struggling with recently. Since I was pregnant with Beau I discovered a love of food, I used to struggle to finish one portion and then suddenly I’m the person asking for seconds. Once my sickness dissipated during Silver’s pregnancy my appetite was great and I was able to eat loads! So this time when my sickness has really improved I’ve become slightly concerned at just how little appetite I have. Food is not appealing at all, I’m not usually hungry and mealtimes suck because this baby loves sweet foods (I don’t personally like sweet foods all that much) so I struggle to even think of something savoury I’d want to eat.

Naturally with Silver measuring so far behind and being such a small baby my appetite is a worry for me. Just as I did in Silver’s pregnancy I lost 2kg in the first trimester due to morning sickness. I am pleased to say at my midwife appointment the other week I was approx. 57kg (Maybe one day I’ll get back to my pre-Beau weight of 50kg!) and I have managed to put 1kg on recently but I feel it’s due to force feeding myself. My midwife had said a few weeks ago I sometimes just have to eat for the baby even if I don’t want to. So, I am trying really hard to work on finding foods I like and eating as often as I can, thankfully baby is doing great and growing really well!

I really feel this blog has summarised a lot of the predominant feelings I’ve had through this pregnancy after losing Silver. I have a feeling unfortunately that this will be relatable to a lot of people which breaks my heart to think of the sheer volume of angel babies out there and the parents walking this earth with empty arms and heavy hearts. I share my journey on Instagram (@rainbow_and_angel_mummy) and Facebook and would love to connect with other parents, share stories and help support each other.

Sending love and light out to anyone reading this today.

Until next time,

Holly x