Pregnancy Rollercoaster - Will Everything be Okay?
By Lynn Jenkins - 8th October 2012
My youngest child recently celebrated his first birthday. Being the third child he has always had to fit in with the schedule of the other two as well as us, so naturally his first birthday was shared with the big soccer presentation day. It was a very busy day, kick-started with balloons and present opening, then rushing around to get ready for the presentation day, going to the presentation day, add in an hour of ‘canteen duty’, duck to the supermarket for a few supplies for the birthday party that afternoon, rush home, put the cake together and all the goodies before his birthday party that afternoon. Phew!
I was well and truly on that rollercoaster mothers ride a lot; literally speedily moving along, twisting and turning from task to task and finally coming to an abrupt halt when everything was done and it was time to focus on my little boy.
He was one! And I, as I always do on my kids' birthdays reflected on his birth – the order of events, how I felt when he was born, etc. But I also found myself revisiting feelings of being very thankful that he was here with us, because my pregnancy with him hit some bumps along the way. At the beginning of it, I honestly thought he was gone. But no, he stuck around. In the middle his survival was questioned again, but everything turned out thankfully well. But all that to’ing and fro’ing around his survival certainly had me on that rollercoaster of motherhood.
So on his first birthday, I spent some time tuning into just how much I appreciate my little man – for him being him but also because of his beginnings. I thought about a piece I wrote while I was anxiously waiting for the doctor to 'phone me with the results of some tests I had in the middle of my pregnancy. Here it is:
It’s approaching noon – the time at which the obstetrician said she would phone with the results of the test. The anxiety is almost unbearable. There are 17 minutes left of pretending everything is okay – that there isn’t an ‘alternative’ to okay. The fantasy of normalcy might be an emotional defence. But so what? It feels much better to indulge in that than the other line of thought.
In the anxious moments the ‘alternative’ takes centre stage playing out in minute detail how different life will be if the result is positive. Will I need the pram, the cot, the clothes, the toys, the bottles? Will I be able to bask in the joy of being pregnant; will I share the ultrasound pictures with anyone who is interested, as well as those who aren’t? Will I look up baby names on the internet and fantasise about having a baby just like the ones on the Huggies ads? I don’t know. A state of limbo is what I'm in, and it’s agony.
Up until now I have been able to remain relatively calm, pushing any anxiety-provoking thoughts away. But as the moment grows closer to knowing the results, I can’t be calm anymore. Soon I will have a direction to head in, which is what I wanted – a sense either way so I can make plans. But to be honest, that way of thinking only brings most comfort if the direction is heading toward ‘everything is okay' land. Is it better not to know than to know definite, unchangeable sad news?
In my rising panic I reflect on the procedure – of the doctor inserting the needle through my stomach and into my baby’s home, right near his tiny foot (an amniocentisis). Fluid containing part of his biological make-up is drawn. As it fills the vial, I remember thinking that fluid contains the answers. That little vial of fluid at this point will determine what road I, my family and my new precious baby will travel. It’s the information that is contained in that fluid that I am sweating on right now.
I try to focus on the bits of positive information I've been given about my situation - 99% of these cases turn out fine; the doctor performing the procedure hasn’t had any losses and has an excellent reputation. As the doctor prepares herself - laying out all the equipment she will need, washing her hands thoroughly and putting on her surgical gown - I try to keep that positive focus. I dismiss thoughts that she might accidently hit the baby with the needle, that she might draw out an ‘unusable’ sample of fluid, that by merely having this procedure that little baby moving about on the ultrasound screen in front of you might be lost.
This isn’t how pregnancy is meant to be. It’s meant to be wafting around in flowing clothes eating anything you want guilt-free. Crying at anything a little sad or happy or…. anything really. It’s meant to be buying tiny clothes and stocking up on baby powder and newborn nappies when on sale, and about getting the nursery ready and just sitting in there imagining having a beautiful baby sleeping in the cot.
It’s not meant to be riding an emotional rollercoaster a week after seeing those much-awaited two lines on the pregnancy test. Feeling so ecstatically happy and then plummeting into despair when you go to the toilet one day and see red blood where it shouldn’t be. Pregnancy surely is not meant to be wondering when the bleeding will graduate to that excruciating lower abdominal pain the pamphlets say will be the next sign, and it’s not meant to be filled with so much anxiety that I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if tomorrow will be the day it will happen – the day I lose that precious little being.
And it’s not meant to be sitting by the phone 12 weeks later, after the initial problems have settled, waiting for news on this new bump in the road – whether my baby has a life-threatening condition about which, I have been advised, I might need to make a decision whether to “proceed with the pregnancy or not”. It’s surely not meant to be about ‘playing God’ and making a decision like that.
The 'phone rings and I answer. Upon hearing my doctor’s voice, my anxiety reaches its peak. This is it. I'm aware that whatever she says in the next few moments will be life changing. She tells me the results and the news is good. The relief is unbelievable. It even exceeds the heights of anxiety and stress I’ve been feeling these past two weeks.
As I sit quietly on the couch, awash with relief, I can’t help but wonder why my pregnancy has been so elatingly happy and so despairingly anxiety-ridden at the same time. Am I meant to learn something from it? Is it saying something about the strength of character of this baby - or of me? Is it serving to remind me of how precious and precarious life is? Or is it simply giving me a little advanced insight into motherhood - having a lifetime pass to ride that emotional rollercoaster?
Whatever the reason, it’s time to move forward now. Moving with the exhaustion of having just fought a mighty emotional battle, but forward none-the-less. I am acutely aware that the outcome could have gone either way and so I take those steps forward with gratitude that now I can be safe in the knowledge that everything with my baby is fine – at least until the next rollercoaster starts to pull out.