Bleeding in Early Pregnancy

I wrote the text below on the morning of my reassurance scan after I started bleeding when I was eight weeks pregnant. I wasn’t sure if I should share it. I didn’t write it for the blog. I wrote it on my phone to keep my mind busy and to kill some time as I agonisingly waited in the Early Pregnancy Unit waiting room at the hospital. I was trying to make some sense of my emotions, and trying to gain control of a situation that felt like it was spiralling away from me.

Having read this back after the scan, where I had the incredible gift of seeing that little heartbeat flutter on the screen, I thought it might be useful to share how I was feeling. So many women have been in my situation where they experience a bleed in early pregnancy. And many, many women don’t get the opportunity to ever meet that baby. A bleed when you’re pregnant is one of the most terrifying things you can experience. Before you find out either way what is happening with your baby, that waiting time is dark, lonely and feels never-ending. If you’ve gone through this or you’re currently going through this, know that you’re not alone. Here’s what I was feeling…

 

Today I find out if my baby still has a heartbeat. Waiting to find out has been hard. I still feel pregnant. I want this baby so badly. But I bled quite heavily on the weekend and no matter how much I want this baby, there is a huge part of me that knows that when we get into that ultrasound room, there’s a very good chance I’m going to get the sympathetic look and a squeeze of the hand from the sonographer.

At seven weeks we had a scan and there was a heartbeat. A healthy, strong beat that I watched flicker and fizz on the screen. My baby was in there. It was alive.

I’m not ready to give up hope, and these last few days of limbo have given me that – the time to dare to believe that everything might be OK.

When I do think about the worst outcome, I’m overcome with grief. But in the next moment, I’m flooded with feelings of guilt. What could I have done differently? If I’d have just not had those drinks before I knew I was pregnant. If I hadn’t forgotten my prenatal supplement those few times. If I refused that one runny egg. I tear myself apart with all of the things that could have triggered the bleeding, even though I know that most of the time there’s nothing that can be done. I guess finding the reason, having something to pin all this on gives me back a tiny element of control in a situation that is so unbelievably and unfairly out of my hands.

I also find myself berating my feelings of sadness because in many ways I’m lucky. I have a healthy 22 month-old daughter. I’m only eight weeks along. Some women have it way worse – some women have never got as far as eight weeks into a pregnancy.

I’ve been dying for days to find out whether or not I’m still carrying the baby. And now the moment is almost here I don’t want to know. I just want to go on pretending everything is OK. I don’t want to know that the alternative might be my reality. I don’t know how I’m going to deal with that.

First Trimester Must-Haves:

Having finally come out the other side of the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, I’ve collated a list of a few essentials that made my life a whole lot easier.

  1. Kool N’ Soothe Migraine Patches

My biggest ailment in the first three months of pregnancy was the almost constant headaches and migraines. As my usual migraine meds are off the table now, I’ve been searching for anything to help ease the pain when a paracetamol doesn’t scratch the surface. These patches are quick and easy to whack on your forehead and do provide some temporary relief to a throbbing head. Nothing has come close to actually eliminating the pain, but these do help. Short of performing the medieval procedure of drilling a hole in my skull to alleviate the pressure, these will do until I pop the baby out.

  1. L’Occitane Relaxing Pillow Mist

One of the cruel ironies of early pregnancy is that although you spend most of the day like a semi-conscious walking cadaver, it can still be really tricky to get a good night’s sleep. I’ve found this essential oils pillow mist to be quite calming. It smells gorgeous which makes me relish getting my head down every night.

  1. FrezyDerm foam facewash

Hormones can be a cruel, cruel mistress when you’re pregnant and I’ve found I’m more prone to spots and break-outs than I usually am. As bad as it sounds I don’t normally use a facewash, but when your skin suddenly explodes with lumps and bumps, needs most definitely must! I’ve found this foam facewash by FrezyDerm to be just what I need to reduce redness and clear up blemishes quickly… and it smells great too!

  1. Benefit Boi-ing under-eye concealer

When your under-eye bags are darker than the pits of hell, you’re gonna need a concealer that won’t quit. This stuff by Benefit has been the best concealer I’ve come across. It’s not too heavy so it doesn’t sit in my wrinkles and it’s brilliantly brightening. Essential when you’ve clocked 10 hours sleep over the course of three days.

  1. Decaf Yorkshire Tea

Yorkshire Tea is the best tea on the market hands-down, and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees with me. Cutting back on caffeine has been brutal over the past few months, but the fact that this decaffeinated blend tastes almost as good as the real McCoy has meant I can still enjoy a brew after dinner like the 60 year old that I am.

  1. ‘Bedside table’ Doritos

As much as it would annoy my husband to hear me crunch through a few tortilla chips in the middle of the night, I found this was the best way to keep the middle-of-the-night queasiness at bay. They’re plain enough not to upset my stomach more, and they’re substantial enough to fill me up and stop the nausea. Plus who doesn’t love the excuse of 24-hour snacking on crisps?

  1. Pregnacare

Because salty chips have been my ‘plat-du-jour’ for the last three months, I’ve been taking a multi-vit every evening to make up for the astounding lack of nutrients elsewhere in my diet. It’s not a substitute for proper fruit and veg, but when you’d rather pull your eyelashes out than force-feed yourself some broccoli in those early days of pregnancy, a pill of relative nutrients becomes essential. I bought mine on Amazon as they were generally cheaper than in the supermarkets or pharmacies.

  1. Grey’s Anatomy box sets

Me-time and self-care is so hugely important when you’re expecting, especially if you’re a busy person or you already have little kids to look after. Whatever it is that helps to centre you – whether it’s a pamper sesh, meditation, or like me, TV and sofa time – you need to make an effort to ensure you do this from time to time to keep your sanity. Nothing makes me forget about my anxiety more than an hour of McDreamy. I’d let him give me a thorough examination any day of the week!

From luscious-locks to bonkers baby-hair. Pregnancy does some crazy things to your barnet

Everyone knows pregnancy and birth does some weird and wonderful things to your body. For example, I had a real problem with excess saliva and dribbling when I was pregnant (I bet Beyoncé isn’t a pregnant dribbling mess). And when it comes to pregnancy hair growth, mother nature seems to give with one hand and take with the other.

Around four months into my pregnancy, my hair felt glossier and thicker. It took all my restraint not to flick my hair at strangers whilst saying ‘because we’re worth it’ in a Geordie accent like Cheryl.

Cruelly enough though, the pregnancy didn’t just effect the hair growth on my bonce. I was a bridesmaid for one of my best friends when I was six months pregnant. I was already feeling self-conscious about looking like a sea-cow in my bridesmaids dress, but when I was getting my make-up done, the girl frowned and said to me, ‘do you mind if I just tweeze out that long hair on your chin?’ I could have died of embarrassment. I’d never had a chin-hair in my life, and I had no idea it was there. For some bizarre reason the baby hormones had surged in one direction through my body, pushing a grotesque, straggly hair out of the bottom of my chin. I was the bearded bridesmaid. We tweezed, moved on, but the humiliation of the moment never left me.

I spent the rest of my pregnancy meticulously checking my face for follicle intruders and tweezing from places I had never anticipated; my ear lobe, my neck, and from my widow’s peak that seemed to be traveling down my forehead to hang out with my eyebrows.

By the time I gave birth, I was rocking a full-on Frida Kahlo brow, and a hairline like Eddie Munster. It’s probably a good thing that babies’ sight is poor at birth, otherwise my daughter might have taken one look at me and crawled back into my uterus.

And the hairy fun didn’t stop there. Roughly eight weeks after birth, I started shedding like an Alaskan Malamute in the desert. Huge, terrifying clumps of hair would come out in the shower and patches of bare skin appeared on my scalp. Tying my hair up was a total no-go as the patches were so visible, so the days where I didn’t have time to wash my hair became my designated ‘hat or stay indoors’ days.

Luckily the hair-loss slowed, and it was replaced with strange, unsightly re-growth hair. My hairline started to travel further and further forwards around my head, around my ears, down my neck, and lower on my forehead. Now, with a mini-fringe that runs all the way around my hairline, I’m one facial Immac session away from being a Wookie.

I naively thought my pregnancy would turn me into Rapunzel, but instead it turned me into Sideburns Lady from The Wedding Singer. But with extra dribble.

The Pramshed

Top five things you should NEVER say to a new mum about her appearance

When your stomach has the consistency of a kangaroo’s pouch without the joey inside, you can undoubtedly feel insecure about your appearance. As a new mum, the last thing you want is for people to draw attention to how you look, but for some reason people feel compelled to comment on what having a baby has done to your physical appearance. It’s as if they think that by ignoring the elephant in the room, they’re suggesting that YOU are the elephant in the room. Even when they think they’re being kind, these comments can often make you feel more self-conscious about the fact you’ve just pushed half a stone of human being out of your privates.

So with that in mind, here are the top five things you should NEVER say to a hormonal and self-conscious new mum about her appearance:

  1. ‘You look…well’. Ha! Well fat you mean. You might as well have called me ‘jolly’ or ‘bubbly’. You don’t need to be Alan Turing to work out these comments are in fact code-word for ‘fat’.
  2. ‘That dress is so flattering on you’. Unless you are Gok Wan, I don’t want a critique of how I’m looking, especially if it implies I look like a netted ham in everything else you’ve seen me wear recently.
  3. ‘It’s ridiculous all this pressure some new mums put on themselves to lose the baby weight, isn’t it?’ When people say this they’re generally trying to be supportive of you by being critical of a social trend. But to a post-natal mum, they might as well have just said, ‘Jesus! You really did a Kelly Clarkson after you dropped that sprog, didn’t you?!? You’re not eating for two anymore, love!’
  4. ‘Have you lost weight?’ Unless it’s blindingly obvious that a new mum has morphed from Monstro the whale into a skin-covered clothes horse – in which case they may need some help – you should only use the word ‘weight’ if it refers to the baby. Or maybe a boxing match. End of.
  5. ‘You look tired’. Well duh. This comment is usually reciprocated by a slap to the face, so steer clear.

The only thing worse than any of the above are the four words that all new mums dread when they venture out without the baby for the first time, and they are; ‘when’s the baby due?’ Ouch. It’s the verbal equivalent of a rusty dagger to the eyeball. If in any doubt of what to say, the only really safe and acceptable comment to make to a new mum is that having a baby has done all sorts of amazing and wonderful things to their tits. And that’s literally it.

Why I wouldn’t have survived without my Mumates

It seems crazy that a group you’ve only known for a year can be the people you confide in and expose your rawest emotions to. But when you’re in the trenches together as new mums, an inevitable bond develops. It’s stronger than any other type of friendship you’ve had before, and it can pull you through even the darkest of days. And it’s because of this I thank my lucky stars for my ‘Mumates’.

As a new mum, it can be a terrifying prospect to leave the house with a newborn. In my case, I wouldn’t even open the curtains for the first three days. The outside world seemed like a terrifying place. I was barely holding it together and the thought of someone glimpsing in to my life and seeing how much of a mess I was made a lump swell in my throat.

It wasn’t until I saw how worried my husband and my mum were about me that I finally took the plunge and ventured out into the big bad world, but more specifically, to a post-natal breastfeeding clinic.

My hair was lank and in dire need of a wash, my nursing bra was unclipped at one side to accommodate my inexplicably one engorged breast and I’m pretty sure my mattress of a maternity pad was visible even through my thick jeans and long padded coat. I opened the door and almost instantly a wave of relief hit me. We all look like shit! Hurray! We’re all terrified out of our wits! Woohoo! That girl over there is crying! Hallelujah! Now I’m not one to revel in someone else’s misfortune, but hell I’ll revel in our collective misfortune all day!

A few cups of tea in, and I felt more like my old self than I had in weeks. Maybe it’s an extension of the maternal instinct but they all went out of their way to make me feel human again.

Mumates just get it. They’re going through it too, and they’re just as shit-scared and lost as you are. There is no greater feeling as a new mum than to be able to come to the realisation that you aren’t alone, and that someone else has also sat on the stairs and cried at least three times today too.

Just knowing someone is feeling the way you are feeling is a huge comfort. They don’t give you any answers most of the time, because they don’t know the answer themselves, but by simply sharing your experiences with someone who’s going through it too, being a new mum can seem like less of a daunting and lonely place.

In the first few hours of our new-found friendship, we had already seen each other at our most vulnerable. For me that was sobbing in a chair as a breastfeeding councillor rhythmically squeezed my breast to stimulate milk whilst my new Mumates sat with me and chatted as if we were getting our nails done and what was happening was the most normal thing on Earth. Once someone has witnessed something as surreally messed-up as that, you’re pretty much going to have to be best friends for life, or vow to never see each other ever again.

Luckily, we collectively agreed on the former, and we saw each other nearly every day of maternity leave. We have laughed together, we have cried together, we have talked about our ‘battle-scars’ (mainly tearing and episiotomy-related) and after a few months of getting used to being mums we finally solidified our friendship by getting drunk together too.

These women are warriors. I adore them. Having known them for little over a year, they still manage to inspire me every day. They juggle jobs, babies, older children, sleep deprivation, chronic illnesses, marriages, separation – all with such strength and determination. They are a constant source of comfort and support to me and I honestly wouldn’t have made it through this last 12 months without them.

I would urge anyone who’s a new mum to take that daunting first step outside and visit a local mother & toddler session / clinic / baby class. Odds-on however scared and shitty you’re feeling, someone near you is feeling exactly the same way, and they’re just as desperate to rant to someone about how hard they’re finding everything.

And for those about to have a baby, make sure you to join at least one pre-natal class. Joining NCT and attending the NHS pre-natal workshops was hands-down the best decision I made. I was able to meet a group of girls that I love so dearly, I will forever be in their debt for the support and love they have shown me, and trite as it might sound, I know we’ll be friends forever.

Breastfeeding: Milky misery or lactose loveliness?

I love breastfeeding my baby. She’s 13 months old and we’re still going. It’s easily the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I’m lucky enough that she still relishes feeds; her little eyes rolling back into her skull after her final gulp, like a tiny drug addict. That sweet, sweet hit of lactose.

Let me assure you now though, that this isn’t simply another rosy ‘pro-wabs’ post. All this symbiotic mushy stuff came at a huge price to both of us. I’ve been to the brink of depression with it, I’ve experienced physical pain that in all honesty far eclipsed the birth, and worst of all it nearly cost us being able to bond at all in those precious first few months.

‘Why the frig did you do it then?’, I hear you cry. Fair point. I’m not sure I’ll ever really understand my motives for carrying on back in those early days. It was such a haze of surging hormones, lack of sleep and utter shellshock. But I guess I felt that by stopping I would have failed at the one thing every woman is supposed to be able to naturally do.

All the pre-natal classes I went to, everything I’d read before, all those beautiful pictures of naked women breastfeeding their cherubic, doe-eyed babies, it all made breastfeeding seem as natural as breathing. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that this was absolutely what I was going to do.

When it came down to it though, it just wasn’t working. We’d been doing it as a species since the dawn of our existence, I thought, so why the fuck was muggins here having such a hard time of it? Essentially, I felt like I’d ‘failed’ at being a ‘natural’ mother.

Of course I now know that’s all bollocks. Not feeding a baby breastmilk isn’t failing. It’s not even conceding. I’ve fed my baby formula plenty of times in the last 12 months and it’s a successful alternative for tons of women.

What I do feel is a real tragedy is that we are constantly bombarded with the ‘breast is best’ mantra, and yet there is often little or no consistent support past that.

Personally, I came across some wonderful individuals in the NHS who tried their best to help, but there never seemed to be any overarching strategy for post-hospital support, and little understanding of how to help when thing were REALLY going wrong. We’ve been told time and again how breastfeeding reduces the strain on the NHS and how all mothers need to do it. Yet they fail at every turn to facilitate educating women on how to breastfeed, how to deal with the NUMEROUS painful side-effects and how to emotionally support these broken, tired new mums that feel like failures because it isn’t working for them.

The truth is (and they never tell you this in pre-natal classes), breastfeeding is fucking hard. And that’s why so many people stop doing it. It isn’t because people are lazy, it isn’t because people are ignorant or selfish. It’s often because people go into it with the expectation it will simply ‘click’, and it’s a shock to the core when it goes wrong.

In all my travels, out of the hundreds of new mums I’ve met since having a baby, only a handful have found it a piece of piss. Those lucky bitches.

In all honesty, I’ve never known pain like that of trying to latch on an uncooperative baby to nipples so raw and tender you could cover them in rice and serve them up as sushi. By day three after giving birth, when I saw the baby’s ravenous mouth coming towards my cracked, bleeding nipples, it was as if a buzz saw was about to make a valiant attempt at breastfeeding from me.

The worst bit wasn’t the pain though, it was the dread of the pain. The dread that consumed me and made me fear the baby, and fear the pain that she caused me. It hurt to bend over and tie up my shoes, it hurt to lay on my side in bed, it hurt to put on a seatbelt, it hurt to unload the dishwasher, and worst of all it hurt to pick her up and hold her against me. I resented her. I felt guilty to the point of depression for resenting her. This was supposed to be easy. They all said it would be easy. Where is my doe-eyed, tranquil baby that’s supposed to lap gently at my breast like in all those bloody pictures? Why couldn’t she just do it properly?

The poor baby, try as she might to sustain herself from the trickle of milk she was able to squeeze out, was not gaining any weight, and a return to hospital was almost on the cards.

In those first nine agonising weeks I had managed to rack up a bevy of glamorous ailments including blocked ducts, mastitis, a bacterial infection and the little-known condition, called what-the-fuck-is-happening-to-my-nipples-they-feel-like-they-are-being-Jack-Bauer-style-tourtured. All of this before the baby was FINALLY diagnosed with a tongue-tie and we were able to have it corrected, and that was only because I paid a private specialist to examine her and me as a last resort. (I’ll do another post on tongue-tie in particular down the line.)

In the weeks following the procedure, feeds finally became quicker and more importantly she finally started gaining weight. The damage was so severe it took a good few weeks for the pain to subside, but after helping Pfizer stocks soar with the amount of painkillers I was taking, at around 12 weeks in, I finally started to enjoy breastfeeding. And we finally started to bond. Thank fucking Christ.

And from there things just got better. After all that agony and upset I was finally able to hold her close and let the love course through me as she fed, snuggled up next to me in bed. And she seemed to enjoy it more too, now that she could finally get her fil. I’ll tell you there is no stranger, more amusing sight than being motor-boated in the cleavage by a six-month old baby. Weird, lovely baby.

I can’t help but wonder how different it would have been for us in those early days if her tongue tie had been spotted in the hospital when she was born. We’ve been lucky that it so far hasn’t caused any long-term issues. But when I think back to the pain, and the feeling of helplessness that I couldn’t give my baby what she wanted, it’s frustrating to think that all could have been avoided, and probably could have been avoided for many, many women in the same position, if only the right support had been put in place.

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