Pregnancy photo shoots or are they maternity shoots? Baby bump photos and cool maternity clothing are some of the things I regret not having to experience in any of my pregnancies. Pretty sure I have mentioned this somewhere before in a previous blog post. Now more than ever, I wish I had photographic evidence of being pregnant. In an attempt to organize my photos, I realised my entire pregnancy experience went undocumented. With the exception of one closeup photo of my final trimester with one of my pregnancies. And it is not a good photo. First, you can’t tell I am pregnant because it only shows my face. Secondly, I had such horrible hormonal acne that my face looked like the surface of the moon. Or what I imagine the surface of the moon looks like. The craters and bumps and melasma was not doing me any favors. Actually, when I came across it,I was tempted to participate in the pregnancy-will-humble-you challenge! Truth be told, it is a photo I am embarrassed to share publicly.
Normally, pregnancy is not a topic I would like to write about. It makes me uncomfortable and reminds me of a season in my life I was operating on autopilot. Present but very detached from my existence. It seems fate has other plans. Or maybe it is because of late, loss of pregnancy and loss of babies seems to be a recurring event in the lives of people close to me or people I know. The heaviness of these losses has had me mentally reliving my pregnancies and just wondering what if things turned out differently. It has also been a reminder of so many things I took for granted and the privilege of carrying my babies full term.
It is a privilege because carrying a baby to full term is not so obvious.And a healthy full term baby is truly a gift.
Nobody sets out on their pregnancy journey hoping for a negative outcome. Unfortunately, none of it is in your control.
Let’s start from the beginning. The road to conception. It sounds obvious, except that it is not. Sometimes conception can be as easy as wham bam thank you mom and soon enough a missed period and two red lines later , you are pregnant. Other times, it is countless visits to your OBGYN, tracking your menstrual cycle, keeping an ovulation calendar, watching your diet, exercising , drinking lots of water and scheduled sex. Doesn’t sound like an easy journey. Worse still when the doctor tells you to try and relax and not be anxious, it will happen when it happens. Hard to do when you have womb watchers in the form of neighbours, family and co-workers. When you are trying as hard as you can to conceive but the only reward you get is your period showing up month after month. The longer it takes, the more anxious you get making it harder and harder to get pregnant. Then society does this thing where they blame the person with the womb for their inability to conceive. How conveniently they forget that it takes two to tango.
Worse still, if your partner refuses to walk this journey with you and blames you for your ‘inadequacies’.For the people struggling to conceive, I see you.
Then the miracle happens and you do fall pregnant! One hurdle down, several more to go. The biggest thing is keeping this baby alive for the next 40 weeks before you get to meet them in person. There’s only so much you can do. Keeping doctors appointments, taking your supplements, resting when you need it and listening to cues from your body. Still, no guarantee that the baby will make it.
I remember a very specific incident with one of my pregnancies. I was about 22-23 weeks into my pregnancy. Usually by this time in the pregnancy you experience flutter kicks or very active kicks depending on how busy your baby is. Kicks in pregnancy are one of the tell tale signs that the baby is still alive. Nothing prepares you for the moment you first feel the baby kick from the inside. It is such a trip! Weirdly satisfying too. Anyway, it had been maybe 3 days since I last felt the baby kick. By day 4 panic had set in and I took myself for an ultrasound. The baby had other plans. Several litres of water and soda drinking still nothing. Oh! Your bladder has to be full during the ultrasound so that the radiologist does not confuse it for your uterus. Don’t take my word for it, please just google why. It took the radiologist and doctor physically manipulating my belly (very uncomfortable exercise), for the baby to eventually move. The two to three hours of drinking floods and just waiting seemed endless. Panic had set in. I could not imagine losing the life of a child I was yet to meet. Already there was an attachment and I was not ready to let go. And you don’t need to feel the kicks to form a connection to your baby. In my case, it happened immediately my pregnancy results came back positive. For the parents who have suffered a miscarriage, I see you.
The chances of survival for a preterm baby have a higher percentage if the child is born closer to their due date. Medically speaking,a child born at 24 weeks could survive, if their lungs have developed enough and with proper medical care. A slim chance, but a chance nonetheless. Twice, I have found myself in the NICU. It is heartbreaking to see such a tiny human with all these tubes living their body, fighting to survive. They can barely comprehend the world around them and yet their first experience at doing life is marred with the discomfort of poking and prodding. And that is not the saddest part. Observing the pain a parent of a preterm baby experiences is heartbreaking. The feeling of helplessness. The guilt of not being able to do more to protect or even save our child. Relying solely on the gift of time and medical miracles. For the parents whose babies are holding onto dear life, I see you.
By the time I got into my final trimester, I was ready to give birth. Week 37 to week 39 were the hardest for me. No sleeping position felt right or comfortable. Acidity and heartburn was the order of the day. I gave up on seeing my toes. If anything dropped to the ground, it was staying there, unless someone volunteered to pick it up for me. Was I terrified of labour? Definitely! But it also signified the end of pregnancy! Labour is painful. I’m not going to lie. It felt like I was losing my mind just from the sheer pain of it. The only light at the end of the tunnel was that I got to meet my baby. Labour is unpredictable. It can happen quickly or it can take hours. The worst thing about laboring is that you can’t rush the process. You can aid it physically or medically, but you can’t rush it. So you just have to go through it. And when it is time to get the baby out, trust me, you will know. That moment when you give your last push followed by the sense of relief and release and you know the baby is out of your body, half the battle has been won. You would think that now is the time to breathe a sigh of relief, right? Wrong! You keep holding your breath till you hear your baby cry. The first sound that your child will ever make. That cry signifies life!
What happens if that cry never comes? For those who have lost their babies at birth, I see you.
The loss of a baby can consume you. It makes no sense. It hurts so much. Experiencing this loss as a bystander has been overwhelming, I can’t even begin to imagine what the parents must be feeling. And with each loss, it has been a stark reminder to not take for granted the little humans in my life. It has been a reminder of the sanctity of life. And how no one has control over the gift of making a life. You can’t dictate when it happens, you can’t predict the outcome and you most definitely cannot control the process.