I had my final embryo transfer on April Fools Day 2015. It was the last frozen embryo in storage - and my last chance at motherhood. I felt too crushed by 8 years of trying to conceive to even consider trying again when this failed (I was convinced it would) and there was a kind of peace in that decision. It had taken too much, and defined almost a decade. A positive result on my birthday 9 days later was cautiously welcomed, but when I bled a week later I felt truly bereft. What kind of awful, cosmic April Fool was being played out?!
The bleed so early meant I couldn't know for sure if I had miscarried so I had to wait for two weeks for a scan. Then another week as that scan wasn't entirely conclusive. Then another scan a looooong 3 weeks later. Every cramp, every toilet visit, was a breath held. By this time, even though the the news was good I really didn't believe it. In fact I carried a level of that anxiety well into the pregnancy.
At the 20 week scan we have this picture, our baby giving us the universal 'it's ok' and with this 'sign' I exhaled a little. This was the point at which I started to believe this pregnancy might not be an April Fool after all but a reality. But you know, until we hit 28 weeks I still carried the fear of something happening; I counted off the weeks until a healthy, viable delivery - even if early - was possible.
I wanted to share this story because over the last decade I have worked with hundreds of women and couples who are trying to conceive and for some women the anxiety at the point of a positive test really starts to ramp up to what can feel like an unmanageable or overwhelming level. They may have previously suffered miscarriage or baby loss. They may have had close friends who went through these losses and so they are on their radar, adding to their prone-to-anxiety thoughts. They are basically waiting for the shoe to drop, for their worst fear to become reality. They are waiting for the prankster to jump out of the bushes and shout 'April Fool'.
According to Tommys, 1 in 10 women suffer anxiety and panic attacks in pregnancy.
Managing fear and anxiety around pregnancy takes a lot of energy.
So how do you do it?
Acupuncture can be a great way to help (of course I would say that but honestly it's true). CBT, meditation or mindfulness practices daily, prayer, exercise, walking, eating well, these are all things that can help.
Talking to someone you trust. Therapy even, especially after baby loss.
Minimise other stresses or areas of stress in your life if you are able to, because if that bucket is being filled up with a lot of other stuff too then you are really going to struggle to maintain your equilibrium.
Step away from the internet and stop googling every bad thought. You inevitably end down a rabbit hole of awful outcomes because people who go through terrible things are compelled to share that experience as a way of processing it.
Book an early viability scan (no earlier than 7 weeks) if you can afford to and if it will help.
Above all, don't give yourself a hard time about the fact you are anxious and not enjoying a longed for pregnancy. You are not alone in this feeling; there are so many women walking around with babies who held their breath for 9 months.
Finally, trust your intuition. If you really feel that something is wrong, go to the Early Pregnancy Unit or speak to your midwife. Our intuition puts us in touch with the unconscious part of ourself that we should never ignore. Trust your instincts.
“Women observe subconsciously a thousand little details, without knowing that they are doing so. Their subconscious mind adds these little things together – and they call the result intuition.”- Agatha Christie
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