Once the shock of finding out we were going to have a baby had worn off a little. We took ourselves back home and spent a little time together, just the ‘three’ of us. Matt and I soon found ourselves laughing and joking, we really had got ourselves into a bit of a pickle but it was clear that we were going to have huge amounts of support and that kept us sane. It wasn’t long before we were guessing what gender the baby might be, (Matt was team boy and I was steering slightly more towards team girl) and hoping to God it had Matt’s metabolism and my nose.
We were having such incredible amounts of fun dreaming about our future family that of course this happiness could only last so long. Mid giggling sentence where I was picturing a chubby brunette baby called Gary… I stopped. I felt like I had been punched in the heart with an iron fist, I could not breathe. Images from the past six months starting flickering in front of my eyes like a dodgy vintage film. I saw myself pouring out gin and tonics, sipping on gin and tonics, downing gin and tonics. Rolling cigarettes, lighting cigarettes, smoking cigarettes. Night after night and day after day shoved themselves in front of my retinas and irides. The corners of my eyes started to burn white hot as I was battling with these images, I was trying desperately to look in different directions in an attempt to throw the visions away from myself but nothing worked. They piled themselves on top of the other as though they were forming a montage of ‘The Great Piss Up of 2016’.
The physical feeling that came with the video reel of my hostile activities over the past six months was near indescribable. Don’t get me wrong I have been a silly billy before and done my fair share of misbehaving. I wasn’t a stranger to feelings of guilt but this was something else. Sharp stinging water droplets appeared at the bottom of my eyelids, my skin burned bright red, my bones froze and all the joints locked in place. Stomach acid started making its way back up my gullet and all sensation in my extremities disappeared. I moved outside of my body and looked down on the girl below, I was disgusted by her. I could feel myself starting to scream and crumble down to the floor, I was on my hands and knees and dribble, snot and tears were falling onto the ground. I was doing all I could to stop myself from being sick. After falling in love so damn fast I had become heartbroken just as quickly.
What had I done? How dare I be happy about the prospect of having a baby when I had no idea how much damage I could have caused. The scan hadn’t thrown anything up but it also hadn’t shown us everything. There were parts of the baby we couldn’t see and besides, problems don’t often show up until after a child is born. Selfishly I felt that I had allowed the prospect of bringing up a healthy baby into my mind but not one of a disabled child. I felt that I had already had to deal with too much and that by no means was I prepared to nurture that was anything other than ‘normal’. Especially if I was the cause of any abnormalities. If my baby were to be born disabled it would have been my fault and that wasn’t something I could live with, I would never be able to forgive myself.
I turned my head to the side and looked at Matt who clearly thought he was privilege to some kind of exorcism and said, “But what about all the drinking and smoking. Our baby is going to be disabled.”
He stared at me clearly not quite comprehending what I had just said and then it dawned on him, he seemed to have just witnessed the same film that had flashed before my eyes. “But the scan lady said everything was okay.”
“Not everything Matthew.” I grabbed the pages of the scan documents, “see she couldn’t count for everything and it was too late to see a lot of things, plus I don’t think these show cognitive development or ability.” I stared at him so hard I think for a second I may have even looked through him, I don’t know why I was challenging him with these questions, he knew no more than I did. He quite possibly knew even less, at least my addiction to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘House’ put me at a slight advantage. Unfortunately at this point it was quite late at night and there was absolutely nothing we could do to ease our minds. Except we could turn to Dr. Google. I’m sure that everyone who has ever had a nasty symptom show up has turned to Dr. Google knowing that it is exactly what you shouldn’t do. It always tells you that you are iller than you are and diagnoses you with either cancer or pregnancy, irrespective of your gender. It was my only option though so I turned to it, I started tapping away trying to find out exactly what the effects were from smoking and drinking during pregnancy. As Dr. G does it never throws up anything reassuring, in a nutshell it told me my baby would be born with FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), which presents itself in many different ways and that I was at a severe risk of miscarriage and still birth. I don’t know how long I sat there for trawling through the internet trying to get an answer, specific to my case that would tell me what damage I had or hadn’t caused. Hours and hours went by and I read on and on, I think we ate some dinner and watched some TV, we certainly went to bed and I was still on my phone desperately searching for some reassurance. But none came. That night culminated in several more break downs, a serious lack of sleep and eventually with my phone being confiscated as Matt had found me at 5am hanging off the bed holding my phone underneath it trying to read some more.
As the days and weeks went on it was all I could think of, I had met with my community midwife the very next day who had sniffed at my concern. Told me I was incredible for giving up as soon as I had found out and that she knew of many women who were addicted to substances such as heroin and crack cocaine who knew they were pregnant and still didn’t bother stopping. All of them had given birth to perfectly healthy babies. I didn’t find myself caring much for what she said, those babies were their babies. This one was mine, and I had to find out what was what. Eventually she conceded and referred me to an obstetric consultant at the hospital who would hopefully be able to tell me more and put my mind at ease.
My obsession grew and grew and I don’t think I can fully explain how testing it was for me, I couldn’t make myself be happy about the baby. I wasn’t happy and it was having a negative effect on everything. Every conversation I had was brought back to it, whenever anyone became too excited about the baby I would immediately throw in a comment that would shut them up. I had huge rows with both my parents, Matthew and I were as far apart as we had ever been and I spent a lot of my time on various floors sobbing, picking up my phone to frantically google, sobbing at something I’d seen and repeating this ritual. If I hadn’t already done damage to our unborn child he or she would certainly miscarry or be still born. Most people who I had explained my situation to had told me that this baby was clearly a miracle baby and was meant to be. No, it was too good. Karma is a bitch and it was going to come and get me.
Every move I made in those three months of pregnancy were to benefit the baby, I started shoving my mouth full of every vitamin and supplement I could find. I drove like an 89-year-old grandma and shouted ‘there’s three of us now!’ to Matthew every time he went over the speed limit. I kept a photo of Wriggler on my desk as work and took it everywhere I went not through pride but so I could examine it for abnormalities whenever I wanted. My shoes became very flat and going down flights of stairs took considerable time, I even started abiding by those ridiculous rules of what one can and cannot eat when pregnant. I needed to be in control to such an extent that I immediately bought a diary and started jotting down my every move and appointment. I had turned into the kind of pregnant lady I dislike, a maniac.
I struggled immensely for a good many weeks after this, I couldn’t sleep in my old flat anymore and had to be as close to Matt as possible and sometimes even stayed with my parents to ensure that I wasn’t to be left alone. I struggled seeing other people’s happiness and slept fitfully with many a nightmare. I collated as much evidence as I could and dealt with streams of abuse from those on ‘Netmums’ and ‘Mumsnet’ because I hadn’t given up booze one whole year before getting pregnant, overdosed on folic acid and had definitely eaten brie. I knew I would be entering the world as an incredibly imperfect Mum and there didn’t seem to be a place for me. Where were they all? Hiding in the shadows too ashamed to admit to what they had done, berated by those perfect women who find their man, get married, plan for years and are aware of the moment of conception just as the sperm and egg meet. I felt angry and humiliated, there was support for those women who had had one cocktail *gasp* the night they’d got pregnant and the troops rallied round for them, but nothing for women and girls like me who had simply made a mistake or who’s bodies had betrayed them and thrown them off course. I thought I had left cliques behind the day I walked out of secondary school but I had not, I was forced to suffer in silence and do time for my crimes with little to no support. I attended an antenatal class and when asked to reveal one interesting fact about myself I boldly declared that I had found out about bubs at six months only to be met with shrieks and giggles from women who were at least ten years older than me. It was a pretty rough time.
I also vowed to speak out and let you ladies in similar situations know that you are not alone, you have a friend and here I am. I will not judge.
I continued to lose my mind pretty much right up until the end, when maybe a month before Matthew calmly informed me that all my ranting and raving was only going to ‘stress the baby’ and from then on I calmed down slightly. Prepared for whatever battle I may face. And whilst this was all going on I thought back to when the words ‘3 weeks’ had popped up on the pregnancy test and I had thought to myself that at least an abortion would be easy. Reliving that moment has always made me feel queasy even to this day. Realising that I wouldn’t have been able to turn to my little Wriggler as he naps on the sofa grinning like a lunatic in he sleep. He wouldn’t exist. I had been in a peculiar position where if we had discovered the baby at an early stage we wouldn’t be having one at all. What I had to deal with was that the only way I could have this baby was to have been unaware of its existence and lived life as I had and find out when it was too late and the decision had been made. I felt so blessed to be having my Wriggler yet so cursed by the circumstance. The truth still stood however, if I had known about my baby beforehand. There wouldn’t be a baby at all.
P.S If you happen to read this and have had similar or relatable experiences to mine and need someone to talk to or share things with please do not hesitate to contact me. Alternatively if you would like to use my platform to post anonymously I would gladly make way for any writing you have.