“You’re six months pregnant love” Pt.1. 

The road to finding out I was pregnant was decidedly bumpy with several pit stops. Yet somehow it all blurs into one whenever I think about it. I’ve had many a moment when I felt like I was unable to comprehend it all and therefore felt like a failure. Luckily, during these moments my mother holds my hand and kindly explains that what I have been through is borderline traumatic and most women would be found rocking in a corner by now.

As I have previously mentioned, my treatment for PCOS continued, my weight stayed the same and things were looking bleak. I returned to the GP with one last attempt at begging him to do something to help me out, my periods had now stopped and I was experiencing abdominal and pelvic pain. Not to mention I was becoming increasingly anxious about every day things, driving to work was awful and whilst falling asleep I would picture myself toppling down the stairs to my death, usually naked. I was really struggling. I’m sure you spotted just then when I said my periods had stopped and thought AH HA, why didn’t the silly cow take a test? I did take a test, as soon as I skipped the first period I whipped out the ol’ Clearblue and the words not pregnant looked back at me. I wasn’t with child.

Besides, at each appointment with the GP, he happily put everything I was experiencing down to PCOS. No period? PCOS. Abdominal pain? PCOS. Weight issues? PCOS. Mental instability? PCOS. The list goes on.

One thing was happening however, the GP was starting to listen to me, or so I thought. The harsh reality is that he never listened to me. Otherwise he may have suggested I do a blood test and none of this would have happened. I’d also have bugger all to write about -so swings and roundabouts. Anyway, it seemed like he was listening to me. He prescribed me Metformin to try and bring my periods back, gave me some sleepy loony pills and referred me to a consultant at the hospital who would tell me why my ovaries were rebelling.

I booked my appointment at the hospital and the nearest one wasn’t until January, I had three months to wait. And three months I did wait. I waited so very patiently for all that time, that any further symptoms were put down to polycystic ovaries and mostly ignored. There was one particular symptom though that desperately unnerved me, not too long before I was due at the hospital I started to feel a funny pulsating feeling on the left side of my lower abdomen, right at the bottom. It didn’t happen all the time but it certainly was peculiar, this fluttering bothered me so much that at my next appointment with Dr. Denial I brought it up. His explaination? PCOS. Apparently, one can grow a cyst so large that it creates its own vascular system and what I was feeling was the blood pumping round it. Such a large cyst that it’s now taking up a baby sized amount of space as it snores in its pram next to me…

So I think you hopefully have the gist. How did I not notice? PCOS, and a slightly crap GP.

The day of my hospital appointment arrived and I was incredibly nervous yet excited. I was finally going to find out what on earth was going on and get fixed! Hurrah. The appointment occurred two hours after it’s scheduled time in true NHS fashion and was actually rather disappointing. Turns out, my GP hadn’t ever really written notes about my experiences and therefore the consultant was forced to get me to start from the beginning and waste a serious amount of time. One thing she did want from me was a blood test, to check many things but mostly my hormone levels. See if this cyst issue was presenting itself clearly in my blood. So my mum and I scooted over to the blood lady, she took three vials of the stuff and we went home, feeling slightly deflated but at least we were on the right track.

A day passed and I found myself sitting at work, typing away and my phone rang. Odd number, I didn’t answer it. If it was important they’d leave me a voicemail. They left me a voicemail – multitasking my way through I checked this message. Phone half to my ear a lady explained that she was calling from the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford on the behalf of my consultant and she needed to discuss my blood test. It wasn’t urgent, but could I give her a call back.

CANCER. That was it, I definitely had cancer, and I was going to die so fat that no one would be able to lift the coffin and I’d have to be brought in on one of those things they use for lifting boxes in a warehouse. But it wasn’t urgent? Cancer is pretty urgent right?

I called the number and the lovely lady answered the phone.

“Ah hello Catherine, thank you for calling me back. I needed to speak to you because the pregnancy hormone hCG has presented in your blood and we require a test from you.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand?”

“There’s a hormone that has shown up in your blood. We need you to buy a test and call us back with the results. Don’t worry too much, if it’s negative it means one thing and well if it’s positive that means another.”

I put the phone down and turned to my colleague next to me, she’d clearly heard the tone of the call and looked at me in rather a concerned way. I burst into tears. There was no way I could be pregnant! My GP had told me I was near enough infertile, I’d joked about adopting 400 dogs and living a life parent evening free. My fresh and carefully put together personal development plan for that year was sitting next to me on the desk waiting for my manager’s sign off. I WAS going to lose the weight and I DID have a huge cyst and no, this wasn’t real. Still in incredible denial at this point, I did a quick google, realised that cysts can show up as false positives on pregnancy tests and told myself to wait until the end of the day. Grab a test and go home. Luckily, my even more concerned at this point colleague shoved me in her car, took me to boots and forced me to buy a test and go home early. Dawdling as much as I could, I texted my boyfriend telling him I had finished early and was coming to see him.

Horizontal. Horizontal is the word I choose to use to describe my boyfriend. If he had sent me a text saying he was leaving work early and coming straight to mine because we needed a chat I would probably have wet myself and attempted to meet him midway on the central reservation of the dual carriageway to ensure we could discuss whatever it was as soon as possible. Luckily, this guy was half asleep after a night shift and just replied with an ‘okay, see you soon’.

Opening the back door to his flat, there he was, rubbing his eyes in his dressing gown looking super sleepy and rather bemused. I burst in. Immediately explaining everything that had happened and that I needed to take a test and that I could be pregnant but I also might not be and do we even have enough sex really and I’m on the pill so it’s all okay and obviously we have options so don’t freak out I will sort this. I don’t think I got so much as a blink in response, he hadn’t even listened. My only option was to bellow at him in a rather uncouth way “I MIGHT BE PREGNANT”, and then he sat up.

Another thing my boyfriend is really good at is not reacting precisely when one needs a response. So I scuttled into the bathroom, I peed on the first stick of this super high tech pregnancy kit and waited three minutes. It was inconclusive. Fab. I don’t think it quite needed the pressure jet I had supplied it with. Re-reading the instructions I saw that you can actually dip the test in the wee to produce a result. Innovative as I am, I slurped a few gallons of water and found myself one of those little GU pudding ramekins and had another go in that. Matt had woken up a little more by then and this time came with me into the loo and waited for three minutes next to the test whilst I drip dried with anticipation. Something flashed up, his face didn’t change. “Matt, what does it say”. Nothing. “Matthew what the hell does that thing in front of you say!”… he just kept staring. Panicking I launched myself off the loo and whilst in midair his little voice found its way out with “Pregnant, it says pregnant”. A further minute or so and it clarified that I was only 3 weeks gone. Fine.

We looked at each other, I had never seen his eyes look so big and his skin so pale. He was petrified, I grabbed him and pulled him as close as I could. It would be fine, we weren’t ready for a baby. We were allergic! And anyway the test said three weeks, three weeks is rectifiable. An abortion was entirely an option and most likely the route we would choose. We sat down together on the sofa and let it soak in. That’s when the funny fluttering started again… thinking back to a slightly happier time when I had joked “the baby’s kicking” referring to my pesky cysts my mind started reeling. Feeling my face go red I quickly and slyly googled ‘When do you start to feel a baby kick?’. And there it was.

‘Monitoring your baby’s movements. You’ll usually start feeling some movement between weeks 16 and 20 of your pregnancy, although it can sometimes be later than this. These movements may be felt as a kick, flutter, swish or roll’ said the NHS website. No, nonononono. I could not possibly be THAT pregnant, but those movements. They were so aptly described. I picked up the phone and called my Mummy.

The Wriggler.

Finding out I was pregnant was shocking to say the very least. I was given a three month (max) preparation period and was demanded to shake off my allergy to babies and fall in love with a stubborn little bean that despite any amount of gin, white water rafting, heavy lifting or violent dancing had clung on inside me and chosen me to be his keeper.

Was I to feel an instant connection to this little human? At the time of discovery he was way too big to even see the gender, everything was to be a surprise for us. Who was this person? Were they safe? Did I love them? Did I want them? Who knew. The only thing I did know was that beneath all the shock came shining through with a fire of passion a need to do everything within my power to ensure that from that day on they were not to be harmed, not to be alone, not to feel sadness if it were in my power or ability for them not to. From that day, that hour, that moment, I became a mother. 

And so I continued – and tried to do my best to get to know my unborn child. I started to speak to the baby, started to sing to it. I didn’t know what I was doing, I had gone from rejecting my physical appearance to embracing it, to touching and caressing my belly. To letting my other half see it, stroke it and kiss it for the first time since we had been together. It had gone from the worst part of my body to the best, in the space of a few hours. I went from ignoring every pain and discomfort that I had previously diagnosed as cysts, to enjoying the ebbs and flows that came with the baby’s movements. We created a character – and soon enough – the baby became ‘The Wriggler’.

The Wriggler fast became a pretty good friend of mine, it’s hard not to get to know someone well especially when you spend all your time with them. Wriggler slept mostly when I was awake, always in the car and often when out and about. Wriggler had its fun when I was trying to sleep – always. Partying until the AM. Wriggler was cheeky, and a fighter. Wriggler would push its feet and hands against my desk at work if I leaned too closely and would hiccup it’s way through important meetings and push on my bladder whilst on sales calls. Wriggler did whatever was inconvenient and I loved that – I loved that already my baby felt independent, my baby felt wilful. I was proud and I hadn’t even met them. 

My boyfriend and I would meet at the end of a working day and he wouldn’t just ask how my day had gone he’d also ask how Wriggler was – did Wriggler have a good day? I wasn’t sure if the guilt born from not being aware of our baby’s existence was the reason why, but we fast became obsessed. Every movement, every time my belly grew, each new sensation was spoken about at great length. At times I became too frightened to sleep, so wanting to make up for lost time that I felt I should always be ensuring that the baby was happy and okay. Monitoring our new prized possession. 

The personality we created was everything to us,  The Wriggler was not a morning person, was definitely cheeky, stubborn and had an insanely sweet tooth. The Wriggler also loved Ed Sheeran, I would sing ‘I’m in love with the shape of you’ at the top of my voice and my darling would jig along inside me in response. 

The creation of The Wriggler felt crucial to our success – The Wriggler had not chosen to exist and it was our job to ensure that we were the best parents we could possibly be, that our baby was loved and knew it. The fact that I felt that I had been neglectful meant I had so much making up to do and each day I promised this to Wriggler. I woke up each morning and would declare – ‘I love you my angel, Mummy will always take care of you’. My eyes would fill with tears and I would go about my day ensuring every move I made would prolong my fulfilling that promise. 

The Year Before. Pt.2.

And so the run up continued. I continued – just this time I had been branded with PCOS. For those of you who don’t know too much about polycystic ovarian syndrome, welcome, because it really doesn’t seem like anyone does. So here is the definition taken from the NHS website:

“Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work.

The three main features of PCOS are:

  • irregular periods – which means your ovaries don’t regularly release eggs (ovulation)
  • excess androgen – high levels of “male hormones” in your body, which may cause physical signs such as excess facial or body hair (see signs and symptoms below)
  • polycystic ovaries – your ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) which surround the eggs”

And the symptoms:

“If you do have signs and symptoms of PCOS, they’ll usually become apparent during your late teens or early twenties. They can include:

For me, PCOS meant rather a lot. Initially, it explained why I had been struggling so much losing weight, why I seemed to have more facial hair than bigfoot and why suddenly my skin had gone from perfection to a complete war zone. My body was continuously rebelling against me and I had no control. 

Being the fat girl is never fun. Sitting with your slender friends with a side salad whilst they chomp away on burgers and chips and undoing the buttons on their size 8/10 jeans after they finish, claiming resemblance to a beached whale is less than pleasant. Especially when you go out afterwards and you’re the one who looks like she ate all their burgers combined and the chef. But enough about how crappy a few extra stone can feel and back on to how I ended up in such a pickle.

So after months and months of dieting and by dieting I mean, smoothie diet, juice diet, gluten-free diet, protein shakes, weight loss shakes, 800 kcal a day diet, no food past 6 diet, coffee diet coke and cigarettes diet. All topped off with a shed load of exercise. I started to lose a little weight. Nothing as satisfying as I had experienced before but certainly something noticeable. I had a big family holiday planned for mid June and I desperately wanted to look good for it and by god I worked so hard. By the time the holiday came round I had lost around 12 pounds in total and was feeling slightly better about myself, it was nowhere near my goal but as my hormones were constantly fighting against me it really was the best I could hope for.

So we trotted off on holiday, me, my mum and dad, my boyfriend and my brother and his insufferable girlfriend (happy to say they are no longer together) to Puglia, Italy. We were exposed to the sea, the sun, beautifully healthy Italian food and a heap load of fun and exercise. It was perfect! And it was on that holiday that I had my last period.

Now for someone who doesn’t have existing issues with their ovaries, period problems may prove to be quite worrisome or troubling. The truth was that for me, a missed or late period was a common occurrance and more of a nuisance than anything to be concerned with. So this particular period started as mine usually do. At an inconvenient time, just after our plane landed, finding myself armed only with skimpy white clothing and not a tampon in sight. Something I have always been aware of but admittedly never adhered to when travelling abroad is what I had considered an absurd ruling around placing tampons down the loo, I just didn’t understand why. This villa had such the same ruling, and in true Betsy fashion I decided to ignore the polite notice and throw a tampon down the downstairs toilet and flush away. Away it did not go. The next morning being awoken by a slightly concerning smell of poo riding on a sea breeze and up my nostrils I quickly realised something was wrong. Peeling my burnt and lobster like skin off the sheets I popped my head over the balcony to see a few men and an open man hole cover. Ah, my tampon. Shit.

I then saw my Father having a rather heated discussion with these men in i’m not sure what language. No way could his daughter have blocked the whole plumbing system, she was nearing her mid twenties and would know better than to be so lazy as to not throw the tampon in the bin. Oh no she wouldn’t. Feeling four again and desperately trying to think of an excuse I army crawled back in to my bedroom to await my fate. Ohhh he was pissed. Luckily, my brothers girlfriend arrived shortly after and my dads attention was shifted onto her annoying voice and incapability to share, anything.

Looking back now, I most probably would have forgotten this particular period and the drama surrounding it had it not been my last.

That, and the fact that I saw evidence of it again the other day on a pair of bikini bottoms I had neglected to unpack when we returned. Classy.


The Year Before. Pt.1. 

Context is always a useful tool when trying to fathom and grasp onto a story whilst it’s being told. Without context one can often misconstrue or misinterpret and I would hate for anyone to do that with me and my tale. This is why I have chosen to supply you all with a little prelude, as it is crucial considering what follows.

The year or two running up to my pregnancy were tough – I had never had any health issues before, bar recurring cystitis. And therefore the only medical disturbance I had encountered was that feeling of pissing razor blades whenever I had forgotten to pee after sex. Encore cranberry juice.

However this luxury wasn’t to last long. Despite some of my time at university being a very proud skinny streak. I have always struggled enormously with my weight and physical appearance. Whether I have overeaten, under eaten, or been victim to cruel episodes of body dysmorphia my body has constantly changed. My weight yo-yo-ing up and down has been something I was very used to. It was also always something that deep down I knew I was in control of and could do something about. As successful as I was at putting it on, I was just as successful at losing it. And as all good things must do, this skinny streak ended, but for once I could not fathom why. Had my lifestyle changed? Was I waking up in the middle of the night and going down to Perfect Fried Chicken and ordering a Number 5? What was going on? All I knew was that I was stuck working behind bar after bar pulling pints and 16 hour shifts all the while expanding at a rate of knots. I had found myself in a relatively long term rather abusive and manipulative relationship and I was becoming precisely what he had always told me I would be, fat and unlovable. Needless to say I was desperately unhappy.

This extra weight was carried around for a few months and my mental and physical well being only got worse, I was in my darkest place yet. I made the decision to move from my beloved London back to Oxford where I had predominantly been brought up and ‘turn over a new leaf’. I did so by leaving the horrible boy behind and moving in with my absolute best friend and soul mate in the town where we had gone to school. I secured myself a bang average but promising job and threw myself into healthy eating and exercise. I decided to become Betsy again.

We had a fantastic time to say the least, both single and good looking girls (my body was starting to improve – ish) we made the most of each and every hour spent away from our desks and living together. The only cloud still left looming over my head was that of the number of the scales and the size of my waistline. I really was doing my best, I was eating between 800-1200 calories a day, attending the gym and several boot camps for weeks and yet the pounds just weren’t going.

My frustration at this was getting worse and worse, I upped my exercise and cut down calories. To the point where I was so light headed and grumpy, chuffing away on cigarettes and drinking so much coffee my bowels rejected even themselves and yet nothing was working. I was in dire straits with no where to look and no answer.

Then one night my best friend and I were watching our usual shit on TV, I was sitting there in my gym clothes having devoured a delicious dinner of fuck all and my stomach started to really hurt. I complained as one does and we both put it down to trapped wind, it would pass. However it did not, she went to bed and I attempted to do so too until I found myself green/grey in colour, cold sweating profusely and throwing up in the loo. I was scared. 3 am came and I couldn’t take it anymore. Remembering my mums words to the nurse at school, ‘don’t call me unless she’s in the morgue’. I reluctantly picked up the phone and called my parents.

To my surprise the days of them not believing when I was ill had passed, whether age had gained their trust or the fact that I had called at 3 am clearly in a tizz had done it I don’t know but soon they were knocking on my door ready to take me to hospital. The next few hours were confusing to say the least, the doctors could see I had an infection but couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was, a laparoscopy was needed.

They carried out the surgery and deduced that I had had several cysts on my ovaries that had all burst, infecting my appendix and all the while causing me excruciating pain.

PCOS – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Those four letters that answered so much, yet would throw such a thick blanket over everything none of us would think to look past it. Not one.

The Charity Shop. 

Braving the outside world and wanting to feel productive I’ve found myself standing with my closest friend in a charity shop. I am staring at baby related treasures, all owned by past mothers and their kin, sniffing the dust off the top of a teddy’s head wanting someone to stroll over and tell me what to do. I don’t know what I’m doing here; all I know is that I have to achieve something.

The book shelf seems like a good place to go. All the information I really need is probably on the internet and I can access that from a handheld device any time of the day or night, but no one will know I’m doing it. There won’t be proof of my organisation and willingness to take on this new responsibility. So look, there it is. ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ – those words everyone has heard, the brand of pregnancy and the bible you need in order to bring new life into the world. With a quick reminder to find out the net worth of the author I pluck out the tatty copy and assess its weight. It’s currently priced at £2.99, an absolute bargain and certainly one aspect of this new life that I can afford.

I smile wryly and approach the gentleman at the till, as I hand my purchase over to him I joke to my companion – ‘I should get this for a quid, I’ve already worked my way through 2 thirds of this thing and I didn’t even know!’.

The old man behind the till slides his eyes towards my stomach, expertly hidden as it always has been by floaty dress, scarf and coat I look straight at him challenging him to diagnose my condition any faster than the rest of us could have. He doesn’t, he takes my money and hands me the book and I stroll out of there the weight of the world on my shoulders but a new fire in my belly.

Quite literally heartburn sucks.