by Katy Granville
I’ve been pregnant five times in the last six years and each time has elicited a totally different reaction. The first time I saw those two pink lines, it was the result of nearly a year of concerted effort, of poring over online forums dedicated to all things ‘TTC’ (Trying to Conceive) and feeling deflated each month when I realized that the disgusting grapefruit juice I’d been drinking every morning and the reflexology appointments I’d been unable to claim back on my insurance, had achieved nothing. So when I finally saw my ‘BFP’ (Big Fat Positive’), I was elated, waking my poor sleeping husband at 6am and thrusting a pee soaked stick in his face.
The second time was just before our son celebrated his first birthday. I can’t say we were trying to get pregnant but weren’t doing much to avoid it. In any case, it was happy news and my camera roll still has selfies of us, beaming at the camera, this time holding a fancy digital test clearly showing the word ‘Pregnant’. However, just a week or two later – ironically when I was sat in my OB’s waiting room about to have the pregnancy confirmed – it all came to a rather abrupt end.
My fixation with getting pregnant was back, and so I was thrilled when just two months later the word ‘Pregnant’ flashed up again. I remember stashing the test in the bottom of my clutch bag, in a taxi on the way out to meet my unsuspecting husband for dinner. I was so excited to tell him, so happy that this time it would work out and that we were having another baby! After all, no one has two miscarriages in a row! (Spoiler: They can. They do. I did)
Positive test number four came six months later, after a summer of ‘relaxing’ and ‘putting it out of my mind’ (yeah right) This time, when I saw those two pink lines, it was so different. I didn’t feel elated, or surprised or even vaguely happy, even though this was something that I had desperately wanted. I just felt an impending sense of doom, like I was getting onto a horrible rollercoaster, where I knew that every high would be matched with a terrible low. In all honesty, and despite each scan showing an increasingly growing and happy baby boy, I never really shook that feeling until he was handed to me and I knew he was here to stay.
And so that was that. Two great kids – a house full of noise and Lego and lots of love. Mission accomplished. I started working out again, my career returned to pre-baby speed, going out on dates with my husband or for drinks with friends became a possibility once more. The baby chapter was closed. I threw out, donated and sold all of the ‘stuff’ and started to think about what our long term future looked like as a family of four. When people asked ‘Do you not want any more?’ and ‘But wouldn’t you like a girl?’, I was pretty firm in my response. We were done.
But then, Christmas Day 2020 came around. After a pretty flat day at home (thanks COVID), I got the kids to bed and sloped off for a bath. And then I thought: Wasn’t my period due? I scrambled around at the back of my underwear drawer and found a discarded packet of cheap tests. I think I already knew the answer before that second line even appeared. And this time, I felt different once again. I didn’t feel happiness. I didn’t feel excitement. I didn’t even feel nerves or anxiety. I just felt gutted. Firstly, I’m a huge planner. And this wasn’t in the plan. And secondly, I knew how strongly my husband felt about not having any more kids, and worse – I agreed. We only have three bedrooms. Think of the university fees! If we’re exhausted with the two kids, how on earth would we cope with another? Oh god, imagine if a third turned out to be twins!
I went downstairs, found my husband in the kitchen clearing up from dinner, and I just told him. He hugged me, said something vaguely reassuring like ‘Whatever happens, we will be ok’ and then I threw the test into the kitchen bin and we didn’t speak about it for weeks. Looking back, I don’t think we knew what to think, and we were terrified to say something that might jar with how the other was feeling. I didn’t want to allow myself to feel excited because what happens if this is another pregnancy that doesn’t work out? And I didn’t want to vocalise my thoughts about this being less than ideal, because what happens if it is a viable pregnancy – how could I look at my baby knowing I had said out loud ‘I don’t want this’? And then there was the guilt – I knew what it was like to desperately want a baby and it not happen, and now here I was, pregnant, and not feeling remotely grateful.
A few weeks later, when we went to our first OB appointment, it took me ages to get up enough courage to look at the screen. Seeing ‘it’ – whether ‘it’ was ‘good’ news or ‘bad’ news’ – would mean it was real and we had to deal with it. But there was a baby on the screen, with a heartbeat, doing all the things that a healthy, developing baby should be doing at that stage. My OB gave us a photo to take away and we went and sat in the car in the car park and stared at it – still not sure what to say, beyond ‘well I guess this is happening.’
And so, nearly seven months later, as I sit here and type this with my huge bump pressing against the desk and our baby girl just days away from making her grand arrival, how do I feel now?
I don’t have the same sense of naïve excitement that I did at this point with my first born. I know all too well the realities of labour and those early post-partum days when you feel like you’ve run a marathon and been hit by a car on the way home. And I don’t have that ‘I’m just desperate to have you here and safe in my arms’ thoughts that I did with my second. Maybe it’s a third baby thing, or maybe it’s an unplanned baby thing, but I’m realistic about the challenges ahead of us, and for every lovely thought about sniffing that delicious newborn smell, there’s a worry about three lots of school fees or a concern about my youngest son suddenly becoming the middle child. And there’s a dark, underlying fear that in the middle of the night, when the baby is awake for the seventh time and you’re hissing curse words across the landing to your husband, one of us might say ‘I never wanted this’. But for someone who isn’t a great lover of clichés or naff catch phrases, I am becoming an increasing fan of the saying ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ For now, at least, I’m holding onto the belief that maybe, this little girl, the fifth member of our family, will be the piece of the jigsaw that we never realized was missing. Wish us luck and I’ll keep you posted…