Why do I feel as though I have to justify this “third child” pregnancy?

Pregnant Woman Craving Ice Cream and Pickle Vector Cartoon
Not feeling like this. Image: Bigstock/Nicoleta Ionescu

I am now officially halfway through my pregnancy.

“Hooray!” read the Baby Center app. “Celebrate by splurging on a pedicure, a pregnancy massage with essential oils, or a new outfit that shows off your bump.”

Okay, then. Not sure who this wildly-off-course message could be for, but it isn’t me. It’s banking on a lot of spares. It assumes there is spare cash, spare time (I’m currently looking like a yeti after cancelling two haircuts due to sick children) and spare energy to shop. Yeah, right. In fact, no need. That huge bump is doing enough showing off all by itself.

Is that bump for real?

I think I’ve had more people touching my bump this time than ever before. Those spontaneously poking are doing it in a friendly way at least. And who can blame them, I think to myself, it’s a natural reflex as it is the biggest bump at 20 weeks I’ve ever had. Maybe they just feel the need to check it’s actually real and I haven’t got a pillow stuffed under my top like some mad woman.

There’s a lady at the crèche who is seven months pregnant and her bump is smaller than mine. “Ça pousse,” almost everyone I see says, with great fervour, meaning “it’s growing”.

Yep, it is. I am.

And each time I feel the need to justify the size of the bump, saying how it’s the biggest I’ve ever been at five months. It must be because this pregnancy is fairly close to the last, I say.

Why do I feel I should justify my pregnancy?

I feel as though I’ve had to regularly justify this “third child pregnancy”. But I know that I’m not the first woman in the world to potentially have three children or a 17-month gap between two. Is it really that bad? For us it is just joyful and miraculous.

One of the most uncomfortable experiences so far, outside of familial exchanges (my family were, for the most part, not thrilled by the news), was at the hospital during the first trimester.

Having had miscarriages before, the journey to 12 weeks – as most parents going through pregnancy know – is an anxious time. There is so much hope, but it’s teetering like a drunken tightrope walker. How quickly it can plunge into unwanted territory.

Before I reached the safer zone of 12 weeks, one morning I discovered I was bleeding a little. This concerned me because I never experience this during pregnancy. Ever. My husband and I phoned our local hospital and they advised me to go straight to “urgences” (accident and emergency) to be checked.

At this stage of your “grossesse” (pregnancy) you can’t go straight to the maternity “urgences”, instead you have to register at the general emergency reception. Despite having had two children at this hospital and several operations, at emergency there is no record of your history, so you explain why you’re there and then they give you a ticket that seems to link up to nothing at all on their system and then you wait to see a doctor.

**

Red tape again

A week or so later I went to fill in my “dossier” (file) for the new baby with a midwife, for which you have to allow one to two hours. “All the information is the same as the last two hand-filled dossiers for my previous two children,” I told her. “Can’t we just use those and add any extra information.”

No, no, no. What a silly idea. You have to start from scratch telling them every single piece of information again. From the children you’ve given birth to, their names and when, to the operations you’ve had, to your family’s medical history (in my case I cannot tell them anything because I am adopted, an issue that is always met with a mixture of pity and incredulity), to how much my husband weighed at his birth. What? Filling in these files really takes time.

“Hasn’t the hospital got some kind of central e-health record that connects a patient’s medical history?” I asked the midwife. She was irritated by my question, but said it was being implemented this year. I can’t get over how much time and money they must waste covering the same ground with the same patients over and over again.

Anyway, she got her own back when she balked at the age of my daughter in light of my current pregnancy. Of course, I explained how the baby was planned and how we wanted to try as soon as possible so that my forty-year-old body had the best chance at creating a healthy third baby.

At the end she asked me, with concern in her eyes, if I had any help at home, like I was a poor thing.

I’m so happy with this choice that we have made, but many interactions seem designed to make me feel as though having this third baby, at this moment in time, is something regrettable.

“Thanks, but me and my husband are a dream team, we don’t need any help,” I told her.

**

A medical question or unprofessional blurting?

Back to the emergency. Finally, I’m allocated a room and the doctor comes. At this point I’m desperately worried about the blood loss and just need to hear my baby’s heartbeat, but she doesn’t ask me any questions at all about what is wrong with me. The procedure is to go through my history, but only after I have taken my top and bra off and put on a white gown.

Having had umpteen scans before I knew very well this was totally unnecessary. “I don’t need to take my shirt and bra off,” I told her, “or put the gown on because the gynecologist will do an ultrasound.”

But she insisted. And somehow without my bra on and the white-starched, too-tight, back-tied gown I felt powerless, a little less dignified and angry, because I knew this was pointless, but was forced to comply.

Then the doctor started the paperwork. She asked me how many pregnancies I’d had. I couldn’t remember whether I’d had six or seven in total. But I’ve got two children I told her, who were born here, and this will be the third. She asked me how old my children were and their dates of birth.

When I told her the age of my daughter I almost heard her splutter and draw breath. She couldn’t help herself but to ask in an overtly shocked voice if this was a planned pregnancy and if the baby was wanted.

I felt so offended. I’d been there almost an hour now and she still hadn’t asked me about the bleeding, yet she knew why I was there, and that I was concerned about my pregnancy, because she had the notes from where I’d registered at emergency reception.

Yes, the baby was wanted and planned.

I suddenly felt a little ashamed. Should I continue, I thought to myself, explain how we were frightened of having more miscarriages and increased risks the older I got, so started trying the moment my body allowed in the hope of having a third child?

I got a grip. “Why would you ask if the baby was wanted?” I said. She defensively and curtly told me: “It’s a standard question we have to ask, ‘madame’.”

Personally, I have never been asked that question by any doctor, in the emergency section of the hospital or anywhere else, so I find that hard to believe. It just felt like she couldn’t help her personal judgement kamikaze her professionalism.

I asked if I could see the gynaecologist, but I was told I had to wait to have my blood taken – an RAI test “recherche d’anticorps irréguliers” because my blood is O negative (rhesus negative). The nurse tried to take my blood, but she couldn’t find a vein, so she gave up and went away.

I waited and I still didn’t know if the baby was okay.

At 11.50am I’m told we have to rush to see the gynaecologist. The bad news was that the lab closed for lunch from 12pm until 2pm so I wasn’t able to have the RAI until the afternoon (clashing with picking up the kids from school and creche). I pointed out that we still had ten minutes until the lab closed, so we could get the blood test done now, but apparently that was a rubbish idea.

While the gynecologist set up the ultrasound I took the white gown off and put my clothes back on. I shifted my top up and my trousers down so he could put the gel and probe on my belly. He was kind and put me at ease. I was so glad to be back in the maternity section. We joked about how the nurse wasn’t able to take my blood. He talked me through everything he saw on the monitor. The baby was alive and kicking, and the heartbeat was strong. Cue immense relief.

**

This seems like a long time ago now. We’ve made it halfway and the heartburn is confirming that on a daily basis. I’m not helping myself, though, and I’ve been working my way through most of the chocolate eggs that Super PF has been sent for Easter.

At first I felt guilty for eating her chocolate, like I was a really bad mother, but after some self-justification I decided that actually I was doing the very best for her. A one-year-old should only have a teeny bit of chocolate anyway, if that, so I’m actually being a fantastic mum not letting her eat any of it.

Perhaps despite everything, having all this practise explaining and justifying the pregnancy is paying off, because at least my self-justification skills are second to none and I’m eating chocolate completely guilt free.

I’m giving back to the French medical industry, too, as the pharmacy is definitely shifting more boxes of Gaviscon these days.

Thanks for reading.

WSM x

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12 thoughts on “Why do I feel as though I have to justify this “third child” pregnancy?

  1. Hi Supermama – thanks for the read… sounds like your health system is very similar to ours (both the people and the time-wasting paperwork). Always great to hear others experiences … annoying that people feel they have the right to judge … Congratulations xxx

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  2. Good grief! That’s shocking. Except it’s not. People can be so thoughtless. And downright mean. I hate that ‘balance of power’ trip that some professionals seem to need to prop their (professional) egos up with. So glad you see it for what it is and can just rise above it. I’m genuinely baffled at the negative responses you’ve had to being pregnant. It makes me smile that you tell people “this pregnancy is fairly close to the last” because I can imagine that just raises the other eyebrow! Xx

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  3. People can be sooooo rude. On the one hand yr pregnancy could be so much closer, my friend was born 9 months before his sibling. But hang on a minute why the need to justify anything? You are not the first to have three children and I know plenty of mums who have four children so it’s not like you are a pioneer! Keep looking after yourself and your family x

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  4. Nic! Thanks so much for your congratulations, you have NO IDEA how much that means! Yes the female medical staff at the hospital are often quite a prickly bunch (you find many more male professionals with that kind streak you so need as a patient, especially in a maternity unit), but I hadn’t realised just how judgemental they could be until this third pregnancy. France is famous for its red tape, but at this hospital seem to go around in circles. I don’t doubt they will save a fortune when this new system (if it works) is put in place. I think it’s the thought of filling in a fourth file that puts me off having a fourth child (no, that is a blatant lie, haha). Thanks for commenting. Much love xxx

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  5. Kerry, I know, maybe I’m just digging myself a deeper hole by saying it’s close to the last 🙂 but the reaction is a shame, especially when it’s from the hospital as France has the highest fertility rate out of all EU member states (2.01 per woman, lowest is Portugal at 1.23) so having three children in this country is not strange. You’d think they would be used to it. It is partly the closeness that’s the issue, but it’s not THAT close, is it?! It could be closer!

    I expect you’ve also had your more-than-fair share of experiencing medical professionals with their power-chip on their shoulder. After all this I’m dreading seeing the anaesthetist, it was bad enough last time around – I felt like she’d talk to her pet dog with more respect! Anyway, it’s good to rant 🙂 thanks for commenting. xxxx

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  6. Hey Catherine! Exactly it could be a lot closer, but you’re right, I get caught up in why I feel I have to justify it all because of people’s weird reactions, but actually the problem is more to do with them than me. I just need to stop being so bothered by it. I think if my parents had been happy about it when I told them the news last year I wouldn’t have started off on such a defensive pregnancy but right from the start “congratulations” has not been the first word that I’ve heard, yet I refuse to feel ashamed or wrong because we’re just really bloody happy about it! I’m definitely not a pioneer, that’s the odd thing! Grrrrr! Anyway, thanks for leaving a comment. I owe you a juicy email and will send you one soon. xxxx

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  7. I know this feeling well!! Having just had baby no.3 10 weeks ago when my first child was just 4 and second was weeks away from turning two I also had the judgmental comments about having baby no.3 and the age gap. A lot of ‘don’t you know what causes it?’, ‘ooh you’ll have your hands full’, and the worst one ‘was it planned?’. Well I wanted to scream yes I do know what causes it, yes I’ll have my hands full and wouldn’t have it any other way and yes it was planned but even if it wasn’t it’s none of your bloody business! It’s so frustrating!

    It didn’t stop there though I then got questioned about my existing children and upon finding out I had two girls I got ‘is it because your hoping for a boy?’ Which was a no because even if we had had one of each no.3 would still be on their way. And the surprise looks that we had chosen to have a surprise. I found myself justifying that no we had always wanted three children, so a third healthy one would be lovely and that this was our third surprise because I didn’t need to know and it is a very exciting surprise to have.

    And worse still!!! We had a little boy so now I get ‘ooh I bet your pleased to have a boy’, ‘ooh bet your husbands delighted’, ‘are you stopping now you’ve got a boy?’, ‘what a relief you got a boy’. Again my answer now yes of course we are delighted to have a boy but we would have been just as delighted if he had been another girl and also if we had had three boys., same for my husband. And we are stopping but only because we are incredibly lucky to have been able to have the three children we had always hoped to have. We would not have been disappointed to have had another girl.

    People always feel they have a right to comment, judge and make assumptions. Enjoy the rest of your pregnancy and enjoy your three children. I have actually found it a lot easier to adjust to being a mum of three than I did to adjust to being a mum of two x

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  8. Hi Flos, I honestly don’t know where you found time to write your lovely comment, with a 10-week-old baby & two young kiddos, but I really appreciate it. It is so reassuring to hear your similar experiences. I hadn’t spoken to anyone else yet who could relate, so thank you!!
    Funny what you said about people saying, “Don’t you know what causes it?” When I told my family back in Nov, v early days then, the first response I got was: “Oh, we’re gonna have to teach you how it happens aren’t we.” Cheek of it. Didn’t realise it was a sign of things to come…I’m still waiting for a congratulations. Maybe when the baby is born, we can live in hope. I didn’t think all & sundry would join in!
    Can’t believe it carries on & on with your third! Bet you thought once the baby was born that might actually be it. Huge congrats from me anyway! Thrilled for you. Our dream was three kids too, you must feel so pleased to have made it & come out the other side.
    Am relieved to hear the jump from two to three is better than one to two. That experience was pretty rough. I was hoping it would be easier now the eldest is used to sharing me a bit.
    Thx again for your message, sounds like you’ve got a beautiful family. xx

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    1. Thank you for your lovely message!! I am writing once again during a night feed 🙂 it’s my way of staying awake. I found the change from one to two children extremely difficult and for a little while not feeling bonded with no.2 until she started interacting more. I felt a lot of guilt for no.1 after she had been used to my undivided attention and then having to share me. No.3 is just slotting straight in 🙂 maybe finally having an understanding of certain cues to look for in a baby helps ha and the other two already used to sharing me. I never stop and I permanently have washing to be washed and house work to be done but I feel I am more relaxed about it all this time around. If the house is untidy I don’t stress as long as the children are happy and I have suddenly found I can be organised which I have always struggled with before. And more to my surprise for someone who’s late for everything I am now getting places on time.

      Ignore the negativity I think it wonderful (and also tiring) having 3 children. Enjoy that beautiful bump. I feel a little sad I will never have another. Sending you all lots of happiness for when your little bundle arrives x

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  9. Hi Flos, Thx so much again for your message, you must be so tired, I remember these first few months very well as it wasn’t that long ago 🙂 I was bfeeding exclusively – at first by choice then because the little monkey point blank refused a bottle for months – so it was me doing nights & feeds & husband dealing with no.1 when needed in the night. Must be even more complicated with three…I guess I will find out soon & we’ll figure out how to juggle it.
    That is really interesting reading about your experience with the second baby. For me it was harder to feel bonded with no.1 as his behaviour nose dived when she arrived & she wanted to feed all the time & be on me when she wasn’t. I couldn’t put her down as most of the time she wouldn’t stop screaming if I tried & she didn’t want papa either, only me. Totally diff baby to no.1 who was happy to be carried around by anyone. She’s still very mummy mummy. It was tough on all of us, but esp for no.1 the poor thing. It was difficult, too, to be really patient ‘cos he was quite naughty, also potty training & I was v tired (as you must be now) so lacking usual patience levels. Anyway we got through it & they get on really well now. It was a good lesson in “this too shall pass”.
    The washing is already bad I’m dreading more! I spend so much time ironing now too.
    Lovely to chat to you! Good luck with everything & hope all’s going well at the ranch! xx

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  10. Congratulations on your growing family! I’m sorry to hear that not everyone was supportive and I hope they’ll come around. I don’t have any kids and I have so much respect for moms and dads – being a parent (and being pregnant) seems wonderful but definitely not easy! My French doctor is lovely, but I’ve heard stories of doctors here passing personal judgement against patients, so rude! Several have commented on my friends’ weights and said they must surely be eating a lot of cheeseburgers, nevermind that they take good care of themselves and just have a different body type. Ah, France…

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  11. Thank you, that’s so kind of you. It has expanded rather quickly, lol – been very fortunate. You don’t have any kids and that is why your travel stories on your blog are such a pleasure to read, haha. Taking your time to explore a place, take in the ambience, browse shops, meander…our trips aren’t like that right now… :). Interesting what you say about the doctors you’ve come across. I have a friend who is in amazing shape and her doctor was always telling her she was eating too much when she was pregnant. She is half my size, but my doctor says nothing to me, but I think it is really because he has given up & knows I am a lost cause. x

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