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.