I write this post on a sunny Saturday morning of the August bank holiday, thinking back to last years August bank holiday. Last year we were living it up in Positano on the Amalfi coast. We were with great friends enjoying summer in the Mediterranean. We had travelled light, and packed at the last minute as had become the norm for us (though still packing at the last minute today we have loaded the boot with masses of paraphernalia for just one night away, two hours down the road).
Last summer, we made the decision that the time was right to expand our family of two. Having returned from an adrenaline filled trip to Costa Rica, we had three weddings lined up, three weekends in a row. It was a month worth of excess – partying, eating and perhaps a few too many drinks. It was a fun time that was followed by a month of trying to eat healthy and get into shape. August began and along came a few symptoms – breast tenderness, needing to go to the toilet at bit more and no period. I figured I ought to consider the possibility that pregnancy was on the cards. One test and a picture message later, my husband and I were faced with a whole new experience. As most people do, we were keen to keep it quiet until we had a scan to confirm our suspicion. We did, however, tell our close family. I would have much preferred to do this in person but we were off on holiday with two of our closest friends and there was going to be no hiding it from them (the only alternative for them would be to believe I’d had a personality transplant) We were going to be in Italy – the home of Prosecco and cured meats.
So we went on holiday and had a great time. I had the occasional twinge of nausea and couldn’t manage a large meal but otherwise felt fine. The hardest part was needing to think twice about whether I was supposed to avoid something or not. This led to a very bizarre conversation in a restaurant/nightclub where there was a seafood set menu. Trying to clarify what they would be serving, we realised it would be swordfish. Knowing that this was a definite no-no due to the mercury levels in such fish we tried to request an alternative. The quote of the night went to the waiter who proclaimed “I have three children, and my wife didn’t avoid anything and my kids are normal”. Lets face it, what is ‘normal’ is very subjective, not seeing them for myself I couldn’t take the risk! Now I wasn’t militant about the food – I’d eaten some cured meats (it was impossible to resist), but I drew the line at swordfish, where there was a clear, scientific reason to avoid it.
After returning from holiday the symptoms really set in. I could now empathise with women who had expressed early pregnancy as being a tough experience. Though not actually vomiting, I felt sick for much of the time. I struggled to do the food shopping since I didn’t feel like eating at all. The shopping trolley would be full of rubbish – cup-a-soups, ginger biscuits, spaghetti hoops and rice pudding to name but a few. My husband reached breaking point when dinner was served one evening and it was one small tin of spaghetti hoops, split between the two of us, on toast. From then on his mum provided our dinner for the next 3-4 weeks (potato curry and pea curry). Our fruit trees were ready to harvest and I spent an evening reluctantly making batches of plum and damson jam with the nausea feeling at the forefront of my mind. My first jam-making experience was supposed to be one of pleasure and pride at the outcome. I just felt relieved that I’d got it out of the way and could go to bed. I was falling asleep on the sofa at eight o’clock in the evening. We didn’t need to feel upset that we were avoiding social interaction with friends because it was the last thing I wanted to do anyway.
The relatives that knew found my pragmatic approach to the pregnancy at this stage a little strange. My medical background left me with the thought process that until we had the first scan I really didn’t see the pregnancy as anything more than a possibility. The scan, in my eyes, could show anything to be the case, and anything could happen in the lead up to this scan. We went to the booking appointment, which was very straightforward, and awaited our scan appointment. It arrived in the post on my day off. The first thing I felt was frustration at the fact it was for a day and time when I would be working. I rang and changed it to the only alternative slot that was suitable – the Friday morning that we were going on holiday for 2 weeks. We researched the option of having the scan privately but our rational sides took over when we considered the cost of this and the hassle that the results wouldn’t go straight to our midwife. Had there been an option, we would happily have paid a supplement to have and evening appointment within the NHS. This led to the realization for the two of us that there will be times when one or both of us need to make compromises for the family, which in all honesty I don’t think either of us were used to making where life and work was concerned.
So, on the Friday morning we arrived, me with a full bladder, for our scan. It was a surreal experience to see this little baby for the first time looking so perfectly formed at only 10cm long. Unfortunately the picture doesn’t reflect just how lovely she was (not that we knew she was a girl at that stage). She was wriggling so much the picture looks like a seahorse. Our relatives were waiting with baited breath for that first glimpse of their future grandchild/niece, and even they agreed the picture was a little ‘interesting’. From this day onwards I relaxed about the pregnancy and we fondly referred to the little one as fuzzball, or fuzzy for short.
And so we went on holiday…..