I woke up this morning too anxious to get out of bed. It’s New Year’s Eve as I’m writing, and my anxiety levels are high. January feels to me like the Monday of the year, and I can’t help but see everything that needs to happen over the next 12 months and worry about them all right now. I need to get a job, I need to save money, I need to keep this baby alive, I need to plan for the future while desperately wanting to avoid thinking about the future…

'Pregnancy Advent' tracker from Zoe Clark-Coates' book Pregnancy After Loss - Issy's Bump Day Blog, Week 17: Step By Step

‘Pregnancy Advent’ tracker from Zoe Clark’s Pregnancy After Loss: A day-by-day plan to reassure and comfort you – Author’s Personal Collection/Issy Jorden

I’m trying to think of life as the intervals between appointments.

This week I had an early anatomy scan with my consultant, which I’ll have regularly throughout the pregnancy to check on baby’s growth and placental function. This consultant knows our history and is the same doctor who debriefed us on Dottie’s postmortem results, so she understands our anxiety. Good news is everything looks fine so far, and we found out baby’s gender (maybe to be revealed in a future post?!). Baby has all the right organs in the right places, and brain and heart will be double-checked at 20 weeks to get a better view.

The placenta also looks good so far. The consultant said there is a small ‘notch’ on one side, which obviously panicked me even though I had no idea what it meant (apparently something to do with blood flow), but she explained that it’s fairly normal at 16 weeks as the placenta is still embedding, and she expects to see it gone by 20 weeks.

So, it was a very positive appointment, overall, particularly as I wasn’t sure if they’d have time to look for the gender. Next week, I’m seeing my midwife again to listen in on baby’s heartbeat, and our next scan is just a week and a half after that. Small, manageable intervals. I don’t know how different my experience of medical care is to those in the US, but I’m grateful for both a midwife and a consultant who understand our anxiety and make time for us, even while understaffed and overstretched (and free-pros and cons of the NHS!).

I often need to remind myself not to think about the entire future at once.

And in this journey of pregnancy after loss, I have to remember to cut myself even more slack, lower the expectations, and take the small wins. This week, some family members innocently asked questions about when the baby is expected to arrive so they can make their holiday plans for the summer and when we’d like back the cot and other baby things they’re kindly storing for us. Innocent and understandable questions, yet somehow knocked the wind out of me: how can you expect us to be making plans for this baby? Let alone plans for you to organize your life around?

I felt guilty for the frustration that rose up during these conversations, for my inability to respond in any way other than zoning out and letting Tom handle it. I know that people try their best, that no one really knows the right thing to say. But I am also allowed to control (to an extent) the conversations that I’m involved with in order to protect my peace. Managing family or other relationships with grace has been a challenge since losing Dottie and even more so since becoming pregnant again. But I remind myself – and you too – that now is the time to protect myself, protect my peace, and hold my boundaries unapologetically. This is the most vulnerable stage of life I’ve ever experienced, and it is okay to do what’s necessary to look after myself. Can you tell I’m really just giving myself this pep talk?!

And so to the future.

To 2024. The year that baby number 2 will arrive, one way or another. A year that will never meet Dottie, though we carry her with us everywhere. If you’re terrified, like me, and constantly anxious about the future, like me, let’s remind ourselves to be kind. To break it down into the smallest chunks manageable. To get through another week of pregnancy; to get to the next appointment; or just to get through the day. Here’s to a gentle new year.

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