An unexpected shock.

Just as they were starting to get the hang of the routine a surprise hit – my health started to deteriorate. Having PCOS, I began to wonder if things had gone awry, again. To start the process of ruling things out, I took a pregnancy test. This pretty routine for me to do; when you regularly skip anywhere up to 3 cycles you keep tests to hand “just in case”… but when you get told that between the two of you it’d be next to impossible to actually happen without intervention, you’re never disappointed or upset with the negative, it’s just a confirmation of facts.

So, to take the test I just kind of fit it around morning routine: pee in cup, dunk test, alarm set, go get dressed etc. The alarm went off “oh yes, better check test.

“WHAT THE ?????” WHY ARE THERE TWO LINES? HOW THE??? I DON’T EVEN!!!! NO?” I then promptly photographed the test, sent to a pro Mumma friend (she’s had 5, she knows how this stuff works…) “yes, definitely a positive, strong one at that”, “Nope! There must be a mistake. I’ll take another… What is going on? This can’t be happening! It showed up straight away… I guess I’m pregnant! What do I do? How do I tell Bruce?”

In the early days, before understanding our issues I had imagined how this moment would feel, and what the plan would be, on multiple occasions: a celebratory moment, overcome with joy… but a secret; I wouldn’t tell Bruce immediately, I’d wait, go and do day at work, me having hatched some elaborate announcement type plans to surprise him at dinner/after work.

The reality: I’d say there was some joy, but it was the elation I was expecting to feel, it only took up about 10% of my emotion; 30% of my feeling was “there’s a pandemic right now, this is NOT the time to be pregnant” but 60% of me was feeling “this is impossible, my PCOS must be acting up, my hormones must be shot to pieces, and this is actually a false positive… OR they’ve changed cause I’ve got ovarian cancer in something!” I desperately wanted to cling to the 10% joy, for it to be correct; we had always said we’d be happy if a third child appeared (I had wanted 3, Bruce 2, so when we adopted we decided that we would adopt 2 children and agreed that if by some miracle I became pregnant, or the birth family had another child, we would become a happy family of 5).

Other symptoms drew in quickly after that: morning sickness, food aversions etc. The extreme fatigue was already there; I had been falling asleep really early in the evening. But I still couldn’t shake this overwhelmingly strong feeling that it was just hormones acting out as a result of a medical problem. So I booked an early pregnancy scan. The external scan immediately showed the yolk sac, and an internal one allowed us to find the heartbeat, check the size etc. It was real… really, actually, very real. I just now had to enjoy it.

But then the facts hit; PCOS has increased pregnancy risks:

  • higher chances of miscarriage throughout pregnancy, but particularly in first trimester
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Premature labour
  • Higher risk of dying during childbirth

“It’s OK, all we need to do is relax and not get stressed” yes, with 2 children with special needs in the house and the risk factors mentioned above, that was an easy job!!! So we told family and friends early on: the chances it wouldn’t lead to a successful pregnancy were high, we might need them to support us if the worst happened… and we knew a good place for private scanning to keep me sane in between appointments.

It got very incapacitating during the first trimester – even moving made me feel like I was going to vomit, and I could vomit 8-10 times in one sitting, multiple times through the day. Particularly bad if I smelled something I was averse to. You know, like, pretty much everything given that I now had a nose with supersonic powers! 🙈 Particularly notable smells included: any kind of animal product smell (raw meat juices, cooing meat juices etc.), any kind of grease or fat, a neighbour smoking pot with the window open, oh yeah, and Caitlin’s hamster dying. I could smell that one, boy could I smell that one! It was questioned whether I was suffering with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, but anti sickness meds worked; though I was still occasionally sick on them and still felt nausea constantly, I was much better on them.

Once the nausea started to settle (around 24 weeks) heartburn took over; anti sickness meds were switched put for Gaviscon. I still couldn’t eat a great deal – my diet of plain rice and dry oven chips lived on but I could start to add some more bits in! But the heartburn didn’t really pass til about 35 weeks.

Around the 24 week marker I also started to get pelvic girdle pain – with a high tolerance for pain, I was coping but it wasn’t fun! My physio appointment finally came through at 35 weeks – I decided to give it a miss then! It felt pointless!!!

Then at my 38 week check (37+5) evidence I had pre eclampsia came back. Within 72 hours it had gone from discovery to full blown symptoms and was rapidly progressing so I was admitted to hospital to antenatal knowing I wouldn’t be leaving hospital without a baby.

The Gap: Part 4 – Summer – return to school 2020

So, the pandemic had taken the wind out of my sails in terms of education provision for Caitlin. And thrown a spanner into the works in finding appropriate provision for Logan… But I had stepped up, I was more than capable for the task just a little ragged.

Just as schools were readying to reopen their doors for the final parts of Summer term I was trying to fight with the local authority about how it was inappropriate for Logan to attend a school, by taxi – unsupervised, an hour away if he was to go via his birth family’s town (“oh yes, send a child to a place that triggers them, unsupported, through a place that triggers them…”). Additionally, the school had a system of rewards and sanctions that would trigger shame in Logan, and was insecure in boundaries (there was no lockable boundary – the door was unlocked and there was no fencing) and it was near a busy main road… Considering Logan is a flight risk with low danger awareness it was laughable at the very least. And to top it off, if you can get through his fear of failure and get him to learn, he really is quite capable… But the school was not academic in the least – vocational pathways, no GCSEs. Now, I’m not trying to argue he can take the “normal” set of GCSEs in the slightest, but to block his ability to take any – a bit absurd when he’d be capable!

Then Caitlin’s school called and to arrange return to school and they asked how I was doing – my response was honest “home ed I can deal with – especially as I don’t have to deal with arranging the curriculum any longer; the pandemic I can deal with – raised anxiety, social distancing, locking down, these things aren’t new; fighting the LA about Logan’s education, I’m stressed to the max…”. They, themselves, had initially been unable to offer a placement to Logan for a few very logical reasons. However, following my conversation asked if I would like the situation reconsidered, that they could promise nothing but could definitely have another conversation.

Caitlin returned to school on an hour a day basis; due to the needs of the children at the school and the consequences this level of disruption would have on their anxieties etc. They had timetabled certain slots for certain children, combined with virtual slots from home. it actually worked pretty well, it was a slow phased transition that didn’t make her diversity obvious; everyone was on limited time in school, not just her, but the limited slots out of the house enabled her to get maximum successes out of the sessions, whilst still making links virtually and increasing her ability to engage with them academically.

A few weeks into her return, a call from the assessing Local Authority had them claiming that they had worked hard in the background and re-approached Caitlin’s school and come up with a solution for Logan; part time tutoring, part time schooling, with a view to going full time longer-term. I did as the penguins told me (smile and wave boys, smile and wave – Google if you don’t understand) and got through the conversation.

Our fight was over. Soon after, he begun attending a different session to Caitlin so they both had their own space for the remaining few weeks.

Society reopened just before summer holidays, so we went for a picnic with friends at a local park. It felt glorious; Mum chat, sunshine, food, kids playing, fresh air, freedom. A few hiccups, Logan obsessed with the idea of going down this steep bank to “see the stream” there was no stream, but the bank was overgrown and dangerously steep. He was told no, explained why, and redirected to other more fun things. At the very end, as I turned to pack up the camp chairs, he made a break for it; he slipped almost immediately, hyperextended his arm, taking the impact on his wrist ripping ligament (and some bone) off bone and breaking a number of small bones in the elbow joint.

Freedom gone. Covid restrictions plus broken arm means nothing left we can do out and about that doesn’t risk further injury ((due to low impulse control and low danger awareness). The cast was removed the week before school restarted, but we still needed to remain cautious as a big accident (likely) could stress the freshly healed break and re-injure it. Bye bye summer of freedom.

It was exhausting, but we made what memories we could: craft projects, paddling pool (waterproof cast cover) and picnics in the garden, den making, veg growing and so forth.

School restarted in September, with increased time tabling. And after a few short weeks Caitlin was full time with Logan dropping his tutor and slowly increasing his hours. Things were looking up… Respite was on the horizon, I just had to get through this transition!!!