Once the bleeding recedes, the first trimester flies. My uterine muscles give up almost immediately, and people offer me a seat on the train whether or not I wear the badge. I feel fraudulent, but I accept that seat gratefully because, as with my pregnancies with the twins, I am prone to fainting when I stand for too long in one spot. It feels magical to be back in this place again, as though I have been transported back in time, or given another chance. There was a time when I thought that my pregnancy with my daughters would be my last pregnancy; this little addition to the family, our snowflake baby, feels like an unexpected gift. We play with all of the stupid apps again, and the boys are fascinated by our size comparisons of the baby to fruit: our little raspberry, a strawberry, a kiwi. One day, Sasha tells his teachers at nursery that he has a baby in his own tummy, that it’s name is Winter, and just like that, the cat is out of the bag.
(I suppose that I should interject here to mention that our little Baby Winter shan’t really be called Winter, it’s just an in-utero name for our little IVF baby, our little person who was conceived alongside our daughters and has slumbered in frozen stasis awaiting us for more than two years. I have thought about this baby, and his or her still-frozen brother or sister, almost every day since we made the decision in October 2015 to transfer two of our four blastocysts back into my womb and to save two for the future. They were intended as an insurance policy, in case the girls failed to develop and grow, but over time and as we have fallen more deeply with the human personalities that our babies have become, Baby Winter and that frozen sibling have come to mean so much more than a back-up option for loss. We call them Winter, we call them our Snowflakes, to acknowledge and to honour that icy slumber that keeps them safe and waiting for our family to be ready to welcome them. But they will have whole new names when they arrive, if they arrive – we’re working hard on lists as we speak!)
I am half-expecting surprise twins at the twelve-week scan, in part because I feel enormous but also because twins are what we know, I cannot imagine just one baby without wondering about its mirror, about the other. And I am half-expecting a miscarriage – because of the bleeding, because of statistics, because surely we cannot be so lucky as to receive another healthy baby. When my boss asks how I am feeling, I joke darkly that it is just as well that he will be away for the week of my scan, so that he will be minimally inconvenienced by my D&C. In the days leading up to the appointment I am grimly stoic, prepared for whatever may be, and then that Monday rolls around and I am suddenly terrified to go back to that ultrasound room, to see inside of myself to a hummingbird heart that may or may not be beating. There was a time when I would try to bargain with a god who may or may not be there, but I have given up on offering favours into silence and so I sit, grim-faced, and wait for my name to be called.
I have never had an ultrasound before that wasn’t a bit tricky, a bit of a struggle. I have never not had to drink a sugary drink, eat a snack, do frantic breathless star jumps and go for a wee to try to get my tangle of babies into optimum position to be scanned and measured, analysed by the kind sonographer with the patient smile. But oh – this baby…
This baby springs into life on the screen, a perfect baby, kicking legs stretched out like a little frog. As though this little baby wanted to meet me, was waiting to meet me.
There is no mistaking that this baby is a living baby; I can’t see the heartbeat but there is no mistaking that movement. And I think – I think – I might know whether this baby is a boy human or a girl human, and we don’t mind which it is, our little tie-breaker, but it is so exciting to think I might know. And I have never fallen in love with a baby based on an ultrasound image before but in that instant as our baby ceases to be maybe-twins or a missed miscarriage and becomes our baby, our tiny dancer, I am overwhelmed with a wave of love and pride that makes the camera shake in my hand.
I am always alone at ultrasounds, we struggle to delegate the care of four small humans to anybody else and so Kirsty is always at home with them, but in that instant I don’t feel alone at all, carrying this surprisingly human-looking little person. And I wish so much that she was here to meet the baby, that my babies were here to meet the baby, but it feels ok to be doing this alone, I feel like I can breathe again. And I can’t wait to show her the pictures and the little videos, to tell her how good our baby was for the sonographer, how peaceful and easy it felt to lay on my back and watch our son or our daughter flex and flutter on screen.
I feel like a new person on the way back to the office: euphoric and covered in that strange ultrasound jelly which I never quite manage to rub off.
We are going to have a baby.