And now begins the period in the pregnancy when the experience felt by the man and the woman starts to diverge, dramatically. At first the excitement and stress is almost equal for the two parties as they consider their futures. But soon, the real physical changes begins for one, whereas the other remains unaltered. As the little life inside the woman grows little by little, aches and pains follow with alarming progress. Slight twinges develop into almost disabling agony. Walking becomes more than an uncomfortable, standing is only possible for short periods and sleeping, which was once so peaceful, is now a matter of turning from one aching side to the other. Obviously this is different for every woman, but Willy soon came to feel pain in her back and groin that could not be passed off as just acceptable pregnancy discomfort. And it was pain that was not going away or easing.
Before making an appointment with our GP, Willy searched the internet for some comfort in shared experience. She found information about a condition called ‘Pelvic Girdle Pain’. It is described in terms of the pelvic girdle not being balanced or effectively allowing movement of the legs without excess strain at the pubic symphysis joint, which could shear or separate, causing pain. Willy also noted that the web was full of horror stories about the condition being ignored by most doctors as just a symptom of pregnancy and something that will get better after the baby is born (not encouraging when you have four months more of searing pain in front of you), or worse , evidence that some women have ended up on crutches. With this in mind Willy visits the GP hoping for a physio referral. What follows is a indication of how poor some of the services offered by our NHS are. Now before I get a million comments saying this is an unfair criticism, just remember that this is our experience, and not necessarily the experience of everyone.
The 1st GP’s response was one of taking painkillers; the 2nd GP was an attitude of ‘pull yourself together, you are pregnant, it will be painful at times’; the first mid-wife was yes you can be referred for physio, but the hospital will not allow referrals until you are further into your pregnancy, so just suffer for another six or eight weeks.
Within these weeks, we had our 2nd scan and this is the day we learned if we were having a little Hazel or a little Theo. I remember having conflicting thoughts on whether I really had a preference: I didn’t, but I did have reasons in place for being happy whatever the outcome. I did want Willy to have a girl, so her grandmother’s name could live on and so Willy could share a similar strong relationship she has with her own mum. I also selfishly thought that Willy would then have a greater responsibility in the future for those sensitive conversations, that would have been very difficult for me to have. I also wanted a mini-me; a boy who I could share my love of guitars, Star Wars, motorbikes and post-modern art. There was also a small part of me that thought that ‘men’ have boys, so to have a son was a sign of maximum virility. I later learned that this is nonsense, but it kept me amused for a while thinking it true.
And so it was that on the day we learned our fate and welcomed this new identifiable life into the family, I had to deal with a massive loss to our existing family. Before making the journey to the hospital I spoke to my dad and found out that my sister’s husband had died during the night. He had made a brave fight against cancer that lasted many months more than he was originally given, and he was and remains an example to all in how to fight that terrible disease with good humour and dignity. He is sadly missed. With heavy hearts we travelled to the hospital, the excitement and nervousness of the scan, mixing with intense sadness of the loss of my brother-in-law. He was on our minds the whole time.
The scan is a blur now, but everything was as it should be and we were treated to seeing out little baby sucking his thumb (a rare sight apparently). All the tests were fine and he was shown to be doing very well (as was Willy). Ah yes, I just gave it away didn’t I…? The sex of the baby was shown very clearly in an image of the space between his legs: unmistakeable. A little boy. Our little Theo – the bump finally had a name. We had been calling it Thozel (our two chosen names mixed together), but now we knew it was Theo and the little man’s character began to form. It is very odd that when an entity has a name it becomes more real than when it was just a nameless life: maybe this is a part of the human condition, and why names are so important to our sense of self. From that day, we had our own little The-man – Master of Our Universe. It is interesting that at the point I knew we had a boy, that there was an image in my mind of little Hazel disappearing into nothingness and little Theo becoming clear. It almost felt like losing a daughter in the millisecond of gaining a son.
Still dazed from the overflowing emotions and the sense of loss and gain, we arrived home and I phoned my dad again to let them know our news and check that my sister was coping. I guess in some ways our beacon of light was some distraction that day from the grief felt by all: the way that new life brings hope when hope seems evasive. Through sobs and tears I let dad know he has a grandson on the way and that we have named him after his own grandad: Theodore. I heard my mum and sister in the room behind dad express their approval and I later put down the phone exhausted.
So, remember then that during this time Willy is still experiencing massive groin and back pain and we had been counting the days until we can get a referral? Well the day finally came for one of the mid-wife appointments, and this was at a time when the referral could be given. The mid-wife happened to be different from our usual one, and when asked about a referral replied in the affirmative. Willy explained that she had been in pain for weeks and the mid-wife asked why it hadn’t been dealt with before as she refers her ladies for physio as soon as it is needed! And this is our experience: ask one person, get one answer; ask another get a totally different answer, sometimes diametrically opposite. And so the referral was given.
It turns out not to be absolute solution to Willy’s aches and pains, but at that point she was relieved that some help was being sought. On that day, despite the frustration of not being referred earlier, it was enough.