I always knew when I met Rich, we’d have kids. We never really discussed it properly…it was just what we both knew would happen when the time was right.
We’d been together five years when the decision was sort of forced upon us. I’d gone to get my birth control and the doctor calmly informed me they had run out and instead of an injection offered me a pregnancy test for the following morning. How the hell does a doctor’s surgery casually run out of birth control? I went home on the bus in a state of panic. Kids were not on our radar at that time. What would Rich say? Were we mature enough? I couldn’t even keep a plant alive, how on earth could I be responsible enough to look after a tiny human? We were young and enjoying life as a couple. Babies were for grown ups and we weren’t quite ready (we still don’t feel like grown ups yet tho).
And then I remember Rich looking at me all concerned as I came back from my appointment as I tried to explain our predicament. He laughed. We’d been married a year so may be it was time to get on board the baby train. My fear turned to excitement and I knew somehow things would be ok. So excitedly the next morning, I got up and waited with eager anticipation for the double pink line to appear on the disgustingly wet little pen like thing. Except it didn’t.
Maybe next month then? Well, the following month. Surely by the next month right? Usually it takes three months right? No.
We spent 4 years trying for kids. I went from being nonchalant about getting pregnant to consumed by the need to be.
It was so hard. Month after month of desperately looking for symptoms. Imagining symptoms even. The feelings of dread and excitement every month as I bought another test, “just to check”. The anguish increasing each month as the little line didn’t appear. Holding the test up to the window trying desperately to see if maybe the elusive pink line was just hiding. Maybe I was off with my dates and had just tested too early. Trying to smile through gritted teeth as people with good intentions asked us when they were going to hear the patter of tiny feet. I watched mothers nurse their beautiful babies with a sad jealousy that made me hate myself. Every month my body betrayed me and an increased the sentiment that I was just dysfunctional carcass of a female. That I was letting Rich down.
And then after 4 years and treatment for precancerous cells…suddenly the coveted pink line just appeared.
I’d become so used to seeing them come up negative, I never expected a positive. That explains why I found out this most wonderful life changing news in the public toilets of the Eagle shopping Centre on my lunch break. Not how I’d ever imagined it would happen! The first person I told was the poor woman from the next cubicle who I demanded interpret my little pee soaked white stick because it seemed to be saying the impossible. Bless her, she concurred with my conclusion, then laughed at my sudden “deer in the headlights” expression as she hugged and congratulated me and told me to ring my husband. So incapable of thinking straight but having been told what to do, I did.
The joy and excitement of the impending stork delivery immediately made those four long years seem insignificant.
I told everyone. Shouted it from the roof tops lapping up the reflected enthusiasm of those around us delighted as they were. I walked proudly around Mothercare, stroking my belly whilst costing up nappies and cots. Looking to the future, I imagined Rich teaching our boy to play football or maybe if it were a girl, he’d be overprotectively running off potential boyfriends. Obviously, the kid’d go to college and marry and give me grandkids I could learn to knit for. I imagined every scenario about parenting with a new glee I’d never experienced before. I never however, imagined the miscarriage.
I remember lying on the sonographer’s table knowing the longer she ran her wand over my belly, pressing harder and harder without the flicker of the tiny heart beat we had just seen four weeks earlier appearing, the less likely this was going to have a good outcome. I knew she wanted to find it for us too and hearing her apologise as she reached for the tissue box I just felt numb.
My miscarriage was considered a “missed miscarriage”. I was nearly eleven weeks pregnant but they think the baby had passed away at 8 weeks and I just never showed symptoms. I foolishly thought the morning sickness had just relented. I was scheduled for the D and C operation the next day. The NHS were wonderful. The care and compassion I received from the staff was excellent.
I took two weeks off work. I was a mess. The feelings of betrayal I’d felt at not getting pregnant were infinitesimal compared to this ultimate failure of motherhood. I was still a mess when I returned to work but luckily I was surrounded by wonderful family and colleagues who supported me. A simple nod from one work mate as I returned to my desk for the first time stays with me to this day.
I had never experienced grief before and was always one of those people who didn’t know what to say to others’ grief so would avoid mentioning anything thinking that would spare them some pain. This was my time to realise that silence did not help or offer comfort. It confirmed my pain should also be silent. I remember a lady from the other end of the office stopped me on my second day back to offer condolences and explained she’d “been there” and she cried as she hugged me. I cried too but it was with gratitude for her sharing and making me feel a little less alone.
I know it’s something we are told not to dwell on: that time will heal and it’ll all come right in the end. “It wasn’t meant to be” Those well meaning suggestions never gave me any comfort at all. They inspired anger. It “was meant to be”. From the moment I saw that pink line appear, I was starting on my journey to motherhood and my baby would be amazing. It just didn’t happen but my plans for that baby were as real as that tiny heartbeat that we once saw beat inside me. As with all grief, I don’t think many words truly offer a release from the pain but I learned a hug and acknowledgement of the loss of my baby were a temporary respite until I learned to swim with the grief of the missed milestones passing by.
Rich was my rock. He had had those same dreams shattered for our baby but he became the strong one. He’d hold me as I cried. Make me dinner that would go uneaten. Tell people that asked that I was doing ok when I don’t think anyone ever asked him how he was faring. It’s a cliche but true in our case, that this hard time made us stronger as a couple. I would never wish it on anyone and truly wish we’d never experienced the pain of it but at least I can see that now. We held on to each other and steeled ourselves for another four years of turmoil at the whim of a pink line.
However, less than 4 months later, that pesky pink line I’d previously desperately wanted to see all those months previously, unexpectedly appeared again. Now it seemed more of a terrifying tease. Obviously, this time round, I was much more cautious with the news. Barely believed it or trusted it. We kept it quiet, only telling those closest to us. But week by week, the caution and anxiety turned slowly to anticipation and excitement. And finally nearly nine months later, we got to bring our baby home. And the next chapter began….
I really didn’t know if I should share this. I certainly never planned to make a blog post about it. I was typing Alex’s story when this one began creeping out. I didn’t want it to mar Alex’s story but I couldn’t delete it either. It’s not a story I have shared with many people who didn’t know me at the time. Writing this has helped me although I’m not entirely sure what you poor readers will get from this indulgence. I hope you don’t mind. Fifteen years later and it still makes me cry. The computer screen seems to be blurring as I type now. I still can’t listen to a couple of songs that played at the time without them triggering the memories of despair. I do still play them tho every so often, usually in April and September to remind me of who I never got to hold but loved more than I thought was ever possible. The scan photo which remains the only physical evidence of this event is still in our photo box.
I know miscarriage is more common than we imagine. I know many women have more than one and I cannot imagine the agony of going through it more than once. I don’t know what else to write except I’m truly sorry to anyone who experiences it and here are some links for support for anyone who may need them.
I promise next week will be a more upbeat post….