Bump in the road
I posted an Instagram story before Christmas showing us post-baby scan. The news was good, the tears were of relief and, yet, they held something else that I couldn’t talk about at the time. An hour before the scan I’d found out one of my closest friends had lost her surviving twin at ten weeks. She was a first-time mother who had been trying for years and had pinned the pain and frustration of that fruitless period to those two embryo sacks – one that had sadly slipped away a few weeks earlier.
Riddled with fear after our previous experience of baby loss, I had the unspeakable thought before edging into that scan that we’d, perhaps, go through miscarriage together – a sort of morbid, upturned version of being excited when you find out your mate is also pregnant. I was swamped by the dark, yet comforting sense that we could help each other navigate the heartbreaking moment you lose a baby; when you lose a part of yourself. The moment you flush that limp lifeless embryo down the toilet along with your last shred of maternal hope.
Woman and woman, friend and friend holding hands in our perilous, teary, snot-smattered journey to motherhood.
And then I got wrenched out of those familiar depths by the time-stopping thud of an infant heartbeat. My relentless tears were undoubtedly for that life; for this one ‘sticking’. But they were also for the void I knew this would, without any malice or bad feeling, creep between my friend and I.
I knew my own desperation to continue as normal and not be affected by friends having what seemed like an easy road to procreation. (The reality was probably worlds away from my self-consumed assumptions). But I knew I struggled to be the bigger person when we went through miscarriage. I struggled to be around bumps, I struggled with baby scans on Facebook, I struggled with Pampers ads, I struggled with BabyCentre updates (“Your baby is the size of an avocado!”) that I’d forgotten to turn off and I struggled with what all that said about me as a person.
And then I got a poignant, heartfelt email of congratulations from my friend – the bigger person. An email that was weighted with raw, messy, pain-smattered love and had a passage attached to it that reduced me to a sobbing heap. She wanted me to publish these words as a friend because for her, as was the case with me, sharing the heartache of infertility, miscarriage and losing a part of yourself – losing a part of your mind at times – was one character, one word closer to feeling less alone. In her words: ‘together has to be better than alone’.
The post below is by my friend Rebecca, a woman I am very lucky to have by my side despite her inability to share a packet of dry roasted.
F*ck Mother Nature
I spent the last 3 years treating my body as some type of sacred temple in the hope to fall pregnant. Multi-vitamins. Strict diets. Exercise. 8:30pm bed times. No alcohol. No coffee. Move back home from overseas. A corporate job with limited travel and regular hours. Blood tests weekly. Ultrasounds. New Doctors. Specialists. IVF clinics. Meditation. New meds. Old meds. It was hard. I honestly believe unexplained fertility is the most heartbreaking beast in Mother Nature; it really can be a thief of joy. Once I had the courage to talk to my closest friends about it; I found I was in good company. Some women don’t fall pregnant easily; some people never do.
On a Thursday in December I’m delivered amazing news, I’m pregnant, not just pregnant but likely 6 weeks. I feel fantastic. I feel elated. I feel privileged that I can grow a human. I tell my close family and my best friends who have lived with my same hope and dreams. I download the apps, my husband buys the “dad” books. I ask the doctor about risks, he says only 1 in 6 end in miscarriage. He has patients who drink and smoke in pregnancy and deliver healthy babies 9 months later. I know I will be in the 5 in 6. Those odds are on my side.
Four days later I start to feel cramping. There is blood on the toilet. My routine blood work causes my doctor to panic and compassionately, but gravely tell me I need to go to Emergency Maternity Care. I spend overnight in pain, not sleeping and very fearful that I’m losing my baby. The cramps and blood are bad; I can feel that something is very wrong.
If Hell exists, a version of it is at the Emergency Department for Women & Babies. You have to present at 7:30am. You join 20 other sleep deprived and scared women.
They take you through rooms and scans. The sonographer shows me our passenger. I’m excited. She says I’m pregnant – but to talk to the doctor about the results. Then the doctor delivers me the news. Expectant miscarriage. I’m in shock. I don’t believe her. She says 100% that I will bleed out in next 2 weeks based on the results. And then I cry. I cannot stop crying. She needs to see the next patient. I’m left in a maternity ward full of babies and pregnant women “bleeding out” and in pain. Fucking undignified. I want to leave; but because of my blood type I have to stay for an ROHGM injection. The injection takes a long time. It was 45 minutes – but it felt like 10 hours. The same 20 women are watching me cry my eyes out. I feel so humiliated.
I’m sad. I’m mad. To be pregnant, full of positive hopes for the future and then not; is a numbing type of grief that is unexplainable.
Time heals. I know it does. What doesn’t kill you does make you stronger. However, we live in this age of carefully curated social media – where bad news is compartmentalized, folded away, filtered out. Unexpected bad shit needs to be rationalized – so we can march on in confidence it won’t happen to us. People don’t Instagram from the emergency department about miscarriage. Pregnancy loss happens; but it’s squirreled away; in hushed tones.
Right now, I am reminded of the poem “Stop the clocks” by W.H. Auden about grief. That’s how I feel. I want to cancel Christmas. My heart hurts. The cramping is bad. I cannot face the people I told. I have cried so much my eyes actually hurt. We are raised on a Disney diet of Happy endings and Fairy tales. Life can be good and life can also be bad.
Other babies and pregnant women are bringing me to tears; I can’t go outside. A pregnant woman at the supermarket triggers this visceral reaction I did not know was possible. In parallel, friends are delivering me news of their own healthy pregnancies, not knowing what’s happening to me. It is the most isolating experience. I would not wish this on my worst enemy, but 1 in 3 women miscarry over their lifetimes.
The following two weeks are a rollercoaster of scans with definite foetal heartbeats and dropping HCG levels. At the first trimester scan the sonographer delicately tells me that I’m no longer pregnant.
I ask all my Doctors the same question, “Why?” They say they don’t know, my vitals are perfect but the baby was likely never going to make it. It’s Mother Nature’s way of naturally terminating the ones that never would have made it.
“Why am I in the 30% and not the 70%?” “All my friends had healthy pregnancies first time – why not me?” My doctor just responds, “Well, it has to happen to someone.”
All I can think is, “F*ck mother nature.”
Written by: Anna Whitehouse.