Saturday, 20 September 2014

A miscarriage story and love letter to the baby I'll never know

Part One: The joy and the worry

My darling, as soon as I saw that feint ‘+’ on the pregnancy test the love for you just flooded me. It felt like being hit by a tsunami. I cried and said “I love you,” over and over again.

In those few special moments when I was the only one in the whole world who knew about you, everything shifted. I went from being open-minded about having children to knowing that you were the most important thing in the world to me. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for you. I would have killed for you. I would have died for you. Good lord, I gave up wine for you!

Not just wine, either. I wasn’t going to take a single chance with your health, little one. I duly limited my caffeine intake and cut out blue cheese, shellfish, raw fish, paté and other forbidden food and drink. I consulted the internet on pretty much everything. I cut out soya milk after reading that it could have an adverse effect on male babies’ genitals! I stopped having manicures after finding out that some nail polishes contain nasty chemicals that have been linked to birth defects. I even resorted to fingers down the throat after googling ‘Aloe Vera juice’ when I was half way through a glass of it – and a curry – and found out it was also on the list of things to avoid (male babies' genitals again, I believe).

We knew we shouldn’t get too carried away, but as time went by, we started planning for you. We argued over what we’d call you. We decided which room was going to be yours. We wondered if you were a boy or a girl and marvelled that your sex had been decided at the moment of conception. I had a feeling you were a boy and according the old wives’ tales the symptoms pointed that way - I felt sick, but ravenously hungry all the time and my skin was glowing.

And so the weeks went on. I had my first appointment with the midwife. I poured over my baby books, marvelling at how you were growing and developing inside me. From the size of a poppy seed, to a lentil, to a blueberry, to a green olive. I imagined your brain and your tiny organs forming, along with your eyes, ears, fingers and toes. Only they weren’t, were they, little one?

Now I come to think of it, the nausea and other pregnancy symptoms had ended a few weeks before the books suggested they would, but I wasn’t alarmed and my jeans were definitely getting tighter. The first time I had any inkling that all wasn’t as it should be was the day I was exactly 11 weeks pregnant. Just that morning I was thrilled to read that the chance of miscarriage had now dropped significantly. Our 12 week scan was just a few days away and I couldn’t wait to see you for the first time. We talked about how to tell our family the happy news. I planned your ‘big reveal’ the following Sunday, which by happy coincidence was Mother’s Day.

Part Two: The horror and the endless questions

Then I saw the blood. It was just a smallest of spots at first, but there was also a dull ache in my lower belly. On advice from the midwife we drove to A&E at midnight. There followed a frustrating few hours in an overheated room while a forgetful, overstretched nurse made a hash out of taking my blood. “Don’t worry, you’re still pregnant,” she reassured me after seeing my sky high hormone levels. We joked that you were going to be a naughty one for keeping us up till 3am before you were even born!

But there was more blood the next day, and the day after that. My 12-week scan was now just a day away, but I was too worried to wait and we went to the hospital again to have an early scan, just to be sure. A doctor examined me and said my womb was closed, which was a good sign. The sonographer was more business-like, telling us “Bleeding in pregnancy is common, but not normal.” She scanned me with the screen discretely turned away from us and the silence stretched on. “I can see a pregnancy, but no heartbeat,” she finally told us. She turned the screen towards us... and there you were. So very tiny we could hardly even make you out inside the pregnancy sac. Just a few millimetres long, you’d not grown much bigger than the poppy seed we’d imagined weeks before. We were told you’d stopped growing at about six weeks, but my poor deluded body had carried on thinking it was pregnant and still just didn’t want to let you go.

There followed an excruciating week of waiting for another scan to confirm the devastating news we already knew. I drove myself crazy trying to work out what I’d been doing around the time you’d stopped growing. I narrowed it down to the weekend we spent in Rome. Was it the flying? All the walking I did around the city? Did I accidentally eat something I shouldn’t have? Could it simply have been all the worrying?

The doctors said it’s most likely that you had abnormal chromosomes, but no-one can tell me for sure and it’s driving me mad. I need to know why. I want to know everything there is to know about you. Then again, I just couldn’t bear it if it was something I did that made you stop growing. Perhaps I just waited too long to try for you? At 39, I fell pregnant straight away, but was the egg that made just you too old? Certainly, there have been several people who’ve made unhelpful and unsolicited comments about my age. But ten years ago, it would have been a different egg, wouldn’t it? Surely the particular egg that made you always going to come at that time, wasn’t it? Were you just never meant to be born?

For that week, I felt like I was under house arrest and all I could think about was you, still there inside me. There was some pain and bleeding, but nothing too severe at first. At times I wondered if it was all going to turn out all right after all. Then in a cruel twist of fate, the worst came on Mother’s Day. The pain and bleeding became much worse and I felt sure you had finally left me. It hit me hard then. It felt like the universe was giving me a pretty clear sign that I shouldn’t be a mother. Instead of having revealing the happy news on a special day, I was lying on the sofa sobbing and traumatised at having lost you (and that I’d just flushed you away down the toilet). 

When the second scan came around a couple of days later, on April Fools Day of all days, I felt sure they were going to confirm you were gone... but there you were, still inside me. You were still exactly the same size as the week before, but still very much there. I’d apparently spent Mother’s Day crying over a blood clot. For a moment, I thought that someone might have been playing an extremely unfunny April Fools day joke on me. How I wished that it was all just a sick prank by the poker faced sonographer and you were actually fine! She then went through the options I had now and it was far from funny. I had to choose how you were to be removed from me: pills, procedure, or a return to house arrest to ‘watch and wait’. I chose the procedure and after another two day wait it was scheduled in. Then, just like that you were gone. I wasn’t pregnant any more.  

Part Three: The heartbreak and the world without you

It’s been so hard to face the world again without you – especially when most people don’t even know you ever existed. It feels the world is putting me through a constant test to see just what I can handle.  There was the colleague announcing her pregnancy, the inane and incessant baby talk in the office, the hysteria over the new royal baby, the scan pictures posted on Facebook with a due date that would have been yours, the questions about whether we’re thinking of starting a family, the ‘baby on board badges’ pinned to other ladies’ jackets and standing up on the tube so someone with a baby bump can sit down. Most of the time I can deal with it. Other times, when it’s too personal and too much of a reminder of you, it’s so upsetting. For the first time in my life I’ve suffered panic attacks and on a couple of occasions I’ve fled the office in tears.

Everyone we told was wonderful, but right now I feel so very lonely and like no-one understands, not even your would-have-been dad. He says we should stay positive and that we’ll try again. But it just doesn’t make me feel better to think about things that may or may not happen in the future. No-one seems to recognise that right now I’m grieving for you, only for you. I’m sad I never knew you and I miss you all at the same time.

Others have said that I should think of the positives, because at least we know we’re able to conceive. Or they tell me it’s best to be philosophical and that it’s ‘just one of those things’. I initially mistook the numbness of shock with feeling philosophical. Now the shock has passed I realise I don’t feel philosophical at all and, to me, it will never be just one of those things. All I feel is heartbroken.

The doctors told me varying statistics (one in three, one in four, one in five), suffice to say I understand that miscarriage is very common but it does little to comfort me. It does make me realise just what I need to prepare for as we think about ‘trying again’. The thing is, I may or I may not get pregnant again, I may or may not miscarry again, but I know that whatever my future holds, it won’t change how I feel about you, or erase my memory of the few weeks you were with me.

You gave me an insight into an unconditional, all-encompassing, thrilling and frankly terrifying love I’ve never felt before. It made me look at parenthood, and my own parents, through new eyes. Losing you was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced and I won’t lie, I wish it had never happened to me. But, as the horror and the heartbreak fade, there are some feelings that I hope never will. Loving you made me less selfish and somehow more connected to the universe. It made me a better person. That’s the memory I want to treasure. I may not have had the chance to know you, but you were mine and I’ll love you forever, my tiny baby.