This was one of those posts that took a lot of consideration to publish.
These things are, by and large, expected to be kept private. Perhaps to save those going through it the painful task of explaining their situation over and over again. However, I suspect it is more likely the case that these things are taboo so as to save others the burden of knowing the right thing to say. Because in this cold and fast paced world, heaven forbid we feel enough empathy for someone else's personal pain that we feel momentarily uncomfortable! As women we're constantly encouraged to keep quiet; about sexual assault, about ambition in the workplace, and (unless they're fully functional and producing healthy babies) about what is happening inside our wombs.
Full disclosure. This post is about pregnancy loss.
Opt out now if you need to.
I've made no effort to hide the fact that I long to be a mother. I've always had that innate drive. From coo'ing over friends children to taking an active interest in child development. My yearning for motherhood has been a constant thread throughout my life. One I've learned I have no real reason to be ashamed of (even if it does sometimes approach the point of obsession). It doesn't make me less of a feminist. Nor does it make me a traitor to my generation. It's just in the makeup of my being. I don't look good in pink, I don't like mushrooms and I'm maternal. Few things come so naturally to me, that I wear my cluck like a badge of honour.
Reece and I began trying to conceive very early in our marriage. Up until earlier this week , we thought we'd hit the home run on our goal.
Overjoyed, we decided to share our news with those closest to us. The "rule" that you should only utter the word 'pregnant' once you're at 12 weeks gestation echoed around in my consciousness. I knew it was a faux pas to share the news so soon, and I knew why. Statistically, that was "safest". However, I was happier than I'd ever been and not sharing that with those closest to me felt weird and unnatural to me. Besides, I told myself, If anything were to go wrong, I wanted to be surrounded by support. I've done more than my fair share of suffering through things alone and decided it really ain't for me.
Unfortunately, something did go wrong. I don't regret my decision for a moment. However, having to call my parents and tell them they weren't actually going to be grandparents after all really took the shine off their giddy excitement and glee. Trying to keep down the tears as I reassured them from across the country that I was fine (...and not scared, broken and wishing Mum could be here to rub my back like she did when I was sick as a child). My closest friends received a barrage of confused and emotional texts at all hours of the day. A dear friend who is currently pregnant has been a pillar of support; eventually culminating in our shared venting of our common symptoms. That conversation would now have to be cut short with a simple "I'm not pregnant anymore". I hastened to add "but please don't feel weird or stop sharing the experience with me!" I couldn't have asked for more support, but I will admit that at times, I felt stupid and dramatic for dragging them into the mess that was my uncertain reproductive health.
I'll spare you the boring medical details. Partly because I don't have them all myself. No matter how many google searches I've conducted, or how many questions I've asked my GP. We spent a couple of days at the ED department of King Edward Memorial women's hospital and the staff there were utterly fantastic. Our kind doctors big blue eyes were glazed with a genuine soft kindness as she watched us crumple into each other with the news.
Instead, I want to write about what it is like to lose a pregnancy that was so very wanted, and I want to do it without shame or fear.
People mean well when they say things like "oh well, it just wasn't meant to be" "it's very common!" and "put it down to experience and try again soon." But it's not that easy when the wound is fresh. The words seem to just bounce off your ears and land on the floor. You can't help but wonder if people might also be thinking; "she shouldn't have told everyone so early. She jinxed it!" - which has very little to do with others actual opinions, and a whole lot to do with a sense guilt and the desperate search for an answer to the question "why?". The mind starts to turn on itself. Maybe I shouldn't have carried my own heavy boxes at Bunnings, or spent hours on my feet in the kitchen cooking? Was it the fall I took a few days before? Perhaps I should have rain checked on my personal training session, were those kettle bell swings too much? I could have eaten better, or taken more rest. My rational mind knows that none of these things were likley to change the outcome, but the hurt heart is not always in communication with the rational mind. It is frantic, reeling and flinging itself madly onto any kind of flawed logic to make sense of the grief.
The waiting period between finding out we were pregnant (yay!) and realising there was something wrong with the pregnancy (oh..) was hellish. A series of anxious blood tests , appointments, uncomfortable pelvic exams and invasive scans. All of which I would have been more obliging to tolerate if they culminated in the arrival of a healthy baby, but they didn't. I was told to treat my body as though I were pregnant (no soft cheese, boozy nights or trips to the speedway), but try to prepare my mind for the reality that I wouldn't be for much longer. I quickly became aquatinted with Internet forums filled with hopeful women and terms I'd never never heard before, like 'AF' and 'TTC'. It was not a world I wanted to find myself in, but like me, these women had turned to what felt like the seedy underbelly of the Internet in desperate search of the solidarity and answers that evaded them in their every day lives. We were all members of a shitty club that none of us really wanted to qualify for.
As much as I'd like to flush away all the misplaced hope and excitement the way well meaning friends and family encourage me to, it constantly creeps into life after loss. It's not as simple as a few days in bed, a heavy period, and it's all over.
I'd posted my family Christmas letters home to the east coast. Better late than never, right? I'd held off on doing it for as long as possible, but figured since our latest round of bloods were promising, I could take the liberty. In my grandmother and aunts letters, I'd shared the good news. It was now up to me to call my mother and intercept the cards before they got to them. "I wrote that I was pregnant in Nanna's letter. Can you just chuck that in the bin and I'll send new ones?"
We'd made plans to begin converting the storage space in our new house into a home office, so that we could use the second bedroom as a nursery. The conversion is still to take place, but what are we now to do we do with that second bedroom? What could it serve as now that wouldn't be a painful reminder that it is so close to our own and purposeless in the absence of any incoming occupant?
Next week, I'll need to tell my boss; a woman I hardly know, but whom it was necessary to tell due to needing time off for appointments, that I am no longer pregnant. Then I need to sit upright at my desk all day, processing horrific crimes by lucky parents against children they never deserved, and pretend my heart hasn't just been broken over the weekend. I'll need to get up out of my chair every few hours and deal with my bleeding in a cramped bathroom stall, in between making calls to my health fund to downgrade our coverage again for the next few months, at least. Life doesn't stop. Every responsibility that existed while the tests were positive , still exists and demands of you entirely after they run negative.
"Try again" seems particularly daunting. The yearning is still there, but it's currently dulled by the ache of loss. My body is still sifting through its leftover hormones. My breasts are still tender and all I want to do when my husband holds me is cry. The physiological side to miscarriage has proved to be very painful for me and while I bleed and cramp and writhe under my heat pack and my husbands gentle back rubs, I am eternally grateful for the miracle of modern pharmaceuticals. It's not something I can control at the moment. I trust nature enough to know this is temporary, but it doesn't make it feel any less wretched for now.
So there it is. The raw, unfiltered truth about my personal experience losing a pregnancy.
At this point, I want to assure you, dear reader, that I'm not sitting around weeping into my hands. I've laughed and smiled multiple times in the last hour alone. I'm very aware that the sky is blue today. I'm hopeful and I can promise that I've examined every possible silver lining with unbridled hope and optimism. It hurts, but it's not finite. It doesn't define anything for us. The gut sinking feeling of disappointment comes in surges and peaks and will probably hang around for a while; so I intend to remain candid and continue to wear my heart on my sleeve as always. Perhaps if you encounter me in the next few days, you could tread a little lighter and hug a little harder..... and forgive me if I get snot on your shoulder. It helps.
I welcome anyone reading this who feels as though they want to to share, but shouldn't, to share with me. Confidentially or otherwise. I found a huge chunk of healing goodness in the drafting of this post. Sometimes the burden of a secret that you don't feel should be a secret is the greatest of all.