The thing about having just one child is that nearly every day somebody says something like, ‘Are you planning on having more children? You don’t want to leave it too late.’ People I barely know make these kinds of comments to me all the time. And yet, every time it still surprises me. Does the general population not understand that for many, many people, having babies is not an exercise that works to a schedule?
For me, falling pregnant has not been the issue, at least not recently. Last year, after Birdy turned one, we decided it was time to think about another baby. We fell pregnant straight away. The baby’s due date was December 4. Unfortunately, at eight weeks, we discovered that I had miscarried the baby some time earlier. We were heartbroken. I had been so excited about the idea of a new baby at Christmas. I found it hard to accept that this would no longer be the case. I just hoped I would be pregnant again before Christmas rolled around so I would not feel the loss so keenly.
Our doctor told us there was no medical reason to wait before trying again. And that there was no reason to believe things would go wrong again. I fell pregnant straight away. I told my family the happy news as soon as I got the positive pregnancy test. I wanted everyone to feel better. Two days later, I was no longer pregnant. The embryo had failed to implant properly. Feeling foolish, I called my family to say I wasn’t pregnant after all.
Two months later, I was pregnant again. This time I was more cautious and told nobody. I didn’t even go to my GP. I just waited to see what would happen. At about five weeks, I started to feel dreadfully ill with abdominal pain. A few neighbours had mentioned they’d been really sick with a gastro, so I thought I’d caught it too. Later the bleeding started. Eventually I went to hospital and was told I’d experienced an ectopic pregnancy that had naturally aborted (An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that is not located in the uterus). Once again, there wasn’t going to be a baby. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. We took a break from babies for a few months to get our heads together. Suddenly everything seemed uncertain, everything was stressful. I started to feel anxious about the idea of another pregnancy, but I knew I wanted to give Birdy a brother or sister if I could.
In November, I discovered I was pregnant for the fourth time that year. My husband and I did not want to get our hopes up. We went cautiously to an ultrasound at five and a half weeks. The embryo was where it should be. An early heartbeat was visible. It all looked promising.
At seven and a half weeks my obstetrician could not find a heartbeat. He sent me over to the hospital for a more powerful scan. I’ve never felt so tense in my life. I felt sick. I couldn’t believe it was happening again. The internal ultrasound showed that the baby’s heart was still beating, but it was not as strong as it should be and the fetus had not grown as much as it should have. After I pressed him, my doctor admitted that he expected the baby to miscarry. I hoped and prayed he was wrong. Most of my friends and family told me things would be OK. The doctors were just being cautious. You can have too many ultrasounds these days, they said. Too much information will just make you worry unnecessarily. It will all work out, they said.
On December 3, a week later, we were told the worst – the baby’s heart had definitely stopped beating. So on December 4, the day I should have been giving birth to my second baby, I was admitted to hospital for another D & C. Meanwhile, a close friend of mine was having her baby at another hospital down the road. In the exact time that my friend had carried one healthy baby, I had lost four pregnancies. While she was welcoming her child into the world, I was having mine suctioned out of me. I know that sounds crass, but its not a pleasant procedure. The sadness was suffocating. As I lay in my bed, the grief overwhelming me, I had an image of myself being dashed against the rocks in a raging ocean, completely powerless. If I did not have Birdy to cherish, I don’t know how I would have got out of bed.
As I’m writing this, I know there will be people who are going through the same thing, who don’t yet have their precious child. It must be even more devastating for them. But I have found it helpful to read and hear about the experiences of other women and that’s why I wanted to share my story. In fact, a number of friends have asked me to write about miscarriage on my blog. I recently finished reading a book called My Seventh Monsoon, by Naomi Reed. In the book, Naomi shares about the five painful miscarriages she experienced. I found it helpful to read her story, although she was clearly writing with the benefit of hindsight, from a time when her three boys were safely in her arms. Naomi felt that God carried her through that difficult time. I’m afraid I haven’t felt that. And I haven’t even felt that something good will eventually come from all this pain. I have another close friend who has had several miscarriages; she now has two beautiful children. Their stories give me hope that one day I will also be on the other side of this journey. But I wanted to be brave enough to share this experience with others while I’m still on the journey, when I don’t know what the ending will be, when the raw emotion of loss has not been dulled by the safe arrival of another baby.
I don’t know what the future will hold. I feel sad for what I’ve lost. And I feel sad that pregnancy is no longer a state of joy for me, but a time of fear and anxiety. I dearly hope and pray that I will not have to go through the pain of another miscarriage, but only time will tell. I don’t think I will ever make sense of what has happened to me, but I hope that one day I will be at peace with it… If that’s possible.
Have you been through the pain of a miscarriage or infertility? How do you cope when everyone around you seems to be having a baby? Have friends and family been helpful or do you feel that nobody understands your situation? If you’ve come out the other side, how has your point of view changed over time? Please also feel free to share anything that helped you deal with your loss and grief (and those things that were definitely NOT helpful.)
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