I wasn’t sure if this was a story I could tell. How could my experience of baby loss be worth sharing when so many other women go through far bigger traumas? How could I talk about mourning a baby that may never have been there, when some women suffer the pain of giving birth to fully grown babies with no heartbeat? How do I have the right to be traumatised when I have a healthy toddler already?
But I’ve realised that actually, every story is valid. My story is one of millions of miscarriage and stillbirth stories, each one unique in its finer detail. Each one uniquely painful. Yet each one a chapter in an overall story of loss that unites us all.
When our daughter was nearly 18 months old, we got pregnant. It happened quickly and we were excited, nervous and hopeful. On the days when our toddler was a handful, I worried how I’d cope with a new-born too. On the days when she was joyous, I felt that joy almost burst out of me.
I battled through the nauseating ‘anything-as-long-as-it’s crisps’ phase. Trudged through the leaden exhaustion that left me wondering if I had the energy to get through an hour of being ‘mum’, let alone a day. I enjoyed the realisation that my skinny jeans were just too skinny to button up. I motored through the brain-whizzing barrage of questions: Would (s)he be a Christmas baby? Who’d look after our daughter when I was having the new baby? Did we need a bigger car?
When I started to feel less nauseous I was relieved. I could eat vegetables again! When I realised my boobs weren’t getting any bigger, I mused how different this pregnancy was to my previous one.
On the day our first scan arrived I googled ‘missed miscarriage.’ Why? I have no idea. Did I sense something wrong? Was I just bracing myself in case the worst happened?
I sat in the hospital waiting room while my hubby parked the car. Bumps everywhere. I looked at my still relatively flat tummy and wondered when mine would appear. Lying down on the sonographer’s bed I got that churn of adrenalin you get when something momentous is about to happen. And it did, one way or another.
As she pressed the cold gel to my belly I could see it almost instantly. An organic shape. A dark shape with no baby inside. ‘There’s no baby is there,’ I said. A statement rather than a question. She looked stricken. ‘I can’t see one, no. I’m sorry,’ she said quietly. I wailed. A primal sound. She left the room to get a second opinion. I wailed again, uncontrollably. A sound I hope not to hear again any time soon.
The second sonographer came and following the same process, reached the same conclusion. My body had grown a placenta but there was no baby inside. It might never have even been there. We were ushered past the mums and bumps waiting for their own scans. Into the ‘quiet room.’ But still those wails kept coming out of me. I said I was sorry to my husband, over and over again. How could my body have tricked me all those weeks? How could it have got things so utterly wrong?
The medical term for our experience is ‘blighted ovum.’ And that’s exactly how I felt. Blighted. Ruined, wrecked, destroyed.
We left the hospital on that blazing June afternoon different people. Those few minutes looking at that empty shape on the screen had taken our world view and skewed it, greyed it. We now knew a new type of loss.
I’m still working through the following few days in my head. Taking the tablets, ending up having surgery. The fear. The kindness of the anaesthetist who squeezed my hand as I lay staring at the ceiling in the recovery room, tears soaking my cheeks. The friends who let me talk. Who let me cry. The strangers who messaged, saying ‘I get it.’ And the way the two of us clung together, telling each other it was going to be OK.
I’m still working through it all. And I know thousands of others are too. None of us are alone. There are always people ready to hear our stories. All our stories.