This time last year, Ben and I lost something very precious to us. I wrote about it at the time and thought maybe, maybe one day I would share it, and today is that day.
If you have a spare 15 minutes up your sleeve, grab a cup of soothing coffee, tea or a glass of wine and snuggle up. It’s a long one.
WARNING: Not a read for the faint hearted…
They say nothing will ever prepare you for a newborn child until you have one. You can do all the planning and preparation, but when that little baby comes along it will change your life forever.
What they don’t tell you, is that nothing will prepare you for when that baby doesn’t make it. No one told me about that.
When I was a kid growing up, four babies was what I wanted. I come from a family of four girls, my mum is a family of four and so is my dad. I had friends who were siblings of four, and it just seemed like that was the perfect number. The perfect number of friends to grow up with, the perfect number to get mad at one of your siblings and still have the back of at least one of the others (or none at all). Growing up in a family of four girls with, at one stage, the eldest at 8 years old and the youngest at 2, goodness only knows how mum did it - dad was always away working. I have the fondest memories of my sisters and me. So four was a good number.
The years of puberty were tough. It was horrendously tough, because I started bleeding two years before I told anyone and at a very early age. Mum found out one day when she was doing my washing and I remember endlessly crying to the point of no words, thinking I had done something wrong. It was summer holidays before I was to start Year 7. I was so young. I didn’t have the courage to admit that it was happening to me. All I could say was that it hurt really bad and massaged my belly. That’s when mum bought me my first pack of pads and I started to feel special. I felt like I was growing up and I was one of the few girls in my year at school to experience such womanly things. I was proud and it felt good to share experiences with other girls, and give advice to others as it started to happen for them. It was an exciting time, albeit a painful one. I will never forget trying to wear a tampon for the first time, for swimming lessons in Year 7 and not putting it in properly and jumping in the water - I thought my insides were going to split open. Not fun. Not fun at all.
In high school, I learnt everything I could about the female anatomy. I had such an appreciation for being a woman. But the pain, it never went away. It was the most excruciating pain every month. As a teen my skin was pimply, just like everyone else’s, and finally, FINALLY mum took me to the doctors to go on 'the pill’. Another momentous occasion into womanhood. I felt in control, but I was also scared because I didn’t know how to use it at first. I wanted to skip my period straight away to avoid the pain but I took the white pills as prescribed, and the cramps came on again. It was debilitating, high-octane, rocking on the floor pain. After a few months of taking the pill correctly, the pain subsided and it became manageable. What a relief.
For almost eight years I was on the pill. On and off trying different types, finding what worked best. I started to dislike taking it. I was terrible at taking it on time, at the same time everyday anyway, and it was so expensive. I was annoyed that it was women who had to take a pill for effective contraception, why hadn’t they made one for men? I forgot that it was a privilege to be able to make a choice and I was lucky that it had stopped the pain I initially experienced. I should have been grateful. But one day after a serious breakup I decided I no longer wanted to take it anymore. My body was my body and I wanted to choose to go natural, to not rely on medication as I had done for so long. So I stopped taking it for nearly two years and the pain reared its ugly head once again. It started again and it never stopped.
I tracked my period on an app (super cool!) and I knew roughly when my period would come. I was able to tell when I was ovulating. I began to really know my body, from the natural swelling of my breasts a week before I was due, to the middle of the month – I felt a twinge of pain on either my left or right side when my ovaries would release an egg. It felt amazing to be a woman, to be so in touch with the changes in my body. But the pain; it never stopped. It was relentless. Every month that I got my period, for at least two days I couldn’t move or get off the floor. I remember going down south to work for my good friend Liz and apologising profusely when I couldn’t get off the floor of her kitchen because I was in so much pain.
I went to a doctor who said it was possible it was endometriosis but they would only be able to tell by operating on me and I sure as hell didn’t want that. Natural pain-relief was what I wanted. I was looking into starting acupuncture to deal with the pain until one day the pain didn’t come. I was pregnant...
Oh. My. God.
My period was running 7 days late, but at the time I was hardly concerned. I even joked around with Ben about how funny it would be if we were pregnant right now. He didn’t find it so funny.
One night, on the way back from mum’s we grabbed a pregnancy test just in case and sure enough, it said PREGNANT. It was one of those digital ones, where it actually said PREGNANT. I was overwhelmed. I cried, Ben cried, I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t down with having an abortion and soon we adjusted to the idea. “Fuckkkkkk we’re gonna be parents.” Ben was all googly eyes for me and I was pretty giddy myself. It was an exciting week to tell our parents and siblings. Everyone was overjoyed and so were we. We were the happiest we could be!
Every time we saw a baby, or a baby-daddy or a baby-mummy, especially walking with a pram or dog we cooed, (ahhh the beauty of having a family). We fell deeper in love and my whole family became closer. My sister was also pregnant, 7 weeks ahead of me and that was a super special experience. It was a joyous time all round.
My breasts became sore, SO SORE I couldn’t even rest my arms next to them, my tummy was sore from my uterus stretching, but I never stopped smiling. My HCG blood results were good on three tests except the last one wasn’t particularly high. The doctor said to me casually over the phone that it wasn’t going to be a viable pregnancy and that I was going to miscarry. He said it in such a cold, matter-of-fact way and that if I did miscarry that I shouldn't worry because at least I could get pregnant. I guess this was a good sign, considering this is where the trouble starts for most couples who really want to conceive. But I was determined not give up hope and the 6-week ultrasound showed a strong heartbeat and we saw our little Blueberry on the screen. I cried my eyes out. We really were going to be parents.
My sister was throwing up with nausea from weeks 7- 12, so when my 7 weeks came around, that was exactly what I was expecting - a tirade of nausea. But it didn’t come. I deduced among family and friends that I was one of the lucky ones that wouldn’t get sick. I was going to have a pain-free pregnancy. I thought this was my good Karma for always having painful periods; instead I would have a pain-free pregnancy and I was SO very grateful.
I started to become extremely organised with work, my taxes, my spending. I worked out how much we needed to put away. We were planning to go to Japan in April, but we would have to cancel it, as I would be 8 months along by then and not allowed to fly. But that was okay, we would sell the tickets. Ben began working overtime, including weekends and night shifts. I began sleeping for hours and hours each day. I took a new appraisal at the gym, specifically for being pregnant and wanting to take care of myself. My blood pressure was good, my measurements were good and I started taking extremely good care of myself. It was a very liberating, exciting and wonderful time. That weekend I remember casually saying, “You know Ben, I feel a bit ‘ripped off’ - I don’t even feel pregnant, I feel totally fine”. Before I knew it, I was cramping and by Monday evening I was bleeding.
It was only light spotting, which I thought was normal and to be expected at some point (or so google told me). But when the following day I was cramping severely and bleeding heavily, I knew something was wrong. I booked in with my doctor, who confirmed my cervix was closed, but that I was still bleeding and she booked me in for an ultrasound. I held onto hope.
Ben, my friend Sophie and I all went to the ultrasound. Ben waited in the hall, and Soph came in with me. I knew I needed female hands to hold at that stage. We looked up at the screen and it was completely still. The techie didn’t need to say anything. I knew there was no heartbeat and when she confirmed with the doctor... Well, my heart broke.
I walked out to Ben and he could see on my face that something was wrong. We sat in the sun outside the hospital and cried. We comforted each other. Looking for positives - we could still travel to Japan, next time we would be more organised. Next time we’d have proper maternity cover. We could fall pregnant. We had each other.
But I was scared about what would happen next.
I went to work the next day for a few hours, but the bleeding became heavier and I so desperately needed to leave. The cramping reached an all time high. I met Ben at the doctors again, and while sitting in the waiting room holding onto him, I heard a baby coo directly behind me, instantly bringing me to tears. My doctor confirmed what we already knew, so we booked in to see the Obstetrician that afternoon. My options were surgery or to let it pass naturally. I was undecided. We were booked in at 4pm, so it was only an hour and a half wait before having to decide… And that's when the pain became acute.
The pain was like all the period pain I had ever experienced in my life, magnified tenfold. It was unrelenting, high-octane, excruciating pain. The local chemist wouldn’t give Ben anything stronger than Naprogesic and Panadol for me to take. I took it anyway, but it did nothing to relieve me. I lay crumpled in the shower, the warm water running on my legs and I cried and cried and cried. I moved to all fours, then upside down, then standing, rocking on my feet, back down to lying in the tub and rotating my knees left-to-right, left-to-right...
There was nothing I could do to stop it. I called for Ben and as I stood up blood flowed down my legs into the drain and I howled. Ben sat in the doorway sobbing. I couldn’t stop the pain. I couldn’t get comfortable. I was losing my mind and there was absolutely nothing either of us could do.
By 4pm we were sitting in Dr Wu’s office aka “Patrick-Wu-Tang-Aint-Nothing-To-F*ck-With” as we called him. An incredibly sensitive and intelligent man. Bless him. He suggested a D&C and I asked, “would it stop the pain?” He told me that I was in labour, as it was my body’s way of trying to expel the foetus and that yes, the D&C would stop the pain. We booked in for a 7am operation the following day and in the meantime he gave me the gnarliest pain-killers I've ever had. Best decision ever.
That night I didn’t sleep, I was awake scratching and high as hell. I lay on the couch all night until Ben got up to take me to the hospital, where I cried all morning. I howled as I filled out paperwork in a very matter-of-fact fashion, signing away a part of me. I brought two big novels with me, thinking I could distract myself and soon realised, “well this is ambitious”. I could barely focus on the TV in front of me. My vision was so blurry from the tears and I was high as mother-f*cking-kite. I whispered to Ben how lovely the nurses were, really! And he laughed in a jokingly, melancholy way, realising I wasn’t really all-there in that moment. But truly they were lovely…
Before I knew it I was being wheeled down to theatre, the gas mask was hushing me to sleep and I was waking up with a sore tummy, and a sore heart.
It is 2am and tonight I write all of this out. I write for relief, to get the words on the page and out of my brain, so that I never forget. My hope is that one day I can share this with friends and family and maybe, MAYBE it eases the pain for someone else…