When I was pregnant with my first child everything went just fine. Well, as fine as things can be when you find yourself suffering from the unexpected hell of severe ‘morning’ sickness for the entire nine months, a nightmarish, never ending sickness that eventually requires hospital admissions, drip feeding and medication. Not forgetting finding yourself rapidly ballooning from a previously slim person into an amorphic form vaguely reminiscent of Babapapa, minus the healthy glow and cheerful smile.
I also hadn’t counted on the facial skin afflictions that plagued me during the first few months of pregnancy which turned my face red, itchy and bumpy. Neither had I considered the possibility that I would one day be shopping for XXXL marl grey tracksuit trousers and t-shirts in the discount men’s department of the supermarket. Neither was I prepared for the fact that whenever I saw somebody I knew they would look at me aghast and proclaim at volume something along the lines of “Oh my God! You’re SO big!” My first pregnancy was not my most attractive time.
It was however a healthy time for my baby son who, oblivious to the traumas I was suffering on the outside was tucked up cosily inside me, feeding on my rapidly depleting energy supplies and fading good health in order that he could grow big and strong. And he did. He grew to a healthy size. Everything in his development was going to plan and at the end of the nine months the birth was relatively straightforward. Sam had arrived.
When I fell pregnant for the second time I was prepared for a similar experience. I braced myself each day for the anticipated onset of sickness.
But it never arrived.
The bleeding started early one morning just as I reached the end of the first trimester.
Within a matter of hours I found myself at the emergency department of the hospital. I had a scan which showed the baby was not going to survive. I was having a miscarriage.
I was admitted to the hospital in the afternoon and was told that over the course of the night I would lose the baby. That night was the longest, loneliest, most devastating night of my life. The overriding memory, the memory that will never leave me, is of lying in my hospital bed feeling my baby slowly but surely leaving my body while further along the corridor a newborn baby cried. A cruel twist of fate. The hours passed so slowly. I felt as though the morning would never arrive. I felt that I would never be able to stop crying and I felt that nothing would ever fill this all encompassing emptiness that was swiftly taking me over.
In the morning I was taken down to the operating room for a D&C. I remember lying on the operating table, unsure of what was going to happen, shivering uncontrollably from the chill in the room, struggling not to breakdown in tears while all around me the medical staff were laughing over shared stories of their weekend. I felt that I was alone in my pain, that nobody had ever before endured the heartbreak and sense of loss that I was currently enduring, and that I would never fully recover from this total devastation.
Very few people know about my miscarriage even to this day, five years on. Only family and a few close friends who had known I was pregnant to begin with were told. However, from the people I did speak to about it I came to realise that miscarriages are actually surprisingly common. I discovered that a couple of my friends had also been through a similar experience and that surprisingly most of the people I had talked to knew somebody who had also lost a baby. According to the NHS, 1 in 7 pregnancies will end in miscarriage, and that’s not taking into account the fact that many more occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant. I was told by my doctor in Spain that I had to wait at least three cycles before trying to get pregnant again, but I had heard that conflicting advice was being given to women in the UK where they are advised that you can try again as soon as you feel physically and emotionally ready.
I went with the UK advice and fell pregnant again very quickly. I was swiftly overcome by the familiar extreme sickness, but it was strangely reassuring because I associated this with a healthy pregnancy. Once again I was admitted to hospital, once again I ballooned and was medicated and once again I endured skin afflictions but these were things I was prepared to suffer because the alternative indicated something unbearable that I couldn’t contemplate going through again. The physical and emotional pain and the devastation that I felt eventually subsided but the memory of what happened and how it made me feel has never disappeared. When I think of myself lying in that hospital bed being tormented by those cries of the baby down the corridor I can be instantly moved to tears.
Writing this has been an incredibly emotional experience, not only because I am reliving it all so thoroughly but also because I am writing it down for all to see, strangers and friends. When I miscarried I initially thought it was because I had done something wrong. I was under the impression that this was a comparatively rare occurrence and I was convinced that I could have somehow prevented it, that somehow I was to blame. The NHS states that while women can lessen the risk of it occurring by not drinking, smoking or taking drugs, the majority of miscarriages can not be prevented. If I had known then what I know now then perhaps I wouldn’t have felt so guilty or so alone in my experience.
Nine months later and Henry was born and I can’t quite imagine what life would be like without him. He is a funny, crazy, loving, endlessly energetic, frustratingly temperamental little boy and a perfect soul mate for his big brother. We are truly blessed to have him in our lives and if I hadn’t suffered the experience that I had been through then we would never have known the joy of Henry.
He is my happy ending.