My first miscarriage was a bit of a surprise because I didn’t actually know I was pregnant. I sat in the bath trying to ease the pain of what I thought were incredibly painful menstrual cramps when I suddenly realised I wasn’t alone in that bath. My eyes closed for a very long time while my mind raced with blank thoughts… my eyes opened and I looked into the water with more blank thoughts. My mind was truly empty as it was impossible to comprehend or process what I saw. Describing what I found in my bathwater isn’t appropriate here. The decision to pull the plug and watch it all drain away became a silent tug of war between the trauma of what was real and obvious and the fantasy that this was a mistake – miscarriages only happen in hospital. Once the reality of my situation hit I didn’t want to reveal what had happened to anyone because I didn’t know how to answer the questions they would surely have. One positive my doctor offered was that it’s a relief to know I’m able to get pregnant; which meant that, one day, I will be a mother.
My next pregnancy progressed further than 7 weeks and I was very excited to read up on the size of my baby and how he or she would look from week to week. The trans vaginal ultrasound at 6 weeks showed a normal pregnancy, a lovely heartbeat and I felt safe enough to buy a beautiful pram, some blankets and little newborn outfits. Pastel lemons and greens were my favourite colours.
At the my 12 week visit my gynaecologist asked how I was feeling and his disappointment was obvious when I said I felt great.
“No sign of morning sickness?” he asked with caution in his voice.
“Not even a bit!” I bragged, naively.
The look on his face told me everything I needed to know. This wasn’t as good as I had imagined. He saw my face drop and went into damage control; explaining that some women don’t get morning sickness and I might be one of the lucky ones.
“Yes,” I said hopefully, “I do feel lucky.”
A few days later I walked out of the hospital ultrasound room reeling in shock. The nursing staff watched me emerge from the little room in tears, sobbing uncontrollably. One nurse came over and sat beside me and, without knowing what exactly was wrong, she asked if there was something she could do. “A tissue?” I sobbed.
She sprang from her seat and came back with a whole box, placed her hand onto my back and the warmth of her palm flowed through my crisply ironed work shirt, giving me a sense of warm, energetic kindness. The next few days were a blur as there were ‘arrangements’ to be made.
It was quite late on the Friday afternoon of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend when I was admitted to hospital for a curette. The nursing staff spoke gently and with care as they inserted the cannula into the back of my left hand. They rubbed my forearm and squeezed my wrist gently in the most reassuring way as they spoke about what they planned to do over this long weekend. The conversation was distracting and strangely comforting. As they wheeled my bed from the pre-op room and into the operating theatre I began to speak to the nurse.
The pre-med warped my sense of time and I could hear that my voice sounded urgent and panicked. The nurse wiped tears from the sides of my face as I went through my spiel, “This was going to be my first baby and it’s my second miscarriage. I haven’t had any babies yet please don’t rush through my procedure so you can get away to the long weekend. Please take care of my womb.”
Before hearing their response – or without remembering their response – I was asleep.
Afterwards, I was confronted with ‘those’ questions:
“How’s the pregnancy going?”
“Any morning sickness yet?”
“Hey Mumma Sue, how’s bubs?”
And my response, “My baby didn’t make it. I miscarried over the Queens Birthday weekend.”
And then I was confronted with the other questions:
“Oh, I’m sorry…. how far along were you?”
“I’m very sorry to hear…. was it a baby boy or a baby girl?”
“What did you name the baby?”
“Is there going to be a funeral?”
“Did they let you bring it home to bury under a rose bush in your garden?”
I don’t even know how I responded to those questions. That time is just a blur. A blubbering blur of dismantling the pram and hiding all the baby stuff in a big cardboard box in the wardrobe of spare bedroom.
My false smile meant that life got back to normal pretty quickly. The most awkward conversational moments had passed and I entered the phase of quietness; no conversation, no thoughts, no plans – just moving forward one day at a time. In my mind I had began to believe the obvious. Perhaps I was not born to have babies. Maybe pregnancies weren’t natural for me. Growing a human was too difficult for my body and there was no point in asking why because nobody knew the answer.
My third pregnancy was my blessing. I wouldn’t tell people until I’d kept my growing baby alive for 12 whole weeks. The morning sickness was very strong and I threw up through my huge smile every morning for 6 months. I couldn’t bring myself to unpack the pale yellow and pastel green baby clothes or re-assemble the pram until the 8th month had passed. I was excited and terrified.
My gruelling 26 hour labour ended with my darling baby girl born at 2.30am on Friday 2 April 1993. I needed to sleep but lay there in my bed staring through the plastic sides of the crib at the miracle I had finally created.
Some nurses came into my room and asked to “have a look at the wee babe”. They said they remembered me sobbing in the corridor last year after my ultrasound, and one was there in surgery when I’d asked them to take care of my womb. They congratulated me on finally winning the jackpot. These ladies had been following my motherhood story from the sidelines all along.
Every year the Queens Birthday weekend comes along and I’ve thought of the little lives that I had lost. At first the thoughts were very painful and I found myself crying at no notice. After a few years I was unaware of any thoughts but I was moody – and then, once I realised the significance of the date, I realised why I was so uptight.
Twenty five years have now passed since that Queens Birthday weekend and I have two wonderful daughters (aged 24 and 20). I can talk about all of my pregnancies without tears; although I always feel a heaviness in my heart and a strange quietness sweeps over me. Maybe my grief is like a slow moving train which has taken me further away from the need to cry, further away from the disappointment and anger. Maybe the grief train is now at a new Station where I remember what happened because it’s the only thing I can do in my role as the mother of my lost babies.