Yesterday I started to read a new book and three pages in I was having one of those ‘Can of Worms’ moments. By that I mean I didn’t want to read on because of one those cans might explode messily all over my life and I might have to face some demons that I prefer to keep locked away.
The demon in this case was about a miscarriage. One of those taboo subjects that is so personal that it is rarely spoken about because it is just too personal to share with anyone but your closest friends and family, and even then it is usually just to say that it has happened. One in three pregnancies miscarry. One in three. This is a huge number. I don’t relate to the character in the book who has been through years of painful and unsuccessful IVF to find herself pregnant at last only to miscarry at 10 weeks. In my case I didn’t realise how much I had wanted children until I found myself pregnant by accident by a lovely man that I had not been seeing long.
As both of us had no children, were getting older but quite liked the idea of being parents and sharing in what our friends have, we chose to see this as an opportunity. Even if we, as a couple, didn’t work out we were sure that we could be mature about it and provide a loving and stable life for a child that would be very much loved.
Despite trying to keep it quiet for three months just in case, news soon got out and families had to be told. We looked at selling our houses to provide one beautiful home and talked about about future together. The timing was dreadful. He was just starting a new business that needed an enormous amount of his time and energy, and I was turning 40 so was worried about my health and other complications that having a first child late in life can bring. I was also very sick!
Although I was feeling rough and all the stresses that we had to face I also felt, for the first time in my life, as though I was doing something truly worthwhile. I was surprised at how happy I felt and how much I wanted this baby. Most of my friends saw me as forever free, childless and happy to be so. I have never really been comfortable with small babies and therefore I was seen as a bit of a child hater, rarely asked to babysit or look after friends’ kids. I was terrified. I knew my life would change forever and no matter how prepared you think you are it will be ten times more draining, more exhausting, more scary, more everything!
I bought books on being pregnant – I felt very peculiar in Waterstones but it had to be done. I needed to know what I was in for and what was happening. I didn’t want anyone to see what I was buying and somehow this was making it real – I was spending money on a baby, my baby. Once I had some books, I called into a baby store on my way back to the car… that was one step too far and I ran out again. I had been in there a hundred times to buy presents for friends who had just given birth, but all of a sudden it was too much.
The problem with falling pregnant just as you are about to turn 40 is that there are parties and the like that are bound to happen, and I am known to like a drink or two, a bit of a bop and to celebrate as much as I can find to celebrate. I was just 12 weeks on my 40th, feeling sick and tired so I had to tell everyone why I wasn’t drinking champagne at my own party. I was 12 weeks, the scan was the following week in Harley Street, because we were going to have all the right tests etc, so why shouldn’t everyone know?
Excited we went up to London for the day, did a bit of shopping and went along to the smart clinic I was booked into to see our baby. I will never forget the gut wrenching feeling when the nurse said very little and then told us she was going to get someone else to have a look. We knew. Things were not right. We were told that the foetus had died at about 7 weeks and I was having a ‘missed miscarriage’. My body was convinced it was still pregnant, still making me feel terrible even though there was nothing but a dead child there. I say child, because to me that was what it had already become. My one shot at motherhood and my one chance to have what everyone else has, had come to an end. In five minutes, I went from feeling like the most important person in the world to the most worthless.
We went for lunch, and I ate everything I hadn’t been allowed to. I was still feeling sick and now everyone had to be told that I wasn’t having a baby, making me feel even worse. We didn’t really know what to say to each other. We sat on the train home, not knowing what to do or really knowing how each other felt. I felt so alone and so wretched. When I was widowed at 28, I had not known how to feel, so had chosen to ignore the situation, as I had been used to him being away. This I couldn’t.
And it was Christmas. I went to see my GP the next day, the day before Christmas Eve. I said that I couldn’t go through Christmas waiting to miscarry so he sent me straight the hospital for a D&C. There were about seven of us there, looking scared, trying not to cry. My partner took me in, but had a business meeting and staff Christmas party that he really did have to be there for, and this was a crucial time in the new business set up. I felt like a huge inconvenience to him, even though I am sure that is far from how he felt. He had a huge project, I had made his life awkward by getting pregnant and now losing the baby just meant I was another drain on his time he could ill afford. He hadn’t done his Christmas shopping either and we were spending Christmas day with his brother and family.
I went to theatre late and it was Christmas Eve when I woke up, in pain and wondering how I was going to deal with all this, when I hadn’t really had it in the first place. My ex-mother-in-law kept ringing, it turned out that her Christmas present didn’t fit (she had opened it early) and she wanted the receipt so that she could get a full refund. I hadn’t told them about the pregnancy but explained that I was in hospital having a miscarriage. She went quiet for a moment and then said, “Yes, if I could have that receipt otherwise I will only get the sale price for it”. I hated her at the moment. She of all people should have known a little of what I was feeling, but she was more interested in herself than me. She always had been, so I shouldn’t have let it upset me, but it did. Maybe it gave me something else to focus on, but I have still never forgiven her.
Christmas was hard. We went on holiday over the New Year but I don’t think either of us enjoyed it. Neither of us seemed to be able to talk about how we felt and we didn’t know each other well enough to know what we were going to do about our own relationship. Early one morning my mobile went off. It was the hospital angry with me for not turning up to my scan. I explained that someone from the Gynie ward said they would inform them. Surely my records must have been updated? But it was Christmas…
We didn’t last. I felt wretched, was no fun, he was busy and we agreed to split up. I don’t even remember now how it happened, who finished with whom, but that doesn’t matter. We stayed friends and will always share a special bond but he has moved on now… I haven’t managed to have a relationship longer than 6 weeks since.
Time really is a great healer and I rarely think about all this now. The tin is kept firmly shut in the worm cupboard, but every now and again it rattles a bit. I hope that in writing this I have let another woman know that she is not alone. None of us are the same and the experience is so intensely personal that it can never be. One in three… you are not alone.