It was lunch hour on High Holborn when my curiosity got the better of me. I disappeared to the office toilet and peed on the white stick, while ostensibly ‘popping to Costa.’ And there they were: two blue lines heralding a secret heartbeat, a collection of cells, a unique set of DNA. My baby. My heart sang.
So much for all the ‘precautions’ we’d been taking. We’d only been using condoms on my supposedly fertile days. Unhusband didn’t realise it wasn’t the most failproof way of preventing parenthood. But my clock was ticking, so I didn’t let on. I’d wanted a baby for ages, but he kept saying it wasn’t the right time. Fortunately, his little swimmers knew better.
At first, Unhusband just wandered round with his head in his hands mumbling in his native Italian, ‘mamma mia.’ But with time and beer, Daddy-to-be came round to the idea of, well, being a Daddy. We were living in a one bedroom flat at the time, sandwiched between a man with several personalities and a roaring dual carriageway, both of which kept us awake at night. Although if we’d lived somewhere more peaceful, perhaps we’d have done more sleeping and less procreating.
So while Daddy-to-be began searching for more family friendly accommodation, I devoured a cumbersome hardback that claimed to be the Pregnancy Bible. Every week, I marvelled at the speed with which this product of meiosis changed from something resembling a tadpole, to something resembling a baby.
I was also amazed at the scale of nausea he or she was capable of inducing. Commuting to Waterloo became even more unpleasant than usual, with the constant threat of vomit lurking. At work, I languished behind my desk, hoping no-one wondered why I’d suddenly gone off coffee. Whenever my boss wasn’t around I’d log on to pregnancy websites to check whether our baby eyelashes or fingernails. Or to find out what kind of fruit it currently resembled. At seven weeks I was carrying a grape, at ten a strawberry.
At 12 weeks we breathed a sigh of relief – we’d passed the danger point. We should have had a scan around this time. But there was a pregnancy boom on, so we had to wait another two weeks. It was like waiting for Haley’s Comet to come round. Then, with just one day to go, I went to the loo and discovered blood. Paroxysms of panic followed.
We went to hospital but they told us not to worry – mainly it seemed, because it was a Sunday. So we went home and waited. And waited.I turned to the pregnancy Bible for reassurance. But as the hours ticked by, I knew something was wrong. And then it happened. A gush of blood, a rush of pain. Bright red splashes on our white rented bathroom tiles.
Unhusband sobbed for the ambulance to come quicker, but they were too busy. In the end we had to drive. In hospital, there was nothing anyone could do. I lay there, writhing and bleeding. Then I passed out.
I woke up, no longer a mum-to-be. The first signs of the second trimester flattened out under general anaesthetic.
I felt like winter had overtaken my womb. I went home empty and broken hearted. I’d never even met our baby, but I missed him or her in a way I’d ever experienced. Unhusband put the pregnancy Bible out of sight along with all the baby name books I said I’d never buy. We scrubbed the bathroom tiles with bleach and tears until no trace of our baby remained.
In time, the grief became less consuming. And then I fell pregnant again. It felt like healing, joy and betrayal all at once. When you lose a baby, you know it’s not your fault, but you still feel guilty. Even the word ‘lose’ smacks of carelessness. I was terrified my body would let this baby down too. Yet, slowly, fear gave way to hope. And after nine long months, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy boy. And fell in love. He now has a little sister and I’m blessed to be pregnant again.
Miscarriage is wretchedly common – up to one in four pregnancies will end that way. There’s a sense of: ‘oh well, try again.’ Of course, it’s not comparable to stillbirth and my heart aches for women who go through that. But just because there’s no funeral, doesn’t mean there’s no grief.I am so grateful for my children, but I also remember the baby I lost.
I wrote this after losing my first baby and decided to post it now as part of this week’s baby loss awareness week. For support and information, go to: