Admittedly, we didn't have to try very hard first time round - marriage, honeymoon, parenthood here we come! It happened so quickly and so easily it felt more like a happy accident than something we'd planned for. Friends confided that it had taken them months, even years, to get pregnant. We were obviously the lucky ones.
It was a different story nine weeks later (29.09.12). We live near a large teaching hospital with an early pregnancy unit on site. Maybe my cramps and 'spotting' were nothing to worry about. I had a scan. There was a baby. I didn't see it but they told us it was there. Go home and get some rest they said. When it happened, it happened quickly. Back at the hospital, this time in the A&E reception. I went to the toilet and that's where I lost part of us.
We came home and we cried, and we hugged each other. Time passed and we started to heal. Oh well, we thought, it happens all the time. It wasn't meant to be. After a brief - two month - hiatus, the two blue lines appeared once more and we waited, cautiously optimistic that we'd have better luck second time round.
I started to feel unwell at my husband's parent's house the day after Boxing Day. We'd waved goodbye to my mum and dad the previous day with no mention of me being pregnant. First time round, we couldn't keep it to ourselves and told both sets of parents at seven weeks. This time we'd decided to save them the hurt and heartache we know they must have felt when we told them it wasn't to be. Having gone upstairs to rest (not unusual after a big meal) it was about an hour before I started to bleed.
His parents waited up while we went to A&E and then to a private screening centre to confirm that the miscarriage was complete. It was. No more baby (28.12.12). I phoned my mum and dad from the car park.
I didn't cry because I wanted them to think I was strong and able to cope with what was happening.
I wasn't. To this day, I can picture every detail of that clinic, from the reception desk to the hand dryer in the toilet. That experience changed us but we didn't want to acknowledge it at the time. So we carried on like nothing had happened.
By March, I was pregnant again. With hindsight, we probably should have waited longer to come to terms with what had happened. Knowing that it was likely to happen straight away gave us false hope that the pain we'd experienced would be cancelled out with the next positive test. Pregnancy number two ended at eight weeks, this one was just over six (15.04.13). I didn't process what had happened. In fact, I can't remember feeling very much at all.
Once I'd done what I thought I had to do, felt like I thought I should feel and said what I thought I needed to say, I didn't have the energy to think about how I was really feeling or the toll all of this was taking on our marriage. Resentment had started to compensate for my waning confidence. If it wasn't my fault, as every specialist and blog was telling me, then where should I lay the blame? It's true that you always hurt the ones you love. I didn't mean to, but my actions told a different story. I started to self-destruct because it seemed like the only thing I was any good at.
Like Pavlov's dog, I salivated at the thought of anything that offered me the opportunity to escape. For a while I was happy but it wasn't real life. It was a life I'd constructed to make up for the one I'd lost three times over. Then it happened again.
After three miscarriages, we'd officially been classed as 'recurrent' and referred to a specialist and a counsellor. We both underwent dozens of tests to determine if there was anything genetic or physiological preventing the pregnancies continuing beyond nine weeks. We were both given the all clear and the 'reassurance' that it was just bad luck. My time with the counsellor, in an anteroom inconveniently positioned behind the early pregnancy unit, was an opportunity to explore how the 'ups and downs' of the previous 18 months had impacted on my mental well-being. The answer was 'quite significantly'.
Even though I never looked pregnant and never suffered from morning sickness, my hormones had been up and down like a yo-yo since I got back from our honeymoon. It was helpful to talk but for all the hours I spent in that room, I knew I was dodging the real issue. Rather than explore how I felt about losing a life (both physically and metaphorically) I used those sessions to dissect all sorts of other things that I found interesting - like why I can never finish anything I start and why I hanker after bad boys when I'm married to the most wonderfully loving human being I've ever known.
I hate to say it but the fourth time it happened was very much like the third. At just over six weeks, I couldn't help thinking that if pregnancy tests were less accurate, I would have put it down to the period from hell. As it was, another little piece of me, and us, disappeared (11.10.13). Life carried on as usual, if usual means drinking heavily, engaging in destructive behaviour, threatening divorce and eventually being prescribed anti-depressants. I still managed to hold down a well-paid job with significant responsibility. I even managed to convince my friends and family that I was doing just fine. I'm not sure if they believed me but it seemed better for everyone concerned to play along. A handful of people knew that we'd had a bit of a rough ride but seemed to be bearing up admirably. If only they knew.
Now it's March 2016 and we both feel ready, physically and emotionally, to try again.
We've always been able to talk honestly and openly with each other and ultimately that's what has kept us afloat. We've shouted and screamed, cried and sobbed in equal measure. The only constant amidst all this chaos has been our ability to talk and listen - even if it took ages for the words to come out. We kept talking to fill a silence and a void that wasn't there before we shared this experience. We wouldn't have hoped for it, but neither do we regret it. Here's to the future.
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