Nobody panic! This isn’t some sort of surprise announcement, it’s a throwback to last year – there’s no way my body could cope with another pregnancy! This week is Baby Loss Awareness Week and it’s got me thinking about the journey we took to welcoming Phoebe, our second child.
We finally felt ready to expand our brood when Artie hit 3 and, after a few unsuccessful months, I fell pregnant. I started to show at 6 weeks. I realise you’re probably assuming I just felt a bit bloated and no one would have known but people had already started to talk. In fact, people had already started to ask me at work – it really was that obvious. It’s like the minute I had the positive test my belly went PING! Have some space baby. I can’t deny it was stressing me out. I had no interest in everyone knowing what was going on in my body before we really knew ourselves and so we decided to book an early scan to check how things were going. Having suffered with anxiety when pregnant with Artie (more about that another time!) I needed a bit of reassurance before I started to talk to people.
Off we trotted on the day of the scan, when I calculated I was about 8 weeks pregnant. We were cautiously excited and it felt so strange to be off to see another little human on the screen. The scan began and the room was quiet. “How many weeks did you say you were?”. About 8 I told her. “Oh” was the response, “are you sure?”. I was sure. I was very sure. My head snapped round to the screen. It was obvious something was wrong. And it was. All we saw was an empty sac. Where there should have been the start of a baby there was just a blank space. I had all the symptoms of a pregnancy and yet there was just a blank space. “You might just have got your dates wrong” she said. Yes, we might, but deep down I knew we hadn’t.
We drove home in a state of shock. Why did my body think I was pregnant when I wasn’t? Maybe I had got my dates wrong and the yolk sac just hadn’t developed yet? When you have a scan like that, NHS protocol is to wait for 2 weeks before a second scan to confirm the pregnancy isn’t viable. So I had to wait a few days for the NHS scan and we then had to wait a further 2 weeks for the confirmation scan. It was a horrible couple of weeks. Having to go to work every day, knowing I had an empty space where there should have been a new life. With everyone talking about whether I was pregnant behind my back. I didn’t have the energy to put them right. And what would I say? Could you stop talking please, I might be pregnant and I might not, we don’t know? I can’t pretend that I didn’t feel one of the reasons I couldn’t share what was happening was because then they would know. They would know I wanted another baby and that my career was going to take a back seat again. I was worried that work would think I wasn’t committed to my job because I’d rather have a baby. And the thing is, at that point in time, that was the truth. I did desperately want to be thinking about maternity leave and tiny little clothes rather than the impending GDPR and retention strategies. Should women be judged for that? Does it mean we value our careers any less? Should someone else be considered more committed because at that point in time they’re thinking about work rather than babies? Or does it mean for a little while our priorities shift and we make space for another little human in our lives and then our career will follow again one day soon enough? I believe it should absolutely be the latter but as a woman in a male dominated business, the fear was ever present for me, however hard we try to change the picture.
The days dragged slowly by and at 10.5 weeks, I suddenly had a massive bleed whilst I was at work. Cue a complete outfit change courtesy of the M&S over the road. I should probably have gone home but the only thing I could think to do was plod on. Take my mind off it. Don’t speak to anyone. Don’t tell them. They’ll know you’re trying for a baby. You’ll have shown your hand. And then a couple of hours later, I felt a bit strange and, in a revolting cold toilet cubicle, alone, with office life carrying on as normal a few feet away, my body expelled our baby who never was with more force than I had ever imagined it would. And just like that our pregnancy became a statistic. The estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies in the UK that ends in loss. I stood in shocked silence for a few minutes, then told my boss what had happened and went home. Fortunately I had already told him what was going on because so many people had been speculating, so there was no need to go into the detail. It was over and that was all there was to say.
A scan a couple of days later confirmed my body had fully aborted the pregnancy. Something that I found strangely reassuring because I felt at least I had done a good job at that and so avoided any need for intervention or the risk of infection. And the truth is that I felt relieved. Relieved it was over and I didn’t have to torture myself with the “what ifs” any more. Relieved that we’d avoided any intervention. I appreciate that this is not how everyone feels when such a thing happens to them but we had had 2 weeks to come to terms with what the situation might be and I was tired of trying to kid myself there would be a happy outcome.
We find it a comfort that we know there was never a baby to grieve. Yes there was some level of fertilisation but for whatever reason, it was not our time and a baby was not able to develop. What we had to come to terms with was the loss of our dream of expanding our family at that point in time. All the hope that we had held. Going through such a time of uncertainty undoubtedly made us stronger as a couple. We had been through a very tough few years and having to process everything that happened made us see how strong and ready we were to try again and hopefully give Artie a brother or sister one day. On the next cycle, we were so grateful to catch a lucky break. It was a very anxious wait as we crept towards 8 weeks but this time, thankfully, the scan revealed a tiny little heartbeat. The relief I felt was like a flood and I sobbed and sobbed so hard the midwife was close to tears. The rest, as they say, is history.
And so our brush with pregnancy loss was, in the scheme of things, relatively unremarkable. Relatively brief. Just another 1 in 4. We are so incredibly grateful to have gone on to have Phoebe and to have been able to complete our little family. For so many others this is not the case and I cannot even imagine how they stay strong, nor would I presume to comprehend the sadness they feel. But I will always remember Tuesday 16th May 2017. I will always remember where I was. I will always remember how I felt. And I will always wonder – who would you have been?