Trigger warning: Miscarriage/termination and pregnancy loss.
Looking back now, I realise how naive we were; seriously thinking that the toughest decision we had to make was whether or not to try for a baby.
We had talked about having children, as you do in that rather vague way when your relationship starts to get more serious, but when I hit 35 the pressure intensified.
We were worried.
Was now the right time? What about money? We lived in a flat, would we have enough space? When would I go back to work? Were we cut out to be parents?
In the end we put aside all our fears.
Research suggested, being “older”, it could take up to a year for me to get pregnant and so we assumed we would have plenty of time to sort out the finer details and get used to the idea of becoming parents.
The look on our faces when a positive result appeared on the test a month later would surely have been priceless.
I think it is fair to say we both felt a little overwhelmed, which sounds silly now as this was, after all, exactly what we wanted.
While Mark went into worry mode, I was feeling too ill to think anything other than ‘how do people do this for nine months?’ It went beyond what I considered would be normal pregnancy symptoms and was more like the life force was being sucked out of me.
This was the first clue all was not well.
A few weeks later I started to bleed. Not horrendous amounts but enough to be worried. I remember a very matter of fact nurse telling me it was most likely I was miscarrying and it was very common. There was nothing to be done, she said, one in four end this way. Nevertheless, she booked me in for a scan at the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU), which was to become almost a second home in the next few years. It is on the same floor as all the maternity/gynecological services, which often means sharing the lift with heavily pregnant women or even ones who do not look pregnant but are carrying the tell-all Bounty packs I came to loathe.
The next few days as we waited for the scan were agony. I knew something was wrong, it was like a gut instinct, but at the same time I felt pregnant.
I was eight weeks by this point.
We went in thinking the worst but came out with the best news. There was a tiny heart beating and signs of a “perfectly healthy baby”.
Over the next few weeks I continued to feel horrendous, it was like my bones grew weary of holding me together, but things seemed to be progressing and we were edging ever closer to the magic three-month mark – I even started thinking about how we might announce it and who we would tell first.
Even while the excitement about the 12-week scan mounted, I still felt impending doom. I distinctly remember saying to Mark beforehand: “If the sonographer says she needs to get a second opinion or just has to nip out, it is Very. Bad. News.”
Things started well.
We saw the heart beating, which seemed like the biggest hurdle over. We were excitedly pointing out the head and little waving hands to each other on our screen not really registering that the sonographer remained ominously quiet.
Then she said it: “I need to go and get someone else for a second opinion.”
Our world stopped turning.
She explained it seemed like there was a problem with the baby’s head where the bones had not formed properly. As she was on her way out I asked: “Is the baby still be viable?”
I still can’t believe I used that word. So clinical and detached. I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve ever said it out loud but it perfectly reflected how numb, almost like I was watching the scene from outside my body, I was feeling in that moment.
“No,” she said.
For part two please click here.