TRIGGER WARNING . . . This blog post includes content surrounding miscarriage and infant loss which may be triggering to those who have experienced this.
You know there's a right time for everything, right?
And I've been holding this blog post in my head and my heart for quite a while now - feeling it pulsate stubbornly with the energy to be written, the anxious desire to be out there. But it wasn't the right time. I had some healing to do.
The healing is ongoing, I'll be honest. I'm not fixed yet and probably this part of me will always be broken. What's that thing I've seen about Japanese pottery being fixed with powdered gold? I'm hoping that's the crockery version of me. The jagged, broken lines glittering with acceptance and a new kind of beauty. Maybe.
So I got pregnant people. Not by mistake either. yes, I'm 41 and I already have two terrifying boys who blast my heart open daily with love, laughs and high jinxes. But the hubby and I had a moment (not that kind of moment - steady on - that came later). We were standing on a hillside whilst looking out to a shimmering sea, our terrifying kids running riot around us, the sunshine drenching our cheeks and the wind whipping up our hair, I was even wearing a floaty, flowery dress so I was proper channelling Kate Bush, and we just decided then and there another baby would be bloody lovely.
It wasn't completely out of the blue. We've whispered about it for years. But on this beautiful, warm day in August, it became more than a whisper. It became a definite and exact wish.
And when we got the two blue lines less than three weeks later it felt, well, meant to be. It was almost like the universe had shrugged its mighty shoulders and thought, 'why not? Let's give them another go at this.'
Only problem was, I was ill. I mean, proper ill. I've never felt anything like it during a pregnancy before and I won't disgust you with the details, but it's safe to say it felt as though none of my internal organs were on my side. That little babe had all of me and what was left over wasn't much use to anyone. As the midwife said at my booking appointment, 'the baby doesn't care about you. Not yet.'
To be frank, I didn't care much about me either. Constant illness will do that to you. I'm lucky enough to have had fairly good health throughout my 41 years but on the occasion I have been ill or in pain I have absolutely sent vibes of silent awe to anybody who has to deal with such things indefinitely. I was pregnant. I knew this wasn't going to last forever. But I lost myself for a while. I strayed away from the me I've always known and lapsed into a woman who was tearful, desperate, lethargic, heavy and sad.
The pain and the sickness dragged me away from any joy I could have been feeling about a new baby and my only anchor was my husband and his stoic ability to dry my tears, hug my bones and tease a smile, no matter how small. And the kids did that classic paradoxical shit where they saved me and sent me under in equal measure.
I got signed off work.
I stocked up on frozen foods.
I gave up on after-school clubs.
I forgot what make-up was.
I didn't see my friends.
I created a dent in the sofa.
I watched all the Netflix.
But all of this - ALL of it, was only made bearable by the promise of a baby.
Now I know you're not supposed to get excited before the 12 week scan, but I needed something. And surely this was it. Surely I was allowed to think about what that little creature inside me was going to mean for our family?
And, out of very impressive grown-up-ness, we hadn't planned to tell our boys until after the scan that they were going to have a little sibling. But Big Lad's uncharacteristic stealthiness ruined all of that when he bellowed, 'Why is Mum taking Pregnacare tablets?'
We buckled and told them. Even now, I will never forget that gorgeous moment. The two of them sat on the coffee table in front of us, swinging their legs with anticipation. And the sudden, heartening thud of their two bodies against mine as they heard the news. Right then, I didn't care about how ill I was. Only about the warmth of their joy - so beguilingly tangled up with mine so that magic was the only possible explanation for all of this.
Now I'm loathed to skip forward to the day it all went wrong but I must. I can't go on forever about how hard it was being pregnant for those first three months. How long every day felt. How far I seemed to travel away from myself without moving off the sofa. How I, a mindfulness teacher, even forgot to breathe sometimes. You probably get the picture.
Having had two miscarriages before, I knew how important the 12 week scan was. And that date rolled around with hope and trepidation all at once. I'm sure it does for everyone, but especially those who have lost little souls before.
We rocked up to the hospital thinking we were playing it cool. But my hope was evident in the fact that today, for the first time, I was wearing an outfit that showed off my already emerging bump. I wanted to join the expectant mums club so bad that I was even wearing the trademark navy and white striped top. These were clothes that I would peel off in absolute disgust later that day.
It's a strange thing when they put that jelly on your tummy and start pressing that scanner thing into your skin. It hurts a little bit. And your bladder feels like it's going to burst. And there's a lot of darkness which feels unsettling. But what's a little discomfort when in a minute you're going to see your actual baby on the screen?
And we did see it. Perfectly formed. A flawless, plump, totally recognisable little baby right there. I spent so long looking at it, and feeling quite a lot of awe, that it took me a while to realise that the room was deathly quiet.
Quiet apart from the clicks of the machinery, the whir of the air conditioning, the roar of my thoughts beginning to rise . . .
Then the sigh of the sonographer. "We're sorry Abigail, we're not seeing what we'd hope to see. There is a baby there, but there's no heartbeat."
My grief was immediate.
My sadness was feral, primal.
The loss was colossal.
I'd been here before.
I've tried to imagine writing about what happened next and the days that followed, but it all feels a bit much. Travelling home that day, telling the boys the awful news, making that phone call to my mum, trying to sleep that night. I tried to write about it in my journal, which is my usual go-to self-care ritual, but even that felt too much. Or not enough. I don't know.
Anyway, in the midst of 'I don't know' I took some pictures. Just a few. I thought maybe I'd look back on them in the future and maybe they'd help me remember. Help me with the healing. And here they are now, to help with this blog post . . .
A beach not far from our house. The hubby and I had never been there before, despite hearing from all the world how beautiful it was. On this day, the day I was waiting to hear from the hospital about when they could admit me for the operation I needed, the weather was truly shit. If nothing else, it reflected how we felt. Heavy. Grey. Stormy. Cold. But we went out anyway, knowing that the sofa was not a safe place for the entire day. We needed rain on our skin. Mist in our hair. Breath in our lungs and mud on our boots. We had to remember there was a world out there.
I had no appetite. Obviously. But what with the weather and the time of year and the general state of things, it felt like soup was the only thing. Of course, the boys would obviously refuse it, because our sadness wasn't reason enough for them to suddenly embrace the world of vegetables, but that wasn't the point. Spices steaming, onions sizzling, colours merging and stock bubbling - kitchen alchemy seemed the only kind that would even touch the edges of the loss I was reeling in.
This was given to me by one of my best mates for my birthday earlier this year. We've both been through a lot in the short time we've known each other and never had it seemed more fitting to wear it than now. Ok, so I potentially forgot how to wash my face, put on make-up or even dress properly. But I could manage to wear this bracelet. It was a lifeline.
During the days I had to wait for an operation, I was terrified about miscarrying naturally. For some women, that is totally the answer and cathartic for them. For me it would have been a proper horror show (I know, I've been through it before). So on a rainy Sunday whilst I waited for my hospital appointment, the only thing I could think of to do with the boys was to take them to the local leisure pool. Thank god they are old enough to go in on their own now. Thank god for the Starbucks next door. Thank god for the viewing area where I could sit and watch them and feel it was ok to tear up when they clung onto each other laughing helplessly in the waves. Thank god for the fact that they can get ready themselves and I could sit in this little waiting area feeling I had done them some good. Thank god.
These were given to me by my gorgeous next-door neighbour and her daughter who had been privy to the whole saga. I got other bunches too. And a beautiful plant. All just left on my doorstep alongside a text containing lovely words. I couldn't have asked for more. Not that I needed the flowers. But I did need to know people were there for me, that people understood. That with the folds of the petals and the veins in the leaves they were saying, 'we're here for you, but only when you're ready, we're here for you.'
I opted to have the surgical removal of the miscarriage. And I wasn't allowed home until I'd eaten this jam on toast. Because the jam on toast (aside from being delicious, which I'd completely forgotten), is sweet, nourishing, warm and familiar. And I guess if my body and my mind accepts all of those things, then I can start to accept the rest of what's happened, can't I?
My husband is a private person so I don't like to ever go into too much detail on here about how he might be feeling or what he might be up to. But we noticed this rainbow on our way home after my op. Even after the jam and toast episode, I felt broken. I was exhausted, pale, tearful, bleeding and sad. But I had my husband next to me. Driving ever onwards through the god-awful school-run traffic, through the grey mist of the day, and towards our home, which was going to be a haven for both of us. Yes, that rainbow may have been a trick of the light and the rain, but I like to think it was also ours for the taking.
It's not much, but it's something. I was sitting alone in the living room the other day and trying to force myself to eat something I probably didn't want in a bid to nourish my depleted body. I looked up and saw this. A tiny burst of light from the kitchen window. I ignored the dishes in the sink and focused on it fully for a good few minutes. Allowed its goodness to soak into me. Breath by breath, moment by moment. I knew then it was possible to return.
During my time of being ill through the pregnancy, I was sad that yoga became out of reach for me. It's something I've always used, at home, to nurture myself but I couldn't quite stretch to it when I was poorly. A few days ago I unexpectedly felt a quiet and serene energy moving through me. I was alone. And at home. So I looked up yoga for challenging times and found this. It's by my absolute favourite You Tuber, Adriene Mishler and it didn't disappoint. Slow, silent stretches and deep, soulful breathing . . . I know that eventually those things are going to help me paint those cracks with gold.
There are a lot of other things I could have shared with you about this but nobody is going to read a blog that takes hours to read. Rather, I just wanted to be honest about what I've been through recently, because writing a blog post about anything else seemed impossible until I'd done this one.
I don't know, I'm such a heart-on-the-sleeve kinda girl that it feels like a bit of a curse sometimes.
But if that curse helps one person with any kind of shit they might be going through - baby related or not, then I'm happy. Sitting here now at the laptop, I already feel it working its slow magic on me so maybe it's enough if that one person is me?
For now, I'll embrace the tiredness, the emotions, the crazy eating habits and the almost-too-tight-hugs I've been giving my kids as all part of the ride. And if anybody has got any of that gold powder paint knocking about, can you hit me up please? I'm ready to claim back my power.
If you've been affected by the content in this blog, please see some links below to help you during times of miscarriage on infant loss:
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