I have never wanted to stand out. There is a certain amount of fanfare and fuss that comes with infertility and loss but of course, it isn't the good kind. When the most important thing in your life is something you have no control over, and being let down by your body has such far-reaching consequences, all you want is to fade into the background: to be average, to be a normal family.
It's been six months since I lost our baby: our miracle conception, our beating of the odds, our pat on the back from the universe. Right now I should be sat here with a huge eight-month bump obscuring the screen, writing about something other than this absence.
Right now I should be pregnant.
Stop it, stop it, stop it.
Over the months I have moved on considerably, of course – I have had to. Things no longer feel raw, or so painful. The sight of a glowing pregnant person or a tiny newborn makes my heart ache a little, but my eyes never water and I know I can handle it, even if I don't always want to.
But how long must my mind play this game with me – the subconscious arithmetic that works out how far along I should now be, the pull at my stomach when my young toddler gently cuddles his teddy – telling me what a great brother he would be... I want so much to let it go but cannot control the wasteful, wistful thoughts that intrude on my life.
I carry our loss around with me, like I should have carried our baby. Most of the time, I don't feel sad, but it is almost always there. I am grateful for our son – oh how I am grateful – and I treasure my time with him completely. I know that no matter what the future holds, we have a child and for him, I am so thankful. We go about our days, our weeks, our months, and things are good. We make plans, we see our family and friends and we have time for just us three too – though sometimes I can't help thinking it should be nearly four.
Stop it, stop it, stop it.
I floated through the various emotions attached with grief: shock, sadness, disbelief, guilt, anger. But I can now see that it isn't just about the baby we lost, the life that could have been. More than that actually – honestly – it was the loss of our dream, the tearing up of a picture we had painted in our mind and the re-writing of our happy ending. It was hard, and some days, it still is.
I understand that it is over, that we could not have won this, that it is cruel and unfair but that it happens. I couldn't have known my pregnancy was ectopic, and if I had I couldn't have done anything to change it anyway.
The outcome cannot be altered. It has happened. It is what it is.
We have been unlucky I tell myself, but there are many unluckier ones, so many losses. But you see that doesn't negate what happened to me, to us, to our family. It doesn't diminish the very natural and valid desire to have a second child and it doesn't stop me thinking that if this hadn't happened, our lives would be so different right now; and that to have a miracle snatched away is so much harder for me than not being offered one at all.
Stop it, stop it, stop it.
Last week we had a short break by the sea and having some proper time together – along with fresh doughnuts – was every kind of perfect. On the second day; excited by a morning at the beach and buoyed on by the novelty of a different environment, our exhausted toddler wouldn't take his nap, so I lay down with him. Together in a darkened room his excited giggles soon calmed to slow, deep breaths as he rolled into me and lay his head on the palm of my hand. Soon, he was asleep and I enjoyed his soft snores and jumpy dream legs alongside the rare opportunity to appreciate him at peace.
I lay wrapped around my almost two-year-old and my mind began to wander. There was no work to think of, no appointments to make, no dinner to consider – we were away from it all and my busy head could rest. In spite or perhaps because of this, I was triggered to think of that day, and this time I didn't try to stop it.
I let myself think back to the bleeding and the uncertainty, to the frustrating wait and the fear which mingled with a small ray of desperate hope. I recall the silence in the scan room and my husband holding his breath and my hand. I think of the agonising quiet, which stretched out far longer than it ever could have done for a positive outcome. And of course, there was no good news.
I lay still beside my son as my memories skip and pause randomly. I remember the different doctors, the hurried explanations, the forms and the urgency. There was sadness, questions, time alone together: holding, trying to let go.
I remember missing my son, the childcare logistics, the time spent alone wanting for it to be over yet not being ready, how could I be ready? I remember the hospital corridor, the lights on the ceiling and the kind Anaesthetist.
And that is all I remember because that is all there is. I am being woken; sick, groggy and sore, and it is over – it is all over.
Back in our temporary seaside pad, there are a few quiet tears but no flood, no emotional collapse. After all, I have known of what happened for six months – I have lived this – I have, in many ways I realise, accepted it.
But I am now also going to tell myself that it's all right that I feel sad sometimes. It is okay that I wish this hadn't happened – it doesn't change anything but I have permission to feel how I do. Whatever I think, however I grieve and however you grieve – is okay.
There is a hole in my family and an uncertain future. There are fertility issues, a previous IVF gig and a happy outcome. There has been a miracle conception and a heart breaking loss. And now, there is a woman with almost 35 year old eggs, one less tube and a deep desire to give her child a sibling.
But, there is also some hope, for now there has to be. There are two people stuck together by love, history, experience and friendship and of course; there is this little boy.
Having him doesn't negate the natural and valid wish for another child, or remove the grief of losing one, and I mustn't fool and pressurise myself into thinking that it should. But it does mean that no matter what lies ahead, we are already a complete family thanks to our extraordinary son who, for the moment, needs nothing more than what we can give.
I don't want to miss his toddlerhood by losing myself in a world of what if... and what now... And as my due date looms, I hopefully will work towards some closure – after all – past that point, I should not still be pregnant; there will be nothing to stop. Because surely, I cannot imagine life with a baby I never knew.
And each time I am asked, 'Is he your only one?' or 'Will you have another?' I will answer, and it will sometimes be easy and sometimes hard – depending on what hand the future deals. Perhaps there will always be an internal aside of thinking things should be different, or perhaps it will fade, as acceptance draws over our lives and appreciation for all the things we do have calms the sadness that occasionally threatens to creep over my day.
Because what we have been given in this life is nothing short of amazing and for that – for him – I am sure I will always think myself most lucky indeed.
This is a difficult subject to both write and read about. My hope in sharing this is to bring some small comfort to anyone who has struggled or is struggling. Because we are not alone, and it is okay to not always be okay – that is my message.
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