I've had a few weeks' break from writing and it's been weird. It's usually my outlet, my pressure valve and my way of being productive even though my house is falling apart around me. If I've had a shit week, I knew I could just throw it all down in a note on my phone or in my notebook and I could piece together a blog post and share how I've been feeling. Sometimes though, that shit week becomes the worst month of your life and everything has turned into a nightmare being cruelly reflected back at you in a funhouse mirror. Sometimes you might desperately need to get some of the black, snarling thoughts out of your head and onto paper but they're just far too painful to have to see physically in front of you on the page.
June was truly the worst month of our entire lives but started as the best. We had just found out we were expecting our second baby after only one month of trying. We were surprised but ecstatic. It was something we'd discussed for a while and felt that we were in a good enough place to handle another. I took 12 pregnancy tests because I couldn't believe we'd been so lucky after waiting four years to get our Harry. We let our very close family and friends know because there just wasn't a superstitious need to keep things secret like there is with a first baby. We figured that nothing would go wrong because we already had a perfect and healthy little boy.
At six weeks, I had some spotting and got myself checked out at our Early Pregnancy Unit. They confirmed that I had encouragingly high hCG levels and I had a scan booked for a few days later.
The morning of the scan I was an agitated bag of nerves and nothing could calm me down. When I got to being actually scanned, I lay there for a long time in silence while they got on with it. I clutched Craig's hand, tears streaming onto the pillow. The ultrasound tech needed a second opinion and then a third. The room began to get a little crowded. I heard medical terms being thrown around like FH (foetal heartbeat) and gestational sac. I let myself take a breath and feel relieved that the baby's heart was beating but then they told us that it looked as if the baby had implanted in my c-section scar, which is a very rare kind of ectopic pregnancy. None of them had ever seen it before - one woman even having been in maternity medicine for nearly 30 years. If it was an ectopic, we would have no choice but to terminate the pregnancy. Nobody could say with certainty what was going on or recommend how we moved forward.
I got referred to Saint Mary's in Manchester as they had specialists in this type of pregnancy. We were scanned again, which revealed that whilst the pregnancy actually wasn't in the scar, the gestational sac was rooted at the edge of the scar, which was problematic because they couldn't be sure whether or not the baby would end up growing out of the scar or into it. If the baby started growing into the scar, my scar would eventually rupture and tear open, possibly killing both of us. There was however a small chance that this wouldn't happen and the baby would grow out and into the rest of the womb and continue as a normal pregnancy.
The next scan a week later. showed that the baby had started to grow out of the scar, which was amazing news and gave us hope after an unimaginable week of not knowing.
My pregnancy symptoms had started as well. I had very intense morning sickness, just like I had with Harry, which was another good sign. I was shattered all the time and couldn't wear a bra with under wiring because of soreness.
I went and had my booking appointment at around eight weeks with my midwife and started tentatively living life as normal. We started talking about plans and 'when the baby comes' was dropped into conversation a lot. We were happy. We were hopeful. We were only slightly nervous about our next appointment a week later to see how things were progressing.
We sat in the waiting room discussing getting a picture printed this time as we had seen Harry at eight weeks and got a really clear picture of him. We laughed about how when I was pregnant, brushing my teeth made me gag ridiculously loudly every morning. When my name was called, I only got a slight jolt of excitement rather than the fear of previous weeks.
I climbed up on the table and lay still for what felt like a long time. The ultrasound tech and the consultant were silent and avoided my searching gaze.
After about 15 minutes they turned to me and said the words I'll remember forever; "I'm so sorry but it's not good news. There hasn't been any growth and there's no heartbeat. I'm so sorry. None of us were expecting this". As my eyes glazed with tears, I stared at this one ceiling tile until they'd left the room for me to get dressed. As I left, I stared at the image on the screen. A silent, empty black hole. It fit.
The next couple of hours were a blur. We were kept waiting for an hour in a room painted purple with what I supposed were 'calming' butterflies stencilled on the wall. Our consultant rushed through explaining the operation I was going to have because he was needed in theatre to deliver a baby. 'Lucky her', I thought with a painful snag of envy. I was scheduled to have Surgical Management of Miscarriage (SMM) the following Monday. It was horrible. I wept as I woke up from the general aesthetic and asked the nurse "Is my baby gone?". They didn't mention this part of the experience in their helpful leaflet.
I felt so stupid for ever having got my hopes up, but of all the outcomes I had spent the last week obsessing about, this just wasn't one of them. We had let ourselves feel like we were going to be parents of two beautiful children. We had spent evenings watching TV, my hands or Craig's resting on my belly. Talking to Harry about his little brother or sister. We had had the entire life we'd planned as a four ripped away. We had felt so complete, so sure. I was compiling a list of names, pricing up a double buggy, browsing maternity wear.
I was told by people around me, close and not so, to just be grateful that I conceived and I could always "try again". The way I saw it I was being told to just be OK and put it all behind me because my empty womb would soon be full again. I can't put it behind me and I shouldn't be expected to. We went through real grief and I was not offered any counselling, neither was my husband. When the consultant awkwardly asked if we were "moving on", he took our unsteady and off-guard "erm...yes?" as what he needed to tick another box on our file. Since we went through this, so many people have come forward with sympathy and sharing the stories in private messages. But why are they private? Why aren't people allowed to talk about it?
It's been the darkest and most difficult five weeks we've both experienced. I feel like I've been buried alive. This week we would have been 12 weeks and making some sort of cute and quirky pregnancy announcement but instead, there's this. The only thing keeping us from dissolving is our son. Now I wear a garnet on my right ring finger; January's birthstone. For my little January jewel. I won't hide what I went through, I'll wear it with pride.