I never thought that miscarriage would be a part of my story. I have known death – I knew it from the age of nine when I lost my father – but losing a child, even if that child’s life can only be counted in days of conception not days on earth, is a new kind of grief.
It is howling with pain as you clutch the phone after that final dream-killing call; it is a blunt knife twisting in your womb; it is blood, so much blood. It is your traitorous body expelling the one thing you wanted more than all. It is feeling life, a life you made, slip out of you when you’re trying so hard to hold onto it.
Miscarriage is a savage injustice, a disruption of the natural order of life. A woman’s womb is made to create and sustain life. When that primal process fails, you have failed. You failed in what should be the most basic function of being human.
But as I have learnt, having a child is not easy. And it’s not a God-given right by any means. If anything, the fact that anyone is born at all, that we are all here living and breathing, is a miracle.
I have been blessed with one miracle, who is now a chatty five year old who loves Spiderman and pizza and comes home from school each day to tear around the house in his superhero costumes. He tells me on a daily basis how beautiful I am and that I am the best mummy in the whole world. When he was a baby, his smile was enough to bring tears to my eyes, and almost six years on, nothing has changed.
His birth was not without complications but my first pregnancy was trouble-free. By the time the second pink line showed up on the stick after three months of actively trying, I was about ready to tear my hair out in frustration and impatience. Nobody told me that falling pregnant would be so hard.
Turns out, nobody told me a lot of things when it comes to motherhood – like the fact that babies do not naturally sleep without settling, that all settling techniques do not work on all babies and most don’t work at all. I was never told how difficult it would be to make and drink a cup of tea, or finish a meal, or finish anything, after the birth of my son. I was never warned that sleep deprivation can be a form of torture and that giving birth can cause flashbacks and severe anxiety.
I had no idea that becoming a mother would explode my old life so much that I wouldn’t believe I could ever pick up all the pieces to make myself whole again.
Maybe these things can’t be told but must be learnt. Either way, I took the betrayal of my sisterhood hard. Some of my friendships are beyond repair. With no-one in my corner, I had to form new friendships. These new mummy friends became my lifeline, but none of them knew I was battling debilitating postpartum depression and anxiety. It was a private battle waged within the walls of my home and the confines of my mind.
I chose what I thought was the kindest thing – to not have anymore children. To be one and done. To bring my child up to a point of independence and then to reclaim myself. This decision had no bearing on my son, who was and is the light of my life. A sweet, kind, brave boy who I am immensely proud of. Our bond was strong from the very first moment I was aware of his presence in my body.
That’s the thing about motherlove. It is instant and everlasting. It’s a love that is etched into your heart and encrypted into your soul at the moment of conception.
Motherlove, this powerful and mysterious force, was responsible for overriding my reasonable, logical thought processes. It was no longer within my power to choose whether or not to have anymore children. By the time my son turned three, I’d become a mushy maternal mess filled with the biological longing for another child.
At this time, I thought overcoming postpartum depression would be the hardest thing I’d ever face. I thought just making the decision and preparing myself for after the birth was enough. I was wrong.
I became pregnant after three months of trying, just like with my first pregnancy. It felt so right. I loved the changes my body was going through, sure signs there was a baby on board. I knew before it was time to test. A blissful, complete knowingness. When the second pink line came up, I actually high-fived my husband. We did it!
Later, after my loss, self-hatred set in deeply when I remembered that moment. I’d been so fucking naive. So smug. So excited that I’d told all of my closest friends and given up my gym membership. I was ready to be fat and happy and pregnant.
And now I was empty.
When I was young and thought I knew everything, I believed a miscarriage would be relatively easy to overcome. After all, the kid obviously wasn’t meant to be born. There was something wrong with it and nature did the kindest thing by disposing of it. I believed it would be easy to move on. Sure, it was sad, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Just make a new one.
I didn’t know then that the extinguishing of a life I’d made would be so painful that at times I’d wish for my own life to end.
And I didn’t know then that it could happen more than once. Or that it may never be possible to “make a new one”.
Wishing and dreaming, longing and hoping and trying. These are good things. There are so many more once your baby is born: loving so much you think your heart might burst; living in a house filled with laughter and stuffed with toys; everyday moments struck with wonder.
But for all the joys of motherlove, it can also bring the worst heartache a mother will ever endure.