No Guilt, No Shame: Mummy for a Fleeting Moment

It all started with an iPod update, yes an iPod update. I kept all the data around my menstrual cycles nicely stored within a lovely app, and I organised my sex (and everyday) life accordingly.

So, yeah, the iPod update. Well, that update caused the loss of all the data I held on my monthly cycle. I felt lost, I could not remember when my last period was and I was just feeling “funny”. I decided to take a pregnancy test – surely this could not have happened, I am not mumsy at all, this is a bad time!

But it did, the test was faintly positive, and then it hit me “could this be true”? Four tests later I was convinced that it was, and then… panic. We cannot possibly afford this, I have to work twelve hour shifts just for two of us to scrape by, never mind three! Am I what a “mother” is cut out to be? Am I capable of being responsible for another life totally dependent on me when I cannot even remember to turn the light off when I exit the kitchen? Am I going to hate that child for stealing my independence? What if I give birth to the next Ted Bundy? I mean, let’s face it we are both just a little bit “odd”.

The only thing that never crossed my mind was the following: “How would I feel if I lost whatever was inside me? Not through any fault or decision of mine, just if I happened to lose it.” And that was the only question which would have rendered all the others insignificant.

The doctor confirmed there was a pregnancy, even though all they did is take my word for it and prescribe me with this magic “folic acid” which I was to start taking immediately. So I did, and suddenly, I felt I had started taking care of something I previously was not so sure I desired. My partner was in the same state of disbelief I was, and had gone through the same exact feelings of denial “You are kidding, right?”… panic “We cannot afford to raise a child can we?”… and finally acceptance “Ezra would be a nice name for a boy… and I think Isobel for a girl”.

After all the aforementioned stages and multitude of emotions, I felt something which can only be described as happiness. I was actually happy; there was the prospect of me giving life to a tiny person who would be wholly created by us and wholly dependent on us, even though that last part scared me to death.

And then it came, the first drop of brown spotting. I did not panic as I had heard all the “expert” opinions on the subject… “sometimes there is some remaining blood from your last period”… “implantation bleeding, definitely”… “do not worry, some women experience bleeding all the way through and reach full term, giving birth to healthy babies”… “the placenta might be growing low, take it easy” you get the gist.

I started spotting on what was the fifth week of my pregnancy, there was barely anything there, size-wise there was probably a tiny pinhead implanted on my uterine wall nothing more than that, yet I felt like I was carrying Jesus Christ. No, I was not a virgin and no, I smelt no lilies and yes, the feeling was probably based on some archetypal Christian remains due to my upbringing in a Greek Christian Orthodox society, but I felt great! Even though my boobs were hurting, even though I had to run to the toilet more often than I would like, I felt great!

Following that, I felt… scared and worried! A visit to my GP was all it took for me to end up in the local Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit.

  • Blood test 1: hCG levels of 195, come back in two days.
  • Blood test 2: hCG levels at 297, not quite doubling but it could be too early.
  • Blood test 3: hCG levels at 541, well done, appropriate rise.
  • Blood test 4: hCG levels at 1621 appropriate rise, we will book you in for an ultrasound!

At that point, I started actually believing that I had to take my mind off the little voice inside me, which told me everything was going wrong, and started believing in numbers and doctors. hCG is rising perfectly fine and appropriately to the gestation week I should be at… “Great“! I was told to return to the hospital the next day for an ultrasound with a full bladder. So, I drank the OCEAN, seriously, I drank more than I had ever drunk before. Three litres of water in less than three hours (two toilet trips later, I was ready for my scan). It seemed that everyone, but me, had believed in numbers and doctors, people started saying “stop worrying, it will be fine”… “We will not discuss this spotting situation every night for the next seven plus months are we?”… “don’t be silly, it is just one of them things, as long as the hormone levels are rising you will be a – ok.

Suddenly, six weeks pregnant, I found myself in a dark room full of strange women, all eager to see shape in the white noise of the ultrasound machine.

  • Abdominal ultrasound: “Cannot see much, her bladder is too full. Go to the toilet and come back.”- Piss interval –
  • Trans-vaginal ultrasound: “I cannot see anything; her bladder is still too full. Let me try with a higher sensitivity attachment.”
  • Trans-vaginal ultrasound 2: “Tubes clear, ovaries clear (good news, no ectopic). Uterus… CLEAR (silence).

That was the longest, most deafening silence I had ever experienced, the lights came on… “it could be too early, the endometrium is thickened but I cannot get a clear picture.” So another blood test was in order.

If the hormone is still rising we will schedule another ultrasound next week, if they are falling however, it will indicate that you have either miscarried or you are in the process of miscarrying.” And then the answer finally hit me “Yes, I was bothered about what happened to my little tiny pinhead, I did want my tiny pinhead and yes I felt like my heart was about to be ripped out”.

  • Blood test 5: hCG levels 1400

I could not stop the tears from falling, even though Nurse Corrine was extremely understanding and obviously really gutted too. “I am sorry darling, but it seems like you are miscarrying, there is nothing you could have done differently and you could go on and have a football team if you want, but this one was not meant to be.”

And there it was, that familiar feeling of helplessness, a feeling of emptiness and loss. I was certain I had experienced that one fifteen years ago when my mother had suddenly passed away, and it was the same exact feeling of numbing internal pain over something so final I could not possibly change.

-“What about me Corinne? Where does that leave me? Is my body going to recover quickly? Will I have to go through a D & C? WHY DID THIS HAPPEN TO ME?

– “You will be fine darling, your body will recover but you have to come back in three days for another blood test so we can make sure your hCG levels are still dropping and then we will discuss what to do from there. And this happens to a lot of people, do not blame yourself.

I did not weep until I was in the safety of my own parked car. And then I wept, and wept and wept some more. It was not so much what I had lost, but what I would not get a chance to have. It was for my dreams, my hopes and my vague impression of what that child might have looked like. Would it have my hair, would it be unfortunate enough to have my partner’s nose? I would never be able to find out. I am not silly, I know that those thoughts were completely irrational given the short time of my pregnancy but I could not help but having them (blame it on the hormones). I felt useless, unable to give life to something without killing it (kinda like a short-lived goldfish which you failed to feed for a week), I felt helpless, alone and most of all… EMPTY.

Then I had to break the news to the people who love me, and that was hurting me even more. I also had to break the news to my partner, who after years of coping with my hypochondria, thought that the danger of the spotting – come bleeding was all in my head. But this time, the only time, he was not right.

Three days later I had another blood test.

  • Blood test 6: hCG levels 200…

Then the contractions started… but I was alright with that, I go through those every month anyway… THANK YOU PRIMARY DYSMENORRHEA!!! It was all good.

I have tried not to look back, after all shit happen they say. I have tried to reason with myself and be cynical about it, but I cannot be. I cannot sit here and be romantic about it either. I know exactly what I would say to myself if I was not the one experiencing the feeling of loss, I would say “come on, you will be fine, it was very early you are young and you will try again etc.”… that was what I actually said to the people who I have had to break the news to… “I am alright, these things happen, we are young, it will happen at some point, no biggy”… what I really wanted to say though was “please leave me alone, I am dying inside”.

I do not feel any guilt, shame or anything of the sort, about what happened to me. It happens everyday and it is a deeply disturbing experience, to say the least. Some choose not to talk about it – I know many of you who have gone down that path – and I respect that, but I chose to write about it… I found it almost cathartic writing about it.

As the days passed, I feel that no one mentions it, and I understand why (after all there is not much to say), but I needed to remember this, I needed to document and to share it, as Pierre Corneille puts it “One often calms one’s grief by recounting it”.

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