On that November day, there was the brilliant-blue sky that stretched out above her; cloudless and clear, for miles. There was the earthy, timber-park with its high, spiral slide and its manicured grounds—a wide open space, perfect for running into the breeze with outstretched arms. There was the rough and tumble toddler boy that made her heart glow with his squealing and clapping and running, delighting in his world over and over again. There was the husband, wonderful and hers, the biggest kid of all: squealing, clapping and running right alongside the toddler, pretending his own fun was all for show. And then there was the girl with the bright, laughing eyes; the wife and mummy who simply stood back and watched her life unfold around her, with pride.
There was someone else at the park that day, too. A hidden gem, tucked away beneath the surface of the girl’s ever so slightly rounded belly; a baby, a precious new life, trying so very hard to grow just right this time. But the baby growing in that belly, at that park, on that day—the very clever baby that had made it eleven whole weeks— wasn’t actually growing at all. The first sign came on that November day. A spot of blood: a gut churning with panic. But soon the panic would be gone, because soon the girl would hear the sad news. There is no heartbeat. It looks like it stopped growing at 9 weeks, they would say to her, quietly. And the girl would slowly nod, crestfallen, but unsurprised. And the husband would process his own pain, slumped in the cool, clinical chair beside her.
In the following days, the girl waited for the miscarriage to begin. She wondered if this, her fourth miscarriage, would hurt much more than the others. The others had stopped growing at 6 weeks. They were much, much smaller than this one. Was she naïve to wonder if this, too, might be over with just a few painful contractions? The answer would come two days later when she would wake at 3am; her belly contracting, hard. She’d given birth to the toddler only two years before—she remembered exactly what early labour had felt like. And this was it.
Through the heaving contractions, each one more painful than the last, the girl breathed and paced. She hobbled passed the Christmas tree that bulged with celebration, and she wandered through the flicker of an unwatched T.V. And finally, when the wave had crashed and fizzled into nothing, back to the couch she went, where she sprawled out and waited for the pressure to rise again. Her waiting moments became her thinking moments.
So, there won’t be a baby at the end of this? This was labour, of that she was certain. It just seemed so surreal that she should be going through the act of child birth, with no chance of a child at the end. And she had been so sure that this would be the one that would make it all the way. But here she was, devastated, again.
She wondered if she’d have the stomach, or the heart, to experience what she was about to experience. It had started, so there was no opting for a D and C, now. She would be birthing a grape sized baby, and the rest, whether she liked it or not. The foetus—how she hated that word— would probably already resemble the tiny human it had tried so hard to become. Was she ready to see that?
But the thought that struck her the most, in that place, in that moment, was this: I am going through real labour. That means my baby is real, whether I get to hold it and love it, or not. Up until that point of her miscarriage journey, the girl hadn’t known what to feel for the babies she’d lost. Were they real? She had thought they were. Or were they, as some would say, not really ‘real’ until that magical 12week line had been crossed. But she was sure of it now. This baby was as real as they came and so was this labour. And suddenly she realised that all the other babies she’d lost, at earlier gestational ages, had been just as real as this one. It was a comforting thought in the face of such frightening uncertainty.
After three and a half hours of tensing and breathing, thinking and trying not to think, it was finally over. Of course, that morning, she’d seen things that she had not wanted to see. But she had not seen the actual baby; the grape sized human. She had been spared that pain, however curious she had been. And at the end of it all, she was surprised to feel the strangest feeling of accomplishment. She had been through an ordeal and come out the other side of it, knowing she would smile again in the not too distant future. She would move forward, slowly but surely, onto better days.
When life did inevitably go on for that girl, she found comfort in the kindness all around her. There was comfort in the humanity of it all; the warm arms that embraced her, the sad eyes that filled with sympathetic tears. There were positive stories from women who had also suffered multiple, unexplained losses after having delivered a healthy baby. She was heartened to find that most of these women had eventually come out with a live baby, sometimes two, at the end.
If they had succeeded, then maybe, just maybe… she would too.
And what a splendid sunny mummy day that would be.