I lost my virginity in 1998, to a boy called Adrian in Gran Canaria (well, to be perfectly honest, there was another incident a few years before - but I’m pretty sure there was no actual penetration that time round, so I only mention it here for the sake of integrity). It’s now 2013 and I have just had my second miscarriage. In the vast majority of the time between these two momentous occasions, I have been wholly, entirely and dementedly preoccupied with NOT getting pregnant. Now I stand at the junction of some unexpected crossroads.
You see, I listened in sex education classes. Not so much to how it all works, but to the horrors of teen pregnancy: the evils of ‘not fulfilling your potential’ and the nightmare of not being able to do exactly as you pleased for the foreseeable future. And doing exactly as I pleased was kind of my thing. I went to sixth form, university, saw a bit of the world, experimented with various recreational intoxicants, all the while doggedly ensuring that there were to be no babies, no foetuses, no embryos around to spoil my fun. Even the idea of a rogue blastoplast made me check my pill packet for the seventh time that evening, just to make sure.
Then, a couple of years ago, a switch flicked in my head. My husband and I declared (quietly and only to each other), 'We should try for a baby.' I was 31. I started taking notice of my body in a way I never had before. I even had a conversation which included the term 'cervical mucus'. And before the end of the year, I had the double pink line, which told me that I was having a baby.
We were the lucky ones. We were excited. We wanted to tell everyone. But here’s the thing: you’re not supposed to tell a fucking soul. My tits (which are pretty ample at the best of times) were bursting out of my clothes; the nausea was a constant (as was the need to wee); and I hadn’t felt this tired since unadvisedly staying up for 48 hours straight and then deciding to cook a roast dinner for all of my friends. That time I ended up almost flooding my flat after falling asleep with the bath water running. This time, I was hoping that there would be something a little more productive to show for it.
But hope is all it was. It turns out, the reason you’re not supposed to tell anyone for the first 12 weeks is because (depending on which website you read) anything from a seventh to a quarter of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. And heaven forfend that you should be able to talk openly and honestly about this loss with others. Hell no. I pretended, with my first miscarriage, that I had flu. Although if there was a vaccination against the soul-crushing helplessness that I felt after this loss, then no one ever informed me.
We found out at our 12 week scan that our baby had no heartbeat and I had, in fact, been carrying a dead foetus around with me for the entire Christmas season. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere in the room when the sonographer is desperately trying to find a heartbeat when there isn’t one, but safe to say it was worse than the feeling I had when I found the overflowing bath I mentioned earlier. Then there was the operation, helpfully called an Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception. For me, the retained products of conception were my baby, and despite all the research in the world telling me that there was always a chance that this would happen, I defy people not to start thinking ahead when they see those pink lines appear. But oddly, that’s why the loss is so unusual. It’s not the same as losing a newborn, a child, a parent, a friend. Many people just don’t get it at all. It’s the loss of something in the future, however counterintuitive that may sound - and having to have your legs hoisted into stirrups and this future scraped out of your uterus is pretty fucking devastating.
But we tried again. And we got pregnant again. This time the joyous celebrations are absent.
'I’m pregnant,' I say.
'Great. Come on, we’re late for dinner,' comes the reply.
I vow not to look browse any chatrooms or read anything other than the NHS website. I will take the time to sit down and rest more during the day: I will…oh shit.
My second miscarriage was at only 6 weeks. On the plus side, at 6 weeks there is far less time to get used to the idea of being pregnant and the chemical-induced misery is far less potent, as the hormone levels are much lower anyway.
But this time, the little fucker literally falls out of my uterus.
There’s blood. Lots of it. It pours out of my vagina like a tap. I say this, not to horrify people, but because if you’ve ever been asked, 'So, is it just like a heavy period?' (and I have), then this is the answer that I have wanted to give. But it’s not just that. I feel broken.
Thirteen years of trying not to have a baby and now it feels like I never will.
'Not true!' I hear people say in a predictable kneejerk response.
And there are of course numerous stories of people who had 2, 3, 4, even 5 or more miscarriages and then a healthy baby; who had 4 rounds of IVF and then had a baby; who were told they could never have children, but then went on to have a baby. I know all this. And I sympathise wholeheartedly with anyone who has had to go through this, and worse too, but knowing all of it and more doesn't help how I feel right now.
And the way I feel right now is that something about me doesn’t work. It’s bad enough that I’m suddenly noticing that every television programme ever made has pregnant women and babies on it - and that every advert ever made contains a family with young children (except those fucking awful Lynx ones, but don’t get me started on them) - and that everyone I know seems to be either a new mum or pregnant. Yes, that is bad enough. But you know what makes all of this so much worse? The fact that you’re not even allowed to talk about it.
I took one day off work this time, claiming to have a cold. So this is me stating, on the record, that my miscarriage happened, and miscarriage sucks. And it’s pretty gruesome. And a headfuck.
But maybe, just maybe, having a conversation about it might just ease some of the pain.