Firstly, I have to be honest and say I almost feel fraudulent writing here. I’m a mother of two young children. I have not experienced infertility or IVF. But I have experienced loss, and the subsequent toll that it has taken on my mental health. I’m still on the ‘road to recovery’; to finding my balance. So thank you for letting me share my story.
I first became pregnant in late 2016. I was already a superstitious and anxious person, so we hardly told anyone. It felt like a big exciting secret, but also like a huge burden. ‘My baby’ was only a tiny embryo, but I was solely responsible for it, for keeping it safe. It felt like a heavy thing to bear. I remember not being able to walk into Tesco, because there were so many families with their children and I just couldn’t ever imagine that being ME. I cried in the car park, it was too much to see them. I know that probably sounds ridiculous, I had no reason to feel that way, except some kind of deep belief that this would all go terribly wrong. And sadly, I was right. At nine weeks pregnant I was sent for an early scan - I think the doctors were tired of my anxiety and wanted to reassure me. But instead of reassurance, I was told by the sonographer that she couldn’t see a heartbeat, and my baby only looked about six weeks gestation. Perhaps I had my dates wrong and the heartbeat just couldn’t be seen yet - I was to go back in a week to find out one way or another. That week was the longest of my life. I remember sitting there singing to my baby, not knowing if she (or he, but to me it was a she) was even alive. It turned out she wasn’t. I’d had a missed miscarriage. My body still thought I was pregnant but my baby had slipped away perhaps weeks before. And so I had a choice - wait to miscarry naturally, take medication to speed things up, or go under general anaesthetic for a beautifully named procedure called an ERPC - Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception. Nice. My baby, the girl I saw in my head, reduced to ‘products’. It was all so matter-of-fact, so ‘normal’ for the hospital staff that it was inconsequential. The hour before my procedure, my surgeon was questioning my decision, making me feel like I had done wrong to accept this ‘easy path’ rather than wait to miscarry. I never knew what happened to my baby afterwards, I didn’t ask and no one sat with me to discuss it. It almost felt like they thought because she was an embryo she didn’t matter, she wasn’t yet a life. The doctor who signed me off work afterwards uttered the words ‘at least you know you can get pregnant’ - I could see she meant well, but this was my first pregnancy. What if they all went this way? As I said at the start of this, I am now a mother of two young children. I fell pregnant again five months after my miscarriage and had a daughter. Throughout my pregnancy I was an anxious mess. I think I ended up in the PAU (pregnancy assessment unit) about five times with ‘reduced movement’. When my daughter arrived, the promised rush of love didn’t - I found it incredibly hard to let myself love her in case I lost her. Anxiety is cruel like that. I got pregnant again a year later, my third (and final!) pregnancy. It was a much more relaxing experience, and my son was born in late 2019. My mental health seemed to be getting better, but then he became ill - possibly seriously. He had something wrong with his liver and was tested for a condition called biliary atresia. It’s fatal unless the child has an operation, and even with the op the child often needs a liver transplant somewhere down the line. I spent the first three months of my son’s life convinced he would die, that this was my punishment for some past crime. And then, miraculously, he became better. Apparently around a third of babies with his symptoms simply grow out of it without ever getting a formal diagnosis. He still has to return to hospital next month to check that he is still stable, but things are looking positive. So I suppose this story has a happy ending. I still can’t let myself think too much about the multitude of things that could happen to my children - I think there will always be a part of me that doesn’t think I deserve them. I know I am incredibly lucky. I’m so thankful I’ve found this community - midweek mindfulness is keeping me sane right now! I wanted to finish with a quote which I read just after my miscarriage in a book called ‘If Women Rose Rooted’ (by Sharon Blackie, it’s AMAZING, everyone should read it). The quote says “no star is lost we once have seen, we always may be what we might have been”. I suppose it just means don’t ever give up hope. The future is a wonderful unknown. May you all find your stars.