There weren’t really any clues. Nothing hinting at the heartache to come.
On Sunday morning I woke to find a couple of splats of dark blood. My learned friends on the internet and the midwives at the RAH didn’t seem to think that at 18 weeks there was anything to worry about, so I didn’t.
I shopped and cleaned and generally pottered through a blissfully boring Sunday.
On Monday we turned up at the appointed hour at the Early Pregnancy Unit. I was all dressed up and ready to rush off to interview someone for a commission. We were relaxed and certain that we’d be checked and reassured.
Then it changed. The midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat with her listening device so we were bustled, naively hopeful, to the ultrasound room.
“I’m so sorry. This isn’t what we’d hoped to see.”
Silence as we gazed at the foetus, still in the womb.
She tried again. “This isn’t what we’d hope to see.”
“It’s dead, isn’t it?” a whisper.
It stopped growing a couple of weeks ago, apparently. A missed miscarriage.
They take us somewhere where we weep. Kind people come and talk to us, tell us what’s next. They talk of medical management, of progesterone and post mortem examinations. The voice in my head says it’s crazy – it’s a sunny Monday lunchtime and I should be interviewing a woman about what’s so good about her bars and restaurants.
“Come back on Wednesday morning. We’ll give you more drugs and get it over with. It’ll hurt but we can help with that.”
We comfort the boys as they absorb the news. Boy Two’s sturdy little body sobs.
But nature – cruel but usually with purpose – is impatient. By the time the boys have their swimming lesson on Tuesday, I’m properly uncomfortable and things are definitely happening. I’m pleased – the end of limbo in sight.
“Come on up to the labour ward then, just when you’re ready,” another kind midwife.
I hand over to my mother garbling instructions about school bags and night routines as we go.
It’s visiting time and the lift is full of people carrying cards and blue and pink balloons, so we take the stairs.
Later I’m in a horrid hospital nightie and the Panther is sliding around in the “only Parker Knoll in the labour ward” and we’re waiting for the drugs to work and things to kick off.
The night passes in a blur of pain and misery. I feel like I’m licked in a battle, but I’m not sure what I’m fighting or why. The kind people keep coming and going – sticking needles in and taking temperature and pressure readings. Sometimes they bring tea and toast. We talk about the changes to the Maternity Unit in the six years since the last time I was there. Though instead then when I left I took a little life home with me.
Finally as dawn broke through the trees that shelter the smokers, the morphine takes hold and I sleep.
I wake to find a kind midwife telling me the moment I’d dreaded the most has arrived. But instead of the effort of a fight to the death, the little bundle leaves me easily. It slips away as freely as the tears that roll down my face to drip from my chin. It’s a huge relief.
Panther holds me tight, this is his moment of loss.
More kind people come and go. More tea and toast, but not for me because I need an operation now. There are forms to fill in and decisions to make.
Later, sorry, sore and with a head light through loss of blood we go home. The world seems cruelly unchanged as were flayed alive. Panther asks if this is normal, if this is so common, how can it possibly hurt so much. I have no answer. We can only keep counting our many blessings and surely it will fade.