Friday, March 25, 2016

Becoming Mum - The Loss

I read Post Secret every week. I have since I was in my early 20s. Back then, I was dealing with a few things and I found I related to a lot of the secrets, so reading them gave me a connection to the people who sent them in. These days I don't relate to a lot of them, but I still read, intrigued by the idea that the people we know actually carry more secrets than we can ever possibly know.

Today I came across the post above, and boom, there it was - something I could relate to. Because my secret is this: Jackson was not the first baby to find a beginning in my body.

The first baby never grew beyond the size of a poppy seed, and didn't ever have a heartbeat, but despite its tiny size, the loss I felt was immense.

In October 2014, I spent two weeks wondering if I was pregnant. It was too soon to test, but all the signs were there - I was super tired, peeing all the time, roller coaster emotions - textbook pregnancy stuff. Chris was teasing me, convinced I was pregnant, and when the window in which I could pee on a stick came up, I jumped at the chance. I had taken a few pregnancy tests over the years, but this one was different. Immediately a second, albeit faint, pink line appeared. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life; my hands shook and, I'll be honest, I was terrified. Somehow I knew; something wasn't quite right. Something would happen.

The next day I took myself to the doctor who ran a blood test. I would receive the result the next day. Those 24 hours were intense - I tried to be positive, reminding myself that I often assume the worst even when things are fine, and I imagined life with a baby. I imagined telling our families at Thanksgiving, I imagined maternity leave, night feeds, tiny baby clothes. I pictured the little life that was forming inside me. It consumed me immediately. I googled everything I could find on early pregnancy. I kept returning to the bathroom just to stare at that second pink line.
But I was also aware that my symptoms had stopped quite abruptly that day. I tried to will myself to feel the fatigue I had become accustomed to, I kept checking with myself whether I needed to pee again yet. But I felt like myself again.

The next day, at the doctor surgery, I was hearing the words "I'm afraid I'm going to disappoint you."
My HCG levels (that's the pregnancy hormone) were virtually non-existent by the time I had fronted up for the blood test. It was diagnosed as a 'failed pregnancy' which had likely never even implanted, and I was told that I could expect it to pass with my next period, which would show up any time now.

It was the biggest emotional roller coaster of my life. It didn't matter that it was a very early loss - for a short time, there had been the beginnings of a baby inside me. The first human being who would be half of me, and half of Chris. I had pictured a future, a change, and suddenly that picture was gone, and instead I was facing the normal, predictable future again, which had always satisfied me but now felt empty and miserable.

It took a week for the pregnancy to pass, and in that week two different people asked me when we were planning on having kids. This has become my least favourite question now and I will no longer ask others the same thing. I struggled to come up with answers to those people, all the while thinking of the lifeless little cluster of cells inside me. When it did pass it was painful and confronting, but it was also a relief to me that it was finally over.

That was a painful time, and I can't even imagine what people go through when they lose a pregnancy at a later stage than ours was. But three months later, a new second pink line appeared and this time I looked at it and smiled. In that moment, I just felt like this time everything would be OK. And by some miracle, it was. We have a perfect, healthy little baby boy. I still think of our first pregnancy every day, but ultimately I am grateful because it was the beginning of our journey in getting the little man that we've fallen in love with.

So to the woman who posted the above secret - to every woman who has lost her own poppy seed, grain of rice, chickpea, blueberry, or more - my thoughts are this: the emptiness doesn't come from the physical size of the baby that you have lost. Because it's not just a grain of rice - it's an entire future. And the size of that is immeasurable.

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