A good education, marriage, property and children: I’ve ticked three major milestones off life’s broad bucket list in 34 years, but the fourth one is the sticking point. As a young girl, I naively believed that I’d get married and have two children by 30, which seemed so many years into the future that I thought I’d have enough time to travel, meet new people, have memorable experiences and achieve my professional goals. Only the closer I got to my 30th birthday, the more I realised that I wasn’t ready to become a mother just yet.
To give you some context, I was 27 when I got married. While it may seem a little young these days, I’d packed in a fair amount before settling down: a year abroad in Paris, a year working in Montreal post-graduation, another two years in Paris, then a Masters degree in audiovisual translation in Leeds. Having left Leicester at 18 to study in Manchester, living independently came naturally to me. So you can imagine how moving in with my in-laws for almost two years was challenging to say the least, despite their kindness and understanding. It did, however, enable us to save money for a deposit on a lovely flat and move on. For me, my marriage started at this two-year mark, so I wanted a few years to enjoy having our own place and doing our own thing. Then I got a new job, put all my energy into it, got promoted and changed jobs to move up the ladder again.
We’ll be celebrating our eight-year anniversary in mid-September and we’re still a childless couple. This fact has obviously not gone unnoticed, especially by certain grandparents whose comments on the matter have ranged from faintly amusing to downright offensive. Oblivious to our feelings and predicament (did we want kids, or was there a health issue?), they tell me that I’m not getting any younger, I have the rest of my life to work and they’ll be too old to help out with childcare; all valid points, but constantly spelling them out has had an adverse effect on me. I’ve always strongly disliked being told what to do and rebelled against it, and this was no different.
Everything changed on 25th December, 2015. My period had been slightly erratic for months due to work-related stress, but it was later than usual so I took a test. So convinced that the result would be negative, it took a long moment for the word ‘pregnant’ to register. But the bigger surprise was my reaction: instead of being panicked, scared and overwhelmed, I was elated. It was late evening so we crawled into bed, pulled the cover over our heads and excitedly talked about the next nine months. We decided not to tell anyone until after the first trimester and keeping this gem of a secret for ourselves, our festive gift, was deliciously intimate. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse a few days later when I noticed faint spots of blood, although this being apparently a common occurrence reassured me. My calmness was short-lived, as the bleeding got heavier and the stomach pains started. I called the Early Pregnancy Unit at my local hospital to secure the first available appointment and tried to keep the negative feelings at bay until then, but even a fantastic NYE tasting menu at our local gastropub couldn’t take my mind off things.
Our fear was confirmed on 4th January, 2016. I’d had a feeling that it wasn’t to be this time and was just initially relieved to know the result after the agonising week-long wait. Over the following days I burst into tears at random moments, upset that our dream had been cruelly robbed from us by Mother Nature, and struggled to come to terms with the rollercoaster of emotions I was experiencing: in the space of a week and a half, I’d gone from euphoric and optimistic to worried then devastated. Failure reared its ugly head shortly afterwards, making me question what was wrong with my body and why so many of my friends and family seemed to have successful pregnancies ending in happy, healthy children. After a lifetime of delaying motherhood, I’d had a brief glimpse of what it might feel like and I’d unexpectedly welcomed it with open arms.
My husband’s pragmatism comforted us as we told ourselves an early miscarriage (6-7 weeks) is for the best as it’s nature’s way of rejecting a defective embryo. On a positive note, we were able to get pregnant and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen again. We only shared the news with both sets of parents and a handful of close friends, not wanting to divulge such a personal story with everyone. However, my aim in speaking about it now is twofold: firstly, to evacuate my emotions and secondly, to help reduce the stigma attached to this sensitive subject. While I thought I was coping well with my loss, I had a hunch that I still needed to open up more about what happened to grieve properly, and was proven right when I started crying as soon as I typed the word “elated” earlier. A miscarriage can’t be glossed over with statistics and generic well-meaning comments such as “at least it wasn’t a foetus yet” or “I’m sure you’ll get pregnant again soon”. Regardless of how far along you were, a loss remains a loss and is never forgotten, even if you go on to have many children. I still feel a tiny pang of jealousy when I hear that a friend is pregnant, see women wearing ‘baby on board’ badges on the tube and mothers out and about with their young babies, but this is swiftly replaced by happy thoughts for them and myself; my time will come, and if not, then c’est la vie. I’m so lucky to have found a wonderfully supportive life partner and we’ll tackle what the future throws at us as a team.