Some friends of ours are celebrating the birth of their daughter this week- they’re dizzy with happiness, with an extra cherry on top because their baby came after years of trying and a cycle of IVF.
Some other friends of ours are left with the grey blankness of a lost pregnancy. She was 11 weeks, just nearing the point where you can start to exhale slowly (start, but never stop, not once the baby is born, and not ever). G sent our consolations, and told them- we lost our first.
At the time it didn’t feel like that, “our first”- though it does more so, now we have Leila. Though we had just started trying, I didn’t know I was pregnant- for reasons too long-winded, medical and personal to explain. I’m certain it would have been more traumatic if we had built hope and excitement upon the new pregnancy. But still, when it happened two years ago last week, it was unpleasant, gruelling and left me feeling as though the colour had drained out of me along with the life that had been taking form. I wasn’t mourning as such, this wasn’t what I would call grief. But it made my life flat. It clouded over the bright sky of our future.
It happens to so many women (and to their men, too). Perhaps it’s for this reason that miscarriage isn’t really talked about, or the pain of it acknowledged. Something to elicit nothing more than a sympathetic grimace from many people- but thankfully not from the kindly work colleague who I went to when the GP gave me the news over the phone as I sat in an empty office. She bundled me into the disabled loo and let me hang round her neck, until I mumbled snottily “it smells bad in here” and we went somewhere a little more welcoming.
It happens to so many women. But that’s always seemed an odd criteria for evaluating how much someone is “allowed” to hurt over something. Cancer happens to so many people; almost everyone (if they are lucky) outlives their grandparents and parents. These things are experienced by countless people. But it doesn’t mean they don’t feel the hurt involved deeply. People are irritated by pain if they feel it’s not justified. They should get over it.
It happens to so many women. But it’s messy, and unsavoury, and sitting in the awful Early Pregnancy Unit waiting room as Jeremy Kyle blares out and other women sit not talking, in various states from sobbing to anxious to ashen, is about as far from the glowing, knowing happiness of a successfully progressing pregnancy as it gets. It’s embarassing. People don’t want to be near to it. They should get over it.
It happens to so many women. But so does birth, and when you’ve lost a pregnancy, the world is suddenly spilling with babies and mothers. You look at them through invisible glass, pressing your face to it. Why can’t I get to the other side? It feels impossible to get over it.
In my experience, I only fully “got over” my miscarriage when I had a baby. Perhaps, for all but the most philosphical and optimistic, it’s the only way. Something so simple, so universal. And yet, as we know, and our friends who have just lost know, and our friends who have just had their baby know, it can feel so impossible, until it suddenly happens, and the sun breaks through.