They say a sign of pregnancy is having vivid dreams. One night I dreamt I was looking down at my swollen, heavily pregnant belly. I remember my emotions in the dream itself – I was shocked, but also overwhelmed with happiness and contentment. I turned my head away for a moment, but when I returned my gaze down at my stomach, my baby bump had vanished. Perhaps I should’ve known then this was an omen of what was to come. What I didn’t know that fateful night, was that yes I was indeed pregnant, but it also wasn’t to last.
I can’t explain to you the euphoria I felt when I saw those two very unexpected pink lines on the pregnancy test. Unexpected not because it was a surprise pregnancy, but because I was shocked I actually conceived after months and months on end of seeing negative results. I felt helpless and demoralised so when I eventually saw that desperately wanted positive, I cried tears of joy and suddenly felt like this is what I’m meant to be. A mother. I ran to the shopping mall and bought a little baby suit and mittens to surprise my hubby when he came home from work that day. Walking to the shops I had a spring in my step. I smiled at every passing face and I felt as if the world was smiling back at me.
But just as shockingly he or she entered our lives, they decided not to stay. Why baby? Were we not good enough for you? Were we not ready and you saw through our insecurity and just knew it? I saw this quote that really resonated with me – “you were unsure which pain is worse – the shock of what happened or the ache for what never will” – unknown. The future that I had committed to in my mind as soon as I saw those two pink lines was ripped from away from underneath my feet and I was free falling.
Unfortunately the heartbreak didn’t end there. The doctor suggested a procedure to remove the pregnancy and we also decided to add on a laparoscopic surgery while I was under as I had long suspected I had endometriosis. This, despite doctors telling me for years that I must just have a low pain threshold and to essentially suck it up. The procedure and surgery were to take about one hour. I was returned back to my poor husband nearly four hours later. The doctor had found a huge cyst on one ovary and… Endometriosis. It was supposed to be a fairly straightforward day surgery, but I couldn’t even walk afterwards. I was in agony. I tried to make it to the bathroom and fainted. As it was an unexpected overnight stay at the hospital, the only bed left was on the maternity floor with all the new mothers, just outside that room where all the newborns are kept. Salt in wound. Devastatingly heartbreaking.
I expected to feel grief, sadness, confusion and pain. What I did not anticipate was a complete loss of self confidence, self loathing, guilt, insecurity and debilitating anxiety. My hair fell out in clumps from the stress. I tried to hide the bald patches with extensions. I was a hot mess.
I found myself Googling “if you have a miscarriage are you still a mother?” I asked myself, why is it called miscarriage? So I guess it’s my fault that I mis-carried our baby? My internal monologue was filled with negative self dialogue. I struggled privately for months and months on end. I found myself occasionally feeling like I was “bouncing back” but a trigger would send me down the spiral back to rock bottom. It was one step forward, ten steps back. I would be doing my makeup for E! with tears streaming down my face. Then I would have to start all over again, hoping no one would notice my puffy eyes. I was riddled with fear and doubt and wondered whether becoming parents was in the cards for us.
I had feelings of “I should be over it by now”, “you’re so weak”, “other people have been through much worse, why can’t you just move on you pathetic loser” etc. I read an article by Katy Lindemann for the Guardian that said “the 12-week rule perpetuates the notion that early pregnancy loss is something to hide and we shouldn’t make a fuss. This establishes a hierarchy of grief determined by the stage of gestation, that glibly dismisses early miscarriages as “just a ball of cells”, deeming only later losses worthy of mourning. But the meaning of any pregnancy is deeply personal, and we can’t neatly fit the impact of losing it in its own discrete box.” This really summed it up for me.
As I felt I couldn’t articulate out loud what had happened to us, my hubby became everyone and everything to me. I avoided socialising as much as possible because I am a heart-on-sleeve kinda gal and felt people would sense the sadness that was emanating out of my pores. Plus I just didn’t have the confidence anymore.
I guess I am talking about this now – over 2 years later as I finally feel I am out of the woods and far enough away from that dark moment that I have a rationality about it in retrospect. There was a time when I couldn’t even mention any of this without bursting into tears. Now I have my gorgeous twin girls who just light up my life. I am eternally grateful I came out the other side of this with a happy ending. I know that’s not always the case. But I want other mumma’s to be to feel a sense of hope and that they’re not alone. Pre-natal depression is a real thing (despite the fact that when I type that word in here spell-check tells me is isn’t). And it’s compounded by the fact you’re often suffering in silence. You put on that happy face and feel gut punched when people ask you “when are you guys having kids?”
And on that note – isn’t it high time we stop asking people of child-bearing age that crazy personal question? It may seem innocent but you really never know what’s happening behind closed doors. Heck I even asked people when I didn’t know any better and I’m really sorry for that. It’s no one’s business. As Chrissy Teigen so aptly put it “Get out of my uterus!”.
When I was going through this arduous emotional and physical journey I felt extremely isolated. I found comfort in reading about other people’s experience and how they overcame. I know sharing this will make me feel uncomfortable and I know I will have a vulnerability hangover, but I think it is an important conversation to have. People don’t talk about it enough and because of the stigma, I felt so alone.
Pregnancy after loss initially wasn’t the cure I was seeking – I was cautious about really leaning into joy after having our hearts broken once before. But I made a conscious decision that this pregnancy was going to be healthy and that I shouldn’t rob myself of happiness this time around. I chose hope and excitement. Besides, bracing for something to go wrong does nothing to minimise the pain when it actually does.
In confronting some of my deepest fears, I had to learn patience and understand real grief, but I came out of it with so much more empathy and gratitude. I wish people were kinder to each other because you have no idea what battles they are facing that you know absolutely nothing about.
So while they do say a sign of pregnancy is vivid dreams, they also say that there can’t be a rainbow without a storm. We got our rainbow babies and my hope is that for anyone out there struggling, you will too.