The end of a pregnancy should not be a secret sadness, it’s simply nature
doing its thing.
The blood started to gush in a takeaway pizza joint near Venice’s Piazza San Marco. It was the height of European summer and that meant one thing: hordes of tourists. Swarms, in fact. Everywhere.
I hadn’t noticed or felt the blood at all while perched on a stool scoffing a slice of pizza. It was only after I got up and my boyfriend quickly whispered intensely in my ear that I felt a hot flush (a different kind of blood rush) come over my cheeks.
‘There’s something on the back of your skirt’. Familiar words from my school days. Yet still utterly mortifying. Surely, now that I was 40 it’d be a little different? Not so. I was horrified and promptly reverted to my 15-year-old self.
‘Walk directly behind me. DIRECTLY. Do not even think about moving an inch to either side. Directly behind — understand?’ I hissed at the poor bloke carrying our sleeping 9-month-old as I pulled my tank top down as far as it could cover. I’d been given a heads-up about spotting so thought I’d prepared with a pad. Clearly that wasn’t enough. I was contemplating how to get to a bathroom as quickly as possible when I felt an almighty flow.
This was worse than I’d thought. Here I was, lost down gloriously tiny alleyways in Venice, having a miscarriage. I needed the privacy of our apartment behind San Marco but realised we’d have to weave back through the maddening crowds to deal with this horrendous mess. I filled with dread.
We scurried as fast as we could — one of us impeded by a baby carrier and the other hindered by a legs-together shuffle — manoeuvering in and out while I snapped at my partner to keep up. Arriving at the apartment, it was dark and quiet in the small hall. We scrambled to find the keys but it was too late. It was all out, in the pad.
While (remarkably) I felt no pain, I couldn’t move from the hall so our resourcefulness kicked in. Baby wipes, nappy disposal sacks and an incredibly patient partner who had been instructed by a flailing girlfriend to ‘turn around, turn around, TURN AROUND but keep those wipes COMMMING!!’ saved the day.
I tell this crazy tale not to be flippant about or diminish any other pregnancy loss. I tell it because miscarriage, even the word itself, is still such a taboo. (Even the term ‘loss’ is pejorative, instantly negative and disapproving, when really, like having a baby, the end result is simply not having a baby. As matter-of-fact as that.)
Not many talk about it openly. When I began to talk about mine, suddenly more than half the women in the room confessed to theirs. As if it was a dirty little secret. (This silence is a recent phenomenon, by the way, developing over the past 30 years.) No judgment here, only a suggestion that it is not.
It is just nature taking its course, doing its thing, looking out for its girl
(me and you).
I know many parents — still mothers and fathers in every sense of the words — might feel guilt, shame and incredible heartache after longing or trying for a baby for so long. I too had googled the ‘best baby names of 2017’, had visions of giggling siblings, and felt a little panic about two bubbies under two.
But, again without judging, I don’t feel that pain or grief. I feel different. It is not just because having a pregnancy ‘not work out’ (as I also refer to it) is so common with up to 1 in 5 confirmed pregnancies ending before 20 weeks, usually due to a random error of nothing more than a chromosome going astray. It is because I am ecstatic that my body worked as it should. It knew when something was amiss and when not to continue. My body knew the best way to let go.
That fills me with absolute awe. My body is an incredible machine. Because of that, I am proud, reassured and beyond happy that my body is looking out for me. It’ll sort things out when the time’s right. It’ll release an egg that’ll meet its match or accept an implanted embryo at the right moment of my body’s cycle.
More than the amazement I felt as my body did its thing during pregnancy and then labour, the pregnancy that didn’t work out left me speechless. Whatever I look like (they say these 5 kilos are normal after a miscarriage), I love my body and would never have appreciated it this much unless I had lost a little part of it.