Today’s photo for Baby Loss Awareness Month is the pregnancy tests from the last miscarriage. It’s an odd feeling to look at them again. They’ve been in a box tucked behind books on my night stand for three years. I dither over what to do with them. It doesn’t feel right to throw them away, they are markers for joy in an other wise bleak time. They started going positive five days after embryo transfer, we even thought it might have been twins from our one good blastocyst. I kept my pregnancy tests from all three pregnancies. Matilda’s are in her memory box. The first miscarriage are tucked into a box that contained home doppler scan jell. These ones are in a music box.
The second missed miscarriage came as such a shock to us, more so than the first miscarriage, because everything had seemed perfect this time. My hormone levels were high, my pregnancy tests were good and dark, I had the beginnings of morning sickness, my boobs hurt, I was knackered, I wanted anchovy pasta and sausage rolls with vinegar. It all seemed so right. And then a few days before the scan the symptoms stopped. They came back a little, in waves, but never as strong. But the pregnancy tests were good and strong still, they didn’t fade, so Chris and I convinced ourselves that symptoms come and go and surely, surely not again. I remember quite vividly driving to Hull for the eight week scan. We were so positive. I remember saying ‘if it is bad news, what will we do?’ and Chris telling me we’d been through worse, we’d survive, we survived things, we’d proved we could come out of the other side of the worst thing. But neither of us believed it would be bad news, you see, we were just putting our defences in place. And then they did the scan. And then another nurse came and took over and rechecked and then the pitying looks and being told to hold perfectly still and hold my breath while they checked and checked. And then we knew there was no heartbeat. The little ball of life was just a ball of cells and beginnings and nothing tying it to the life it might have had. And I remember crying and crying, half naked on the same blue scan bed that I had been on so many times and saying out loud ‘no, not again, not again, not again’.
There are, of course, hundreds and hundreds of pregnancy tests that I haven’t kept. Imagine testing every month for twelve years, imagine all that hope. All the times I tested and convinced myself that this month we might have been successful, that my boobs were sore, that I had gone off coffee. The days and weeks when my body thought it would be a proper laugh to make my period a week late and those squinters, those pregnancy tests that I could while away an entire day following the sun around the house, turning the test this way and that to see it. I haven’t tested since we came back from Mexico last autumn. I’d thought for a minute that the whole ‘as soon as you stop trying/relax/let things take their natural course it will happen’ might actually work. I thought it might have happened on holiday. Daft, I know. But then, I have sat on every mythical ‘pregnancy seat’ in the rest room, I have sought out lay lines, I have drunk strange teas, taken a carrier bag full of supplements daily, changed my diet, changed the pans I cook with, forced my husband to take supplements, changed my lifestyle, changed everything in the hope that one of these things might be the thing that worked. Nothing did.
I don’t test now. I don’t know what cycle day it is, what position my cervix is in, I don’t think about making babies when we make love. All a total lie. I try not to think, but that thing that everyone has been telling me for years – your turn next I have a good feeling about this just relax try your feet up against the wall this is definitely your time stop obsessing are you sure the clinic is right try making love every day try making love every other day try making love in a bear cave blessed by the pagan shaman of some far off tribe try drinking your own urine try drinking this tea until two days before ovulation then do not drink it afterwards as you can only drink it on those days try pineapple juice but don’t eat the core it can cause miscarriage- it’s like always using the same numbers on the lottery, the day you stop using them is the day your numbers come up.
Today’s charity/organisation is The Miscarriage association, somewhere that offers a huge amount of support and guidance and crucially, it has a support line. With Missed Miscarriage the baby dies but the body holds on to it. In these cases there is an initial scan, and then a week later another scan to confirm that nothing has changed. That week seems a very long time, and it is incredibly lonely. You want to hold on to that hope that there may have been change, but also know that the likelihood is very small. So you are left in a state of anxiety and grief just waiting. That help line, having someone there who is not going to tell you about a ‘friend of a friend who had a perfectly healthy pregnancy when they thought she’d had a miscarriage’, instead having someone to hold your hand when you want to just be sad, that is invaluable.
And now, to today’s poem. Today’s poem is by the amazing Clare Shaw. I read with Clare Shaw at the brilliant poetry night Wordplay at Square Chapel in Halifax. It was an amazing experience, Clair is funny, she is honest and bare bones and beating heart, she takes a poem and brings it physically alive in the room, she is an amazing performer and if you get to see her anywhere, go, go ,go. She read this poem for me, on the night. I don’t think she knew how closely I was already attached to it. I came across it in the days after Matilda died and it said everything so clearly about how I felt about everything that had happened, and how we were back to square one with the fertility treatment. I clung to this poem in some of my darkest days. I was talked out of having it at the funeral. They didn’t understand that I wanted honesty. This poem was honest at a time when I felt life had lied to me about how things can go wrong, like life had told me everything would be alright after all, and it wasn’t. This poem was honesty to me and truth and pain and I clung to it. That is the power of poetry.
The no baby poem
(from “Answering Back, ed. Carol Ann Duffy (2007), Faber)
There will be no ceremony
in a quiet wood for this. Today,
the sun does not matter.
You have simply not made it
into existence. All science, all alchemy
have failed from the start.
There is only this
injury, nameless and wet.
You are everything I know now
of loss, the perfect
grey weight of it, constant,
which has turned down the light
in my face.
Had just one moment
of one month been different,
you would have been born
We would have made the drive
in the late afternoon,
past front rooms in Luddenden
yellow with warmth
a jewellery of light in each window
to see you erupt like summer
into our hands.
we have lost you
to a world where there is no word,
even for absence.
Whatever could have made you
is irrelevant. Today,
the slightest breeze could blow me