I had started a list of baby names, called the hospital to apply for the midwifery program and familiarised myself with the foods to avoid. And every day as I obsessively did home pregnancy tests that second “positive” line on the test grew stronger, but then my doctor called.
The pregnancy hormone, which had been rising exponentially, had slowed down. Nothing definitive, we’d have to wait a week to be sure, but I was told not to get my hopes up.
I had kept the news relatively under-wraps, but there was a small circle of friends and family I’d told. My sister was about to move overseas, and I wanted to share it with her and those closest to us before she left. And during those early, nauseous days it was nice to be able to disclose our then-happy news.
But when I found out that the pregnancy would end prematurely, I had to break the far less joyful news that I was having a miscarriage.
There were kind messages, thoughtful little gifts – but not all the comments were welcome. The one that stung the most was when a friend’s partner looked at me with sympathy and said: “Oh well. I guess that’s why you don’t tell people before 12 weeks.”
The pain of that first miscarriage was compounded by the struggle we’d gone through to even get pregnant. I’d lost a fair amount of weight after the birth of my son, which meant my period never returned. Eventually I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea, a condition that is typically thought to affect mainly female ballet dancers, athletes and women with anorexia, but can actually happen to anyone who loses weight.
The irony was that I’d finally shed the kilos doctors had urged me to lose for years, only to end up infertile.
The specialists were optimistic though – I had everything that was needed to have a baby, they said. We just needed to kickstart my hormones – replicate ovulation – and I’d get there.
There were countless injections – two, three, four, sometimes five self-administered shots a day. Blood tests and scans twice a week. Slowly lifting my hormone levels to just the right amount to then plunge a needle into my belly and trick my ovary into releasing an egg.
After that pregnancy ended in miscarriage, we continued with the treatment – the injections, scans, tests.
It took another year, and this time when the faint second line appeared on the I decided to keep the news to myself.
While I didn’t blame myself for the previous loss, there was that niggling thought that I’d be jinxing myself if I shared the news.
This time, it wasn’t until we went for the 7-week scan that we learned we had a problem. In the grainy picture, beamed up on the television above me, there was a sac and a baby. But there was no heartbeat, no sign of life.
Yet again, we had to wait a week to have the prognosis confirmed. And this time, I had no one to tell. No one who would have to endure the awkwardness of not knowing what to say to a couple who were grieving.
Bad luck and ageing eggs were the diagnosis. We were advised to simply resume. So that’s what we did, after a procedure to remove the foetus which, although unviable, stubbornly refused to leave my womb.
Another six months passed, and after several rounds of treatment, I was pregnant again. But instead of hopeful happiness, there was just a grim sense of getting through to that heartbeat scan.
I didn’t dare dream.
And as I was lying there on the bed, and the doctor was aimlessly searching for the heartbeat, I knew what was coming.
This third miscarriage happened naturally – and with it came another shock. It was nothing like having a period, as I had been told. My body went into full birth mode, contracting and convulsing until the tiny sac that contained my baby was expelled from my body. I looked in horror and awe at the lifelikeness of it, until another series of contractions came to push the tiny placenta out.
In the weeks that followed, I was privately consumed with sadness, anger and despondency. My husband – and my then three-year-old son – cared for me while I cried. They understood – or tried to understand – when I yelled and shouted at them.
We’d now had eight treatment rounds and three pregnancies. And perhaps it is the very definition of the sunk-cost fallacy, but we decided to go again. This time, due to the losses, our fertility specialist recommended we go with all the bells and whistles to try to minimise the risk of yet another miscarriage. That meant spending thousands for genetic testing, on top of the thousands more to collect eggs and reinsert a top-grade embryo.
That microscopic embryo stuck. And I’m now early into my fifth pregnancy. Once again the signs are all good. I’m nauseous, tired, bloated.
But this time I’m not keeping the news hidden.
While it might be the choice of many, to wait until they’re safely into the second trimester before they do the big reveal, I’m over trying to keep my secret under wraps.
The reality is that while miscarriage happens a lot, successful pregnancies are far more common. We should talk about that instead of the chance of loss.
And when it does happen, a miscarriage shouldn’t be a secret shame for women to bear alone.
When I go for that heartbeat scan, and if once again the doctor can’t find it, at least my circle of support will be wider. My husband and now four-year-old son won’t have to be the only ones to feel my grief, rage and devastation.
I hope it’ll be fourth time lucky, and that the village around me will help me to raise this child, which is currently a tiny cluster of cells in my belly.
But if, once again, it’s not meant to be, that same village will be there to help me mourn.