by KIM COWEN
I met my husband late in life.
Not ‘late’ like ‘I’m-cashing-pension-cheques’ late. But late as in my reproductive clock has ticked over into Struggle Street.
I met him when I was 36. We married when I was 37. We got pregnant when I was 38 and then I actually started to feel old. Up to this point in my life getting older had never bothered me. No, I embraced it! I was happy to be done with my teenage angst, delighted to take life’s lessons in my 20s and ready to apply those lessons in my 30s.
Now I’m 40 and I’ve had four miscarriages in two years for no other reason aside from my age and bad luck.
When I was in my 30s and looking for love a girlfriend of mine said (over many a glass of red wine while we were seated at the singles table of the wedding of another friend), “Kimmy it’s just a numbers game”. Which roughly equates to “You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince.”
She was right. In the last few years I had struggled through 20 or so online dates before I finally met James. And I was only using the site for dating practice. I wasn’t even remotely committed to actual commitment with someone I met online. Not remotely.
But life’s funny like that. All that practice led me to the perfect fit. I played the numbers game and won a husband.
I mention this because that’s how I see this baby-making caper. It’s a numbers game. I’m a text-book mature-age want-to-be mother. I’m a statistic. A number. A percentage. Now that I’m ticking the next box in the age bracket my odds have gotten even longer.
And yet I’m hopeful. I simply believe. My husband and I are awesome people, with an awesome life that we love and into this life of awesomeness we will bring a baby or two (at this point I’ll settle for one, but he’s even more hopeful than me!).
I just need to manage my patience until the numbers swing my way.
Patience has never been a strong suit of mine. I was smoking behind the shelter shed the day they taught that in school. But, sometimes life makes you wait.
I waited the obligatory 12 weeks before having the obligatory 12-week scan at which point we discovered we had an eight-week-old dead foetus instead of a first trimester baby. Bugger.
Even though I was vaguely prepared for this (I knew the numbers were stacked) it still didn’t register when the nurse asked me to be specific about my dates because it seemed ‘a bit small’ for 12 weeks. So I had to have an internal scan (a delightful experience where you get a wand up your lady bits) to be sure the ‘a bit small’ was in fact, a bit dead. When we confirmed this fact the nurse said she’d leave us alone to ‘process’. I asked “Why?” because all I really wanted to know was what to do next. I had this lifeless thing not growing inside me. What does one do with that?
I had to go to my GP (I didn’t have one); I had to visit my obstetrician (I had one booked but we were yet to meet); I had to call work (I decided I needed two weeks to recover when I actually just wanted a free holiday).
So while I was in project commando mode, my gorgeous soft-in-the-middle husband had to process through this reality. He wasn’t quite as prepared for it as I was. We’d started calling this baby by its name. We’d talked about how we’d rearrange the house to accommodate and he’d been annoyingly vigilant about my alcohol intake (bastard).
But he put his feelings to one side and supported me 100% through my pragmatic approach to this wee conundrum. Bless him.
Two days after the scan we were up at 4am to be at the hospital for 5am. I had the added joy of having to have a suppository three hours prior to the procedure to soften my cervix (can’t remember the name of it, just that my cervix was clearly being as stoic as I was about the situation). Nil by mouth meant I was parched and hungry by 8am. I wasn’t allowed to move once the suppository had been inserted. So I was feeling pretty sorry for myself by this point and just wanted the whole thing over. What a palaver.
My darling husband sat patiently beside me the whole morning while we waited for me to go into surgery. He was the epitome of supportive. He didn’t talk unless I wanted to. He didn’t expect me to behave or act in any way in particular. He just was. Which was the opposite of how he behaved some years before when I was recovering from root canal, but that’s another story.
No, he was terrific. In fact, we’d been married for less than six months at this point and I fell in love with him all over again during this, our first miscarriage, together.
At 9am they finally summoned me to the operating theatre where all I remember is how fucking cold it was. That and that it was 9.10 when I lost consciousness and 9.45 when I woke up. Short and sweet. Actually, not so sweet really. The anaesthetic wore off pretty quickly and suddenly I was in a world of pain. “It’ll feel just like a bad period,” my arse. I had so much pain I couldn’t lie still. The cramping was horrendous.
Hearing my complaints the nurse tried to give me panadol. “Are you serious?!”, I screeched. “Get me the good stuff. Now!” Suddenly this whole miscarriage thing was making me angry. I did not expect the pain. Thankfully, now that I’ve been around the block more than once, I know that this level of pain is not normal. It was just not well-managed during this first procedure.
After some more screeching from me, and some signing of serious paperwork by my husband, I was allowed some of the good drugs and I drifted off into a lovely hazy slumber. I woke to Ellen on the TV and my husband sitting in the chair beside me – still. And then we were allowed to go home. Yay. Let the holiday begin.
In between pregnancy one and pregnancy two I was offered a fab new job in another state, so getting pregnant again meant getting acquainted with a whole new medical team.
I discovered we were pregnant again in the first week of the new job. Great. I hadn’t particularly bonded with any of my new office buddies so this was going to have to stay under wraps. Oh, that and I was suddenly a non-drinker. Try that one on when you work in PR!
Rather than wait it out and wonder we opted to have our first scan at the eight-week mark this time. The scan showed a 7-week foetus instead of an 8-week foetus but it was seemingly viable so we were advised to have another scan in a week. Not quite the ‘high five’ I was looking for, but we took it positively, none-the-less.
Within the week it was clear that pregnancy two, or P2 (I’ll start abbreviating for ease of reading shall I?), was going the same way as P1. Damn. I had some planning to do. Thank you baby Jesus for Christmas. To the surprise of my obstetrician I put off the procedure (technically a dilation and curettage) until I could break for a two-week holiday and have none of my new colleagues any the wiser. Happy days.
Ironically, for an atheist, I also have baby Jesus to thank for P3. We conceived in Tassie in a gorgeous stow-away apartment during our Easter holiday and while we were well-pleased with ourselves, twice shy by now, we were also naturally cautious.
Six weeks later we visited our lovely obstetrician again and the three of us held our breath and crossed our fingers as she did the scan.
Strike three. No heartbeat.
Off we go again for an early morning hospital admittance and form signing. By this stage I’m an old pro and just coast through it all, chatting to others in recovery as we come to. I even ask the nurses what’s in the sandwiches today because I want to avoid the weird tasting fish paste option this time.
I take another couple of completely unnecessary weeks off work and strike up another missed miscarriage. That’s what they call it, when you have no symptoms – a missed miscarriage. Like, ‘Oops, I missed my miscarriage. How did I do that? I’m sure I wrote it in my diary. I just missed it.’ Do they have a belated greeting card for that?
By now my quietly caring husband is getting a bit frustrated. Neither of us really expected that it would be this hard. It had taken all the joy out of planning for a baby. It’s true, if planned baby-making sex doesn’t dial down the romance then consecutive failed pregnancies will.
On the bright side, having three meant we were elevated to ‘recurrent miscarriage’ status which means that the medicos will investigate. Hurrah, thought I. We’ll get some answers. We’ll stop the leaky tap. We’ll replace the flat tyre. We’ll add more salt to the recipe. Alas, the investigations showed nothing more than a Vitamin D deficiency for me and that my husband’s batting average was pretty good (ask him to explain).
I now have two specialists in my medical ensemble – which is quite a lot for someone who’s never had a regular GP. I have a fabulous fertility doctor (which is queer because we don’t have trouble getting pregnant) who instantly bonded with my husband the minute he pulled out the Star Wars reference of ‘stay on target’. We loved him immediately.
I find out we’re pregnant with number four (P4) the same week my job (you know, the one we moved states for) is made redundant. This actually pleases me because I realise I’ll have all the time in the world to be either pregnant or recover from not being pregnant. Seriously. That’s how my brain works.
Because I’ve told you the ending at the beginning of this story you already know that P4 ends the same way that the first three did.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to it this time though. I mean, sure, it’s a shit thing to go through, but the legal drugs are fabulous.
Last week we actually had a counselling appointment with an IVF clinic, which I’d put off until after a US holiday and my 40th birthday dinner – do you see where my head is at? Mr Star Wars doesn’t necessarily recommend IVF for us but pre-genetic testing will increase our odds of a viable embryo. It’s still no guarantee. Neither of us has particularly embraced the whole IVF thing. Don’t get me wrong. Science is a grand thing and I’m fully aware that I have limited years left to roll this dice – I’m just not ready to roll them down that route yet.
I’m not prepared to tie myself up in knots with fear and anxiety and financial investment every month to make that work. That’s just not how I operate. And to be honest I really don’t think that’s in our best interests either. I’m not religious. Some might call me an atheist (or if they’re generous, a heathen). But I do have faith. I believe our family will happen exactly when it’s meant to. And while I wait, patiently I’m going to be getting on with my life.
I hope the next time you read something from me on this topic it’ll be all sunshine and light about how P5 has turned out into a – you know – actual baby. But you know what? It might not be. I might have a few more numbers left in this game yet.
This was originally published on Catherine Deveny’s website here and has been republished with permission.