There are some questions almost too big to answer. Or too loaded. “How many times have you been pregnant?” is one of them. It’s a question often asked in a medical context (when seeing a new doctor for example) and it’s a rare woman who doesn’t have to think and blink before she answers. Because for most of us, there are a thousand words and a hundred emotions embedded into that number which hardly ever correlates with the number of children you have. Or don’t have.
At dinner with girlfriends a few weeks ago, talk turned to someone we knew who was having her 4th round of IVF. “Has she ever been pregnant before?” I asked. “No,” came the reply. “Never.” Oh. There was a brief moment of silence as we sadly contemplated what this meant before someone looked around and asked, “How many times have you been pregnant?”
As we all looked towards the ceiling in that way you do when you’re trying to remember something, we absently started counting on our fingers. Each of us did some quick and intensely personal calculations as our minds travelled back over private moments of joy, dread, devastation, relief, grief, frustration, fear, anger, hope and despair.
A woman’s gynaecological history is fertile ground for complex emotions and many, many anecdotes which are rarely shared except among close girlfriends. But once you turn on the tap….
Someone ordered another bottle of wine as we remembered all the pregnancies we’d lost. This sounds terribly maudlin but it was in fact cathartic and natural, particularly for those of us who had children. Such conversations are far more poignant for those who don’t.
Between the five of us, we counted nine children and 27 pregnancies. It took a while to do the numbers because each one had a story attached although admittedly, for the mother who’d had nine miscarriages in five years, they blurred a little. I’m telling you all this because pregnancy loss remains one of the big secrets of motherhood - actually it's one of the biggest secrets of women's lives.
This week as part of Never Forgotten: Mamamia's Pregnancy Loss Awareness Week we're remembering the babies we've lost. Post continues below.
I had two miscarriages. Because the first one was late in my pregnancy and I had a media profile at the time, it was an uncomfortably public experience. As difficult as that was to endure, there were some benefits to people knowing what had happened without me having to explain.