pregnancy

Jennifer Hawkins, Jesinta Franklin, and me: Behind every baby bump, there's a story.

It’s Saturday morning and there’s a pregnant woman at your local park, enjoying her baby shower. Her friends and family are circled around her and she’s smiling, her hand cradled around her bump. You can’t help but think that she looks the picture of health and happiness. And in some ways, she is. But although you can’t tell as you walk past, she’s paid a high price for that beautiful belly of hers.

That woman is me. That woman is my sister. That woman is Jennifer Hawkins. She’s Jesinta Franklin. She’s your colleague, your cousin, your best friend from high school. She might even be you. It’s a natural response to see an expectant mother and assign a positive narrative to her circumstances. But there may be so much more to her situation than love, marriage and a baby carriage.

Behind every bump, there is a story. It’s just not always a happy one.

Our long-held traditions of not speaking about ‘women’s business’ have created societal views on pregnancy that border on mythological. Infertility affects 1 in 6 Australian couples, miscarriage occurs in 1 in 4 pregnancies and 2,200 Australian families every year experience the agony of stillbirth. No matter how much we want to give pregnancy and childbirth the Disney treatment, experiences like Jen’s and Jesinta’s are important because they remind us that making another human being is hard. Every voice added to the choir shows us we’re not singing this sad, slow harmony alone and gives us the strength to keep going.

Like Jen, I was shaken to my core by my first miscarriage.

Seven weeks along, I sat in my obstetrician’s waiting room animatedly chatting to my husband and my mother. All day, I’d been able to think of nothing else but seeing my baby for the first time, messaging my husband an hourly countdown. Although unexpected, this baby represented all the hopes we had for our future and our new marriage. We weren’t sure we were ready, but we were delighted to be expectant parents.

I remember handing my phone to my Mum, asking her to record the moment for me as I jumped up on the table. My husband squeezed my hand as our little jellybean came clearly into view on the monitor. It was so small! How could such a tiny thing be making me feel so sick? A rush of love and pure amazement washed over me and I turned to my husband. “There’s our little Teddy,” I beamed, already convinced I was having a son named Theodore.

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That moment, the one right before I turned back and saw the concerned look on my specialist’s face, was the last time I ever had any innocence about pregnancy. The doctor had uncovered a secret my body didn’t yet know. Our baby didn’t have a heartbeat and I was having what is known as a ‘missed miscarriage’. My baby had passed away a few days earlier but my body—like my heart—hadn’t yet started the process of letting it go.

Statistically, my next pregnancy should be fine, we told ourselves. This was all normal…a bump in the road…a devastating inconvenience on the way to happily ever after. Before we knew it, we would be back up on that table, looking at a healthy baby.

Jennifer Hawkins opened up recently about being diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis while she was trying to get pregnant. Post continues after video.

If only that had been true.

It took five pregnancies before I finally saw a live baby on a scan. We were one of the under 5% of couples who have experienced recurrent pregnancy loss and to this day, no test has been able to reveal why.

As I write this now with my five-month-old son asleep in his crib, I can tell you that every moment of heartache was worth it. Those hard months where I felt like nothing…no longer my old self and not yet a mother. The time I bled everywhere at work and had to get my husband to pick me up and take me to emergency. The pain of miscarrying naturally three times when you have endometriosis. The absolute sorrow of driving to family gatherings with your beautiful dogs sitting in the back where a baby seat should be. The anger. The pain. The fights with my husband where we wondered if we were just too broken to do this. I wouldn’t take back a second.

When you’re struggling to conceive, you often imagine the moment you’ll hold your child in your arms for the first time. You run the image through your mind a thousand times a day as though you are casting a spell over your womb. Sometimes, in your darkest moments, you ask your Mum how it could possibly be worth the heartache? She touches your face and whispers, “It just is, my darling. You’ll see.”

When they placed my son on my chest, his little body wrapped up like a burrito, I saw. And I was healed. Every bump has a story and for us, it also had a happy ending.

An emerging author and journalist, Annie Bucknall loves working at home with her son and two lively labradoodles underfoot. She threw in her day job to live this life and although the washing’s never folded and she’s forgotten what colour the kitchen bench is, she’s happy. Find more of Annie’s writing on parenting, leadership and chasing your dreams on Facebook or her blog. She is currently writing her first full-length novel.

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