real life

Lehmo and his wife watched the ultrasound machine in awe. Then the doctor's face fell.

Content note: This post deals with pregnancy loss, and may be triggering for some readers.

‘I’m f*cking pregnant.’

Kel was sitting on the end of our bed, in shock, and I was guessing from her tone that “delighted” would not have been an accurate description of her mood. We hadn’t dedicated much time to a serious chat around whether or not children would form a big part of our lives. In short, I was keen and Kel was either ambivalent or ‘not ready right now’. Why would we discuss it? It’s not as though kids are a big commitment. Can’t you just wander into parenthood half-arsed?

What made our situation even more ridiculous was that we were essentially trying for a baby without any real verbalised joint commitment to the process. We were as sexually active as I imagine your average young couple would be and we were taking no precautions to prevent pregnancy.

LISTEN: Lehmo joined the This Glorious Mess podcast to talk about the challenges of being a father. 

Ergo, it should not have been a shock when Kel returned from the doctor’s with a positive test under her belt and a bun in the oven. She wasn’t a biology major but this is pretty basic stuff.

I couldn’t have been more excited, but I didn’t want to express that because she was clearly having a different and fairly difficult experience. She wasn’t being completely open about how she really felt because she knew how excited I must have been.

So there we sat, drowned happiness next to subdued sadness – the worst clown duo in history.

When the awesome/devastating news was delivered she was at a clinic being assessed as a result of pain in the area. She thought it could polycystic ovaries or something similar. Upon hearing the pregnancy diagnosis, Kel told me she stared at the doctor blankly, stood up, threw her bag over her shoulder and started walking out of the clinic.

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‘Are you OK?’ asked the doctor

‘Yep, I’m fine.’

‘I think you should come back here.’

‘No, I’m fine.’ Kel reassured the doctor that she was tiptop and good to go home.

‘You should come back here because you are not wearing any clothes.’

Kel had started walking out in her patient gown, bum out at the back and bag over her shoulder. I’d love to know how far into the day she would have bared her butt before realising.

It took a few weeks, but eventually Kel really warmed to the idea of us having a baby. She simply had never given the reality of it proper consideration but saw how excited I was and she started to imagine the joy, which was real because it was growing inside her.

We started to discuss names and renovations and who it’d look like and holidays and how we’d get the baby to our wedding. Could he/she even go to the wedding? Can a baby fly at five weeks? Do we need to postpone the wedding? The due date is mid-November and the wedding is late December, we should be OK.

In all the excitement, Kel had neglected to get herself an obstetrician or consult her GP, but perhaps deep down she still wasn’t sure.

By the time she met with her GP the baby was twelve weeks. The GP flipped and sent us as quickly as she could to an obstetrician for scans, a general check and a serious chat about what lay ahead.

At fourteen weeks we met with our obstetrician, a beautiful man who we both warmed to immediately. After a general chat about where we were at he said, ‘OK, let’s have a look.’

We held hands and walked to the examination bed. Kel settled into position, the doc applied the gel and the ultrasound began. We were about to meet our little one.

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A deep love swelled inside me as the doc pointed to the screen and said, ‘There we go, we’ve got two legs,’ at which point I squeezed Kel’s leg with excitement.

The doc talked while we watched in awe. ‘As we move up here, you can see the body and arms, one there and one there each with a very tiny hand and as we move . . .’

Silence. The device was still slowly sweeping across Kel’s stomach, the image was changing, the doc was staring, but there was silence. Not a word. Something had stopped him in his tracks.

Was this normal? What was going on? It was probably seconds but it felt like an eternity.

‘OK, something here doesn’t appear as it should regarding the shape of his skull but I need a more detailed picture. So I am sending you downstairs for a 3D ultrasound’

‘What is it?’

‘I’m not sure but I really need a better picture before I can accurately say.’

We go downstairs. We wait. We wait. We worry. We wait.

We go in. We get a better picture. We go back upstairs.

‘It’s not good news. I can show you on the picture. See here –’ he points ‘– there have been issues with the formation of the skull’. Now with the better picture it was plain as day, the baby’s skull had only half formed.

‘It’s called fetal acrania. It’s rare. It occurs in about 1 in 20,000 live births. And the prognosis is not good. In fact, there is a zero chance of survival.’

A termination was the only real option. We were both devastated and it took Kel quite a while to process what had happened and to deal with the lingering sadness.

Anthony Lehmann's book This Shirt Won't Iron Itself is now available.

This was not helped twelve months later when a miscarriage ended another pregnancy. At this point I started to wonder if Kel could be put through all this again. As it turned out this was way less traumatic than what had happened the year before.

When we started to try again we were lucky and this time everything went perfectly. When we had our first scan it brought back a few bad memories and we were pretty edgy as the doc was giving us the limb-by-limb description of our little fella. The baby’s health was spot on, Kel was feeling great and positive about the whole experience, I was excited and we were on our way to extending our little family.

This is an edited extract from This Shirt Won't Iron Itself by Anthony 'Lehmo' Lehmann, Bonnier Publishing, RRP $33. You can purchase the book here.

Listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess here:

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