2015 has been the toughest year of my entire life.
I am lucky. I have a roof over my head. The sun shines all year round. I have a faithful, loving husband. These are all good things for which I am deeply grateful.
But this has been a desperately sad year. I should be a mother by now. In fact, we should be parents at least two times over.
And yet we are still just us.
Our beautiful home is more empty than I could have possibly imagined.
We started January with a bang and an early pregnancy result that left us both a little stunned, but so excited. We were born to be parents.
A week later, I started to spot, and the spotting turned to bleeding, and the bleeding turned to a trip to the emergency room on a Friday afternoon and that was the end of that.
We weren’t parents to be any more. I had failed.
We grieved as best as we could together, but there’s a certain barrier that comes up when one of you is happy with life as it was, and the other just wants to get on with the next bit – the part she feels she was built to play. The part she desperately wants.
So we carried on along these separate paths, occasionally intersecting as we healed in our own ways.
I desperately wanted to talk about it and he desperately wanted to lock it away in that corner reserved for his most painful truths – his parents’ divorce, for example.
In silence, we ate garbage and drank to excess. We filled our lives with trivialities that brought fleeting comfort. We got up and got through each day.
By March I was able to make a huge change in my life by taking on a new job. I felt I had drawn a line under what I thought was the worst of things, and was working towards a new beginning.
I still felt quite raw and lost, but things were starting to come back together, and I could see a way through.
We went on honeymoon, and a dangerous sliver of hope crept back in. ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we conceived our first child on honeymoon,’ I wondered. ‘They’d know how much they were planned for, and how much love they came from.’
It’s nice to dream, but this dream didn’t come true, and that was OK.
A month after we returned, however, we were packing for a trip further abroad, and just to be sure I could enjoy my brother-in-law’s wedding at the end of the trip I took a pregnancy test.
To my great surprise that second line arrived, getting darker with time. I couldn’t believe my luck and neither could my husband.
Quite quickly the joy became mixed with fear – every twinge, every time I felt dampness in my underwear, I was sure this was the end.
Every night I would go to sleep with a hand on my stomach. “Please stay” I would say. And stay it did – past the point of the last miscarriage, long enough to tell the family members we were visiting, long enough to relax just a little and start to believe things might work out this time.
I remember arriving at the radiology clinic the week we got back from our travels in time for the 8-week scan.
I was alone, but full of hope and excitement at the ultrasound picture I could take home to my husband.
If only I’d known not to hope.
If only I’d known that I’d been asking a tumour to stay inside me and not a precious child.
If only I’d known that I could be in the 1% of women who have this particular strand of terrible luck.
Like many miscarriages, it wasn’t something we did wrong, there’s nothing particularly amiss with our genetics – it just didn’t work out.
I had never heard of a molar pregnancy and nor has anyone I have spoken to since, regardless of their age.
Believe me, it’s a thing.
For the uninitiated (which should pretty much be everyone, really), a molar pregnancy is a uterine tumour that has all the same markings as a pregnancy.
It starts like any normal pregnancy, and your body changes accordingly. The sickness, fatigue and breast tenderness trick you into thinking everything is normal and progressing well.
This is what makes the shock so complete – diagnosis is made primarily at routine ultrasound appointments and sometimes confirmed with blood tests that will show sky-high levels of pregnancy hormones.
Our co-founder Mia Freedman discuss pregnancy loss on Show + Tell.
There are two different types to be aware of – complete and partial molars.
Complete molars mean there was never a baby, but partials mean there was a foetus but the placenta didn’t develop properly, so the baby will never survive. I’m not sure there’s a better option here.
Treatment involves evacuation surgery under general anaesthetic, then weekly blood tests to follow your pregnancy hormone levels back to ‘negative’, and then monthly blood tests for six months to make sure the levels don’t rise again.
Then consider the chance the molar tissue may not have been completely removed in the surgery, and could be growing back, in which case the only treatment is chemotherapy.
The entire experience is utterly terrifying and sullies what is supposed to be one of the more exciting periods in your life.
There is a whole network of women globally dealing with this. Some need chemo, some recover quickly, some take years, some have recurrences.
We all are asked to wait months or even years by cautious doctors who will maybe only see the condition once or twice in their careers.
We are asked to set aside the one thing we want to do most, and it’s like pointing to it makes us want it more.
We bargain with anyone who’ll listen – specialists, partners, ‘God’, our own bodies – to let this nightmare on the sidelines be over.
As that awful biological clock ticks louder and louder in our ears, it becomes an obsession.
We put countdowns on, we talk and think incessantly about what was and what might be, we ache as our friends announce pregnancies and births, and then feel guilty for not always being overjoyed for them.
I still consider myself lucky.
I did not need further intervention, and the good things in my life are still there and are still good. I have not been told I will never have children, just that I have to wait a while longer to do it.
There is a lime tree in my backyard that is teaching me about fertility and the nature of nature.
I water it, and nurture it every day: plenty of flowers form, then plenty of tiny fruits, but most don’t survive. Only a select few receive that honour. It seems the same applies to us.
The author of this piece is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous.