All posts by Bel

A Delivery

We were pretty prepped for our labour. We had a tens machine so I could power through contractions without drugs for as long as possible. We had a playlist of our favourite tunes to keep the mood up. We had our most gorgeous photos saved to my iPad for joyful distraction. We had essential oils to ease anxiety and help labour progress. The works burger mate, with all the fillings.

We were booked for an induction, because I had gestational diabetes. Our baby wasn’t ready and my body wasn’t letting her out. Twice they tried to induce labour, a cruel jaws of life style device called a Foley’s catheter and when that didn’t work a hormone gel called prostaglandin. In the 29 hours we were on the labour ward no fewer than three other women went into labour. So many that at one stage we were without a midwife because one of those lucky (?) women needed ours, and well heck, nothing was happening in our room except growing anxiety.

We were offered two more attempts at induction or a medically indicated c-section. I don’t know if you’ve had multiple small-handed women reach into your heavily pregnant body to see what’s happening to your very high unripened cervix, but I was finding it increasingly traumatic. In lots of places they offer pain relief for that exploration… But I caved to peer pressure when I was finally offered something for the pain because I had done “so well with the last one” and I didn’t have the gas, fucking fuckers. I should have, I’d be less emotionally scarred and more likely to present for my next pap smear.

In any case, we opted for the C section. There was too great a chance we’d be in the same place after two more attempts or stopping early for an emergency Caesar with a distressed bub and/or me. The surgical team were AMAZING! They were warm, supportive, figurative angels who enveloped us in love and brought my baby girl into this world.

I welcomed my beautiful baby girl into the world the next day because she had some trouble breathing and was whisked away to neonatal intensive care in the company of her daddy and I had to be sedated because my body was shaking too hard from the epidural. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s here, she’s safe, she’s amazing. We’ve bonded despite not getting immediate skin to skin and my milk came in well before we left hospital. We haven’t suffered for how she was delivered, in fact the doctors were certain that her head was too big to come out any other way.

So I didn’t get to avoid an epidural and I got a dreaded catheter- which I was so grateful for, it was a joy not having to get up to pee! I didn’t get to use our playlist but I hammer it in the car now. We didn’t find calm with our essential oils and I handed the tens machine back untouched. I did look at our photos during a brief period that I was entirely alone on the labour ward and they did bring me temporary peace and joy. I’m not sure how useful they would have been during full blown labour though.

So our best laid plans didn’t pan out how we imagined, and it doesn’t mean a thing. We are happy, healthy and thriving. We are bonded and growing as a family each day. I didn’t push a baby the size of a watermelon out of my vagina and I’m okay with that, because however she got here, she’s here and she’s brilliant <3

A part of me briefly felt the need to claim my woman card back, you know, justify the C section, because society. But even if I had the cruisiest pregnancy you could dream of, having a c section still wouldn’t make me less of a woman and if I had been able to push her out of my vagina, it wouldn’t have made me a better mum.

Little love, I’m sure glad you’re here <3

“Before you were born I carried you under my heart. From the moment you arrived in this world until the moment I leave it, I will always carry you in my heart.” ~Mandy Harrison

Photo credit for title photo- Sebastian Merle Photography ūüôā

The Sweet Spot

I have slowed down a great deal recently and while there is still a mountain to move before this little parcel my body is carrying comes into the world, I have had time and cause to pause.

This growing baby and I have reached a sweet spot where she will not be ignored. Instead of being acutely aware of the pain in my pelvic girdle, the brace supporting my thumb, the needles of insulin and finger pricks, these all fade into the background. These niggles are white noise in the presence of her movement.

I feel her rise up against my skin and stay there as I rub and massage and commune with her being. I see her stretching and feel the pressure of her as my body gives way as much as it can to accommodate her lengthening. I feel the sudden shock of her strength as she kicks her little legs and I wonder how she can be so strong.

This is the sweet spot of pregnancy, the space we dwell together, the beginning of our getting to know one another. It is the place of our first interactions, where love existed but now blooms in full as if provided more nourishment than required. It is the space that draws in my husband to watch in awe and place his loving face with it’s prickly beard against my smooth skin to try and join us. It is the space he comes the closest, while she is in the confines of my body, to nourishing the flames of his love for her.

This incredibly special time has made all of the pot holes in this journey worthwhile. My dear sweet little one, we are already so smitten that when you are here you might just find a pair of melty heart puddles where your parents once stood. We love you dearly and you are already such a firecracker that we can’t wait to meet you, well maybe we can wait just enough to enjoy a few more weeks in this, the sweet spot <3

“I usually claim that pregnant women should not read books about pregnancy and birth.¬† Their time is too precious.¬† They should, rather, watch the moon and sing to their baby in the womb.” ¬†~Michel Odent

As The Seasons Change

As I sit here and hold your pale hand, weakened from the years, I am too aware how paper thin your skin is

I try to amuse you with stories and questions, a ramble of triviality and I see a glaze come over your eyes

You are looking at him, at your wedding photo and I know that in your heart you are there

The love that you shared is still wholesome and fresh, you’d give anything for him to be here

For him to see how your family has grown, grandchildren succeeding in a variety of things and oh! all the great-grandies!

You just know he’d be proud and you’ve felt blessed to have witnessed, but now you keenly feel his absence

You are nearing your time, it can be seen in your eyes by any who choose to look closely

The discomfort and frailty have seen pride and dignity start to slip out the door, it’s not what you signed up for

As I sit quietly by you a new life moves inside and I almost embarrass us both with my tears

I watch as you prepare to join the love of your life while a new force awakens, readying themselves to begin

And this is the blunt force of the circle of life, I am powerless in the face of it

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” ¬†~Kahlil Gibran

My beautiful nan passed away tonight, two days after I wrote this. May she rest in peace with her soul mate, my dearly missed papa <3

And Then There Were Three

It’s amazing to me that I last penned a draft, let alone posted here in September last year- Oh for shame! All I can say is that life takes it’s toll on recreational writing ūüôā (it also takes it’s toll on work writing…). An idea or a topic will bubble it’s way into my mind and recently instead of regaling an audience of one here on the internet, I’ve been banging on at my very patient husband- when we are in the car, when he is in the shower, over dinner- where ever he is essentially a captive audience!

The last few months of last year saw me working more, keeping my commitments with friends, going to acupuncture with a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner to help us on our “fertility journey”, and changing my diet every time I got my period to try and maximise our chances (nothing too crazy, but loads of vegetable and loads of preparation time!). Sometime in early October we won the fertility lottery and we are now just over 4 months along.

This pregnancy thing is so not glamorous. I am one of the unfortunate souls who has been quite ill and was so for 14 weeks (this week, week 16, it feels like I may have finally turned a corner!). I mean head in a bucket twice a day heaving your guts up sick. The kind of sick where an actual green hue emanates off you at work. “Pregnancy nose” making toilet breaks torture with at least two said events leading to both ends going. Ick.

Side note: what is with “morning sickness”? It is clearly “early pregnancy sickness”. It is the rare and fortunate woman who only feels ill first thing in the morning. More likely it can strike any time, midnight, first thing in the morning, afternoon, after the evening meal… pfft “morning sickness”.

People started asking questions about the future like “when will you finish up work?” and “have you thought about how it will be when the little one is here?” NOPE! Nope, nope, nope, I have not. I have just been dealing with today, bonding with my bucket that now travels with me in the car and to EVERY room in my house. It is strange in some ways. I abhor feeling and being vommity sick. I’m a sook and have felt quite sorry for myself at times (throwing up in a car park, leaving a BBQ early so I could heave all the yummy delights back up in the privacy of my own home, cleaning the shower after an epic toothbrush induced spew) BUT that sense of miserableness doesn’t mean I’m ungrateful or unhappy about our pregnancy, it just means I also feel sick and the being sick makes me pretty miserable.

So, we’ve had some scans now and I’ve learnt that hubby and I are a massively emotional pair. Our first scan was initiated at 5 weeks and 5 days because of some spotting, around the same time as our first scan last time we were pregnant, which you may or may not have read about in A Sensitive Subject. During this new scan the sonographer said they couldn’t see anything inside a visible pregnancy sack, and that they should be able to see something by now. This was just like last time, in a second I had disconnected, my brain raced ahead to the inevitable D&C and the heartbreak. I had decided in that moment, I wasn’t going to try again. There are women far braver than I who would, but I was out of the game. Not trying, gonna focus on my happy and full life, work I love and be the best damn aunty on the planet to my nieces and nephews. Then the sonographer says “oh, I see something, you’ve moved”. Cue two of the worlds softest grownups shedding tears. There, on the screen was a tiny little shrimp. Two scans later and that shrimp looks like a human baby with a cracking heart beat and two parents who have cried each time we’ve seen them. We’re freaking out a little, but my gosh happy doesn’t nearly do justice to how we feel.

Now I get to focus on¬†my happy and full life, work I love and be the best damn aunty on the planet to my nieces and nephews AND I also get to bumble through this pregnancy and then, all being well, motherhood. Oh yeah, work stayed in the mix because I love what I do and it’s my first baby. The way my brain works, I will drive myself crazy if I don’t give it something intellectual to chew on- and my child will suffer because I will make their development the thing I intellectualise. Better for us all if I have something else to put that intense focus on part of the time ūüėÄ

“Love is all fun and games until someone loses an eye or gets pregnant.” ¬†~Jim Cole

Freedom to Love

I was talking with a beautiful friend of mine the other day. He was telling me that for the first time in his life he has met someone that he is completely comfortable holding hands with in public. He said that was weird, not because he doesn’t like holding hands with his love but because he ALWAYS worries what other people nearby will say or do in response to seeing them.

HOLD THE PHONE. I have held hands in public with EVERY romantic interest¬†I have had since I was 12 and not spared a second thought. That there is hetero-privilege, we don’t think about it because our partner just so happens to be “socially well accepted” solely due to the fact that they are of the opposite gender. Maybe we haven’t done more to change this for our friends and loved ones because it doesn’t affect us directly, we haven’t suffered cultural abuses because of our choices in matters of the heart. We haven’t extended ourselves to imagine what it would be like to be unable to marry the love of your life, because we can or already have. How often do we stop and think about the fact that this is outright discrimination with (as in all cases of discrimination) no damn good rationale beyond someone somewhere feels uncomfortable. I was floored that this is the experience of my dear friend. As much as I was over-joyed to hear his good news, I was saddened to hear that unforgiving heterosexual-centric culture had censored his comfortable and free expression of love at any point in time. But of course it has, I’m a naive white married woman and I just didn’t see it.

One of the ways that I think Australia can becomes more culturally accepting¬†of folks who love ¬†people from the same or other genders is through marriage equality. Marriage equality will legitimise LOVE ITSELF. Then we won’t have people in our society worried about the consequences of the mildest forms of PDAs (public displays of affection) and they can get on with the business of being a solid, reliable and loving partner and all around good human being. We will all legitimately have a choice about marriage. Then we can all get on with more important work like deconstructing racism and white privilege.

<Sweary addendum deleted>

Pure and simple this is ALL about EQUALITY.

“It’s a no brainer, if you’re not for gay marriage don’t marry a gay person!” ~ Whoopi Goldberg

“It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love or how¬†you love, it matters¬†only that you love.” ~ John Lennon

 

You do you

Every single day we are bombarded with images on social media, news websites and on television of bigotry, hate and violence. Every single day acts associated with these are carried out because of a perceived point of difference. Perceived differences in religion, in education, in opportunity, in resources, in cultural background, in physical appearance. As I sit here and write this now it seems to me that all of these stem from the insidious, creeping, doubt fertiliser- fear of the unknown. What do we do when we experience fear? We feel threatened. What do we do when we feel threatened? We fight. With everything we have we seek to diminish the perceived threat.

With the advent of the internet came a veritable flood of information. It sweeps us along in the comfort of our lounge rooms. It creeps into our train rides, our lunch breaks, and sometimes even our bathroom breaks. We are exposed to a massive amount of commentary from all around the globe. We have access to an incredible volume of knowledge. We can learn about other cultures, we can see lands we might not ever be able to physically visit, we can learn about topics that our grandparents¬†could not have dreamed of learning unless they went to university. We can even talk to people from all around the world and further expand our horizons, we can truly grow and become a better species, more understanding and compassionate. Except…

Wherever you look there are people criticising, judging, mocking and castigating others for how they look, live, express themselves, for what they believe in. It seems that you can’t express¬†a single thought without the crushing weight of objection and differing opinion being forcefully thrust upon you, publicly halting you in your tracks, minimising, reducing and nullifying your perspective. We have forgotten how to have an intellectual conversation and explore ideas and we are left with, thanks to¬†being relatively anonymous and faceless on the internet, bullying and closed-minded expressions designed to shut down rather than encourage conversation.

I’m super tired of it. If you are reading this I’m sure you are too. We’ve seen the really interesting article and told ourselves not to look at the comments… why am I looking at the comments?! Oh I hate humanity, we’re the worst, a true cesspool of self-important filth, surely a genetic accident. It’s not very helpful. What would be far more helpful I think is interesting dialogue framed in such a way as to encourage conversation. Instead of “you f***ing ignorant bastard, shut your face before I shut it for you” perhaps a “that’s an interesting perspective, why do you think that?” or “I¬†don’t see it that way, I’m more of the opinion that…”. Perhaps then we could do away with labels and even anger and start to hear each other. Call me a dreamer but I think that doing away with fear and self-righteous indignation could soothe many of the worlds ills. Curiosity before fear would go a long way towards helping as well.

Then there’s the big stuff that shouldn’t even be a thing. Racism. WTF is with all of the racism? I saw a legend of a woman talking about racism (on the internet) and she is¬†an educator. Her message was that we aren’t born racist, we learn to be racist and the stupidest thing about racism is that there is only one race, the human race. We are all the same race just with differing levels of pigmentation in our skin. But someone decided that it benefited them to plant into small minds this idea of difference and we ate¬†that rubbish up for breakfast. Can you imagine a world without racism? Jon Lennon tried. We would still have rich and varied cultural differences and how wonderful if we could be curious about one another cultures instead of feeling threatened by them.

There are always, thank goodness, curious folk in this world who do not subscribe to fear and bigotry. There are always those who work to create conversation and effect positive change in our global societies, but they are still the exception, not the rule. Until the day comes when we can be curious, compassionate and loving beings as the norm rather than the exception. Until the day we can identify and appreciate our sameness. Until the day where we can allow one another our differences and not feel threatened. I say, you do you. Be wholly yourself. Shine your light, share your views, be curious about those who come at you from a place of anger or resistance and start the conversation.¬†The movement has been around since the beginning of human time, but just maybe you’ll help someone finally see that there’s more joy and peace in live and let live.

“Hate cages all the good things about you.” ~Terri Guillemets

The Promises We Keep

Today I finally hung up a canvas of a picture from our wedding. On this canvas are our wedding vows. It is beautiful and they are fun, heartfelt and completely free of burden and obligation.

I promise

I promise to dance with you in the kitchen and always appreciate your jokes
I promise to greet you each day with a smile and a hug
I promise to care for you when you’re sick, sad or disheartened

I promise to hold dear your dreams and help you reach them
I promise to hear you when you speak whether I like the message or not
I promise to work with you as a team through all life’s adventures

I promise to celebrate all of your highest moments
I promise to stand with you through life’s difficult ones
I promise to walk with my hand in yours through the rest

I am filled with joy when I read these over and when I see our canvas with our gorgeous selves so happy and glamorous and these words sharing space with that image I am reminded. I am reminded on the difficult days when demands are high, sleep is difficult and stress pushes every interaction in ways you don’t desire.

Work with it’s demands is an arena which can nurture¬†growth, provide challenges and opportunities to effect change in the world. Work is not home. Carrying the effect of high demands into the¬†home doesn’t help connect with your¬†heart and your inner being.¬†¬†An absence of sleep isn’t helped by the additional tetchiness that seems to exponentially multiply when left unchecked. Stress is not an intelligent driver of responses to anybody. Stress is a good reactor and it is a useful preparation tool, for a deadline or to present well in a public setting. Stress is a terrible reactor at home and it is quick to rebuff hugs and squash smiles in it’s far too serious and oft times grumpy demeanour.

I remember when I see these promises to take a breath and to offer that hug that I promised. I remember to open my ears and listen like I promised. I remember to slip my hand in his like I promised. These promises that were born out of joy and optimism for a full life of shared adventure bring me back to  what matters most to my heart.

I heard somewhere a long while ago that many couples who married didn’t remember their vows. Since on a wedding day we make promises to someone who we anticipate spending the rest of our lives with remembering your promises is likely really important. Maybe there’d be more happy and successful marriages if we all remembered and kept our promises. Scott-The-Lot and I¬†wrote our promises together and we made the same promises to each other on our wedding day. We have chosen to have them be visible¬†so that we remember and incorporate them into our everyday and our inner being. Heck if we are able to have them, even our children will know the promises we made to each other and they will see us keeping them.

I can’t help but wonder about how connected I am with these promises and about promises that I have made myself. I have set goals and I have set “new years resolutions” and I have tried to build new habits (none of these with much success) but I have never made myself a promise, certainly not with¬†such ceremony and celebration. I suspect that I should. Since these vows bring me so much joy and create a space for me to be truly present with my Scott-The-Lot¬†maybe it’s time for me to create some vows for my relationship with myself. It definitely would do me no harm and perhaps a very great deal of good. I’m going to have a go at writing some personal vows. I’d love to know what you would vow to ensure a harmonious, supportive and loving relationship with the person who will have your back every minute of your life, you.

‚ÄúLoving you is easy, it is as natural as drawing breath and as beautiful as the breaking dawn‚ÄĚ ~ Bel McLean Briggs

Pressure

There are times in each of our lives where we are literally moving/ stumbling/ lurching from one moment to the next without space or pause to catch our breath. It is with some great relief that I sit here now on the other side of one of these such episodes. I am currently basking in the lightness of my shoulders which had been tightly straining towards my ears, and the ease with which sleep now comes.

Within in a very small window of time my dear husband and I moved house, he broke his arm the very week before the move, I started a new job and I had a conference to prepare two talks for. I began walking into the next thing that was immediately in front of me. Nothing else could possibly fit.

It was during this incredible period of flux that for the first time in my life I arrived at a department presentation run through for the conference entirely unprepared. That week I had kicked goals in my new job and moved house… and had done so at the expense of my papers. As I listened to other people share their work, the lack in mine became amplified. As I sped through my slides and talked about what I was going to say, I was struck by how much work actually sat before me. I sat through the feedback feeling despondent and when my boss asked me to stop by her office as I was racing out the door to pick my parents up from the airport… Well I had to stop, message my folks and let them know I’d be late and sit with my boss.¬†There is only space for this thing that is in front of me right now.

The talks became my thing in front of me for the next 7 days. Over Easter I sat from breakfast to bedtime in front of my computer re- running analyses on my data to meet the aforementioned feedback and crafting my slides. Then I flew to where the conference was and skyped my boss, this time only details needed modifying. A colleague poured over them both with me and our Head of Department as well because I forgot to mention, this forum is the most important one in my field and it’s the first time my data is being presented. For me professionally, it’s kind of a big deal.

Three sleepless nights in Adelaide. Away from my husband who is in our new home, surrounded by boxes with his¬†broken arm. All consumed by these talks. They’re ready but I still sit in the hotel bar and order dessert for dinner with a side of wine while I continue to tweak and fuss. I’m ready, it’s the eleventh hour but I am bloody ready. Sleep still doesn’t come.

Because sleep was an elusive beast I took my sweet time getting ready the day of my talks. I dressed in yellow because, well because yellow! I strolled along slowly looking for a good place to get coffee and I rolled into the conference feeling a reasonable amount of decent. My talks went well and were well received. I’m chuffed because I got to crack an opening joke that scored a laugh when the tech failed at the start of my first of two consecutive presentations.

Suddenly there is space to gather myself, check that I ¬†am still as I should be, all my parts are here. I can breath and make space for others again. My world has opened up once more. I am more, not less,¬†engaged in my work. I am eager to claim the rain-checks I’ve collected with our families and friends and see my sisters squishy bambinos because they grow so darn fast!

I think periods such as this, where you can only focus on this most pressing thing right here in front of you, are important. For me at least, there was great benefit in being capable of only dealing with the next most pressing thing because that pressure meant that I was immersed in what I was doing, whether that was moving house or sitting in Emergency (twice) with my dear husband, figuring out my new role at work and how to juggle it with my existing one, or the brief moments I was able to take with friends, or my presentations. I was entirely immersed in that moment. That immersion created a depth and state of flow unlike my common every day experience. This period of respite from that is full of inspiration drawn from that immersion and a heightened level of appreciation for the people I love.

Pressure, not a bad thing but definitely not a sustainable thing. I am gratefully enriched by the flux of recent weeks and ready for some quiet steady time to make the most of what I have managed to take away from it.

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” ~ Peter Marshall

A Sensitive Subject

Motherhood, or I think I should say parenthood is a journey that is a little longer in coming to some. For a few, it simply doesn’t. For women it is this magical, mystical rite of passage into womanhood, a¬†leveling up to motherhood. We do not talk about the pitfalls, our struggles, our losses. We walk in one end of a hallway and we walk out with a squishy bambino in our arms or we walk out teary and empty handed, either way, never to mention the journey between.

This is the single most disappointing thing I have encountered, this silence, this not talking about our challenges and difficulties. We are so proud of our achievements and we present our best everything to the world, but we nurse our disappointments, our fears and our heartbreak silently. We feel we are alone. I’d like to change all of that, and if I can help ¬†in any, even small way lift someone up or give them courage or hope or even feel less alone then this is worthwhile.

I woke up the day after Christmas, Boxing day morning, feeling a little seedy. I had this pressure in my lower belly and I needed to pee constantly. Hang on a second! My period was due yesterday (I know right, awesome Christmas timing- actually I seem to have the worst timing, lucky me!). I am like clockwork so this is odd, plus I always get a few signs in the days preceding, and come to think of it there’d been no signs aside from terribly painful breasts but that isn’t new, that’s literally every single month… but just maybe something is different…

We had been semi-seriously “trying” since not long after my 35th birthday, with a couple months delay for immunisation boosters and health checks. Now why is it that women have to have the MOST thorough examination of their health and men don’t even get a look in on theirs until you’ve been trying a damn long while? Anyway, back on track… We had a couple late cycles that prompted us to test. In fact the first cycle that we tried I was one of those highly anxious types who was completely absorbed by chat rooms. In every single moment I was scanning my body for early pregnancy signs and I even tested three days before my period was due. That first two week wait¬†was the absolute WORST. I was the worst and I decided I couldn’t handle that level of intensity again. So from memory we took the next month off and ever since I have waited until my period¬†was late before peeing on a stick. The damned beast has been 3 days late, I have tested negative before she decided to grace me with her presence and my husband and I both teared up with the disappointment.

After 5 months of disappointment (I know, I have a low threshold for disappointment) I decided to try acupuncture. I have to say, every session worked a different area of my body and a shitload of emotional “stuff” shifted each¬†time. I had five treatments in a month timed around my cycle. I was a bit fatalistic that month because we had been tired and hadn’t exactly met the gold standard of timing efforts, but it’s a difficult process after a while and I particularly¬†really didn’t have any more energy to throw into baby making. Well knock me down with a feather, acupuncture¬†might just have helped us conceive in the very first month of giving it a try.

So, we found out on¬†Boxing day that we were pregnant. That second little line in the pee test came up before the test line, no waiting required! You would have thought that we¬†had gifted the most incredible blessing on our family. We decided that we would tell only the people we would seek comfort from if we had a loss, it’s early days after all. Tears and kisses and hugs flowed. We started talking baby names and what they would be like. We were imagining them growing up with their cousins and we were being asked if we minded hand-me-downs… um, does anyone mind hand-me-downs? We love them! My sweet husband would look adoringly at my belly and say “I wonder how big you’ll grow” and cuddles suddenly always enveloped my lower abdomen and our growing dancing bean. Such a miraculous time, such a marvelous gift.

We never would have known that we were in trouble except for a bit of spotting. I read everything on the internet and too many women had a serious issue related to their spotting for me to leave it. I called a healthline we have here in Australia. They prompted me to go the my doctor who sent me for an urgent scan and gave me a request form for another blood test Monday, it was Friday. The following two weeks were harrowing for my husband and I. Our pregnancy, the baby we envisioned in the swelling belly we imagined was in trouble.

The scan the doctor wanted done at first involves a massively full bladder, or at least that is what it feels like. I’m only in early pregnancy at this stage so they can’t see much and I have to empty my bladder so I can be “more comfortable” while they invade my nether regions with the scanner… this was seriously the most invasive scan I’ve had in my life. But right there on the screen, in my uterus, is a gestation sac. I’m told it doesn’t have any features like a foetal pole or yolk sac but it’s early days. I leave the scan to go and have dinner with a girlfriend, because life is sweet man.

When I arrived at my friends house I checked my phone messages because I’d missed a call in transit. It was the doctors office.¬†My doctor had gone home for the day when the radiologists called with news. I needed to be seen urgently, by a different doc. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I called my husband to meet me at the docs and I was on my way. I rang my mum enroute. I cried. I had no idea yet what was wrong but it had to be bad right? To need to be seen urgently?

I arrived first. Sitting in the waiting room, fidgeting and needing to pee every 5 minutes, I begged for extra time (please let Scott make it, please don’t make me go in by myself). My pleas went unheard, doctors have other patients and they were squeezing me in. I sat down and the first words out of the doctors mouth were “I can’t say this is a viable pregnancy” because of the no foetal signs thing. Bonus round I also had¬†a cyst by my right ovary that looked very similar to the gestational sac in my uterus and they were worried about an¬†ectopic¬†pregnancy. How lucky am I? There was a baby where one¬†could grow, and there could be one where it couldn’t.

My husband arrived and they sent him on in. He looked kind of gray and very worried. I tried not to cry. Tears escaped my eyes anyway. We were put on high alert with strict signs to act on and head straight to emergency. I was sent for an urgent blood test and it took 4 attempts to draw my stubborn, frightened blood. The phlebotomist was lovely and she added us to her prayers that night. We were 5 weeks, 5 days.

The same GP we saw the night before phoned early Saturday morning, he said my blood hormone level had risen “an okay amount” but to remain on high alert for pain and a change in spotting. I was to have another blood test Monday morning, all being well. It is amazing the sensations you become aware of when you are on alert. Even gas pains need to be examined until relieving them dissipates the discomfort, yes I’m talking about farts. Every niggle was suspicious, we were the meerkats of Bels body, on high alert watching for any and all threats.

We made it to Monday, and it felt like an eternity had passed. We had another blood test. The blood came easier this time. My blood hormone levels had risen,¬†slowly. This was not what we expected, we were more prepared for it to be launching like a rocket faster than was safe, get her to hospital, she’s going to blow! Our GP told us she thought we were going to¬†miscarry. She said nothing about the cyst that was the cause of our angst since Friday. We went home and cried.

Tuesday I woke with pain before sunrise. The kind we had been told to act on. Then there was spotting. We had to go. In the Emergency department they were kind but their instruments were cruel. The massive cannula sticking deep in my hand was painful and the bed was hard. For a long time the doctors deliberated about referring me to Obstetrics and Gynaecology. When they finally did, the world made more sense. It was 4 days since our first scan, the first time we saw our empty little gestation sac. We were 6 weeks and 2 days when we saw it again, unchanged. My heart sank.

Two incredible doctors from the Obstetrics team¬†saw me that day. The first, a junior doctor wearing a bright yellow dress, had such compassion and consideration for my dignity and our emotional well being that even now I am overwhelmed with gratitude. She gave us an honest, cautious hope with the right balance of “we just don’t know” and “I hope I get to deliver your baby”. The second doctor, the registrar informed us in the most kind way that we could have a completely healthy pregnancy, or we could miscarry and that sometimes pregnancies just run out of puff. She said¬†what was great was that we know we are able to get pregnant. In theory, everything works as it should. We clung to her words and started to talk to ourselves about “systems checks” and “test runs”.

Cautious optimism and a heavy heart were my constant companions. We left the hospital with blood tests every two days and a request form for my least favourite scan in a weeks time. I am developing a needle phobia. Friday I became very worried. The wonderful doctor in the yellow dress phoned wanting to cancel my regular scan in preference for a specialist one. My blood hormone was only creeping up. She made the appointment for me for Monday. Another long weekend, but now my dear sweet husband is away and he cannot envelope me in his arms and fortify me against the coming storm.

The spotting became bleeding off and on over the weekend. Fear now, not worry. I knew without a doubt that something wasn’t right. More than a question now, I was sure. But that growing baby in the swelling belly that you imagine from the moment you see that second line on the pregnancy test won’t let you listen to your instincts with clarity. It’s too frightening to contemplate that your changing body, your restricted diet, your nausea and fatigue are for nothing. They are a price you paid, for what? For admission to a collective unable to discuss their pain, their thwarted expectations, their fear of what it means about them, how they let down their lover, what they did wrong, their feelings of unworthiness, the shame?

Staring back at me that Monday afternoon was the empty sac I knew in my heart to expect. Where there should have been a developing brain, little arm buds, a visible heart, there was the same emptiness I had seen in those other terrible scans. I could wait and re-scan in two or three days. With my husband away for work, perhaps it made sense to wait but my broken heart couldn’t bear it. We scheduled a D&C for the next day. Thank God I have my mum. I walked into the hardest day of my life by myself and I had to call her and ask her to come, she was there in a heartbeat as all loving mums are. She wrapped me up in her love and compassion while she also grieved, for a grandchild who would not be and for her own child’s suffering. Having her there stopped the flood of tears and upset and I found a semblance of strength. No one should expect themselves to go through something like that alone.

I paid my price for admission to a collective that has largely been silent but is growing in it’s openness. What I found when the sad decision was made, was that there is a veritable army of women who have suffered losses and still love. Who are brimming with compassion, who care and wish to lift you up. Because when they suffered it left a mark on their soul but hope remained in their hearts and they went on to have healthy pregnancies and to become proud mummas to¬†those squishy little bambinos. But what they see in you, or me and our¬†loss, what they lift up in you is your motherhood. They inspire in you the courage and the confidence to try again.

I am now a week and two¬†days on from facing a decision to allow my body to be helped along and¬†speed up the healing of my broken heart, or to allow my body to wind things up naturally, which could mean another month or more of intermittent bleeding and a prolonged recovery, subsequently further delay in achieving a viable pregnancy. I took the help and it was through that assistance so many women were able to lift me up in my darkest hour. I was not alone. I was far from alone and many were invested in my full recovery of hope, courage and spirit. I have to say, as well as my friends many of them were women I came across during my single day in hospital. Nurses cried with me, doctors and nurses held my hand and shared their stories and helped me see mine wasn’t over.

The men in my life did a wonderful job of being compassionate and optimistic as well. I must say my dear Scott-the-Lot is full of optimism and is very much looking forward to fatherhood, he speaks about it more often now. My brothers shared their concern and did their best to reassure and comfort me and their words were some of the ones that stuck most closely to my heart.  My dad was there for me in a way only dads can, by being stoic but present and good with a hug. Of most value to me though were the men in my life that asked after how Scott was doing. These were men who had also experienced a loss or shared a difficult journey to parenthood. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that we share this journey with our partners because it is our bodies but it is also their lives, their hopes, their dreams, our story. My Scott the lot is doing better than I am, he has his face shining forward and he is bundling me along with him, but I still make an effort to keep the conversation open.

So now I want to share with you that yesterday was the first day that I felt like I did before I was pregnant. My fear is that it feels too much like it never happened, that no one will know, that I will forget. I get teary when I think about having been pregnant, then not being pregnant all of a sudden without having the joy and fulfillment of a swelling belly and subsequently a wriggly bub. Suddenly it felt as though there was less that was special about me. Then I recall the women that held me up and I remember that I am one of them. I too will wear the scar on my heart and move forward boldly in the face of fear and we will try again.

I have read (of course I have “Dr Googled” EVERYTHING) that losing a pregnancy at any stage is hard. But at whatever stage you suffer a heart wrenching loss, from the moment you see those two sweet lines on a pregnancy test you go through a transformation. You and your husband or partner have hopes and expectations, you discuss baby names and what kind of child your bub will be, you think about how you’ll manage work and an infant or how you’ll tell your boss, you tell your nearest and dearest and they are so fricken excited for you and for themselves and the role they’ll get to play in your baby’s life… and those hopes cannot be taken back. Your heart will¬†carry a sadness, a weight, a sense of loss, until it doesn’t. Until then, speak with other women and men about your loss, it’s passed the time where we should keep silent on such things. Reach out so that they may lift you up, as I was lifted up and as we should lift each other up.

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.” ¬†~William Shakespeare

In The Thick Of It

Life. Gritty fucking life.

Life is the thing that connects us. It is what makes us the same. The agony of tragedy, the sweetness of joy, the grey nothingness of ¬†less than average but not awful and the level contentment of okay. Life is fickle. It doesn’t care about your dreams and plans. It is here to thrive and sometimes shit gets real to enable growth, think of a fire turning everything black then rapidly spawning new life.

We don’t always know at the time why tragedy happens. Why we face the worst. Why the world we operate in is suddenly shaky, unpredictable, frightening. Why loved ones suddenly pass from this world, a pregnancy fails, a cancer diagnosis, we lose that job and our livelihood, a car accident changes everything. We don’t know why it happens but we know there must be a reason right?

Tragedies don’t happen for a reason. They are simply hard luck or natures way. You were in the line of fire. It sucks. And we’re human so we want it to be for something. Surely our suffering must serve a higher purpose. It must because we have reasoning brains and opposable thumbs and are no longer living in the thick of mother nature at the whim of the seasons, the wind, drought, floods, fire. Except that we are. Furthermore, our “seperateness” from nature makes our tragedies less survival and more personal. Its no longer “natures way”, no it must mean something more.

It doesn’t mean anything. Your personal tragedies, and mine, as extraordinary as they were or are did not happen for some higher purpose. But we can make meaning of it in our lives. We can make our losses count for something as we move forward. Let’s start with compassion for others who have lost as we have. Maybe we could be kind first and foremost and not judge each other so harshly. Maybe we will be first to help or speak out. Maybe we will work to be better than yesterday, to contribute, to connect, to be a useful and helpful member of our species. Maybe we will begin to appreciate that this life is fragile, it is fickle, it affects each of us in the same ways as we hope and love and lose and we will realise that we are in the thick of it together.

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~Albert Einstein

Kindness doesn’t cost a thing, sprinkle that shit everywhere. ~ Author Unknown