It was a Friday afternoon and I was at work when I first knew something was wrong. I called three different doctors and they all advised me to go home and rest, which I did. But by Saturday morning I was experiencing heavy bleeding and, because the public hospital was in the city centre, for the first time in my life I visited a private doctor. He told me that my baby was ‘gone’ and that I needed to do a ‘cleaning’. He said he could do this for me at his hospital. How much would it cost? €500. My husband and I explained that we didn’t have that money, so we would have to go to the public hospital. The doctor was angry and he tried hard to stop us, but we honestly didn’t have the money, so we had no choice but to leave.
At the public hospital, they asked to see my scan, and it was only then that I realised the private doctor hadn’t given me any pictures. He hadn’t let me see the screen either, but at the time I presumed he was just being sensitive and trying not to upset me. So I had another scan at the public hospital, where I saw my baby on the screen, heard his heartbeat and discovered he was a boy. He was alive!
The doctor gave me some medication and told me to go home and lie down, but by then I think it was too late. Whether it was the extra travelling and stress (caused by the lies of the first doctor), or whether that made no difference, I will never know. But the bleeding became heavier and heavier, and the pain became worse – like small contractions every few minutes. Eventually, in the evening, I lost my baby.
I experienced a lot of those ‘contractions’ and then I went to the bathroom and saw him lying there – all covered in blood, his huge head and tiny body still completely out of proportion. I felt a wave of horror, and then a rush of love so strong it literally made me catch my breath.
I didn’t show my husband. I didn’t even tell him what I had seen. We are so close, but some things are only for the mother. No one but a mother could understand how or why I loved that tiny creature, and no one but a mother could understand how I felt afterwards – so empty and lost.
My husband tried to comfort me, but he didn’t understand the pain I was feeling. I didn’t want to tell my friends – I didn’t know what to say. My husband’s parents, who live downstairs from us, didn’t speak to me at all for three weeks, and his grandmother said on several occasions that I must have done something to cause the miscarriage. Bizarrely, despite this and despite my character, I managed not to blame myself, but I was full of sorrow.
The doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant again for at least six months, but less than a month later I was. This was great news, but it meant I didn’t have a proper grieving period. It wasn’t until nearly two years later that I began to process my emotions.
I realised that I am not angry or bitter – I know that worse things happen to better people. I do not feel guilty – he simply detached from the placenta – it was nothing I had done. I have even moved beyond sadness or loss. I am now at a place where I feel a strange gratitude because I saw that tiny body, just that once. I will remember the rush of love I felt at that moment for the rest of my life. I am not by nature an emotional person, but the strength of that love came from somewhere within my very core. It was a base, primitive, wild feeling. It was so strong that it had the power to transcend time and space, to move even beyond life into death. I believe in the afterlife and I believe that my son, wherever he was at that moment, felt my love.
I find peace in the knowledge that I loved him immediately and completely. And that is all our children require of us, the ones beside us and the ones we have lost – unconditional love.