By a Features writer who wishes to remain anonymous
Trigger warning: miscarriage
I didn’t think much of finding blood when I woke up that day. I’d imagine most women wouldn’t be particularly concerned; it’s a common and unsurprising occurrence to look down of a morning and see red in your underwear. A period creeping in when you don’t expect it is more of a nuisance than an immediate cause for alarm.
Although I was on the pill and hadn’t actually bled in almost a whole year, I dismissed the thought that the bleeding meant anything. I figured I’d simply missed a few doses of birth control and was now being punished with a period.
‘Fine, Mother Nature, you win this one,’ I shrugged to myself. ‘Lesson learnt.’
After digging out some old, crumpled sanitary pads from the back of my bathroom drawer, I went about my day and forgot about it. As the hours drifted by, however, I noticed something was wrong. The flow of blood was heavy. Really heavy. And there were clots. On top of that, the blood was much darker in colour than I was used to having come out of me – it reminded me of my first ever menstrual cycle. There was just so much of it as well, more of it than I’d ever experienced before.
The cramping set in a little later, but again, I didn’t really react. A tragic fact of a woman’s existence is that our period pain is often overlooked. As such, we learn to live with the aches, nausea and general discomfort of bleeding constantly for a week. We’ve grown accustomed to doctors – typically those of the male variety – chucking hot water bottles our way and telling us it’s not that bad. News flash: it’s that bad. There have been numerous cases of women mistaking the agony of their appendices rupturing as just period pain. That’s how strong we are.
Then, the bleeding stopped. I felt my heart drop. Blood-stained and anxious, I got straight on the phone to my aunt. I knew she would be able to help me, given the fact that she’s a trained nurse and supportive family member.
I started to worry when she told me to call my doctor, as she is never really one to fret. I was terrified and confused when the word miscarriage was mentioned. My grandmother had miscarried eight times, and so my aunt knew the signs.
‘There’s just no way,’ I said, having been on various types of birth control since the age of fourteen, and only having become sexually active in the past several years. ‘I would know if I was pregnant.’
On the verge of tears, I called the doctor. My lower lip was trembling, and I struggled to keep it together. It’s important to note that this all took place at the beginning of lockdown. Everyone was unsure of protocols; appointments were being cancelled; clinics were closing down; and doctors were primarily focussed on the wards. This made the situation even more nerve-racking for me.
It took a very long wait, but eventually I got through to an incredibly stressed-sounding receptionist. Once I was grilled by her, I got through to the doctor. He told me that there was not a lot that could be done at the moment, but that it was likely I had experienced a miscarriage. I was informed that if I hadn’t been having pregnancy symptoms, I couldn’t have been far along. The phone call concluded with him saying that if there were still problems over the next few days, I could get back in touch.
To this day, I still wonder if I should have reported the doctor for negligence. I was numb. How could he have been so callous? I wondered. The implications of what he was telling me were devastating, life-changing even. And he just hung up, leaving me sat on the toilet with tears clinging to my face and blood not-long-dried covering my legs for what seemed like hours.
It could have been nothing, that much is true. After a year of not bleeding, it might have just been an unusually heavy period. There were no lingering effects, after all. Only an emptiness, a deep desire to know what I had potentially lost. It could have been nothing, but the possibility that it might have been something felt like everything.
There aren’t words to describe the misery, despair and frustration I felt after that phone call. Mechanically, I cleaned myself up and went for a walk. I had no idea where I was going, I just kept walking. Eventually, I got to a point where I couldn’t walk any longer and I had to do what I was dreading: I had to call my partner.
My partner and I are young, in our early-twenties – which are supposed to be the best years of one’s life, apparently. We’d had a few pregnancy scares in the past; enough so that I knew a pregnancy would, according to him, ruin his life. I’ve always understood where he was coming from and placated him with promises that I would get an abortion if I ever became pregnant. Age was not really of consequence to me: I’ve grown up around teen mothers and seen them bring up amazing children, but I couldn’t blame my partner for not seeing things the same way.
This was different. He was understanding, gentle. I stumbled home and into his hug. As he held me, I finally broke down. I couldn’t bear the thought that some small, small part of him might be relieved. He hadn’t lost anything. I wish I could feel the same and find some relief in the outcome like he could.
We didn’t talk about it for weeks afterward until I couldn’t take it anymore. He seemed shocked when I admitted that I thought about it every single day; that it hurt me like nothing had ever hurt me before in my life. It didn’t matter that it would have been nothing more than a tiny cluster of cells. It was mine, a life that I could have raised, a baby I could have loved, and would have loved with every part of my being. I lost something that day. He can never understand, though, bless him, he tries so hard to.
When we discussed it again recently, I told him something he didn’t want to hear through gritted teeth: if I ever fell pregnant again, I don’t think I could ever bring myself to get an abortion. I would happily ruin his life if it meant I could rectify what felt so broken inside me. How could I possibly explain to him the gut-wrenching feeling of walking by baby clothes I might have bought? I’ve always wanted to have children, but now everything feels heightened. It’s no longer a distant want to ponder over when I’ve got my life together. It’s a desperate, bodily urge.
Giving birth is still years down the line for me. It hurts more on some days than others, that the potential for unconditional love was ripped away from me. I’m told this feeling never really goes away, and, honestly, I hope it never does. Having a baby will never erase the fact that I might have lost one. I mourn for what I might have lost, but every time I hear an infant laugh, I look forward to the day when I will finally get to meet my own.
If you are affected by any of the content in this article, help can be found at the UK Miscarriage Helpline: 01924 200799
Featured Image Credit: self.com