Why I lie about this being my second pregnancy
“Is this your first pregnancy?”
I get asked this question a lot by healthcare staff, colleagues and random strangers who noticed my abnormally swollen belly.
“No, it’s my second,” I say. This isn’t accurate, but it’s less awkward than the truth.
It’s my fourth pregnancy.
I have one child.
This is the second pregnancy that is visibly obvious. The second pregnancy that I’ve told other people about. The second pregnancy that’s progressed into the second trimester.
My other two pregnancies were short, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t real, or that they don’t deserve to be acknowledged. Sticks were peed on and double lines appeared. Appointments with midwives were made. Antenatal vitamins were consumed. I examined my belly in the mirror, delighting in the slightest hint of a bump. These pregnancies were very real and very much wanted.
I never saw these babies, not even on a scan monitor. I miscarried my second baby before I got the chance. By the time I made it to hospital, my womb was empty.
“There’s nothing there,” the midwife said apologetically. For a moment I feared that I had imagined the whole thing. What if I hadn’t really been pregnant after all? When they took blood to check my HCG levels and they were sky high, I felt relieved. Those hormones proved what I had known all along – that this baby had existed, even if only for a few weeks.
With my third baby, the midwife informed me during a scan that the baby I thought was 10 weeks along had stopped growing at six or seven weeks. She never offered to let me see them on the screen and I never asked.
As soon as I got home from that scan, I went on a conference call. I pretended to care about marketing plans and tried to convince myself that throwing myself back into work could make me forget.
But there was so much blood. Both times.
The first miscarriage terrified me. There was blood running down my legs, soaking the carpet, even splattered on the wall. I sent my husband to the 24-hour supermarket in the middle of the night to buy incontinence pads, and slept fitfully on a towel spread over the couch while I bled through them.
I was more prepared the second time. Because of the scan, I knew it was coming. My daughter was home when it happened. She followed me to the bathroom, as she always did back then, and stared at my blood-stained thighs.
“Mummy just got a bit messy,” I said. She nodded, un-phased. This explanation was enough for her and I was grateful for that. It was nice to have something to be grateful for.
I didn’t talk about any of this for a long time. Part of the reason was that I didn’t want anyone’s pity, but there was also a part of me that felt ashamed that my body had failed me twice in quick succession. I knew that it probably wasn’t my fault – I’d read enough to know how common miscarriage is and how it’s most often due to genetic abnormalities – but I couldn’t help but judge myself. I’m a perfectionist. It’s what I do best.
Baby Loss Awareness Week came and went last year without me mentioning my experience. But this year, I wasn’t going to let it pass without breaking my silence.
I can’t pretend that this didn’t happen, or that it doesn’t still affect me. My fourth pregnancy terrifies me every day.
What happened to me is all too common and not talked about enough. I’m sharing my story because I want other women to know that they’re not alone. Your loss will always be a part of you, but it won’t define you. Things will get better. It’s okay to miss someone you never got a chance to know.