“I wish someone had told me it would be this hard.” I muttered as I dashed for the bathroom. It was the second time that morning, and I was regretting bothering with breakfast.
“Better out than in!” My husband, Karl, called from the bedroom. We had only just found out I was pregnant, but that joke was already wearing thin.
Emerging pale and slightly damp from a vigorous face washing, I glared at him. “I'd like to see you cope with losing breakfast every morning.”
Karl smiled at me, “But you cope so very well.”
“Flatterer!”, I said, feeling pleased despite myself.
Finding out I was pregnant had been a real surprise. I'd been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) a couple of years earlier, after a long struggle with doctors to shed light on a plethora of symptoms. I'd had blood tests to rule out thyroid problems, diabetes, and more. I was even told that my problems were “nothing that losing some weight won't fix”. Unfortunately, weight was one of my problems. But so was amenorrhea – I was only menstruating three or four times a year. This meant that ovulation was hit-and-miss, if it was happening at all. Finally a doctor looked at my test results, weight, amenorrhea, and hirsutism (excess hair growth) and sent me for an ovarian ultrasound. And there they were. A veritable collection of cysts in my ovaries.
It's odd that such tiny abnormalities can be the catalyst for so much suffering.
My cysts were small, but widespread. I know others who have large cysts, and no outward signs at all. I've always been jealous of them, if I'm to be honest. Cysts on the inside don't show, but my outward symptoms do. And everyone can see.
Fertility was always going to be a problem. People with PCOS notoriously have issues becoming pregnant, and no one was sure if I was even ovulating. The doctor suggested I give it a little while rather than rushing in to fertility treatments. The Internet told me that losing as little as ten percent of my weight could improve my fertility significantly.
When I started feeling nauseated, I hadn't had a period for a while. I had lost a few kilos, and my periods had become more frequent, but they were still irregular. Nearly every time I was 'late', I would get excited and take a pregnancy test, ending up disappointed. This time I left it a little longer, and when I finally caved, I was astounded at the two little pink lines. I think I was in shock. When that wore off, I did another pregnancy test. And then I went to the doctor and did another one. We worked out that I was likely around eleven weeks along, according to my last period. Not the most accurate of measures.
Karl and I finished getting ready for work, and headed in. I was working at a medical laboratory, and it was quite a close-knit department. Like a family, with all the ups and downs that kind of relationship entails. And I was absolutely bursting to tell people, there's no way I was waiting for the twelve week 'safety margin'. After I'd told a few of my closer workmates, I think “Chinese whispers” took the news around the workplace in about an hour!
Still in a state of disbelief, I'd done a pregnancy blood test the day before, and I was excited to look at my results. Peering over the shoulder of one of the laboratory technicians, I got her to explain the data to me. Yes I was definitely pregnant, and according to the results I was around six weeks along rather than eleven. I wasn't really surprised. She smiled at me, “Congratulations big mama!”
The next week, Karl and I had a 'dating' ultrasound. I was very nervous, and thoughts kept whirling through my head. What if I'm not really pregnant? Maybe it's a phantom pregnancy because I want a baby so much...
“Alright then,” said the technician, as she squirted an absurd amount of gel over my stomach, “let’s see what we have here.”
I looked at Karl, and he smiled back. I could see he was excited rather than nervous, but I couldn't help the butterflies dancing inside me.
The technician measured my uterus, and frowned slightly. “How far along did you say you are?”
“A bit over eleven weeks,” I replied, “But that's based on my periods.”
“And are you normally regular?”
“Not at all.” I laughed.
“That may explain it then. I don't think you're that far along.” She replied.
No surprises there. I thought.
“Well, there's a sac, and a foetal pole, but I'm afraid there's no heartbeat.” the technician said, apologetically.
“What exactly does that mean?” I asked.
“Well your baby has stopped developing at about six weeks.” She replied.
“I'm sorry. I'll get the radiologist to confirm this, but... well it's not good news.” She smiled sadly, as she escaped the room.
I was shocked, but this time it was mixed with a heavy dose of devastation. After that there was a whirlwind of consultations with specialists at the hospital. I hadn't spontaneously miscarried, so I was going to need dilation & curettage, where they remove the embryo surgically. It was all blurry for me. The sheen of tears provided a barrier between me and everything that was happening. The registrar was lovely, and told me that it was nothing I'd done. That it was nothing I'd done. That many pregnancies miscarry for no obvious reason, and that often women get pregnant again afterwards quite successfully. I didn't believe him for a minute.
I had to tell everyone that I had miscarried, but life carried on, unaffected by my suffering. Then the periods started. Regular as clockwork, textbook periods. It was like miscarrying had shaken my reproductive system up. Given it a real kick in the pants.
I started hoping again, and was rewarded with a missed period. Again the pregnancy test was positive. This time the scan was too, but I held my breath anyway.
In fact I think I held my breath, crossed my fingers and touched wood for the entire pregnancy. And nine months later when I held my daughter in my arms, I was still in shock. “You're my little miracle,” I whispered to her. Karl looked down at me. “Now you know how hard it is, was it worth it?”
“Oh yes,” I smiled.
Stacey Manning, pictured with daughter Elizabeth, was a finalist in our summer short story competition.
Published December, 2013