The cruel blow of losing my 'surprise' baby

The little soul who stayed so briefly changed our lives
and relationship forever.
The little soul who stayed so briefly changed our lives and relationship forever. Photo: Getty Images

I did the test on a hot summer evening between Friday-night work drinks and a friend's birthday dinner. It wasn't supposed to be positive. I'd bought a home pregnancy test to quiet the nagging unease I felt in my gut. The plan was to take the test, breathe a sigh of relief and then head back out the door, back to carefree socialising and chilled champagne.

There was no sigh of relief. Instead, there was rising panic. My boyfriend (now husband), D, stood next to me; we watched as two lines appeared on the stick. I was pregnant. There was a bit of swearing (from me) and stunned silence (from him). Somehow, we still made it to my friend's birthday dinner – but there was no champagne for me.

That weekend we talked. We were in love but our relationship was still new. Things had progressed quickly: we'd met each other's families (flying both interstate and overseas to do so); we were practically living together (I had more belongings at his place than at my own); and although we weren't exactly picking out china patterns, things were moving forward.

But a baby? Well, that would change everything. It wasn't so much a big step, more a giant leap into a future we hadn't planned for. We both had our concerns; discussing them was extremely uncomfortable.

I had only been in Australia for a year, and getting knocked up wasn't exactly on the agenda. Would having a baby mean committing to staying in the country permanently? How would the employer who sponsored my visa react? Would my baby have an Australian accent? My head swam with questions.

Meanwhile, my risk-averse boyfriend was busy doing sums. Could we even afford a baby? Where would we live? Should we get married?

Ultimately, the decision wasn't a hard one. We loved each other, and although we hadn't planned to start a family so early in our relationship we both acknowledged that we saw children in our future.

Of course, we were terrified of parenthood. But under the weight of impending responsibility there was something lighter – joy. We got used to the idea that there was a little person growing between us. We had somehow become a family.

I started reading everything I could about pregnancy, saw the doctor and started filling out the paperwork. I calculated my due date and, despite the newness of the pregnancy, I thought about names.

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And then the bleeding started. My miscarriage was a long, drawn-out affair. At the hospital there was uncertainty. Maybe I had lost the baby, maybe I hadn't. It was too soon to say.

We spent the next week in limbo, caught between one future and another. We couldn't grieve, but we couldn't be happy either. My heart lurched with every spot of blood. I tried to remain optimistic, but dread was gathering in the pit of my stomach, washing away my dreams with every passing day.

We lost the baby. I'd been just eight weeks along – and had only known for two. But the little soul who stayed so briefly changed our lives and our relationship forever.

I'd known grief before. I recognised the hollow feeling that ate its way through my heart. I allowed myself to surrender. I sobbed the ugly tears of a toddler having a tantrum and beat my fists on the floor in rage.

D moved on much faster than I did. He did his crying and then, although he was sad, he tried to get back to normal. But for me, there was no going back. Carrying our baby, even for such a short time, had changed me to my core. I functioned. I went to work. I exercised. I dulled my senses with cold sauvignon blanc.

Although friends were initially supportive, the fact that the baby had been unplanned (I preferred "surprise" to "accident") seemed to trivialise our loss. A common assumption was that since we hadn't actively tried to conceive, we couldn't be that upset about it.

Within weeks friends stopped asking me how I was feeling, perhaps wanting to avoid the subject. The pressure to bounce back and act like my usual self was overwhelming. I began to avoid social situations to escape the stress of keeping my emotions under control.

I felt as if I my sadness wasn't justified. That perhaps, since the baby hadn't been planned, I didn't deserve to feel so wretched. This was compounded by unintentionally careless comments: "It's probably for the best"; "You didn't want it anyway."

One friend told me to stop playing the victim – taking the tough love approach, her intention was to help me move on. But you can't hurry grief. It takes time. Time to fully accept reality. Time to mourn. I didn't get over the loss, but I found a way to carry it. I absorbed the grief into my being – it will always be with me.

Now, many years later, I can be philosophical. The miscarriage brought D and I closer together and in a way it made our love and commitment stronger. It gave us a solid foundation.

I went on to have two healthy babies with D and our daughters light up our world. Parenthood has changed us immeasurably, as we always knew it would. The highs and lows have shaped us into a mum and a dad. Sometimes the four of us dance in the kitchen, we laugh and spin and are a blur of love and colour. Together, we are the family that started all those years ago, on a hot summer evening.

This article appeared in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald on  July 8.