the waiting room
By Catherine Copley
“I find myself here again, here in the room with the green chairs, the poppies on the wall and the loud hum of the air conditioning.
The sitting room of the Early pregnancy unit.
It's funny that it's called a sitting room rather than a waiting room. It's definitely a waiting room. Waiting to see what will be will be. I've had a long wait every time I've been here. It's like waiting to be hung.
This time I'm 6 weeks pregnant and waiting to be examined and for bloods to be taken to see whether the bleed I've just had is me misscarrying for a fourth time. We go through the process because we have to. I'm no Doctor but I'm pretty certain of the conclusion.
It doesn't seem like two minutes since we came back to this very waiting room beaming after receiving the news we were expecting twins. The flashback makes me smile.
I’ve read the stats. 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. People console me by telling me it’s common. Believe me I know, it’s very common for us.
In fact it's the reverse:
4 miscarriages, although I refuse to call our twins a miscarriage.
5 lost babies
and 1 complete miracle - our healthy, perfect, James Declan.
I struggle to get my head around how you can have such a smooth problem free pregnancy and birth perfectly sandwiched between such losses.
To put it into context, in the space of 4 years my husband and I first had two early miscarriages, we then had our son with no problems whatsoever, then just last year we found out we were expecting identical twin girls. We thought that was it. Life made. We couldn’t be happier with our perfect little family. We would have to ‘try’ no more. We found out about the twins at 8 weeks and were euphorically happy until it all came crashing down at 20 weeks and 3 days when we heard those desperate words ‘I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat.’
We’d been told that identical twins were ‘high risk’ but I’d been under the illusion that meant they might come a few weeks early and would likely be a smaller weight. I wasn’t prepared for just how high risk they had meant. For absolutely no reason found, Scarlett passed away in the womb at 20weeks and 3 days. Just 3 days after her 20 week scan had shown her wriggling and sucking her thumb. Sofie left us on Wednesday 24th October. The worst day of my life.
Our daughters came into the world, born sleeping two days later at 23 weeks and 6 days. A gestation still deemed as a ‘miscarriage’. One day off being a ‘stillbirth’. I defy anyone to see those tiny hands and feet, those tiny little bodies, and little face perfectly complete with eyes, nose, mouth and ears and tell me they’re a miscarriage.
I listen to others who go on to have other children tell me about the experience second time round like I don’t know. I genuinely think some people don’t realise that I gave birth to my daughters just the same is if my babies were alive. In fact every bit of my experience of child birth the second time round was the same as with my son. The same and yet so so different. This time I had to be induced, my waters broke and I experienced the same extreme wave of pain of contractions. Granted, pushing was easier because they were so small. I delivered them, only this time I declined gas and air. Knowing we wouldn’t have long together I wanted to be clear headed, needed to be clear headed in order for me to remember every moment, every detail of the precious time we had together.
They arrived 5 minutes apart, Sofie at 14.14 weighing 1lb,1oz and Scarlett at 14.19, weighing 5oz. My mind tricks me thinking they felt bigger in my arms but I look back at the pictures where Sofie’s hand fills my husbands thumb print and I remember just how small they are.
It’s all very strange in those moments after, the room wasn’t filled with cry’s, but it’s quiet and calm. They’re not placed straight on me, my wonderful midwife who’s said all the right things, done all the right things, takes them away to prepare them before I see them.
My parents come and bring my son to meet his sisters and we have a family photograph with our babes in arm and I’m smiling. Adrenaline has taken over, I’m proud of what I’ve done and proud of my children. Anyone looking at the picture would swear it’s a happy family snap, one for the album. Like a Mum with her children I’m just filled with love.
We spend the night in hospital with them in a cold cot next to our bed. When I wake up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet my instinct is to creep so as not to wake anyone up. It takes me a moment to remember that’s not going to happen and all I want is for them to wake up. But whilst we’re they’re with them it’s still ok.
The pain hits the next day when it’s time to leave the hospital, leave them behind. The adrenaline’s worn off and I feel like I’ve been punched in my gut, I’m winded. The force of the grief literally makes me double over. We drive home with no baby seats in the back of the car, George Ezra plays on the radio, “Give me a second to hold my girl.” I sob all the way home where my milks comes in.
The one thing that makes this bearable is knowing they are together, that they have one another. They were together on our first scan, the picture that showed two little white blobs and blew us away, they were were together in their cot in the hospital wrapped in blankets with their matching comforters as we read them a bedtime story and they were laid together in the tiny coffin that carried them to their funeral on 3rd December 2018. They came together and they left together. The most special of bonds never to be broken and it brings me huge comfort knowing they have one another.
I could write and write about them because every detail stays with me, far too much for my entry here. So back to the here and now.
The urine sample still shows positive and Im requested to come back for a scan just to be sure.
"Can't we just do more blood tests and see if the hcg is decreasing to tell us what I already know? I don't want a scan."
"You don't want a scan?" The midwife thinks she's misheard me, her tone makes me think I must be the only person she's ever come across who doesn't want a scan. And the truth is I don't. I don't want another scan where the silence prolongs to the point that there can only be a bad outcome. I want the next ultrasound I have to show a strong heart beat & every thing looking perfectly well. So no I don't want a scan.
"It's the only way for us to be completely sure of what's happened."
I return a few days later for a scan.
This time I'm prepared. I'm convinced that with the amount of blood I've lost, there's no chance there could be anything of a pregnancy left over. And in all honesty I was waiting for it, a rather sad insight into my experience and perspective on pregnancy. I'd not let myself get invested and so when we do the scan and it does show nothing, I'm detached.
When I'm taken to a quiet room and asked if I want a cup of tea, some information leaflets, helpline numbers or a memory box, I decline and ask if I can be getting off now. I desperately want to be with my little boy. I need to be with him. My healthy perfect little boy who makes everything better.
Thank god for him. He gives me hope.”
Bath and Bed
A poem by Catherine Copley
Like a scene in a film it plays out in my mind.
Like bookends, two little girls who share the same face, in coordinating pyjamas with freshly washed hair, sit under the covers ready for stories.
Giggling, they whip each other into a frenzy. Daddy gets carried along for the ride. This could take a while.
Mammy has the easier bedtime, their big brother is fast asleep. He’s had a busy day at school.
Night night my beautiful big boy.
Meanwhile downstairs, one glass down. I’ll start the tea, he shouldn’t be long now.
This time really is bedtime, I mean it now. Night night, you two, night night, sleep tight.
We meet in the kitchen, a bottle is waiting. Cheers.
A small victory, another day done.
We eat, we retreat, we dunk biscuits into tea. We watch the soaps and then that drama on catch up before we head up to bed.
We can’t resist, we take a peak and watch them sleep, exchange a knowing glance of just how lucky we are.
Our gloriously mundane suburban routine.
And yet so so far.
Catherine Copley, is an actor, director, writer and mother.
Lizzy Humber would like to invite you to help her create a platform of stories and artistic responses to invisible aspects of motherhood. This can live on the Mothers Who Make website as a resource and to support visibility for motherhood experiences . If you would like to share something or start a conversation about something you would like to make please get in touch lizzy[at]motherswhomake.org