Back in February when Covid still seemed like a rumour versus a reality, my husband and I managed to get pregnant with our third child. Previously I had normal pregnancies and births through the NHS and had no reason to believe that this would be any different so I was really optimistic.
Even as lockdown descended and I was facing no childcare and a full time demanding job, I knew that there would be better times ahead due to the little soul growing inside me. I actually thought it would be a bonus staying at home for my first trimester.
One morning at my makeshift desk in my bedroom I started to feel cramps. Juggling both the children and work meant that I said nothing and continued on even when the bleeding started. I knew the baby was gone. I carried on with my responsibilities until that evening when I collapsed in grief on my floor once the children were asleep.
The pain got worse during the night to the point where it was no longer bearable. NHS 111 wasn’t picking up, of course, with Covid madness in full throttle, so I decided to go to A&E. I knew I would have to go alone. We had no childcare as no one was allowed into the house and in any case, the ward wouldn’t allow it. I remember for the first time in my life saying to my husband ‘I’m scared’. But I went and was tested unceremoniously on arrival and shoved in a side room.
They hooked me up to a drip for the pain and did some tests before confirming that I was no longer pregnant. I wept alone, drenching my mask. No one was there to console me.
I carried on, determined that next time would be different. Covid would be fine, I’d have childcare again and I’d have another baby before the year was out. But we don’t get to plan these things…
I did get pregnant again and by July I was booking into hospital once again with another miscarriage. This time the pain was worse and was centred on one side. The GP told me on the phone (no face to face appointments, of course) that it was a suspected ectopic pregnancy and to go to hospital right away. Deja vu – the same process again. Alone and in a side room on a drip for pain, my mask masking my grief.
Then some light: I got pregnant again and with my history I was promised an early scan. I was petrified, more scared than ever before. I needed my husband to be there. The whole experience I had been through up to this point had felt so one-sided as I was always on my own, both in the physical sense and in my physical pain. And because of childcare limitations, no family nearby to help or friends allowed to help and jobs to cover off, we never spoke about it or grieved. We just carried on. But this time was different, surely. A scan.
I was confused and upset when they said I had to attend alone. People were packed on beaches and in beer gardens, the government was encouraging us to get back to normal – back to work, back to spending, Eat Out to Help Out, etc – but in this instance I was told there were no exceptions.
I arrived at the hospital wearing my mask, I had my temperature checked and upon arriving in the waiting room my heart sunk. I was the only woman there alone. Everyone had brought their partners along and I thought ‘Why am I the only mug following the rules?’ while secretly feeling jealous of their gumption. The other women had to go for the scan on their own but they still had moral support before and after that crucial moment. I thought the hospital could at least have advised this.
They came out brandishing grainy black and white photos, waving them gleefully at their waiting partners. I felt sick. My turn came and I knew it was bad news by the way they spoke to me. No heartbeat, no baby. They said they were sorry. So was I. I waited until I had run the gauntlet of the anxiously waiting couples before I let the tears fall down my masked face, not wanting to add to their anxiety.
I was told to wait in another room for a blood test. The room was packed and I was at least thankful for my mask, which hid my grief somewhat. The second I left the hospital I broke down, sobbing, as people went out of their way to avoid me. I needed someone, anyone, to say ‘It’s going to be OK’ but I had to wait to get home before I could see my husband and tell him the bad news. I didn’t need to tell him anything. He knew by my face, my tears, my lack of photo – no baby.
Covid has taken so much from us all. It has removed everything we took for granted – access to friends and family, holidays, work life balance, jobs, lives – but in this instance, it didn’t have to take away the compassion and humanity we so rightly deserved during this extremely difficult time.
Instead of looking forward with excitement, now I have dread. I don’t think I’m brave enough to go through it again. We found a way to keep schools open, even as we enter a new lockdown, so why can’t we find a way to ensure women get the support they need when it matters the most?