So it’s Saturday at 1pm and I am in bed. I am staying here all weekend, in fact, because I have been told to. It’s been a shitty week, and while part of me wishes I was one of those people who were elegantly discrete, the kind of person who holds things back and won’t engage with broadcasting everything, a person who deals with things privately, well – I’m just not one of them. And so here we are again.
How Birthday Weeks Start OK
It was my birthday on Monday and I turned 39. The day before we booked a babysitter and drove to Bicester to have brunch together and go shopping without childish interruption. I got a pair of Church’s oxblood ankle boots because they made so much sense – after all, pregnant women in winter are best in cheap maternity jeans and a massive jumper with shoes and coats and bags doing the talking. And low heels means you won’t fall over and tear your softened ligaments. Here they are, and here is me, driving home and probably still complaining a bit about how I could still feel the breakfast at Le Pain Quotient creeping up my oesophagus thanks to those pesky pregnancy hormones:
On my actual birthday I got a bit sulky because no one in my family said the words ‘Happy Birthday’ and no one gave me a card or presents. I got up, had a shower, made everyone pancakes, waited, gave people the Meaningful Eye but…nothing. I stood at the head of the table, clapped my hands like a teacher, told them all off for forgetting and had a little weep in the bathroom. I really was only after a little effort – badly wrapped chewing gum would have been fine – just a weak little ‘Happy Birthday’ hug would have done, but no. I attempted to shame them by asking what they usually get from me on their birthday and they said:
Ah, well, we get presents and cards on the bed in the morning and then we get our choice of breakfast and a party with friends later and you make us a cake and we have balloons and we get to choose dinner…
Yes, I said. All that is what I do for you because I want to show you that I love you and I want you to feel special on your birthday. And I gave them the Meaningful Eye again and let the matter rest. But not really, because it worries me how these boys are going to grow up into kind and thoughtful adults who cherish other people and who get a sense of the joy of giving. Like, HOW? Not this way, Jose.
So bruised heart but in good boots, we took off to The Providores for turkish eggs and tamarillo smoothie, and S and I had a quick look at the Mulberry sample sale, then the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition at the Tate and later Mark and I saw the Bridget Jones movie where we held hands and thought of babies (him) and labour (me). It turned out pretty nice except for my fears for the children’s future partners and the kindness (or not) of their souls.
But Then This Bit
On Tuesday we went off to St Mary’s for the first scan of the baby, which should have happened on my birthday but I was too busy at the Tate with Georgia and so I rearranged. We got into the room and the lovely sonographer smiled and I pulled down my jeans to the bikini line because I am a seasoned pro at this. I saw a baby on the screen and I told her I was glad to see there was only one and she said that she really had to concentrate, and that it might all take a bit of time, and we could talk to her later. We shut up, watched the screen, waited, and she turned to us and said the baby was sick. The neck was too thick, the brain looked abnormal, the placenta looked very wrong, the heart was damaged, the lungs were filled with fluid, the sac had too little fluid, the whole body was swollen. She said it looked like a chromosomal problem. She said that we could talk about options later, but that if I chose to carry on with the pregnancy, there would be health implications for me. Then they put us into the next room (for non-bullshit’s sake let’s just call it the Crying Room) with low couches and boxes of tissues and it was kind of obvious where all this was going. I didn’t cry, because I really didn’t want to.
The next day we had another scan at Queen Charlotte’s and it was confirmed that this was a partial molar pregnancy, which means that two sperm fertilised one egg, and the collision of too many chromosomes had made a sick and dying baby. The consultant said termination was the right thing to do, because the baby wouldn’t live for many more weeks anyway in utero. I still didn’t cry because I still didn’t want to, but then they sent us into another one of the Crying Rooms with bloody boxes of tissues and then I started properly. And didn’t stop for a few days.
So yesterday I had a termination at 14 and a half weeks. The surgery carried a little more risk that usual and so I consented to a blood transfusion and hysterectomy if the bleeding didn’t stop. Everyone was very kind, especially when I cried being wheeled into surgery and after I woke up. And then later. It was quick, and painless, and now I have to get my hormone levels down and not get residual cancer. And then of course I have to think about not having another baby, because even though six is mental, I want another baby. I know I was a bit unsure about this one, and I could only really see the reasons why it was all too absurd, but bigger than that is the fact that we have capacity for another, and we have already chosen to have a big family, and we aren’t quite yet done. And perhaps I need to stop apologising for that.
I KNOW THAT I ALREADY HAVE FIVE AND I AM VERY THANKFUL AND SO NO ONE NEEDS TO SAY THIS TO ME.
At the end of my first week of being a 39 year old, I am no longer pregnant, I am bleeding, I am empty, I am sad, but I am ok. We all are.