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I hope with all my heart

Process of becoming pregnant and miscarrying in a same sex relationship.

I can’t even begin to express the disbelief and pain we felt; it was a brutal, brutal shock and now, two weeks later, I still feel completely overwhelmed by the memory of that moment.

After our loss, we turned to various websites and brochures for comfort, and found that they were all very focused on heterosexual couple scenarios. So I am telling our story so that there’s a gay story here, in amongst the others. After all, lots of gay people are parents, biological and otherwise, or hope to be, and so naturally, gay people experience the pain of miscarriage, just as non-gay people do.

I am female, 35 and my partner Charlotte is also female, 32. We are extraordinarily lucky, as we have a darling (heterosexual) friend Dave who offered to father children for us. Dave has an equally wonderful partner, who is prepared to support all of us in this and who is wholly amazing and fantastic all round. (Believe me, I’m very aware – people like this do not grow on trees – these are veritable modern-day angels!)

After years of talking about it and getting ready, we began the process about a year ago, and had tests done, including getting Dave’s sperm frozen and thawed to test it for suitability and he was jokingly ranked a ‘winner’ at the fertility clinic, with premium sperm and the ability to produce tons of it on demand, so that was great!

Dave stayed with us for a while, and we then had four attempts at DIY fertilisation over a few months, using hi tech (not!) equipment such as a jar, a needle-less syringe, and a lot of laughter – but no luck. Then Dave (who lives 3 hours’ flight from us) came to our city and deposited sperm at the fertility clinic, so that we could access it ourselves when need be, rather than needing him physically there each time. As it happened, while he was here doing that, it was the right time in my cycle for having a go, so we had one final DIY attempt just for the heck of it – and it worked! I got pregnant.

So that was fantastic and for a couple of weeks we were over the moon. Then horrific morning sickness set in and I spent several weeks feeling really wretched. I kept reminding myself it was all worth it for the end result, and darling Charlotte took over everything, and looked after me like an angel while I spewed and retched my way through every day! Finally, the morning sickness eased off and we were back to the pure joy and excitement of looking forward to our baby.

Then we went for our first scan, at 12 weeks. We had hardly told a soul other than our immediate families, so that milestone was huge for us; we were finally going to be able to share our incredible secret with the world.

We were such a mixture of emotions that day – slightly anxious of course, about the results of the nuchal translucency test, but most of all, impatient to see our precious baby for the first time, and to be able to email photos of him/her around the world to all our friends and family, and to start preparing the nursery, and all the other things we had been holding back on until it was official! I looked at Charlotte and saw my own excitement and apprehension and happiness reflected back in her eyes, as I lay down and the radiographer prepared me for the ultrasound. Moments later, our world crashed down around us.

There’s a certain stillness in the air when someone has to tell you something terrible, a tiny moment when there’s still a crazy hope that it’s all just a bad dream, because nobody has actually said the awful words – and yet you know it, because you feel it. It was like that.

The radiographer’s face was impassive, yet her eyes were dark with seriousness, and she was looking intently at the screen, searching – and even though it was only a few seconds before she said anything, we just knew.

She said ‘I’m terribly sorry, but I’m afraid your baby has died; there’s no heartbeat’ – and after that, I can’t remember much, except for being rigid with anguish, and feeling Charlotte’s hand clutching my own, just lying there looking at the screen in front of us with our baby clearly there, impossibly still, a tiny, unmoving entity on an ultrasound scan. I was willing it with all my heart to move, to wave, to prove the radiographer wrong, but of course she was right, and there it was, all our dreams violently wrenched away, in one ghastly moment.

There was more talk, about how the baby’s size was wrong for how it should be at 12 weeks, how it looked like it had died 2-3 weeks before and how she would go and get a colleague to confirm everything. Then suddenly she was gone, and we were there alone, gripping each other and still staring in disbelief at the room where our lives had so unexpectedly altered, and leaking heavy soundless tears.

The doctor came and confirmed that our baby had died nearly 3 weeks beforehand, at 8 weeks, 6 days. I can’t convey the horror of the notion that our baby had died all that time beforehand, and that we didn’t somehow know. It just didn’t seem possible. Yet there it was, the seemingly impossible truth, staring us in the face. Sadly I now know that it’s not only possible but relatively common. At the time, it was the old cliche of the living nightmare. I just wanted someone to shake me awake and say ‘Hey, wake up sweetie, you were having a bad dream, it’s ok!’. But no.

Then the doctor explained that our midwife would go through the next part of the process with us and explain our options to us, he told we could have a few minutes alone, and left us. I can’t even begin to express the disbelief and pain we felt; it was a brutal, brutal shock and now, two weeks later, I still feel completely overwhelmed by the memory of that moment.

Our midwife is brilliant and she said and did all the right things, and was there for us in every way. We both felt that as the baby had died, we wanted to get it out of me as soon as possible, and went for the D&C option, (as opposed to waiting for it to miscarry naturally, or having an assisted miscarriage with drugs).

I also found it very disturbing and distressing to think that I had a dead baby inside me and I had very negative thoughts about that, so I was anxious to have the operation.

I wanted to get to a point of being able to feel positive about our baby again (rather than thinking of it as some kind of ‘thing’ inhabiting me, as I was feeling at that time). I was also terrified of the pain I imagined that physically miscarrying might cause me, and I just felt far too fragile emotionally to be able to deal with that on top of everything. I know that some people actively want to feel that pain, as a sort of bonding experience with their babies, and that’s fine too. (I say, do whatever you need to, to get you through)!

I was lucky, and able to have my assessment session at the hospital the next day, and then the D&C operation 3 days after the scan, and the baby stayed put until then, which was a huge relief to me. Having those few days before the operation was also helpful for me in coming to terms with still carrying the baby in my womb. I went from that terrible anger at it, to a total return to the love I had felt before for it. Meanwhile, the anger moved on to a more generalised anger at circumstances, which in turn moved on from anger, to sadness, and acceptance and even hope for the future.

The actual operation was no problem. I had a general anaesthetic and felt fine afterwards, no nausea or anything, and not much blood for the days afterwards. Almost a week later I had some bad cramping and clots, then the same thing a few days later again, which was initially frightening as I thought I might be experiencing infection, (it turned out to be fairly normal) – but otherwise, it hasn’t been too painful, at least physically.

Emotionally, it is an absolute roller coaster, and half the time, you don’t even know which way is up. We will have a GP check up in a few days (about 2.5 weeks after the operation) and after that, it’s a matter of waiting until my cycle goes back to normal (which can take a while apparently, depending on the individual). Then, it’s up to us to decide when we feel emotionally ready to start trying again. We all (Dave too) feel like we would like to leap back on the horse so to speak (!) as soon as we can, and get on with trying to conceive again. We’ll never forget this loss, but we want and need to move on, too.

Charlotte and I are extremely lucky to have truly exceptional people around us who rejoiced with us in our joy, and then joined us in our grief, as this much wanted pregnancy came to an end. We’ve had total support from all sides, and I can honestly say that the issue of our sexuality has not come into any of this in any way – we’ve both been treated with respect and kindness and given full acknowledgement of our loss, just like any heterosexual couple would be, in the same circumstances. But I am not so naive as to think that this is the case for everyone, and I hope with all my heart that other gay couples going through the anguish of losing a baby will be as lucky as we have been, and receive the tenderness and love that we have had.

Because the pain is the same for all of us, believe me.

Sophie