Somewhere out there in an alternative universe is a version of me who is 31 weeks pregnant. Swollen, and a bit hot in this weather, but, still, happy. She’s down to the last button on her maternity dungarees – she’s huge! – and the nursery is painted (dove grey, a cliché, but practical).
The cot is being delivered on Monday.
This version of me, who didn’t start spotting one grey Friday afternoon in January, just shy of 12 weeks, only to lose the baby the following morning, has books by Gina Ford and Ina May next to her bed, and finds both equally terrifying. She is vaguely worried about how much weight she has put on, and very worried about just how bad labour is going to be, really.
Also out there – somewhere – is a version of me who is nine weeks pregnant. She has just had a second early scan for reassurance following a miscarriage earlier in the year. And having seen baby’s heartbeat for a second time, she is reassured. Not out of the woods yet, but light is glimpsing through the trees. She is seeing her mum at the weekend and plans to tell her the good news.
Later, on her way home from work, she is going to allow herself to buy some stretch-mark oil – it’s a small thing, but that’s the point. It’s a small enough concession to this new, fledgling pregnancy so as not to tempt fate, yet specific enough to acknowledge that it might really be happening this time. In three weeks, she might allow herself a proper cappuccino – just one, still well within the NHS caffeine limit – it might feel safe by then, after the dating scan.
This version of me, who didn’t miscarry again, smack bang in the middle of the Bank Holiday weekend, feels very lucky. She has been granted a reprieve; an escape route out of the uncertainty, the fear, and the grief of their previous loss – and so quickly, too. Pregnant again, just a couple of cycles since the miscarriage.
It could have been so different, she knows this. The first ‘reassurance’ scan had shown an anomaly – there was a heartbeat and a 7-week old baby, but the gestational sac was measuring a little small. The midwife doing the scan had refused to be drawn on what that might mean (and Google suggested nothing good) so there was nothing to do but wait for a follow-up scan two weeks later.
She can imagine how it would have gone, had she been less lucky: the midwife and the consultant huddled around the ultrasound screen, tactfully kept tilted away so you can’t see what’s on it. The tiny shake of the head, and the whisper: ‘I’m so sorry, there is no heartbeat.’
Then numbness. And leaflets. The same leaflets she still has in the basket by the phone at home from last time.
It could have been her, going home to wait it out; going to bed on a towel once the bleeding starts in earnest; waking to find she’s passed the embryo, perfectly in tact, still in its sac, smaller than a chicken’s egg yolk.
It could have been her today, like I am now, off work, sitting in the smallest room, the not-yet-a-nursery room, its walls still magnolia, reeling and writing. Writing – and trying and failing to make sense of it all. Again.