I’m not pregnant, as you know. And we’ve decided not to try again until we’ve been seen at the recurrent miscarriage clinic. This is a bit of a departure from the previous losses. For me the need to be pregnant after my first two miscarriages was over-whelming; all-consuming.
I just felt hollow. Literally gutted. And I knew being pregnant again was the only thing that could begin to make that emptiness go away.
But three miscarriages feels a bit different, it’s a watershed, in a way, as after three miscarriages – and only after three miscarriages – the NHS will start to investigate what, if anything, might be at the root of it all.
There’s no obligation to stop trying, of course. But we were told at the hospital that the clinic like to run baseline tests before you’re pregnant in order to get the best idea of what’s going on.
Besides, after this third loss, I was just…….done. At least for a bit. We needed a break from it all. The getting your hopes up each month, followed by – if you’re lucky – the constant anxiety of being pregnant.
Being pregnant after a loss is a bit like being afraid of flying. You know how some people say they spend the whole time rigidly focusing on keeping the aircraft aloft with just the power of their mind – if they were to stop concentrating for a second it will surely crash. That. That’s what being pregnant after a miscarriage is like. If you stop thinking about it, willing it to work, policing everything you do, the worst will happen. The mental effort involved is exhausting.
So we’re out of the baby race, for now anyway.
But that puts me back in the running for other things – including, well, running.
I’ve decided to run the London Landmarks Half Marathon for Tommy’s (more on this in a bit). I’ve always done a bit of running, on and off – but it’s been more off than on this year, thanks to being pregnant three times in nine months.
Running and pregnancy is a tricky one, even before you factor in previous losses. Like almost all pregnancy advice, it is maddeningly vague. Is it safe to run while pregnant? I googled this frantically in the first trimester of my first pregnancy.
Running and pregnancy will forever be complicated for me. Tarnished by guilt that I somehow brought the miscarriages on my self.
I desperately wanted to keep up with running, but my GP had said she wouldn’t recommend it, at least in the early weeks. So I didn’t. Then, after 8 weeks the midwife suggested it was fine if I was used to it, as did the NHS choices website. The gist of the advice to women now seems to be to try to do what you normally do, without over-exerting yourself.
Actually, I think this is next-to useless advice. What if what you normally do is, by definition, over-exerting yourself? Running and spinning were my main forms of exercise pre-pregnancy, that was normal for me – but both are fairly knackering. Is that still fine? Or do you need to slow it down a notch? (Hard to imagine, frankly, I am not a fast runner).
Tentatively, I ran again, after 8 weeks. I went slow, I monitored my heart rate like a hawk, if hawks wore mint-green Garmins. It felt OK. I was doing what I was supposed to, after all, following the advice: exercise is good for pregnancies, not enough women do it, blah, blah, guilt-trip, guilt-trip.
But miscarriage changed all that.
Now, I don’t often tell people this because I fear the response I will get. My first miscarriage started just after a spin class. It was barely perceptible – just very faint spotting. Again, I’d been taking it relatively easy, monitoring my heart rate. The instructor knew I was pregnant. All the proper adjustments had been made. But this is where it gets messy in my head.
It doesn’t matter that everyone I saw at the hospital the next day repeatedly told me the miscarriage was not down to anything I had or hadn’t done. It doesn’t matter that all the official advice insists that exercise does not cause miscarriage. My relationship with running – and exercise more generally – in pregnancy will forever be complicated. Tarnished by guilt that I somehow brought this on my self.
I didn’t run when I next got pregnant. Or the time after that. I swam instead. And went to yoga, like a good little girl, even though I find it boring.
Suffice to say it didn’t work. And instead of feeling anxious I was over-doing it, I just felt anxious I wasn’t doing enough. Was it bad that I wasn’t keeping up my usual routine? Was my weight going up too quickly? What if this deliberate, cautious slothfulness was even more likely to lead to another miscarriage?
There are no answers. And we are where we are.
So now I’m running again. I’m running 13 miles for charity. Right now I can barely manage three. I’m running to raise funds for much-needed research into miscarriage. For more answers for couples like us. For better pregnancy advice. For new tests and treatments.
If you’d like, you can sponsor me here. I feel a tiny bit selfish asking for sponsorship, as I do like to run. I’m running for charity, but I’ll admit I am also running for me. It feels good to focus on something my body CAN do, when I feel it has so blatantly – and repeatedly – failed me.
When I’m running I feel like me again. Just me, plus some cheesy music. Just me and a pair of trainers. Just me and a treadmill. Just me and the canal path.
It’s just me. Trying to keep putting one foot in front of the other.