‘I’ll say this straight away,’ the consultant says as he pushes opens the door to his office. ‘I’m not going to tell you anything bad. It’s not bad news.
‘All the tests results came back negative. We didn’t find anything. And that’s good. I’ll quickly explain why.’
He starts rattling through all the different clotting disorders I don’t have. I have barely taken my coat off.
This was the answer from the recurrent miscarriage clinic, where we’ve been being seen for the last three months or so. This was what we have been waiting for. But now we’re here and there is no answer.
The answer is nothing; there is nothing wrong with us.
‘I know it doesn’t feel like it, but this is good news,’ says the consultant, again.
I nod. I know logically he is right. I should be relieved.
But inside my head I want to scream and cry at once. That or sleep for 100 years.
It doesn’t matter that I have been prepared for this. All along, I’ve been telling myself and anyone who’s asked about the testing process that the reality is they may not find anything. That I’d be surprised if I had antiphospholipid syndrome (one of the most common clotting disorders implicated in recurrent miscarriage, sometimes referred to as ‘sticky blood’ or Hughes syndrome) or something along those lines.
I am an almost freakishly healthy person. I have no other symptoms or health niggles. I don’t even really get headaches. Or period pain. It is no exaggeration to say I have been to the doctor and to hospitals more in the last year than I have in the rest of my adult life. An underlying condition just wouldn’t fit with what I think I know about my body.
Even so, when the answer I’d expected actually arrives I am crushed.
How could the answer be nothing?
I don’t know how to cope with nothing.
That it is nothing; that there is no diagnosis, no reason, makes it feel more of a failure somehow. It puts it back on me. If there’s no medical explanation, what’s my excuse? What is it about me that is so incompatible with keeping a baby alive?
I am not disappointed to be told that I’m healthy, of course I’m not. I realise how perverse this must sound. I know how fortunate I am, in so many ways. But being discharged, with only the advice to come back for early scans when I am next pregnant, has stripped away a tiny little layer of comfort I realise I have been clinging to.
The hope of something to try. Something – anything – to do differently next time.
I am quietly devastated that we won’t be one of those reassuring stories friends of ours tell their other friends. ‘Well you know Dan and Jen? They had three miscarriages, they did some tests and put her on blood thinners and then next time they got their baby.’
But that isn’t going to be our story. There is no ‘fix’ for what we are, which, as far they can tell, is simply unlucky. We cannot anti-coagulate our way out of this – not even on the ‘it can’t hurt’ basis that so many of us miscarriage/ttc desperados in the online forums tend to operate on.
The consultant tells me explicitly I shouldn’t take even low dose aspirin, as – presumably because my blood is clotting normally – it will actually raise my chance of miscarriage.
‘You are not a statistic,’ he says kindly, at one point during our appointment. But from the way everything else is explained to me, that is exactly how I feel. ‘According to the data’. ‘Live birth rate’. ‘Good chance’.
This is what it boils down to. Recurrent miscarriage – more than three in a row – affects one in 100 couples, and out of 100 of those, roughly 40, like us, will have no medical issue. The thinking is it’s just a bad run of chromosomes, which could happen to anyone. It’s a tricky business marrying up two people’s genetic material and sometimes things go awry. Sometimes three times in a row.
‘I know this can feel like disappointing news,’ the consultant adds, concluding the ten-minute appointment, after I’ve asked him a series of increasingly desperate questions (Could it be this? What about this? Is it worth trying this? Answers: No, no, slightly bored expression…no).
I want to shake him. I want to shout at him that disappointing doesn’t begin to cover it. That his numbers are no reassurance. That I don’t think I can endure another loss. That I have already haemorrhaged too much of myself.
Does he really understand what he’s asking of us? What pregnancy after loss feels like?
Imagine if you had failed to get the last three jobs you interviewed for. Jobs you know on paper you are perfectly qualified for. You get down to the last few candidates each time. Imagine that disappointment and depression when you lose out – again, and again. Think about what it might do to your confidence. How you might feel about your chances next time.
Now imagine what you would want to do in preparation for interview number four when it comes along. Mug up a bit harder on the company, perhaps. Read up on interview technique. Practise your presentation skills. Have some better questions to ask the panel. Revise your CV. Buy a smarter jacket. Get a better night’s sleep beforehand. Have a stronger coffee that morning. Maybe all of the above.
Now imagine this is not just any job. It is your dream job. Something you always pictured yourself doing. Something that in your heart of hearts, you can’t imagine reaching the end of your life having not done.
This is how I feel about the prospect of pregnancy number four. Except I cannot be pregnant harder. I cannot prepare myself better. I cannot train for it, revise for it, or take a different coloured pill. I must simply face that interview panel blind, with no ace up my sleeve, in the same increasingly worn out clothes. I must do exactly the same as I’ve always done, but this time expect different results.
This, I feel, is what the consultant is telling me, rather blithely, that I must do. And it feels like certain madness.
He shuts the door behind me and I step back into the waiting room with tears in my eyes.