And just like that, the due date for pregnancy number three has passed.
In my head this was a big milestone. That somehow once it was behind us it would feel like freedom. Release. A neat conclusion to this over-long, unhappy chapter. The end. Fin.
But, of course, there is no finish line to this stuff.
I did not wake up on Tuesday morning and breathe a big, final sigh of relief. I didn’t swing open the shutters with open arms, ready to feel the sunshine on my face and embrace whatever’s coming our way next. I didn’t think ‘well, that’s that then’. I felt… the same.
I have written about due dates before – here and here – due dates that come and go with no baby and how that feels. In my head, before those dreaded dates arrived, I had always assumed they would be the worst days. But that hasn’t proved to be the case. There is sadness there, of course, but more than anything they are just sort of quiet. This was the first one I’ve been at work for, rather than at home, and while the practicalities are vastly different (no naps, for one) I felt the same strange quiet inside – somewhere between peace and resignation. Becalmed.
I’ve been trying very hard lately not to focus on the alternative lives I could be living. Reminding myself that my actual life is not the inferior carbon-copy left behind, however much it may feel that way sometimes.
But it is a hard habit to kick. You can try not to dwell on what might have been, but you still know.
For example, I still clam up whenever anyone in the office asks a question about the royal baby/when it’s due/how far along is Kate now (I work for a tabloid newspaper…this happens a lot). I stare stonily at my screen and don’t join in – though I always know the answers, I also know my response would be too lightning-quick. And then you’re faced with the possibility that the person who asked the question will remember – to their embarrassment/horror/awkwardness – the reason for your uncannily fast response. Or they won’t. Neither is particularly appealing.
Reaching what would have been your due date doesn’t change any of that background baby arithmetic. You may not automatically compare yourself with every pregnant woman in quite the same way, you may be out of the realm of bumps and baby-on-board badges, but those bumps become babies, and after that toddlers, and then children the age yours would have been. I don’t know when that stops – perhaps it never does.
I crossed another finish line recently. A literal one. At the London Landmarks Half Marathon. And it felt like, I’ve no other words for this, more of a big deal than the due date.
I cried as I crossed over it. Tears of sheer physical relief; tears of wonder at the many, many people out on the course, or cheering in the crowd, turning their story into hard-earned miles and charity cash. Tears of joy that I had done what I’d set out to do; that my body had achieved something after a year in which I felt it had failed me repeatedly. And tears of sadness (self-pity, even) that I had somehow ended up here. Willing myself to run 13 miles through central London on a drab Sunday morning in March, rather than being snuggled up at home with my newborn. Or out for a stroll with my eight month old in the pram. Or propped up on sofa, just about ready to pop.
But there were also, I realise now, tears because the second I stepped over that final chip-timer, I felt a bit lost. For a long time, I have been aiming only as far as the half-marathon. That was the horizon. The vanishing point. Weekends could be constructed around training plans and unhelpful thoughts chased away by long runs. Down days were boosted by a surprise donation on my Justgiving page (thank you if that was you, just thank you). Something to aim for, something to track and count, something I had control over.
And, of course, we had agreed we wouldn’t try again until after the race. We’d given ourselves a break to compose ourselves, after the third miscarriage, to steel our nerves and heal our hearts a little. It felt like such a long time to wait when we discussed it back in September – six months, six long wasted months in which a baby wasn’t even a possibility.
Now the break was over and I didn’t feel any more ready. Not really. I still felt terrified and broken. And I cried for that. That I hadn’t been able to outrun it. None of it. And now I didn’t know what was coming. I had no plan and by now I know better than to make one. What’s next? A fourth pregnancy. A fourth loss? Who can tell.
So, no, there is no finish line. But, we’ve come this far, I suppose.