There is a print on the wall of the ultrasound room in the unit where they run our recurrent miscarriage clinic.
It’s of a red heart, drawn in a swirly, slightly abstract way. Possibly it says ‘amour’ underneath in faux-romantic script. When I’m there, I always think I should make a note of what it actually says, and always forget immediately after.
Every time I see it – usually as I’m pulling my pants back on after an internal scan of my uterus, aka, dildo cam – I wonder who chose it. And why. Is the heart meant to give hope to those who receive bad news? An encouraging reminder of the existence of love in the face of all manner of gynaecological ills that might be diagnosed in this particular room – adhesions, tumours, a failed pregnancy.
For me, last week, when they diagnosed another missed miscarriage, just in time for Fathers’ Day, the choice simply felt like bad taste. A heart for when there is no heartbeat.
I wanted to tear it off the wall. Snap its plastic Ikea frame into pieces.
It also occurred to me, as I was handed yet another wodge of scratchy NHS paper towel to wipe away the ultrasound gel, how many people will never have to see the inside of this room, with its single, singularly tasteless picture. How many pregnancies go by without call for dildo cam’s services, or a specialist clinic, or scans every week to a fortnight depending on how things are developing. Without ever having to hear the words ‘transvaginal’, ‘foetal pole’, ‘cytogenetics’, or ‘I’m so sorry’.
This time round, that is what I keep coming back to. How much I want that. The normal pregnancy.
Because however I slice it now, however much the clinic doctors tell us we are medically ‘normal’, this isn’t normal is it? Four consecutive miscarriages doesn’t feel very normal. And I don’t see how pregnancy can ever feel normal for us now either.
This is what I think I’m grieving for most this time round – that normal pregnancy. I want it so badly. Not this half-life version, expecting the worst at every corner. I want to look at a positive pregnancy test and feel joy. Simply joy. Not a split second of joy, then panic, then grim resignation and weeks of sideways looks that say: ‘let’s not get our hopes up’.
I want to make a booking-in appointment with the midwife – eagerly, excitedly – something which we haven’t done in these last two pregnancies for fear we will find out a few days later that the baby was already dead while someone talked us through our birth options.
I would like to have one scan in the first trimester. Just one. At 12 weeks. And to see a wriggling, baby-shaped baby: alive.
I would like to decorate a nursery and buy maternity clothes and maybe some onesies. I would like to complain about heartburn and backache and inappropriate strangers on the bus touching my bump and asking: ‘What you got in there, twins?’
All those normal things. Please. Let me at them.
Normal gets a bad rap, doesn’t it? We sneer at it; no one wants to be ‘basic’. We try to be everything but ordinary, uneventful, the same as everyone else.
Not me. Give me a basic-bitch pregnancy. I’m begging, now. Give me the shitty wrap dress and the swollen ankles and the elasticated-waist super-stretch jeans.
Basic and boring has to be better than this. On the outside of parenthood looking in. Four pregnancies with nothing to show for it but the grey, sticky furze left by plasters from blood tests and the cannula from the surgical ‘management’.
No, I want – need – normal, because underneath our atypical experience I am normal, not super-human. I’m not a tragic heroine waiting patiently, beatifically, in a tower for her miracle baby to come. I am not a morality tale; not living, breathing, bleeding virtue to be rewarded. I am not built differently, I was not somehow ‘chosen’ for this, I am no braver, stronger or anything-er than anybody else.
I am just a person. A person who is ready for a family. Who wants what seems to come so naturally for so many others. Who gets angry, who doesn’t understand, who says the wrong thing, who is (sometimes) shallow and (often) makes bad jokes. I spend too much time on Instagram, get grumpy when I haven’t eaten and obsess about what a state my hair looks when it’s humid.
Just a normal person. Normal heart. Only worried how much more abnormal it can take.