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Charlie's Story

Charlie's Story

I'm now a Mum of three, this is my story.

I kept putting off the baby thing.   We were together five years before we got married, we didn’t move fast with the big stuff, plus there was always something amazing coming up: a festival, a concert with friends, and I wanted to drink, not be fat and sober. And when everyone’s been pestering you about marriage and then immediately moves onto babies when you do there’s something satisfying about shutting them down with a shrug of the shoulders.

Until one day my period was late, and my period was never late. I took the test and it turned positive before I’d even finished peeing on it, that’s how pregnant I was. The first part of our story that I’d be telling my kid for decades to come. Because you don’t just lose a baby with early pregnancy loss. You lose every Hope* and every daydream. And I daydream big. In six weeks I’d already dropped him off at uni dabbing the tears from eyes about how it was only yesterday I took that test and it turned positive before I’d even finished peeing on it. 

December 12 2006 I showered before work and reached for my mostly unused cellulite massager and gave my belly a quick once over, fussing about how my body was going to change and what my post baby stomach would look like. Something I would berate myself about for years later, even though I knew better. Work was uneventful except that I left late and had to run for the ferry, and I vividly remember thinking this can’t be good for the baby, bouncing around in there. Something else I would berate myself about for years later, even though I knew better.

When I got home I had to pee, I half feigned annoyance but it was literally my only pregnancy symptom so I was actually happy about it. And when I wiped I saw it. The brown stripe. Something and nothing but it sent a horrible wave of shock through my body. Because that’s one of the perks of pregnancy isn’t it? No Period For At Least A Year. So I spent that whole night paralysed with fear. Only moving obsessively from bedroom to the bathroom to check what was happening. And it wasn’t good. 

We googled. It might be normal, it might not. In my head I was thinking this can’t be the story of my life: “Hi I’m Charlie and I had a miscarriage” ??? It didn’t sound right, that stuff didn’t happen to me. Ask my friends they’ll tell you I’m like a cat: I’m notoriously lucky and I always land on my feet. But we had been through a bad spell. My ex’s beloved Grandma had passed earlier that year and with the first Christmas without her approaching, this news was going to make everything better.  

The next morning after zero sleep we got an emergency appointment with a doctor, Ratna. I mention her name because she saved me that day (“I’m so sorry Charlie, I hate it went people are introduced to parenthood this way”). The scan didn’t show a heartbeat but it might have been too early and my bloodwork had no context without some space between results. The cruellest game of wait and see. But deep down I already knew I’d lost the baby.

When we finally got an answer we drove home from the surgery bawling. We actually crashed into a wall while parking, checked the car for damage and didn’t see a thing, but the next day we realised we had royally smashed it. Such was our grief.

Quite the metaphor now I look back on it in 2023.

I took some time off work and went back into an inbox of excited emails about baby clothes and baby names from my two best friends, who would’ve given anything to unsend.

I felt stupid for joyously playing the pregnancy card and getting my ex to carry the shopping a few days before, when I probably wasn't even pregnant any more.

I remembered the time I playfully asked a couple we were friends with about baby plans and they both stuttered on the answer. He recovered first, deflected with humour, and moved the conversation along so smoothly. But I caught it in retrospect and if you know you know, unfortunately.

(A reminder if you need it not to ask about or make light about (in)fertility).

My ex said it cut deep that he’d never seen me so happy, that I was even laughing differently. And I do owe my gut-wrenching need to become a Mum after that, to the sun we privately called MJ, my first ever baby. 

We got there eventually. And that pregnancy was a nightmare. For no other reason than, looking back on it now, I think I had PTSD. Paralysed with fear. Only moving obsessively from the bedroom to the bathroom to check she was still with me. She was. February 2008 I delivered her healthy. My now 15 year old rainbow baby Marley.

But how’s this for cruelty: next pregnancy I had a word with myself about not spoiling it by stressing over it. Because ‘my body had proved I could do it’. But six weeks in I started to bleed again, and my whole world flipped. Now as far as I knew if you bled you miscarried. But this kid somehow hung in there, numbers doubling higher and higher. 14 weeks of hell (fittingly we call him El) and I’m grateful to have delivered Elvis healthy as well.

Then along came Ruby. I had no idea what to expect and then once again at six weeks I bled. This time as far as I knew, it might be normal, it might not, the odds were 50/50. The cruellest game of wait and see. 14 more weeks of this torture and my nerves were shot. (I actually think the stress of this pregnancy is partly what tied that marriage up in knots.) But I got my full set when Ruby arrived. Girl boy girl.

Or boy girl boy girl if you count MJ, which is exactly what my kids did one day. When they needed a winning vote in something we disagreed on, and his cheeky younger but now older brother Elvis campaigned hard to include MJ’s vote. I gasped but I didn’t hate it. And it became a thing. Our thing. MJ now a part of our family in the land of the living.

After all those years.

After all those tears. 

Which is why I wrote this 17 years later from the other side. 

To give you Hope* on this rollercoaster ride.

(*Never a typo by the way: I always write Hope with a capital H for a beautiful girl and her warrior Mama Rach x) (Wait til you hear her story. We’re a fierce little club, equal parts strength, courage, and a mighty kinda love).

~ Charlie