Pregnant with my first child, I lived in the city, with an osteopath, an aqua-aerobics teacher, a yoga instructor and an office full of supportive women always up for a coffee or four. When the irrepressible Ivy Scout arrived, we packed her up with the toilet paper and the lentils and moved down the coast to a sleepy town on the beach. Now we live up a dirt road with tank water, a composting dunny, a derelict vege garden and neighbourhood sheep. Instead of glamorous gay men and boutique carrots, we have boys on dirt bikes and neighbours who leave lemons at the letterbox.
When I got knocked up again, my small-town pregnancy was a different experience. Mainly because first time around I was free to spend all my time languishing on the couch, arranging tiny clothes in baby-shapes, eating Chocolate Montes and watching Love My Way. Second-go, I had a toddler who begged at my feet like a dog, hitting herself in the head dramatically until the Montes went back in the fridge. We were in a West Wing phase by then anyway. Life was a little more intense.
In the early weeks of pregnancy with the foetus we named Banana, my dilemmas were several. First, I had three months between finishing breastfeeding and getting knocked up again. Why didn’t I spend the whole time with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a plateful of Brie, sushi, ham and salami in the other? Secondly, how could I get anything done when I had to sleep for two hours in the middle of the day? Thirdly, did my stomach really pop out twelve minutes after the blue line appeared, or was I just joyfully releasing the belly leftover from last time?
The major dilemma, though, was this: to tell, or not to tell?
The generally held wisdom is that you should wait until the magic twelve week moment before releasing the news of your pregnancy to the world at large. It’s all about the prospect of miscarriage. It happens a lot. It happened to us before the adorable Ivy came along.
My partner got on the phone. He told a few friends and family, who passed on the news. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but the cards, flowers and messages started arriving and when I returned to work, women sensitively found moments to share their stories with me. I had become part of a community, where the members understood my loss, and shared and grieved with me.
Miscarriage is an experience shared by, on average, one in six women, although many don’t talk about it, and in the joyful, hopeful world of pregnancy and motherhood, talk of losing babies can seem inappropriate, even distasteful. It can just feel like bad juju. In a subsequent pregnancy, 80-85% of women will go on to produce a healthy baby. I was lucky enough to be among the majority, and in good time Banana became Theodore Fox, known to us as Teddy the Beautiful, Foxy the Ox and (surprisingly tall, with sky-blue eyes and golden hair) Sven Olafson the Watchmaker, secret son-of-milkman.
I’ve never regretted the telling. When you give the people who love you the opportunity, they will support you with kindness and sensitivity, as well as Chocolate Montes. Losing a baby was a sad and traumatic experience, but for us, grieving alone would have been worse. And in my new coast-community, I’m sure I would have found the same community of women, the shared sadness, and the support.