The Longest Year – A Journey of Miscarriage By Kris Campbell 1998 I turned 30. I was married a year and writing my post graduate thesis. We were hoping for children. That April our hope was made true. I immediately undressed and demanded a photograph to begin the journey, tucked the pee sticks into a box and started buying second hand name books. I went to my women’s gathering and announced it. Everyone shared my joy, several were pregnant themselves. Easter Tuesday I started cramping and spotting. A scan revealed that there was no baby, just a sac. The technician said that I may have had my dates wrong. Then a young male registrar told us bluntly “you’re going to miscarry” and hurried off to his next appointment. That night I passed a little white sac surrounded by red. I took a photo then tenderly placed my little dream baby into a bowl and got into the car. A compassionate woman doctor made me comfortable and checked my cervix. It was the start of a year of strangers invading my womanhood and investigating parts of me I will never see. A week after this, my husband and I went out to our favourite tree with candles, incense, some precious things and some prayers we had written. We dug a little hole, lit the candles and incense and put a white moonstone into the hole, named our baby Moonstone and let it go. Two weeks of abdominal pain saw me readmitted for a “D&C”. In recovery at the hospital a doctor told me that he’d sent the contents of my womb to pathology to check for cancer and then walked off. Fortunately a female nurse was by my side and reassured me. A few months passed. I had a strange mini period so I went to my doctor. She had me do a test for HCG which showed I was pregnant again but it was obvious that this one wasn’t going to stay either. Several days later I started bleeding and grief and relief vied with each other. We enacted a similar ritual and named this one Jasper for the red that was the only evidence that I had so briefly been a mother. I had eleven friends pregnant that year. Two chose to terminate and one wanted me to be her support person through the procedure. She was angry when I refused, told me that she had told the little spirit to come to me so why couldn’t I be there for her? I spent most of 1998 being angry. I grieve with anger and this is not acceptable in this society. I wanted to smash things; I hated the women I knew who were pregnant, especially the ones who terminated. How dare they have a choice when I did not, how dare the universe, the goddess, the creator prevent me from carrying a baby in my womb. I had spent such a long time preparing my body, drinking spring water, eating organic food, doing yoga, walking and reading and learning about pregnancy, birth and childcare. Here was me with an empty womb surrounded by women with blossoming bellies and tiny babies cradled in their arms. My husband and I were separated by a gulf of grief – of grieving differently. In the interests of saving our marriage we blew all our savings on a September trip to Thailand. Travelling together mended and healed. Six weeks after returning home we discovered that I was pregnant a third time. I immediately picked out a death name for it – Feldspar. But it remained, despite my horrendous mood swings and bouts of spotting. Then one day, just on the magic 12 weeks, all the tension drained out of me and subconsciously I knew it was all over. I had cramps all day. Ignored them and continued with Christmas preparations, fantasising about the following Christmas when I would have a sturdy black-haired six month old on my hip helping me start and continue festive traditions. It was five days before Christmas and when the blood returned I went back to the hospital. The doctor pronounced my cervix closed, swung his legs up on the table in front of me and told me to stop being so neurotic. He told me to go home, have a glass of wine and come to antenatal classes the following week. I went home to wait and six hours later readmitted myself, blood pouring from between my legs. All I could think of was that a friend on anti-malarial tablets had haemorrhaged and didn’t lose her baby. I consoled myself by remembering that it was medical protocol to carry out tests if you miscarry three times. At least this time I would get some answers. If my first miscarriage had made the procedure room look like a splatter film, this one was the ultimate horror movie. I was trying to clean myself up at one point when my husband came in with a towel. He became so distressed I ended up gently urging him to go home. Despite not wanting to, he wanted to make me happy so he went home. I wish he hadn’t gone. Things might have been easier if I hadn’t shut him out. I ended up being put on an IV with Syntocinon in the hopes that my womb would expel everything. That night I lay awake listening to a tree frog sing. It was my touchstone with the world, as long as it kept singing I wasn’t going to let go. The next morning I walked to the shower, a nurse by my side. I fainted when I got in but walking there was a little triumph to savour. She cleaned me, cleaned my bed and tenderly cared for me. I don’t remember her name but I will always be grateful to her. The day nurse on the other hand was a study in surly non-involvement. Demanded a urine sample and chastised me for not doing it. I demanded a bed pan in return and took great blatant delight in returning it to her filled to the brim with clots and blood. The condescending doctor whom I had seen the previous day came in, held my hand and said that he was sorry. They took me in to theatre, my father on one side of the trolley, my husband on the other. I remember the banks of fluorescent lights above and the white coated orderly. I giggled and felt like I was on “General Hospital” as my husband told me he loved me and that it would all be okay. On Christmas Day my beloved husband and I had the first of many difficult conflicts. We were both so grief stricken we had nothing left for each other. So we moved states to start fresh, without our support networks, relying solely on each other. We also sought counselling. Three months after my last miscarriage we received a letter from the hospital that I had lost my babies in. My third baby was a little girl, she was a trisomy-16 baby. No-one told me what that meant. Except for the indispensable Google search engine. I read every little bit of information I could get my hands on. But just simply learning would not lessen the tensions and anxieties that any future pregnancy would bring. Moonstone, Jasper and Feldspar were all real babies for me, their presences affected me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I am their mother. They were never real to anyone else, my belly was their only home, my flesh their only caress. Eight weeks after Feldspar left my belly I wrote my story for my grief counsellor and I concluded it by saying “I resent not being normal, I want to be free to tell everyone, I don’t want to hear any more success stories. They don’t help me. People, and this includes the majority of our combined family members, who have no fertility problems are invariably and unthinkingly insensitive. I recognise time is a great healer and that the world will right itself eventually but right now my emotions are overwhelming and I want to curl up and die.” Postscript: It is now 2005 and I am a mother of living babies, this Christmas I will have the sturdy six month old black haired daughter I imagined as I started to lose Feldspar. My fantasy did come true, just somewhat delayed. I conceived again six months after Feldspar died and after a long, paranoid pregnancy my first daughter, Dara, was delivered by caesarean; her brother, Kell arrived, assisted by forceps in 2002 and three months ago we welcomed the youngest of our tribe, Fern Maria; she was born on Feldspar’s due date, just six years later. I spent her birth day alternately rejoicing and unexpectedly grieving tremendously. I cried for the pain my husband and I went through losing the babies; I wept as I realised that my three lost babies were somehow the three living breathing angels in front of me. I grieved for the treatment my body bore and I grieved because these losses were reflected in my subsequent pregnancies and births. I responded to the losses by losing trust in my body and by medicalising the process of pregnancy and childbirth. With the peaceful, straightforward homebirth of Fern I found myself healed and while I hold sadness inside me for that year of despair, I return to it less frequently.