When I fell pregnant with my first child Brooks in October 2018, I was so (publicly) ill with Hyperemesis Gravidarum that Samuel and I ended up telling our friends/family/work/social media that I was expecting quite early on. And boy do I mean early, probably at nine or 10 weeks pregnant.
At the time, this suited me fine. I wanted to shout from the rooftops that my dream of becoming a mother was coming true! Although I was quite sick spending time in and out of hospital for dehydration, I would tell anyone who would listen that I was finally pregnant! As most new mothers would agree, it's one of the most exciting times in your life.
Brooks arrived safely nine months later and he has changed our world for the better. He's now a big 'two-year-old' boy whose personality and language has just exploded in recent times.
As Brooks was growing fast before our eyes, behind the scenes Samuel and I were starting to discuss the want for another child. I have Stage III Endometriosis and had to have two surgeries before I was able to fall pregnant with my first child. So all we knew was; a) we had to get going and b) we don't know how long it will take.
My menstrual cycle returned within six weeks of giving birth to Brooks, and was fairly regular from there on out. I exclusively breastfeed him (to this day) and had read many online stories of breastfeeding being somewhat of a natural contraception. I was not prepared to deny Brooks his breastfeeding sessions for my own needs to have another baby, but we kept trying each month nonetheless.
Each month that would pass, I (like many other moms TTC- Trying to Conceive) would spend a small fortune on ovulation tests, saliva fern tests, pregnancy tests, vitamins and teas, you name it. I kept seeing that one single negative line, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't break my heart a bit more each time.
After approximately a year of TTC, I went back to my gynaecology doctor and requested the ovulation drug Chlomid, which they prescribed me. I was forewarned that it would certainly affect my breastmilk (reduced supply and the drug would pass through to Brooks). This was hard news to hear, as I didn't want to affect my supply, nor did I want to possibly affect my son's hormones before he had gone through puberty. There simply is not enough testing done on Chlomid and the effects on breastfeeding, so it's considered trial and error. I left the Chlomid in my medicine cupboard while we kept TTC. Although I was growing desperate to fall pregnant, I was more afraid of effecting my son in unknown ways.
Several months passed, and towards the end of the dreaded seven day wait (the time between ovulation and implantation of the egg), I decided to do a pregnancy test. I typically did this in secret, as the negative result used to really affect my moods, so I wouldn't even tell Samuel I was testing.
On this particular morning, I saw a second pink line pop up quite quickly on the test. OMG is this really happening? I grabbed several more tests and they each showed the same two lines. I rushed out to the chemist to buy a Clearblue 'How Many Weeks' test, and was pleased to see it said 1-2 weeks. I was early, sure, but a positive test is a positive test!
I called my doctor, booked in a blood test and started to go through the motions of early pregnancy. It was an exciting time, I told Samuel but found he was cautiously optimistic. At the time, I didn't really understand this. "I'm finally pregnant!" I told him, but he was always weary of so many previous negative tests.
In my heart, I was of course excited about this pregnancy, but felt something was wrong. I had a positive test reading very early on (only 6-7 days PDO- Post Ovulation Day) and saw that as the weeks went on, my positive pregnancy test double lines got lighter and lighter. I went back to the doctor for a follow up blood test. The next day, during a quick phone call to follow up my results, a nurse with quite an unforgivable bedside table manner abruptly informed me that I am in fact having a miscarriage.
A miscarriage? What does that even mean? The baby was there and now it won't be? To say I was crushed was an understatement. I packed my son in to the car, drove to a nearby walking track and park, and spent the next hour or so walking with him in his pram, upset behind my sunglasses and hat, praying I wouldn't bump into anyone I knew.
I don't know much about miscarriages, but I do know hardly ANYONE talks about them, even though one in four pregnancies result in one. It's such a high number of pregnancies, I don't know why it isn't talked about more. I believe shame and confusion play a big part in this, I myself didn't even tell my best friends what happened. In fact, I didn't tell them, and reading this blog will be the first time they've heard it. I had this overwhelming feeling afterward of 'what the hell is wrong with me?' and 'did I cause this?', which are normal feelings post-miscarriage I've since learnt after finally discussing it with other moms.
I didn't seek counselling, or any further doctor/hospital visits after this. I just let nature take its course. I found writing therapeutic, and it helped me find peace and grow around my grief. It was difficult to see the baby's due date come and go, I held the moment in my memory and acknowledged it.
I had read online in many places that although a miscarriage is awful, it's considered a 'positive sign' in the medical world that you can ovulate and fall pregnant, and this happens to couples typically within three months of trying again after the miscarriage. I was now cautiously optimistic.
Three months later, what do you know! Another pregnancy test came up positive. And for this, we are beyond grateful. Before taking the test, I actually muttered out loud to myself, "please just give me some good news!" I rang the doctor after two weeks of getting the positive test, I knew I had to have a blood test but honestly I didn't want to hear the results. But Samuel insisted, so I booked in. I was surprised to hear my HCG levels were steady and high, a good sign I thought to myself.
I finally booked in my six week scan at approximately 7 1/2 weeks, mainly because I couldn't bear to go through this again. But I'm glad I did, because this baby's little heartbeat was strong and readable. And although I felt different and positive about this pregnancy, I was so afraid of jinxing it that Samuel and I decided to not tell anyone (except our parents) that I was pregnant. We didn't hide the pregnancy to be vindictive, or sneaky, or attention-seeking.
We were scared.
And so we hid away until birth. It was hard at first, as I show a bump quite quickly. But as time went on, it was easy to hide. I hid away from the world, wore oversized clothes and jackets to distract and pulled back from a lot of my normal activities. Hiding a pregnancy isn't for everyone, it certainly caused problems within our circle. Would I do it again? Probably not. But I have no regrets.
It wasn't an easy pregnancy, in fact I found it to be one of the hardest things I'd ever been through. Both physically and mentally! But I'm so grateful and proud to say I had another baby boy, Parker Banks Johannessen on the 17th of September 2021. Our rainbow baby arrived in perfect health and has completed our little family. He's my little symbol of hope and love. When I look at his beautiful face, I am reminded why I never gave up trying.
To anyone out there who is reading my blog, if you are going through something similar (or have been through it in the past), please know you're not alone. And it isn't your fault.
You should communicate your feelings to those who you trust, and believe in yourself to know you didn't cause this. I pray that every person who wants a baby, is blessed with one very soon. Please reach out to us if you ever wish to talk! We're all ears.
Around the world people light a candle at 7pm (in their time zone) to participate in the Wave of Light to remember and honour their little ones who have died. No matter how far along you were in your pregnancy you are invited to participate and share a photo of your candle or light by #WaveofLight and #StandingSilent.
If this blog post has caused any triggering feelings/thoughts and you need a safe space to talk or crisis help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.