Number 4

I’ve had a fourth miscarriage.

I drew journal comics to process the experience. I’ve decided I will post them here. I have written about miscarriage before, (first two here, comics drawn after the third one here and here) and I don’t think I can do it again. Not like that. To do that, you have to revisit it. And I can’t.

On that note, you don’t have to read this. In fact, if you’ve had similar experiences and know that reading about this will bring things up for you, please don’t. Don’t do that to yourself for me. I would never ask it of you.

Some notes:

  • I changed my drawing style a bit, mostly in regards to colouring and use of text. This was to make it easier for me to get things down and move on rather than spend all day every day on colour schemes and shadows and details.
  • I recently had my hair cut differently, and this is a journal, so I drew it the new way.
  • I drew in ways that felt right at the time. If things felt like a mess, I let them look like a mess. If it felt like lots of small words jammed in, I wrote lots of small words jammed in. For better or worse, the occasional illegibility is a feature not a bug.
  • Dates are in the order we do them in Australia. Day/Month/Year.
  • This wasn’t drawn retrospectively. Although I didn’t always draw the comic on the actual day, I always planned it on the actual day and usually got it done within a few days.  I didn’t start this knowing what was going to happen on the 20/12.

Ready?

Here we go.

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13/11/2019 It's happening again.15/11/2019 Text: I just want to walk and walk and walk until I'm gone. (series of panels of me walking getting smaller and smaller until I'm not in the last one)18/11/2019 I haven't done a pregnancy test. (plausible deniability) But I'm about two week late. I had symptoms and they stopped. Now I have light cramps and spotting (just like the other times). I know how this goes.21/11/2019 Text: at least the lack of symptoms makes it easier to ignore (panels of me doing day to day stuff, making breakfast, reading, working in a cafe) Text: most of the time (panel of parents entering cafe with small baby)21/11/2019 - 26/11/2019 (series of panels of day to day things, catching the bus, going shopping, going to the bathroom...) Text: plausible deniability repeated many times, in the centre it says "maybe I'm wrong and it will work this time". (final panel: blood on undies. Speech: "FUCK")26/11/2019 Text conversation. Other person says "How has your day been?" My reply: "I probably can't have kids, hey." Boarder around panel is red.8/11/2019 Background is red with repeated old comic from the ‘expecting’ story repeated in the background. Text: I don’t want to go to the doctor. I’ve done this before. I know how this does. The 3rd time was horrible. (I couldn’t write about it) I know it was happening. I didn’t want any more scans than were necessary to prove I wasn’t about to bleed to death (unlikely, there wasn’t even that much blood). Watching things slowly come apart the first 2 times had been traumatic (I was still having flashbacks to the 1st scan—the moment I knew). But he sent be for 4 scans, multiple blood tests. And I had to watch it happen (again). I hyperventilated in waiting rooms. I cried all over nurses. It didn’t have to be like that (again). Panels showing phone conversation with my sister (a doctor): “don’t do it. We’re all visiting home next week anyway. We’ll look after you.”29/11/2019 Text: Better do a test since it's not worth getting my knickers in a twist over a (very) late period. (pregnancy test with two lines.) Text: 2 lines means pregnant ( except for me it means miscarriage)1/12/2019 Nine panels over a red background. 8 of the panels show me and my partner sitting on the couch, exactly the same. Text: Pain gets boring. We've done this so many times. It's the same. And it sucks. And I'm sick of it. (In the last panel I say "Can we just go to the movies?" and my partner says "Absolutely")2/12/2019 A plane flies across a red sky.3/12/2019 A series of panels over a red background show a car stereo, musical notes, food, a bird dropping a shell to break it, a beach, and a car driving.4/12/2019 (panel showing me and other happy people eating food in front of an xmas tree) Text: Since all this started 3 years ago Christmas (even early Christmas) has been ... (second, very small panel with me sitting alone in front of a closed door) Text: split6/12/2019 (series of panels showing me reading, behind me people carry things) Text: When we were little we used to decorate chairs for birthdays) (panel, my dad says "Is this an early birthday thing for Lucy?". Another panel shows my siblings have decorated a char for me) Text: I had forgotten.7/12/2019 A plane flies back across a white sky with some red clouds. 9/12/2019 Background hatched red. Two mes face each other. One says “Maybe you don’t really want kids”. The other says “Maybe that’s fear talking. Maybe you just don’t want to hurt anymore.” The first me then says “Well, maybe that’s just heteronormative social values talking. Maybe you only think you want it because on some level you’ve absorbed the idea women aren’t worth more than their breeding abilities. Did you think about that?” Text (in red): (Yes, I am worth more than this).11/12/2019 Text: I feel wasted (word hatched under with red). It’s not simply that I could have had a kid by now—more than 1 even. It’s not even the biological clock thing. I’ve been in survival mode (words hatched red) for years. I’m missing writing opportunities. I’m not building my readership. I’m not enjoying my life. I’m not thriving (word hatched red). I just want to be happy again (words hatched red). I don’t know how to be happy again (words hatched red).12/12/2019 I am waking up in bed, my partner is standing holding a (red) present saying "Happy 30th!"15/12/2019 Two small panels show a coffee with latte art, speech saying “annnnnd my latte art is a penis butterfly, isn’t it?” and people laughing. Text (in red) “…. Later 15/12/2019”. Most of the page is taken up by scribbled black. I sit in the dark. My partner is opening the door, backlit, saying “are you okay?” and I say “Nope.” (nope is in red).17/12/2019 (in red). Three panels of me talking to my therapist. In the first, she says “wait, you’re doing less work *while you are part-way through a miscarriage* … and this makes you a failure?” In the 2nd panel we just look at each other. In the third I say “Well, of course it’s stupid when you say it like that.” And she says “Have a rest”.19/12/2019 (in red). A doctor checks my blood pressure while I say “… also, I think it’s time I went back on antidepressants” and the doctor says “agreed.”Also 19/12/2019. A nurse is taking my blood. Text: I remember another blood test years ago—just before we started trying to check things (everything was fine)—and on the radio in the background hearing coverage of the 2016 US election. A radio behind us has a speech bubble saying “… and in world news we are minutes away from a vote to impeach Trump…” Text: timing is funny.20/12/2019 42 degrees Celsius, windy. Panels in red. Smoke twisting through one (in it, I say “I smell smoke”, then blotting the background. Four panels showing a phone screen with a map and a red area (red means it’s too late to evacuate, take shelter). The red area gradually spreads towards a dot labelled “us”. In the last, a wide yellow area covers the dot (yellow means enact your bushfire plan). Text, white on black smoke: “There’s a whole thing in Australia about being bushfire-stoic. Being tough, showing competence. But when the sky is all smoke, the sun blotted out, the wind oven-hot, and you only have vague reports to track the fire front … this isn’t my first fire, but it’s my first as an adult, the first where I have to decide. (in red) It’s scary.” Some extra panels with me and my partner. He says “The wind is supposed to change … in a few hours.” I say “We’re on the far side of town … but CFS building fire alerts show it’s already gone around of over other towns.” I say “I don’t know.” He says “I don’t know either.” I say “ Then we go.”also 20/12/2019. A series of panels show smoke receding as we evacuate (cat in a carry cage, us packing car, police directing traffic at a busy intersection, arriving and being welcomed at another house). And then watching tv, the reporter says "... temperature is dropping and the wind changing even as I speak..." Text: good for us. (small map showing wind change, fire front changing and spreading away from 'us' .... to move toward other dots) Text: ... but not for them.21/12/2019. I am getting blood taken by a nurse, who is saying “and confirming your address … oh. Are you home yet?” I say “On our way. My husband is in the carpark with the cat.” She says “Will I see you back again in another 48 hours for a 3rd test?” I say “Depends what the doctor thinks about my HCG levels.” Text (in red): “I’m still spotting a lot. My pregnancy hormone levels (HCG) are low, but not zero. People talk about miscarriages like they’re a single event, but mine have all been long drawn-out processes.”25/12/2019 Text, large: Merry Christmas I guess. Panel showing my partner opening a present, saying “It’s … an IOU”. I say “Sorry. This month has been a lot.” He says “I get it.” Text: “(although it is my first day since November with no bleeding)”27/12/2019 Another blood test. My doctor called with the results. My HCG levels still aren’t zero, but they’re so low she’s happy to say the miscarriage is essentially over. Besides, I’ve stopped bleeding. I might leave this here.29/12/2019 Red is pouring down the page. Text, white on red: "Psych! It's not over (it's never over)."30/12/2019 - 5/1/2020 Background red. I sit in front of the TV watching footage of more bushfires. I say "Hell". Text: "(Happy New Year, btw)"6/1/2020 A road running from unburnt landscape into burnt. Text, white on black: “I feel guilty the fires didn’t reach us.” “Everywhere I look I see bad things” “I’m not sleeping well”. Text, black on white on the road “I’ve started antidepressants but they’re still in that initial phase where they make things worse instead of better”also 6/1/2020. Text, white on black splotches: "But the bleeding has stopped. And it helps to help. Give (requested) supplies. Donate. Visit local businesses". Text, black on white: "Be ready. It will probably happen again."

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The bushfire I evacuated from on 20/12/2019 was the Cudlee Creek fire that burned in the Adelaide Hills (my home) in South Australia. It destroyed more than 80 homes and claimed one life. Although it didn’t reach my town, it did reach others in the area. Blackened trees and burnt ground are visible from (and sometimes very, scarily close to) the main streets of many of them.

And that fire has not been the only bushfire in South Australia over the last couple of months to destroy homes, the environment, and lives. Notably half (actually, literally, ridiculously half) of Kangaroo Island (a place I have holidayed,  a place my brother lived for a year, a place where relatives of mine own property) burned the other week, claiming two lives. That fire isn’t out yet, and as weather conditions are bad today it is spreading and several communities have been evacuated and are under Watch and Act (yellow) warnings even as I write this.

Meanwhile the fires in New South Wales and Victoria (which have made international news) are utterly horrifying and still going. At this time an estimated 1900 homes have been destroyed in NSW and at least another 200 destroyed in Victoria. Many lives have been lost. These fires will certainly not be controlled for some time, and they are expecting considerable fire danger weather tomorrow.

There have always been fires in Australia, but not like this.

If you are able, please consider donating to the fire relief. There are a lot of places to donate. Here are some basic ones:

People:

Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief. (Australia wide).

South Australian Bushfire Appeal. (South Australia).

Fireys:

CFS – Country Fire Service (South Australia’s volunteer firefighting service).

RFS – Rural Fire Service (New South Wales’s volunteer firefighting service).

CFA – Country Fire Association (Victoria’s volunteer firefighting service).

Animals:

WIRES – Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Services (New South Wales wildlife rescue organisation)

RSPCA (SA) – Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (South Australian appeal specifically)

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28 thoughts on “Number 4

  1. My heart goes out to you. This is so hard to digest, but the pain…the heartache comes through. I pray that your artist expressions help you with your loss. Just know that your honesty and caring does touch lives, small comfort, but something. Please continue to take care of yourself, the world needs people of your caliber.

  2. Feels woefully inadequate but best wishes to you and Mr Dinosaurs Lucy (and recently well-travelled cat). Your journaling of this process is unique to you and incredibly moving but much respect for feeling that sharing it is also part of the process of dealing with everything that has happened. It does prove your immense strength for you to do so.

  3. Wow, what a platter of shit sandwiches you have been served. I am so sorry to hear you are going through this again. I hesitate to say the following because you’ve probably heard something similar from others before, but… My first wife had five miscarriages before my first son was born. We had pretty much given up also. Not sure if that will make you feel better or worse. If it’s the latter, I’m sorry.

    Please stay safe!

  4. I’m so sorry. Also, thank you. You wrote this for you, but sharing it was a gift for us. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine or understand another person’s pain. Your writing is an empathy bridge. Thank you for making it.

  5. I feel this so acutely. We lost our fourth the week before Mother’s Day 2019. Your thoughts mirror my own. Thank you for sharing and helping me know that I’m not alone in these feelings and questions.

  6. I just want to send you a very big hug. I don’t know what it feels like from experience, but I don’t have to in order to see the pain. I just… all the hugs your way.

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