Tag Archives: Miscarriage

What Happens Next

CW: pregnancy, pregnancy loss, blood, medical procedures.

************************

October 2020.

I never used to be someone who cries a lot, but then I had four miscarriages.

Me, sitting slumped behind a car window, cheek skin smooshed and pulled by the contact. Messy tears trickling down my face and down the window.

Now, I am someone who sneaks away from social events for a quick, private weep. I am someone who burst into tears in waiting rooms when I am told the blood tests I need will be slightly complicated. I am someone who has sobbed all over anaesthetists prepping me for surgery, broken down suddenly and unexpectedly in the middle of sex, blubbered as sonogrammers shoved ultrasound wands inside me, and bawled while eating famous scallop pies and trying to be on holiday.

I cry now because we’ve opened Pandora’s box again, and we can only wait as all the familiar monsters come out.

I’m pregnant for the fifth time, and we are on our way to an early pregnancy ultrasound.

Slightly wider angle than the last image. In this one, my partner can be seen in the drivers seat. He says 'Whatever happens next, we'll be okay.'
***

What happens next is it won’t be gone, not on this scan. It will just be ‘a bit behind.’ Someone will say, ‘well, maybe your dates are a bit out, that happens all the time.’ They always start with that because it does happen all the time. Just not to me.

There will be a heartbeat, but it will be slow. I will have to wait a week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks having scan after scan, and it still won’t be gone. I will watch as it fails to grow, as the heartbeat slows, weakens, fades to nothing. The whole time, I will keep having symptoms. I will have nausea all day every day. I will vomit.

And as I wait, I will turn into emotional jenga. My side pieces will start coming out. Holes will open in my heart, gaps in my body, spaces in my mind. It will be all I can do to handle them gently and add them back to the top of the stack without losing structural integrity.

Maybe I will start bleeding and the miscarriage will be natural, but that’s only happened to me once. More likely, once the heartbeat finally stops, when there is no chance, I will be given the choice to either keep waiting for it to pass on its own or to have medical management. At that point, which will probably be over a month from this car trip, I will choose medical management.

The medical options are minor surgery or medication. The surgery is a very safe, only a ten minute procedure, but if you have it many times it can start to increase your risk of pre-term labour in future pregnancies. I have already had it three times; for the first two losses, and then for a hysteroscopy to scan my uterus after the fourth. The increased risk is still very small, but I don’t want to let go of the idea that pre-term labour might one day be something I have to worry about. So I will pick the medication that triggers bleeding, like I did the third time.

I will have to go to hospital and stay there all day to be monitored. It will be boring. It will hurt. It will be lonely. I will bring a book to read, like I did the other time.

Two panels. I am sitting in a hospital bed reading a book. A nurse has come into the room holding towels. There is a closed door in the background between us. In the first panel, the nurse says 'What's the book about?' and I respond, 'Monstrous people-eating mermaids.' In the second panel, the nurse looks perturbed and says 'um ... okay'.

I will try not think about the fact that the reason the nurses are always in and out is to collect the ‘product’ of the pregnancy from my pads and from my urine so it can be tested. I will try harder not to think about whether or not I am leaving my not-baby in a bucket of pee on the bathroom floor.

I will try not to worry that I will have to stay in a whole second day if I do not pass enough the first day, like I did the other time. That time, a friend had visited with a gift-book so I was covered for entertainment on the extra day, but this time I will be ready and bring extra books from the start.

Two panels. Again, I am sitting in a hospital bed, reading. A nurse has come into the room and is holding something in a jar. The door in the background is no longer closed, but half open revealing a bathroom. In the first panel, the nurse says 'So ... what's this one about?' and I say 'A refugee spaceship with an insane AI who has a heap of nukes at its disposal, and also there's some sort of zombie rage-virus'. In the second panel, the nurse just looks at me.
Two panels. The first is a close up of my face, behind a book, but my eyes are looking sideways toward the nurse. The second panel is a close up of the jar the nurse is holding. It contains yellow-red liquid with floating red bits.
***
The car with me and my partner in it. We are driving on a road through a wooded area.
***

We don’t talk about miscarriage enough. Certainly not with people who haven’t had one themselves. And because we don’t, when it happens to you, there are two choices. Both have a price-tag.

You can hide it and remain silent, and the price is silence. You have to pretend every day that your baby didn’t happen. You have to pretend to be happy, or at least normal. You get to avoid dolling out bad news. You get privacy. You get no understanding, no support.

I choose option two. I spoke up.

I don’t regret my choice. Silence is cold and terrible, and I never choose it while I have strength. Option two brought me a lot of kindness and support and love.

But when speaking up is unusual, it has a price-tag too. And the price is you have to keep speaking up. Even on the bad days. Even when the questions punch right through you. Even when it’s the thousandth time you’ve said it. Because you are an educator now.

And because maybe, maybe, if enough people choose option two and enough questions are answered enough times then it will all slide into the pool of general knowledge and option two won’t have a price-tag anymore. Maybe it can be a little easier for the next person.

I hope so.

***
The car with myself and my partner in it. We are now driving on a suburban street
***

Because what happens next, when I’m out of hospital, is that I will be asked,

Three panels. In the first, I am standing with another person. They ask, 'So ... what's the problem?'. In the second, two more people have joined us. They both ask, 'What's the problem?' In the third panel, I am surrounded by people all of them saying 'What's the problem?'

The chorus started after the first miscarriage and grew in volume. It reached its peak by the time of the third miscarriage. I tried to block my ears to the two silent words I always heard at the end.

(with you)

How do you answer a question like that? I still don’t know, but I had to say something, somehow. That’s the price.

I had responses rehearsed:

We don’t know. There might not be a problem. Miscarriages are more common than people think, and most of them are never explained. I couldn’t have prevented this. But the doctors do want to run some tests now that I’ve had so many.

I lost count how many times I said some variation on that. And every time I said it to someone else, I said it to myself too.

No, it’s a myth that stress causes miscarriages. Besides, I wasn’t stressed until after the miscarriages started. I couldn’t have prevented this.

I had blotted out the self-blame after the first miscarriage and the second, shut my eyes and stuck my fingers in my ears and shouted “lalalalalala” every time it tried to intrude. But three times is too many.

Yes, I have been taking the proper vitamins. Plenty of people don’t and still have healthy pregnancies. I couldn’t have prevented this.

And there’s so much judgement around parenting already. People who honestly and idiotically believe it doesn’t count if you have a c-section or feed the baby formula. People who think childbirth is an integral part of being born with a uterus and you can’t live a full life without doing it at least once. People who know the right way to do everything and are always on the lookout for people doing it the wrong way.

No, I haven’t been smoking or drinking. I’ve never smoked at all. I completely stopped drinking whenever we were trying, and I’d rarely had more than one drink in a sitting for years before that. Yes, I stopped caffeine.

I held it off for a long time, but in the end it crept in. The idea that I must have done something differently, must have done something wrong, must not be right for this, must not want it enough, must be broken. And it didn’t matter how many times I said

I couldn’t have prevented this.

I didn’t believe it anymore.

Me. Above my head are the words 'the problem' with an arrow pointed at me.

I was done being an educator. I tried not answering. I tried saying I didn’t want to answer. I tried getting my husband to pre-emptively mention to people we’d be spending time with that I didn’t want to be asked anymore, I wasn’t coping, and please, please don’t do it.

None of it worked. I had already chosen option two, I couldn’t unchoose it. In the end, I answered every single time.

I couldn’t have prevented this.

I couldn’t have prevented this.

I couldn’t have prevented this.

What happens next is that I will remember the third time I miscarried, in the cruel window when I was still pregnant but the baby wasn’t growing and the heartbeat was slowing, and the nurse who took my blood for a test telling me that I must not want the baby because I didn’t look excited enough. I wanted to melt away in shame. I wanted to explain what it was like, knowing what comes next.

But I just said ‘thank you’ when I left.

I couldn’t have prevented this.

***
Me and my partner in the car. We are now driving through a
***

What happens next is I will see another specialist. Even though my GP ran all the tests she knew about. Even though she’s already sent me to specialists to run the tests she didn’t know about. The new specialist will be impressed with the number of tests we’ve already had done, warn me that more often than not miscarriages are never explained and I should be ready for that outcome, and then run a few more tests.

After the third miscarriage I had something called a HyCoSy. Basically, that’s an ultrasound taken while they shoot saline up into your uterus and fallopian tubes so they can make sure everything is the right shape and not blocked.

Allow me to set the scene. It was an old house made over into a doctor surgery. The hallways still had gorgeous floorboards, the waiting room looked like a perfectly sterile magazine living room, the receptionist was definitely the sort of person who would wear a colour like taupe, and everything smelled expensive.

Enter me.

Chronically ill, professional disaster, mix of dark humour and puns, rarely wears make-up and frankly doesn’t see the draw, never grew out of finding farts hilarious, known to wear dinosaur-print dresses or sometimes men’s clothes, definitely leaning more non-binary than female.

Also, I was wearing leggings as pants.

Fortunately, the surgery room itself wasn’t so scary. It was all linoleum, stirrup-ed seats and ultrasound machines. Things I had been around a lot and was very, very comfortable with by this point.

Me, sitting on a stirrup-ed procedure bed thing next to an ultrasound machine. I am looking off camera and saying 'Hurry up!' with a big smile on my face.

So, there we were. My pants (leggings) are off, my feet are in stirrups, my husband is holding my hand and a stylish lady in heels I only met five minutes earlier sticks an ultrasound wand and a supersoaker up my vagina.

I would like to preface this next bit by saying I have spoken to other people who have had this procedure and most of them described it as kind of uncomfortable but not the end of the world. That’s what I was told to expect, and if you are ever in this position, it’s probably what you should expect. I have also talked to people who had a similar experience to me, but we’re in the minority. I don’t want to make people nervous about this. This isn’t the usual way it goes.

Okay?

Okay.

It was weird.

I could feel the water. The sloshing. The cold. It went up my fallopian tube, and I could feel that, could have traced the path on my abdomen with my finger if I wasn’t distracted by the fact iT HURT A FUCKING LOT.

This isn’t news for approximately half the population, but cervixes don’t like getting poked. And, turns out, some of them not only super hate it but are downright vengeful about it and stress out your vagus nerve if you dare.

That is to say, I fainted.

If I was someone who looked pretty even when they cried, I daresay I would have come around fluttering my butterfly-wing eyelashes saying something like, ‘where am I?’. If I was wearing taupe and could use perfume without my skin itching, I’m sure I would have at least managed, ‘what happened?’ or possibly ‘I want to speak to the manager!’

Me lying flat on my back on the procedure bed. On one side, my partner stands looking concerned. On the other, a stylish woman with a stethoscope and a supersoaker stands looking perturbed. I am yelling 'I NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM.'

Look, I went before we left home. I’m very organised like that. So I’m claiming it was further vagus nerve shenanigans that caused my bowel to twist up and initiate voiding procedure. It’s definitely linked to your gut. I Googled it.

The specialist wanted me to lie down until I felt better, but I was not going to last that long. So, even though things were still a bit grey around the edges, I got up and tried to put on my pants (I mean, yeah, leggings).

Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t a great idea. I immediately had to drop to the floor and put my head between my legs when I started fainting again.

Still without pants.

So my husband and the very stylish lady in heels I only met fifteen minutes earlier got down on the floor with me and wrestled my pants (YES LEGGINGS. With holes, since you have to know. Cut me some slack, I was having a medical procedure and I dressed for comfort).

Also, this whole time my uterus was squeezing itself out like a dishcloth. On the pain scale, I was at ‘literally writhing in’.

When I was successfully wearing my holey-leggings-as-pants, I had to be supported out the examination room, back through the photoshoot-ready waiting-room … all so I could violate an orchid-infused bathroom definitely within earshot of the horrified receptionist.

Anyway, what we learned (other than my cervix needs anger management classes) was that the miscarriage hadn’t quite finished.

A month after I had sought medical management for my third miscarriage and spent two days in hospital with nurses collecting all my blood and ‘product’, and there was still some left inside me.

It wasn’t over.

***
My husband and I park the car. I wipe the tears off my face as I climb out.
***

What happens next is I will have to deal with it for a lot longer than people expect.

Once the fourth miscarriage appeared to be done and dusted, I started bleeding again. It was several months later—my period had returned ages ago and everything had seemed back to normal. Except this bleeding was a little early for where I thought I was in my cycle. Still, that can happen. So I got a pad and settled in to watch a movie with a heat-bag to help with the weirdly-terrible cramps I don’t usually get.

A short while later, I went to the bathroom and…

View of the inside of my underpants as I sit on the toilet (no body parts showing). The pad in my underpants are soaked in blood, as are my underpants. There is a giant blood clot on the pad. I say 'Well shit'.

This, for anyone not familiar with periods, is not remotely normal. You aren’t supposed to totally saturate a pad edge-to-edge to the degree of sodden-ness where if you hold it up, it drips. You aren’t supposed to soak your underwear as well. Or lose blood clots the size of an adult’s fist. You especially aren’t supposed to have all this happen in a little over an hour.

Two panels. The first shows the entrance to the Emergency Department. The second shows me in consult with a doctor. The doctor says 'We don't know. But you're not dying.'

The bleeding slowed, and I was deemed a waste of the ED’s time and sent home.

But it wouldn’t quite stop. Every few days it surged back to the massive-cramps and fist-sized clots degree. An ultrasound revealed nothing more than that my uterus was indeed full of blood. So, since my specialist wanted to get a scope in there anyway to hunt for anything that might be causing miscarriages, they took the opportunity to combine that with the surgical medical management option to clear any teensy lingering bits of pregnancy, which was everyone’s best guess at what was causing the bleeding.

It seemed to work.

***
My partner holds the door open for me to a building with a sign proclaiming 'ULTRASOUNDS R US'
***

What happens next is I will fail at my job. I will not be able to write or draw amusing things. I will not be able to concentrate. My time will trickle away, wasted. It won’t matter how frustrating I find it. It won’t matter how much I want to get things done. None of this is ever optional. My body, my brain, will hibernate without my permission.

Everything I have shoved down will come back up. I will step into dark rooms and flash back to that first dark room, the first time something was wrong. I will close my eyes and see the grainy ultrasound screen with the huge yolk sacs of my twins with no embryos attached. I will shut a door and it will be a hospital bathroom door and I’ll know that behind it is a bucket of pee, abandoned on the floor, that may or may not have contained some cells that once had the potential to be a baby. I will see any blood as a nightmare, the beginning of the end.

I will shove it down again.

I will not be okay

***
My husband and I sit in the ultrasound waiting room. Another happy and heavily pregnant couple are called in ahead of us.
***

What happens next is that I will think about life without kids. I want kids, I know this. But I also know I can be happy without them. What I can’t be is happy in this endless cycle, this limbo, this hellish groundhog day. I can’t be happy knowing exactly what happens next, and that it’s always horrible.

I will look around me for other people who can’t have children. I’ve met one or two, in a once-removed sort of way, but no one who is close. I don’t know any people my parent’s age without kids (if not biological, then of the step variety), and no one else in my close friend group has even tried.

I will look around for them in public life. I see them sometimes, but rarely. Mostly these people are child-free by choice, which is great but isn’t me. And mostly, at least if they are women, I will see them questioned, undermined or even demonised for that choice.

I will look for them in stories. When I find them they will be peripheral. Sad shadow-creatures. Objects of pity who are always a bit haunted, who can never be complete. Who willingly die to save other people’s kids or other people with kids. Who are permanently damaged.

I don’t want to be permanently damaged.

I think I’m already permanently damaged.

So I will make my own version. I will daydream that it’s years down the track, the cycle is broken, I stopped trying and am at peace. Maybe I will foster or adopt, but those can be difficult and expensive processes, and I have health issues so I might not be chosen. Either way, I will be okay. I will have a future, and not just one where I exist but one I like and can enjoy.

And in the present, the daydreams will make me happy.

***
***

But, eventually, what happens next is that I will try again. Despite my better judgement. Despite the hopelessness. Despite just wanting it to be over, to move on. Because I can’t move on. Because none of the tests have said I can’t carry a child to full term. Because the last monster to comes out of Pandora’s box is the most destructive of them all.

Hope.

Two panels. In the first, I am sitting on a procedure bed. My partner is next to me. A sonnogrammer is sitting in front of an ultrasound machine saying, 'It looks perfect! Strong heartbeat.' In the second panel, I burst into tears.

************************

A note to update:

That was October 2020. I am now in the third trimester, only a couple of months to go, and the baby has been doing great. It’s actually kicking me right now. Although it hasn’t entirely been an easy pregnancy (most notably first trimester nausea, all trimester fatigue and general emotional baggage from the last four years), and we’re not at the finish line yet, I’m much, much happier. I do still cry a lot, but now my reasons tend to be things like That Puppy Is Obscenely Cute or Someone Said Something That Reminded Me Of The First Few Scenes Of The Animated Tarzan Movie. (i.e., It’s a hormone thing).

A please-don’t-attack-me note:

You are correct, I didn’t mention or portray any pandemic safety stuff in the bits that took place during 2020. This isn’t because I am an irresponsible dickhead, it’s because I live in Australia and covid was very much under control at the time of that scan (however, the story of my 12 week scan, which took place during a local outbreak, would have looked very different). Over here, any time we don’t have covid cases in the community (i.e., most of the time), things are pretty normal. In fact, I am incredibly lucky that thanks to the quick action of authorities and the consideration of most Australians in following advice and restrictions, planning a pregnancy during the pandemic didn’t feel too risky.

A note for readers:

The books I was reading in hospital were:

  • Into the Drowning Deep, by Mira Grant (pseudonym of Seannan McGuire)—entertaining monster horror with queer and disability rep.
  • Illuminae, by Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff—YA space opera told through an (effective, not annoying) epistolary format.

I recommend both if they sound like your sort of thing.

A note on terminology:

Some people who have had miscarriages do not like the term ‘miscarriage’. The idea is that it makes it sound like your fault. I.e., you carried the baby wrong. And self-blame is something that many people who have had miscarriages struggle with.

The other term used is ‘pregnancy loss’. Personally, I don’t see how saying you ‘lost’ the baby is much different from saying you ‘miscarried’ it, and since I am talking about my own experiences here, I have gone with the terminology I feel comfortable with.

Which is ‘miscarriage’ … but with a caveat.

I lean away from using it as a verb. I.e., I tend not to say ‘I miscarried’. That does feel blame-y and ick and I don’t like it. However, I am okay with using ‘miscarriage’ as a noun. I.e., ‘I had a miscarriage’ or ‘the miscarriage’. And I think it works the same way with ‘loss’. As a verb (‘I lost the baby’) it’s blame-y and ick, but as a noun (‘I suffered a loss’ or ‘the pregnancy loss’) it’s fine. I don’t get angry or upset when other people use either of those words as verbs, and I’m not asking you to do that, it’s just what I personally prefer to do.

That said, everyone is different. If you know someone who has had a miscarriage and they have mentioned they do not like ‘miscarriage’, please do respect that around them. Definitely don’t use my acceptance of the term as reason to ignore their feelings.

The usual end note:

If you love my stories and comics, check out my Patreon page. You can support my work and get unique rewards! Along with the usual merch you can now get facemasks in my store. Specifically here.

(Actually, since we’re about to get an additional mouth to feed this would be a particularly great time for you to do either of those things.)

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Forward

WOW 2020 SUCKS HEY

Generally for everyone in the entire world, it seems. My personal suckitude began in November 2019 when I had my fourth consecutive miscarriage, and then continued as I evacuated from bushfires threatening my home, watched the rest of my country burn on the news, visited the ED for a sudden and scary bleed, had an array of blood tests and scans and finally a (very minor) surgery, and has now peaked (fingers crossed this will be the peak, anyway) in a fucking pandemic.

I’m not someone who’s ever been into inspiration as a thing. I don’t have ‘live, laugh, love’ emblazoned on my couch cushions. (Fine if you do, just not for me). I do not like, share or even relate to any quote that has ever been super-imposed on soothing nature photography. (Again, fine if you do). When my wedding celebrant said with delight that, as someone prone to writing, I would surely come up with something beautifully inspiring to say to my soon-to-be-husband during our ceremony, I told her I wouldn’t because just getting married was enough for me.

But, still, sometimes I say to myself,

forward

Just the one, lone word.

Forward is exciting.

It means the future is coming. It means keep going, there’s more. It means you can’t go back, so don’t wait around.

I said it to myself when I decided to propose to my now-husband. I said it to myself when we started trying for a kid.

The word 'forward' in yellow letters on a big block arrow pointing forward

The last few months I’ve started so many stories and comics. I start them with big ideas and enthusiasm, but then somehow they twist off the path I imagined and end up somewhere darker. What I’ve created here is heavily autobiographical, and right now I can’t tell you anything about my life without talking about my miscarriages. They touch everything inside me.

Sometimes, that’s okay. It has helped me process, and it comforts me to hope that sharing creates a degree of openness on a difficult subject, makes even one person feel less alone in a giant mess of trauma, or at least semi-prepares someone who doesn’t yet know they’ll go through this too.

But other times, it isn’t. I don’t want everything to be tangled and dark. I don’t want to rehash endlessly, lost and unable to re-find the path. I don’t want to soak everything I make in pain.

Forward is healing.

It’s picking yourself up of the ground. It doesn’t have to be about rushing to do or achieve things; it’s just about taking the next step. Maybe the next step is taking some quiet time or establishing a habit of getting outside in the sunshine.

I said it to myself after my first and second miscarriage.

The word 'forward' arranged in a semi-circle around a flower.

I’ve always had anxiety. Insomnia has been a huge problem throughout my life. I have had panic and anxiety attacks. There have been days I couldn’t make myself leave the house. Sometimes I get so worried around people I can’t speak, no matter how much I want to. My voice just shuts down.

For the last few years, my anxiety has been focused on my health. I’m only 30, but my body has betrayed me so many times. I can’t trust it anymore. Any time I get a headache I’ve have to be talked down from self-diagnosing a brain tumour. Every twinge is cancer. Every cough is death.

Covid-19 isn’t bad in Australia (yet), but I can open my phone and see tweets, articles, footage from China, Italy, France, South Korea, the US, everywhere and peek into potential futures.

I need some balance.

So over the next few weeks, months, whatever, I’m going to try and create some nonsense.

It won’t be easy. Fluff has been a challenge for me lately, even pre-pandemic. I’m probably going to have to push out some absolute clankers just to keep the gears turning. I can’t promise how regular or successful I will be, but I’m going to try really hard to make this little corner of the internet a softer place for a bit.

Forward is grinding.

It’s for when you are lost. It’s for when you don’t know what happens next, but you know it can’t be nothing. It’s for when a whole journey seems impossible, too big, and you have shut everything down to the next step.

I said it to myself after my third and fourth miscarriage.

The word forward made out of arrows and surrounded by a tangle of arrows pointing in all different directions.

I’m worried.

I’m worried about what happens when I run out of toilet paper because everyone else has panic-hoarded it. I’m worried about my older relatives. I’m worried about my chronically ill friends. I’m worried about my siblings—both of whom are doctors working in hospitals. I’m worried that next fire season a bushfire will reach my town, my home. I’m worried I’ll just keep miscarrying forever. I’m worried about lurking tumours. I’m worried about living in a country with a marginal environment and unsustainable habits while the world gets hotter.

It’s scary outside, and it’s dark inside.

Forward is not about choice. It’s going to happen anyway. The future is coming, and you can’t go back.

One more step.

Dark tunnel, small glimmer of light at the end, word 'Forward' written simply in white

P.S. Wash your damn hands.

*********************************

Update: I have created a  NO  VIRUSES HERE page. I will collect all my new fluff there as well as gather other fluffy creations from the past few years. 

If you love my stories and comics, check out my store and my Patreon page. You can support my work and get unique rewards!

And don’t forget you can follow me for updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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.

*********************************

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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If you love my stories and comics, check out my store and my Patreon page. You can support my work and get unique rewards!

And don’t forget you can follow me for updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Am I An Adult?

Kid: I can't wait to be an adult! Adults can do anything they want! Cartoon-child-me: But they have to pay taxes* *I was a glass-half-empty sort of child

***

One year when I was still in highschool I asked for a green ipod for my birthday. The green was important. It was an unwell pistachio colour, sort of warm and cool at the same time. But teenagers aren’t renowned for their emotional restraint and despite the vomit-undertone I couldn’t have fallen more head-over-heels in love with this colour if it fronted a boyband. I stared at it in advertisements and in shop windows. I dreamed of it. I repeatedly prompted my mum so to make sure she absolutely knew the green one was mine, the one I was meant to have.

On the day, there was a heart-flutteringly ipod-shaped present for me.

Unwrapping a present with green wrapping paper ... and ... it's a silver ipod

Before we go any further, I’m going to throw up a wall of disclaimers just in case this escapes the orbit of my regular audience and ends up in the gross, judgemental part of the internet where navigating the comment section requires bio-hazard gear, and even then it’s best to detox afterward with a full exorcism.

Disclaimer: I was psyched to get an ipod.

Cartoon me holding silver ipod looking psyched. Word 'psyched' with arrow pointing at cartoon me.

Disclaimer: Even though it wasn’t soul-mate green.

Cartoon-me holding silver ipod saying 'oh well'

Disclaimer: Although I asked for the ipod, I didn’t expect to get it. My family routinely request present suggestions from each other and giving someone a suggestion doesn’t obligate them to fulfill it. I also did not feel entitled to expensive presents at all. Plenty of times we were told a suggestion cost too much.

Did I miss any potential judgement-windows?

Oh, of course.

Disclaimer: Yes, I’m a millennial. As horrifying as it sounds, some people were born between 1981 and 1996 (or wherever the boundaries are), including me, and sure, we meet up virtually over the interwebs every full moon and use complicated tournaments of Mario-Kart-by-proxy to decide which industry we’ll be assassinating next, but that’s really not the point.

Cartoon-me: Also, I'm not a tentacled monster. Zoom out to reveal cartoon me has tentacles instead of legs.

And the point isn’t that I didn’t get the colour ipod I particularly wanted, either. The point is what I was told next.

Mum saying: I'm sorry the shop didn't have green. But you'll be an adult soon. So I got you an adult colour.

***

When I was in my early twenties I lived alone. I had moved to the city to attend university. Previously I had lived in a residential college and then with a friend, and afterwards I would move in with my partner. But between all that there was this quiet year where I inhabited a tiny apartment with an awkward diagonal wall all by myself.

I’m introverted, at home with my own company, a wee bit controlling about my personal space, and perfectly happy staying in most evenings. I liked it.

At least until the mouse.

mouse

I waited until I’d seen it a couple of times to confirm that, yes, it was really there, and no, it was not just a one off visit. I had acquired a housemate.

mouse waving hello

I called my mum, who was 665kms away and could not physically help me.

Me on phone: What do I do? Voice on phone: You're going to have to kill it. Mouse: *looking innocent and pure, pointing at itself as though saying 'me?'*

There as no one to deal with it for me. I didn’t want to live with the mouse, but I didn’t want to kill it either. I also didn’t own any mouse traps. So I rigged up my own solution.

Box propped up with a ruler tied to string. I'm hiding behing the fridge holding the other end of the string.

(With hindsight, there were warning signs I would end up turning my life into cartoons.)

You’ll be shocked to learn it didn’t work.Trap has been sprung. Mouse is sitting on top of box, free.

But I tinkered. I found if I spilled some rice the mouse would come out, even if I was quite close. And then I tinkered some more. Until finally…

Rice on floor. Mouse peeks at it. Mouse gets closer. Panel zooms out, this is happening in front of an open door. I lean out from behind the door holding a dustpan brush and sweep the mouse out the door. Final panel: me sitting in front of closed door looking relieved.

I was so proud of myself. I even managed to locate a sneaky mouse-hole and block that up. I was sure the mouse would not come back.

And I had not killed it.

I am reading a book. I hear a rustle. (close up, eyes behind glasses) I look to the side ... and see a disgruntled mouse giving me the finger.

I bought a trap, baited it with peanut butter and put it in the cupboard. My partner stayed with me so when it happened

night time, in bed. Partner is asleep. I am awake, looking scared. Something goes *snap*

I wouldn’t be alone.

***

Person: Now you're an adult you'll want to get a Proper Job TM, Buy a House TM, and Start a Family TM! Me: ... will I though?

***

‘Proper’ jobs are out for me, unfortunately, due to chronic illness. I’ve made my own job writing and drawing. (I don’t make enough to pay income tax). I’m proud of it and I like it, but not everyone sees it as a ‘proper’ one.

Including banks.

Even though my partner did have a ‘proper’ job, there were a few years where buying a house seemed utterly impossible. The world is no longer built for a couple on a single (‘proper’) income (at least, Australia isn’t. I can’t speak for everywhere). But, somehow, we pried our way into the exclusive club of Valid House Hunters.

House hunting was a long, weird series of meetings with hyper-adulty sorts—mortgage brokers, real estate agents, conveyances. We put on sensible-masks, threw around words like “interest”, “settlement date”, “pre-approval” and waited for the inevitable moment they twigged to our game and threw us out.

Me, dressed in a button up shirt and holding a breifcase: How do you do fellow adults? (partner standing with me giving a thumbs up and wearing a shirt that says "smashed avo sucks"). An adult looks at me, confused.

No one was more surprised than us when we pulled it off.

Real estate agent, handing me keys: Congratulations! Me: Indubitably! Partner: Variable interest amiright? Final panel: close up of our grins

And home-ownership was fun.

Me and Partner: "We can paint the walls!" "Plants" "hang pictures" "we can get a cat!" Some random adult: ACUTALLY! Final panel: adult is speaking, speech bubble is so big it is crushing us "Owning a home is just a long list of things to spend money on and chores to do! It's a financial blackhole that will weigh you down for the rest of your lives! It's not *fun*!"

But it really was.

And then we had three miscarriages.

Dark room. Getting an ultrasound. Everyone looks concerned. I say "Okay ... okay..."

(I looked again to confirm it that, yes, it was really there, and no, it wasn’t just a one-off)

Dark ultrasound room again. I say: "Okay ... what do I do?"

Each time we made the appointments. Paid for scans. Let people know. I went to the hospital (my partner stayed with me so I wouldn’t be alone when it happened). We made more appointments. We tried to make time to grieve, to process. We booked ourselves into therapy. We reassured other people when we didn’t feel at all assured ourselves.

It’s been almost a year since the third miscarriage, almost two years since the first, and most mornings when I wake up my first thought is still

Dark room, me in bed. "What do I do?". Second panel: still in bed, still lying there. Third panel: I get up.

Some days the big, ultimate answer, the only thing capable of getting me out of bed, is the dishwasher. Or the laundry or the vacuuming, or whatever chore it’s my turn at.

Because I get that little high of accomplishment from getting them done. Because I don’t feel like I have control over anything else in my life anymore. Because I still don’t know how to be someone who had three miscarriages. I don’t know who that is. I can’t get out of bed for her.

But I can be someone who empties the dishwasher.

Me emptying the dishwasher

And once you’ve emptied the dishwasher everything seems a little more possible.

But not fun.

Fun is hard. Fun is elusive.

Fun is a chore.

Really. It’s a job you have to do to stay healthy, like flossing. It just doesn’t feel like flossing when it comes naturally. Right now, for me, it doesn’t. If I want to catch it, I have to set traps.

We set traps. We bought some new video games. We build each other blanket forts. We taught our cat to hi-five. I take refuge in adventure-steampunk, comedic SSF, and comic books.* We go for walks and adventures and find new places.

It’s exhausting.

***

I am playing video games. Random adult: Adults don't play video games! You'll have to stop when you have a kid. Final panel: me giving him a very unimpressed look.

***

Am I an adult?

Over the course of my life I have been told so many things about what being an adult is all about. I’m nearly 30, and according those adulthood criteria, I’m not sure I qualify.

I’m (considerably) over 21, so I definitely meet the age requirement. I also (part) own a house, which I believe some people would count in my favour.

But I do not have a ‘proper’ job. I do not earn enough to pay income tax. I do not have children, which some people seem to think is necessary (I might still have them one day, but I might not). I still play video games and read comic books. I am the proud owner of a stegosaurus-shaped handbag.

Am I an adult?

If I was to tell someone what adulthood was, to impose my own definition, I might choose to say that it’s just doing the next thing. I think the accurately vague nature of that is perfect for adulthood, and bonus, if it’s a thing you do, then it’s a verb, and therefore ‘adulting’ becomes valid terminology.

When I first started writing this, that’s what I thought I was going to say. But as I wrote and drew, I looked and thought again, and that’s not how this ends anymore.

Am I an adult?

Don’t answer.

It’s not the real question. The real question is, do I have to be?

The essence of adulthood, from what I’ve been told, is that you’re not supposed to enjoy it. If you do, people will line up around the corner to say you must be doing it wrong or you’re naive and deluded, and anyway just you wait for the next milestone, that one will really wreck you.

The criteria are ridged, pointless, and in some cases unhealthy and irresponsible. It’s all about ticking boxes and how things look on the surface. It’s not about how you’re doing or what’s going on underneath.

And if everyone says it’s that, who I am to disagree?

So take it all away. It’s been messed up too much for too long. I don’t want it. I don’t even want to fix it, though you can try if you want.

I’ll just be over here, doing the next thing, drawing dinosaurs, and choosing puke-green everything. Crowned queen of the dishwasher and nothing else. Trying endlessly, desperately, to have fun.

After all, adults can do anything they want.

***

Years ago ... Silver ipod screen says nope, it is broken. I go to a shop. There are brightly coloured ipods in the window. I smile, the panel has turned orange.

* Sidebar: for fun giggles from those respective categories I recommend Soulless by Gail Carriger, Redshirts by John Scalzi, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (beginning with Vol 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson).

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If you love my stories and comics, check out my store and my Patreon page. You can support my work and get unique rewards!

And don’t forget you can follow me for updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Space

I am in space. I never thought I would go out this far. And I haven't found what I came for yet. I can't go back.And even if I did, it wouldn't be my earth anymore. It kept turning with me and I kept turning without it. [images zooming into earth] I'm not in space. I had three miscarriages.[speech bubble, I say: I don't know how to deal with that. I'm not even sure I believe it. I want to be okay, but I'm not. None of my friends or family have had so many and not had a live birth. I don't know what is going to happen next.] And you say, [speech bubble: I'm right here]. But you're not. It's not your fault.I am in space[tentacled space whales show up] And my problems are space problems. [space whales shake my space ship, breaking it, then leave]. I can't do earth things.But you know that. So when you say, [email on spaceship computer: I'm right here]. You are.

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I think this is for all the people in my life who have understood that things are Not Okay right now. These people have rolled with it when I’ve cancelled plans at the last minute, when I’ve refused to be places where I have to do smiling small talk, or even when I’ve straight-up broken down and cried in public for no immediate reason. They have given me space when I’ve felt crushed and company when I’ve felt exposed. They said “Hell yes, draw tentacled space whales!” and assured me there didn’t have to be a joke.

So, people who seem to get I’m far away right now, thank you. I’ll be back one day. Changed, but back.

If you love my stories and comics, check out my store and my Patreon page. You can support my work and get unique rewards!

And don’t forget you can follow me for updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest.

Hello, My Name is Grief

Test reads: Grief is like a star dies inside you, crushing down into a blackhole that sucks and sucks and sucks every emotion and thought and part of you down to nothing. Test reads: Except when you forget. And then it’s a tsunami of sudden memory that tumbles you around and steals your breath and washes you far away from where you were a moment beforeText reads: Except sometimes it’s warm sunshine on you face, a light breeze in your hair, and bright colours all around you. And it’s beautiful, but the light is to loud and the breeze is to bright and everything is exquisitely wrong, unbearably real.Test Reads: Sometimes it’s from is … unexpected. Sometimes you want it, to prove what you lost was real, to prove it was loved. Sometimes it is someone repeating the same boring stories, the same words, the same feelings you’ve sat through a thousand times before, over and over and over, and you can’t escape. Text reads: Sometimes it's all those things TOO HEAVY TOO BIG TOO LOUD TOO BRIGHT TOO STRONG TOO MUCH at onceTest reads: I don’t know how to end this. I don’t think grief ends. Perhaps (I hope) is wears with time, like running water smoothing all the sharp edges from a rock. But even a smooth rock can trip you. I don’t think grief ends. But everything else does. (that’s the problem)

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So I had a third miscarriage.

Each time is harder. They add together. The second miscarriage wasn’t only a miscarriage, it was the first miscarriage happening again as well as a new miscarriage. And now this miscarriage is the first miscarriage happening again, and the second miscarriage happening again, as well as a new miscarriage and also an impossible pile of fear about what happens next.

I don’t think I will write a blow-by-blow account of this one (though I reserve the right to change my mind). It was another sucker-punch. I’ve done that before. If you want to read a sucker-punch miscarriage story, I’ve got Expecting.

I’m doing my best in the aftermath, but I’m struggling. There are good days (which are difficult) and bad days (which are impossible). I don’t know when I’ll have new content. I know that I will, I just don’t know when or how regularly that will be for a little while. I’m probably going to be extra slow responding to comments too (but I promise I’ll get there).

Bear with me?

As always, I have a Patreon page (where you can support my work in a general way and get rewards) and a store (where you can buy my comics on posters and shirts and mugs and stuff). And you can follow me for updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest.

Expecting

I’ve never been someone who makes a fuss over Valentine’s Day, but last year it just happened to be the day I got my contraceptive device removed. My partner and I had wine with dinner—what I planned to be my last glass in long time—and we were happy.

Me and my partner sitting on the couch drinking wine.

This is the story of the year that followed.

A quick note of warning: none of this is supposed to be medical advice. It’s just what happened to me. And there’s a lot to get through. So sit back, get comfy, pour yourself a glass of wine—ha! Kidding. If your bits are involved in baby making it’s best if you stop drinking. Yep, even if you’re the one bringing the tadpoles to the table. You think that’s rough? My sweet summer child, this is only just the beginning.

First up, there’s is a whole story in how I got to the point of wanting a child.

Once upon a time I was a carefree uni student who was terrified of holding babies in case I dropped them or I touched the soft spot or they pooed on me or something.

Comic strip featuring me not at all keeping it together while holding a baby.

I did want kids of my own. Just … someday.

The whole Don’t Hand Me Your Baby aesthetic was working pretty well for me, until the day it wasn’t. My right ovary betrayed me Professor Quirrell style by growing an enormous cyst with designs on world domination. The ovary, cyst and associated fallopian tube had to be cut out of me. I was assured that my one remaining ovary and tube should be enough. I probably wouldn’t run into reproductive issues in the future because of what had happened.

I heard the italics loud and clear, and they frightened me.

They frightened me so much that I began to wonder about what Someday would look like. And when I realised it would take a long time for my life to look like that, I decided to get the process started immediately.

And then I developed a debilitating chronic illness. Even if my lonely ovary shot eggs like a machine gun, I might never be well enough to raise a child. I’ll spare you the full existential crisis that ensured. In short, one of the kindest cruelties of chronic illness is that it sharpens your priorities. I no longer wanted Someday, I wanted Now, and it looked like I might be getting Never.

But you already know it wasn’t Never. I was lucky. After a couple of years my health improved. Not completely (chronic illness rarely does that) but enough.

Giddy with hope and gratitude and still not quite believing I had reached this point, I had my birth control removed and …

Me looking at a negative pregnancy test with pee dripping off it. Speech bubble saying "huh"

… was not immediately pregnant.

Neither myself or my partner have nieces or nephews, and none of our friends had kids. Sex education in school led me to believe pregnancy was so likely it was almost impossible to avoid. I thought unsafe sex equalled BANG, up the duff, bun in the oven, here’s your free gift of a radiant glow, enjoy the giant tatas.

Not necessarily, it turns out.

You’d think this was basic uterus-owner know-how, but despite understanding the fundamentals of periods and cycles and whatnot, it never really clicked for me before this that you only get one shot at baby creation a month. That’s twelve or maybe thirteen chances a year. Obviously, I needed to track and better understand my cycle.

Don’t worry! There’s an app for that!

Actually, heaps of them.

A quick tip from someone who’s been there. Do not pick a period tracker app with a social media community attached to it. Do not pick an app that makes judgey comments disguised as ‘health insights’. Do not pick an app that asks personal questions about the state of your cervical mucus. (These guidelines can also be applied for choosing anything in life. You’re welcome).

I didn’t have anyone to warn me. I downloaded three. And that’s how I learned about TTC.

TTC stands for Trying To Conceive, but it’s more than just a text-friendly acronym. It’s a whole new world, a sub-culture for pre-pregnancy. It even had its own language which I had to spend a few hours decoding. You don’t do a test, you POAS (pee on a stick), and then the test isn’t negative, it’s a BFN (big fat negative). Or it might be a BFP (big fat positive). Or, maybe, a VVFL (very very faint line). Sex isn’t sex, it’s baby dancing, but preferably just BD. A period is tastefully referred to as Aunt Flo, and then even more tastefully abbreviated to AF.

All that probably helps some people. I can see how it could make you feel connected and how it might reassure you that everything you are experiencing and worrying about is normal. And if that’s you, fantastic. Enjoy.

But it wasn’t me. If I really must be discreet, I prefer having fun with it and tell people I’m collecting teabags for when Dracula pops round for a cuppa. And, more importantly, I was already scared. My previous health issues and single ovary had me off balance, and TTC gave me the final push. I fell down the rabbit hole and into a wonderland of anxiety.

Predictably, there’s a bunch of stuff companies sell you to help ease your fears.

One popular way to waste your TTC dollars is with ovulation predictor kits. You pee on one each day until you get a positive or your cycle ends because, actually, they’re quite unreliable and it’s very possible they’ll miss ovulation altogether.

I tried them for one cycle, and I not only never got a positive result, but I managed to accidently pee on myself three times. I do not recommend them unless you would rather have pee on your hands than money in your bank account. (And if you really would prefer pee on your hands than money in your bank account there are probably more entertaining ways to accomplish that).

Another favourite cash-vacuum is special fertility-friendly lube. This is for when you learn that standard lube acts as a barrier that makes it harder for sperm to score a touchdown, and then you panic that even though you rarely use the stuff it will still mess the whole thing up for you somehow, you don’t know how, maybe via astral projection or by selling your facebook data? (Anxiety doesn’t have to make sense, Karen, gosh).

The fertility-friendly stuff comes in a box plastered in photos of minors (babies), and even if you throw the box away the tube itself shouts CONCEIVE at you in giant, baby-pink letters. It’s basically a weaponised cold shower.

My partner has put stickers on a tube of lube that feature the popular eggplant and peach emojis

Despite my fears, at the end of my first cycle of unsafe sex, I was convinced it had worked and I was pregnant. My period was late and I had a heap of pregnancy symptoms (which, alas, I had been Googling). Also, it was coming up to our first wedding anniversary, so it would be narratively satisfying.

The negative test hit me like a slap in my silly, smug face.

It turned out I was just late—really late—because it can take a few cycles after stopping hormonal birth control for your Overlook elevator to flow regularly.

For my second cycle, I again thought I was pregnant. Shark week started early. I tried not to let it get to me (but it did). I was beginning to understand that I might have to face this many, many times.

At the end of my third cycle, I knew I wasn’t pregnant. I just knew. I had my usual PMS and was mentally bracing myself for the communists to take the funhouse, but I peed on a test, just in case. Of course it was negative. In fact, I spotted blood onto the test, which seemed like a major Up Yours from the universe.

That was the first negative that didn’t just get to me, it felt like an earth-shattering disaster. Even though I had been expecting it, even though I knew three negative cycles wasn’t unusual or unlikely or anything to be concerned about, I cried. And kept crying. And crying. It didn’t feel normal. Anything and everything set me off. And, despite the spotting, my period was late and getting later by the day.

So I took another test.

Me looking at a positive test (with pee dripping off it) looking shocked and saying "eep!"

I promptly freaked out.

Growing up, I was led to believe that pregnancy was the worst thing that could happen to you. It came in just slightly above failing maths or wandering off alone at Halloween parties. Then, practically overnight, you’re an adult and you realise you never have to maths again unless you want to, but a large portion of the population will consider you an empty husk of a human if you don’t create a tiny screaming poo machine. Even so, you can’t just delete the knee-jerk Pregnancy Is Super Bad What Have You Done Your Life Is Ruined reaction from your mental operating system. (Sticking together at Halloween parties is always good advice, though; holiday-themed murderers only have to happen to you once).

On top of that, despite wanting a baby, I had never been sold on the whole pregnancy thing. To me it had always looked like level after level of throwing up, fainting and stretch marks culminating in a boss-fight of screaming, pain, vaginal tearing and pooing in front of people. Also, you might die. It’s a lot less likely these days, but still a pretty intense possibility.

Obviously I had signed up anyway, but I still had my misgivings.

I was right to. Unpopular opinion alert: pregnancy sucks.

I was constantly exhausted, hungry, busting for the toilet and on the brink of vomiting. Most of my cravings were for food I wasn’t allowed to eat, e.g. soft cheese and cold ham, and most of my food aversions were for things I was supposed to be eating lots of, e.g. vegetables. I got acne instead of a radiant glow, I kept crying randomly, and to top it all off the very thought of a cup of tea—my absolute favourite thing in the world and only comfort in times of distress—made me gag.

I’ll just repeat that to let the horror sink in: I couldn’t drink tea.

Me, on my knees in a crowded street in the rain screaming "NOOOOO!". It's very dramatic.

Don’t get me wrong, I was excited, too. I ordered a pregnancy book and carefully followed what features my baby was growing, what whimsical food item it was comparable to in size, and what strangely mutated creature it looked like this week. And it wasn’t a secret. I simply didn’t have the skills to navigate tricky questions like “so, how’s things?” without exploding with the news that inside me there was a mutant dinosaur the size of a sesame seed which had an actual spinal column and tail.

A cute mutant dinosaur fetus.

Then I had some more spotting and was sent for an early scan. Everything looked fine. The foetus was a smidge smaller than it was supposed to be, but I was assured that in most cases that’s just because your cycle didn’t match the average. To confirm its developmental dates, I had a second scan two weeks later.

At this scan, there was a big screen on the wall. The first thing I saw was the heartbeat. It was a little white flicker. For the first time since seeing the two lines on the test, the low level panic faded away. For a moment, everything was perfect.

Two panels in a darkened room with a projector aiming for the fourth wall. In the first panel, my partner look forward in awe while behind us the sonogrammer is at her computer. In the second panel, the sonogrammer looks concerned and says "hmm." I notice, my partner hasn't yet.

She explained that it was still too small. In fact, it looked as if over the last two weeks it had only managed three days worth of growth.

“But it will be okay,” I said, because of course it would be.

When I got back to the doctor, she stressed that she’d seen cases like this where everything turned out fine. A heartbeat was good. Still, we should be prepared for a miscarriage.

I had to wait another two weeks for a third scan. I held on to that flickering heartbeat as hard as I could, but I felt like the box for Schrodinger’s cat. Was it growing, or was it gone? Was I pregnant or wasn’t I?

I didn’t cope well with the uncertainty. I spent every spare moment wrapped into an igloo of blankets either sleeping or reading so that I didn’t have to think about the fact that, no matter how hard I wanted to hold on, I could feel my body letting go.

My symptoms faded, and however unpleasant they were this was not how I wanted to be free of them. I started having cramps, constant sharp reminders of what was happening inside me. One night I bled, but not very much, not enough for it to be over.

I made it to the third scan.

The baby didn’t.

There was no white flicker, no heartbeat. It had stopped growing, only measuring five weeks and six days even though it was supposed to be ten weeks.

It never even looked like a tiny mutant dinosaur.

The sonogrammer left us alone for a few minutes. My partner hugged me, and I sobbed briefly because it seemed like the right time to do that. Then I put myself back together and proceeded to the next logical step.

I had to.

It wasn’t over. It was still inside me. I was a living tomb.

Two days after the scan, I had a surgical procedure called a D&C to remove it. I woke up feeling like I’d been having good dreams but couldn’t quite remember what they were. I was given a cheese sandwich and a cup of tea.

I am sitting in a chair in recovery post-surgery with a cheese sandwich and a cup to tea. A nurse is taking my blood pressure and asks, "how's the tea?" I respond, "good."

And then I could go home, and it was all over.

Only it wasn’t over.

It was a kind of horror story. I had taken a wrong turn and ended up in an alternate universe. At family gatherings people handed me glasses of wine, and I drank them. I ate soft cheese and deli meats. I lived the life of non-pregnant Lucy, knowing all the time that I was pregnant Lucy and everything around me was wrong. I knew when we should have been telling people, but there was nothing to tell. I knew when I should have started seeing a bump, but it never came. I knew we should have a nursery, but it was just a spare room.

We waited for several months before trying again.

But it still wasn’t over.

Every time I got my period, I was lying back on a wheeled bed in a darkened room watching a heartbeat on the wall. Every time, I was plunged back into that moment of broken wonder that wouldn’t end. Every time, I came apart. And every time, I had to put myself back together so that I would be ready to come apart again, next month.

And then it was Christmastime, and I couldn’t bear it anymore.

In that alternate universe, the one I accidentally stumbled out of, I would be eight months pregnant. In this new world, my period was due and I dreaded it. If it came, I was going to have to stop.

I was aware, however, that if it didn’t come, if I was pregnant, then the time with the highest risk of miscarriage would be Christmas and the due month of the first pregnancy. When I explained this to a friend, she said, “It would almost be better if you weren’t pregnant this month.”

But I was.

I am looking at a positive pregnancy test. I am emotional. My smile is wonky.

My cyclic depression stopped. It seemed miraculous, a gift. It came at just at the right time to save me.

(Although it wasn’t over. The night before Christmas I dreamed of blood. It was so vivid I could smell it, and I woke up in the darkened room with the heartbeat on the wall.)

I had an early scan again.

A quick note about early scans.

Everything is so small at this stage that it’s difficult to see. It helps if your bladder is full, so you are instructed to drink water beforehand. But if you drink too much, drink too little or vomit up all the water, then you might need an internal scan to get a clear enough picture.

Internal scans are exactly what it says on the box. And they are … weird. Jelly is involved. The ultrasound thingamie is an intimidating size (but don’t worry, just the tip). There is that element of violation you get from anything of this sort that, even if you have okayed for practical reasons, you are not super enthusiastic about.

But I had a heap of them through this whole business, and (at least for me) they weren’t that bad. Pap smears are more uncomfortable. In fact, my first tampon was worse.

The awkward stuff out the way, the sonnogrammer told us that this time it was twins.

Not one little mutant dinosaur, but two.

Twin cute mutant dinosaur foetuses.

I never thought I would have twins. There are no twins in my family, none at all, and I had thought (wrongly, it turned out) that having one of my ovaries removed would reduce the chance even further.

Twins was some kind of magic.

I had tried not to get too attached early in this pregnancy, but knowing it was twins made it impossible. (It was impossible anyway). I started looking up the meaning of names and thinking about double-prams and bracing myself for the c-section that was way more likely now.

Twins also meant double symptoms, and my symptoms had not been minor with a single pregnancy. The only thing that helped the nausea was eating, and the up side to this is that I understand food now. You have not experienced food in its truest form until you’ve eaten a burger while pregnant with twins. My partner insists otherwise, but I’m pretty sure the clouds parted and a beam of sunlight transported me and that burger to heaven. Eating chips was like soaring through nebula on a cosmic narwhal. Bacon was beyond the capabilities of the human mind.

Bacon being experienced. I kind of psychadelic wonderland of colours. There is a large me a two smaller mes flying.

I was due to have a second scan on the same day my first baby would have been born, but I couldn’t do that. (It wasn’t over). We booked it for the day after instead.

I could see it on the screen even before the sonnogrammer explained. I was somewhat familiar with ultrasounds by this point. I could see the sacs that had been on the previous scan. I could see they were significantly larger. I could see there was nothing in them.

Two empty amniotic sacs.

I have heard people say that you aren’t a proper adult, or university student, or city person, or anything until you have broken down and cried in public and been too far gone to feel any shame. I have done that, with a blood nose thrown in the mix for extra points, and I don’t think it has anything on ugly crying in a tiny room in front of a stranger and not having any emotions left over to care that they’re wiggling a condom-sheathed ultrasound thingamie inside you.

Again, we were told not to give up hope and sent home to wait two more weeks for a third scan. Again, that final scan confirmed what we already knew.

Our twins were not there. They had never been there.

In a darkened room after the ultrasound. The sonnogrammer pats my leg and says "at least you know you're fertile".

Three asterisks

I want to take a quick break from the story to check in with you. How are you coping with all this? Are you doing okay?

A confession. I could have told this story differently. I could have cut out the jokes about apps and fertility friendly lube. I could have mentally prepared you from the first line, signalled sooner this was a tragedy and half the cast would be dead (would have never existed) by the final curtain.

But no one warned me.

After the first miscarriage all the doctors and nurses and sonnogrammers told me this was common. I heard different statistics. Sometimes it was one in six pregnancies end in miscarriage, sometimes one in four. The pamphlet the hospital gave me said one in three. Whatever the exact number, it means that there are a lot of not-quite-parents out there.

And yet when I went into that first final ultrasound, I had never had a conversation with someone who I knew had wanted a pregnancy and lost it.

I have since. They had been there all along, hiding in the foreground. It’s like belonging to a secret club. As soon as people know you’ve had a miscarriage, they let you know about theirs or their friend’s or their sister’s best friend’s cousins. But there’s some kind of block—a taboo—about discussing it with the uninitiated.

That taboo meant that when it happened to me the first time, I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea what to do or how to cope in the two weeks between the second scan and the final one. I didn’t even realise waiting and uncertainty could be part of a miscarriage—I assumed you either thought everything was fine or knew it was over. That taboo meant I was afraid doctors would think I was weird for crying, and I was afraid they would think I was callous for not crying. It meant I had no blueprint for how to grieve, and I had no reassurance that everything I felt was normal.

So I’m breaking the taboo. I’m talking about it. And if you end up in that dark room with too few heartbeats, then at the very least you’ll have one story in there with you.

(And if it’s not you in that room but someone you know, then you won’t say “at least you know you’re fertile” because you will understand that some things are not replaceable, some situations are too broken to run smoothly a second time, and some silver-linings are so sharp they cut.)

And besides.

My babies (foetuses, empty sacs) do not have birthdays. They do not have death certificates. They do not have tombstones. They only exist in my medical records and in the space they carve out in people’s minds. They only exist if I tell you about them.

And they exist more if it hurts.

Are you doing okay?

Three asterisks

I had a second D&C. I woke up feeling as though I had dreamed good dreams, and then I remembered where I was and why I was there. I ate my cheese sandwich. I drank my cup of tea.

And the next day was Valentine’s Day, again.

We stayed in, again. We sat on the couch, again. We had a glass of wine, again.

My partner and I sit on the couch with a glass of wine. We are no longer happy.

Nothing had changed. Everything had changed.

And it isn’t over.

*********************************

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