Then there was the day, about a week into our holiday when I started to bleed. Proper red blood. This wasn’t the euphemistic “spotting”, the flash of brown or pink on loo paper that I’d had previously, resolutely decided was normal, and tried to ignore. This was bright red blood, the type you get when you cut your finger, and it was dripping into the loo.
“Well there you go, that’s that,” I thought to myself. “At least it’s better to have a proper miscarriage rather than a missed one.” I WhatsApped my friend Q… “You know when you said you bled and it was fine, what was the bleeding like?” And I tried to feel reassured when she told me about inserting progesterone pessaries into the blood thinking it was absolutely pointless. Because it turned out it wasn’t pointless as she now has a one-year-old son from that pregnancy.
I emailed the nice nurse from my clinic and asked her what I should do, knowing full well that there wasn’t anything I could do to change the outcome but hoping for a professional to tell me that it might be OK after all. No, there weren’t clots in it; no, it wasn’t soaking through a pad; it was probably only a few hours that it lasted; yes, I thought I probably could find somewhere to have a scan.
And so three days later in a small building on the outskirts of a French town, I was giving a very kind radiologist my potted fertility history. In French. Because what you really need when you’re anxious and stressed is to talk about your medical history in a foreign language where you don’t have the vocabulary for anything relevant. “Er, progesteRONNNE….?” “Les oeufs? Oh not oeufs, ovocytes.”
She seemed unperturbed by it all and again this is something that Jennie Agg has written about — the fact that you walk into these appointments assuming you’re going to get bad news, but invariably the people that you see appear to be working on the assumption that it’s going to be fine. And it’s really disconcerting and discombobulating. It feels like standing on a beach with a bunch of people who are drinking pina coladas and enjoying the sunshine, while you’re the only one who can see a tsunami heading for the shore. Or something.
Only it turns out it wasn’t a tsunami, it was just a big wave and you were over-reacting. Because that scan confirmed that at 6 weeks and 3 days, the foetus measured what it should measure. That although at that stage it was too small to hear the heartbeat, you could see the heart beating. It was fine. I think both of us were too dumbstruck with relief to react. I’m not sure if I even smiled when she told us.
(A small, but important, epilogue to this tale — and an insight into how fucked up the private healthcare market is in the UK — is what happened when we came to pay the bill. I hadn’t asked how much it was going to be when I booked it, it didn’t matter, we’ve spent so much already what’s another 100, 200 euros? I’d paid £100 for a private scan last year, so I knew roughly what ballpark we were talking. No, we didn’t have insurance. Cash or card? Kind of depends how much it is. She pushed the paperwork over. 36 euros. 36. THIRTY-SIX. We paid cash. No, we didn’t need a receipt for the insurance company back home, we were paying for ourselves. If it hadn’t been a 45 minute drive from where we were staying, I’d probably have gone back every day.)