There are times that are good to interview Paul McCartney, and there are times that aren't. Here's one. I'm seven weeks pregnant, having spent Friday morning at hospital having a scan. Yesterday, I bled, then it stopped, but the scan looked OK – we could see a little spine in that bean, but no heartbeat yet. The sonographer reassured me that's normal early on. Come back Monday. Don't worry.
Ten minutes before Beatle Time, I go to the bathroom. It's happening again. Ten minutes later, one of the most famous voices in the world is drawling in my ear, and I'm numb. On Saturday, I bake a cake through my cramps. On Sunday, we cry. Our fears are confirmed on a cold Monday morning. We spend the day wandering across London in a daze, going through parks we barely notice, going to an exhibition we don't look at. At lunch, we sit in a pub, and I order a pint of a Welsh beer called Cwtch. A "cwtch" – pronounced core-tch – is the biggest, squeeziest hug anyone could give you. That's what I wanted. And then came everything after.
Today is Baby Loss Awareness Day, the last day of Baby Loss Awareness Week, a campaign in the UK since 2002. It's a day that will strike a chord with many women and their partners, as one in five pregnancies end this way, according to the the NHS. Started by parents inspired by Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in the US, it aims to mark people's experiences of a very strange kind of death: the death of someone that never lived, be that a tiny collections of cells, to a full-term stillborn child.
Each loss is, of course, intensely personal – some people move on very simply, some don't move on at all. Either way, it's hard to express a loss when we know that embryos and foetuses aren't "babies". It's not just a potential someone who died, though. It's also a potential some-*thing*.
I'm saying these things because I found the silence surrounding miscarriage suffocating and isolating. Yes, some of us find it helpful to grieve quietly and privately, but others don't
By some-thing, I mean the strange shadow cast into people's futures by these potential lives. In the three endless weeks after I saw that blue line, I kept thinking, God, at the start of 2013 we weren't pregnant, but by its end we'll be buried in nappies. (That next, snowy Christmas, I thought of this often.) A week after I miscarried, a lovely friend had her first son, and as I held him I felt my whole body buckle. Soon after, another friend found out she was expecting, and despite her incredible sensitivity, the next nine months was a particularly bleak kind of torture.
I'm saying these things because I found the silence surrounding miscarriage suffocating and isolating. Yes, some of us find it helpful to grieve quietly and privately, but others don't – and Baby Loss Awareness Week encourages people to speak out, if they wish to. I also mentioned the details of that February weekend because actual miscarriages still get surrounded by a weird mystique. It's why you're not supposed to tell people you're pregnant until 12 weeks gone. It involves you know, blood and stuff. And no, it's not nice.
But I did normal things that weekend too, and even managed to write up that Q cover story a few weary weeks later. I wasn't just a nearly-mother who was grieving, after all. I was still me.
And this mattered. I've found that even the most sensible women can feel the loss of a baby like failure, of one's female physiology, of one's purpose as a woman. This is horseshit, of course, but our minds do things like this to us when we're feeling at our weakest. Sharing the load reminds us of the truth, and that we're not on our own.
When I started speaking, I was amazed by how many women nodded back, including some friends who had miscarried but kept the fact under wraps. I wrote about my loss for magazines too, demanding that the article wasn't accompanied by melancholy illustrations, but photographs of me looking like, well, me (one photographer asked me to look mistily out of the window at one point: that got short shrift).
I also shared my experiences on forums run by the Miscarriage Association, a fantastic organisation that helped me immeasurably. They've also been running a Baby Loss Awareness campaign this week, #SayingThanksBLAW15, in which people say thanks, on a piece of paper, to the people that helped them. I thanked my friends Kathryn and Ruth for asking if I wanted to talk. We did, all together, over wine in a pub. And we cwtched. Oh we cwtched. It meant the absolute world.
This week marks something else for me, too. If that pregnancy had lasted, I'd also be celebrating the birthday of a 2-year-old child. Instead, I have an 18-month-old son waking me up mooing and baaing most days, and I know how lucky I am. But I still think of that other life often, those other shadows, and the weekends many more of us will never forget. We don't have to either.
Want more stories like this, every day? Stay in the loop, join the Pool.