By Hannah Kowszun
Today started with a walk to the hospital. It’s the earliest I’ve left the house since before the lockdown started. Traffic was so much quieter than usual at 8am on a Friday, but then traffic has been quieter in general and I’ve lost track of what ‘normal’ looks like.
I found out I was pregnant at the beginning of March. Once restrictions started, my wonderful husband took over shopping duty. That first visit to Tesco, he kept me updated on his progress in the queue with photos every ten minutes: a slow crawl along a sunny pavement littered with good citizens standing six feet apart. He returned in a huff, frustrated by the wait, annoyed by people inside the shop being inconsiderate. Since then he has taken to getting up early to beat the rush and I feel less guilty because he’s mildly less stressed when he returns.
This morning was my turn to get up early. I made my way down the back streets and arrived at the ante-natal clinic without too much hassle. Up until today we’d been regulars at the fertility clinic, fortunate enough to have early scans and enjoy seeing our little embryo’s heartbeat much earlier than most women or couples can.
My husband had not been able to come today. The first appointment he would miss in our months and months of treatment. He was gutted, but since he would only be able to wait at the reception, I had assured him I didn’t mind.
I lay on the table and the nurse applied the gel. She started the scan and our little Blob, whose heartbeat we had seen three weeks before, appeared on the screen. I could already see no movement.
“I am so sorry,” she said. I knew what was coming and I felt tears leak from my eyes before the sadness even reached my heart.
“It looks like it stopped growing a few weeks ago.”
A few weeks ago — what was I doing? Was it that ill-advised attempt at jogging? Had I ignored a mild cramp that should have signified hope’s last beat? Was it simply bad luck?
The two nurses both said how much they wanted to hug me. How sorry they were for our loss. I think I would have liked a hug in that moment, even one accompanied by the plastic crinkle and the muffled breathing of PPE.
I walked back into the waiting room, where several expectant mothers sat in various stages of visible or non-visible pregnancy. I hoped in that moment that my tear-stained face and stink of grief did not cause them any more anxiety than they may have been feeling.
They led me to a quiet room to wait until the doctor was available.
I called my husband, who was devastated – not only by the news but by being trapped in our home, in a commitment he had no way of cancelling, especially when as a self-employed consultant in the current climate you have to take any work that’s available.
I called my Mum who contemplated risking official charges by driving up to London just to give me a hug and be there in person.
“Should I call you on Zoom?” she asked, as if this new form of communication could convey more in love and support than a traditional phone call. But the 4G was patchy and her voice was enough.
As the doctor ran me through my options, I realised that in the last hour I had spoken to more people in person than I had in weeks. Aside from a chat with our neighbours over the fence at the beginning of April, it’s all been video conference and WhatsApp. By the time I left the hospital this number had grown considerably: the receptionist who checked me in; the two nurses in the scanning room; the nurse from the fertility unit who came by to see how I was; the doctor who was so kind to me; the pharmacist who saw my prescription and told me that everything would be ok; the nurse outside the pharmacy who saw me weeping and got me a cup of tea. Essential workers doing essential work, god bless them.
Ordinarily I would be cheered by all this human contact; I prefer smiles in 3D. But today is no ordinary day because today I found out that I had lost my baby.
I walked home, my exercise for the day. I hadn’t brought any cards or cash with me because I had become so used to not going into shops. This may have been a blessing, since I would have only bought too much wine and contributed to the statistics of those self-medicating in lockdown.
As soon as he could, my husband took me in his arms and gave me the hug I’d been waiting for since 9.21 this morning.
It reminded me how lucky I am. I’m in lockdown with a man I love. We both have work. We have a house that’s big enough to give us the space we need, and a teeny garden that provides a little slice of nature.
Despite all this, today was a bad day.