**Warning** This blog post contains sensitive content about pregnancy, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. Also contains bad language because I wrote it.
If you would like to read my comic Expecting, you can read it here. This blog post will be talking more in-depth about our experiences and highlighting many things I was unable to in the comic.
This year has been an incredibly challenging one for my husband and I. It has also been an amazing journey of hope, discovering a strength I never knew I had and creating artworks I never thought I would create. I guess we’ve had a couple of pretty hard years, which began with Isaac starting a new job in November of 2017, then being let go in January 2018. All of a sudden we were on one income which was a complete shock. Isaac bounced back after a few months and landed another gig, bringing in some nice money for us, life seemed to be getting back on track. It was then I decided to leave my job to pursue a more creative career, only to be let go after a few months into the job in much the same fashion as Isaac was. We only had two weeks where we had two incomes again before we were back on one. We hadn’t even finished our last tray of eggs. I had been excited to be able to buy free-range again…now that seemed impossible. For a while after this I freelanced, I couldn’t bring myself to put my portfolio out there much at all and before I knew it, it was November 2018. A whole year had past and we had been on one income almost the entire time. The stress of supporting our small family was passed from my shoulders to Isaac’s. Because we were so strapped for cash, Little Life Workshop came to a screeching halt. I haven’t been able to afford to do ceramics since 2017.
Then, right before Christmas, something else happened. Our friend and neighbour Ben received a new skateboard for Christmas and wanted to test it out. We grabbed Isaac’s board and went off on an adventure to find a good skating spot. Unfortunately, I chose this day to continue my skating lessons. Lessons that happen with five-year gaps in between each jaunt. Isaac lent me his board, gave me a few helpful instructions and in no time I was over-confidently skating around an empty carpark. Of course, I had a fall. I was going way too fast for a 29-year-old who had last skated in her early 20s, I stumbled and fell off the back of the board. Landing badly on my elbow.
We would much later find out that I had fractured my elbow. It was an impact fracture, my radius bone puncturing my humourous with a small dent. Only millimetres across but it was large enough to ensure that my radius bone no longer glided smoothly over the humorous bone. Long after the fracture had healed my elbow was locked up. Unusable. I could no longer straighten my arm.
What followed this was months of physio and recovery. All the while I was not able to do much work. I did all I could but would often get tired quickly, the strain on my arm being too great. During this time I also had some rotten luck with clients ripping me off. I did several photoshoots for one particular client, doing hours and hours of work for them, only to be paid a measly $100 for my work. It was around this time Isaac and I started talking about starting a family. Work wasn’t panning out for me and I still had months of physio ahead of me, we decided the timing was right.
And, If we were going to start a family, I decided I was going to do it right. I was going to document the entire thing as a comic.
In absolutely no time at all, we fell pregnant. Hurrah! Success! Now we only had to wait a few short weeks before we could announce it to the world. Or so we thought.
I always knew there was a chance we would miscarry. No problem, I thought to myself, I would mourn the loss and then we’d try again. Easy.
I was so very wrong.
Not long after our first doctor’s appointment, we had our first scan. I was beyond excited to see the heartbeat of our wee child. We had created something entirely new, made from the love that exists between my husband and I. This was beyond any artwork or creation that we’d ever made before, we were creating life together and we were going to get to see its tiny heart beating. This was going to be the best day of my life so far.
Or perhaps not. The Saturday before the scan took place, I began to bleed lightly. This made me very nervous. I knew that plenty of women went through healthy pregnancies after experiencing bleeding so I was still hopeful. The most difficult part was the waiting. I began bleeding lightly on the Saturday, it continued Sunday and our scan wasn’t until Monday. Doesn’t sound long but a weekend is an eternity when you just want to know everything is ok.
What killed me most through this all was those tiny rays of hopes we were fed. We were told by the technicians that there was a chance the egg hadn’t implanted yet, it might just be taking its sweet time travelling down my fallopian tubes. It might be ok, they said. This started to become a bit of a trend. It wasn’t until May that we were finally told the pregnancy wasn’t a viable one.
It was the Thursday before Good Friday when I started to bleed heavily. I was expected to have blood tests every second day since the scan, but since I was obviously miscarrying, I didn’t bother to show up. I was in a lot of physical and mental pain that day. I didn’t know what to expect and was Googling many things to do with miscarriage. I didn’t want to read medical journals about what to expect, they weren’t real enough and so very cold. I wanted to find other people’s stories about their miscarriage. I must have read a dozen of them, crying with each woman as she told her deeply personal story. I felt like they were there with me, helping me through my miscarriage. I was grieving and I needed to be alone. Then I got the phone call.
She said she was sorry. She said I had to go into hospital, that I was in danger. It could be ectopic, my fallopian tubes could burst, I’m sorry, she said, I had to go. But when I arrived at the hospital I was told to take off my clothes, put on a hospital gown and put into a cold room. They put an IV into my arm and asked me if I was in pain. “Only the usual amount, I imagine, for a woman who is miscarrying” I answered. Placated, they left me alone with my sister in the cold room. They left me in that cold room for five hours.
Later my husband came in and bundled his jacket atop of Siobhan’s in a bid to keep me warm. We waited and waited until I pushed a button to call the nurse. I had a needle in my arm, I was cold and hungry and I hadn’t seen a single Doctor yet. Finally, a doctor appeared. Ironically, it was the same emergency doctor who had treated me when I had fractured my elbow months before. We recognised each other and chatted about the peculiarities of my injury. After scanning my stomach he seemed satisfied that I was not bleeding from an ectopic pregnancy and seemed to be having a normal miscarriage. He gave me a single sheet of paper to inform me about miscarriages and said I was free to go home.
This is what shocked me the most. When I went to the doctor and told her I was pregnant, I received a large paper bag full of various items including a whole magazine to help me through my pregnancy. However, when I was losing my child I was given one single sad piece of paper. It seemed to say to me that I needed to go home and shut up about the whole thing. That whatever I was going through, I was to do it on my own. The death of my child didn’t deserve a second piece of paper. It was a dead thing now and nobody cared. “You’re not bringing joy into the world so we don’t want to hear about it” the single piece of paper seemed to scream at me. “We don’t want to know about your miscarriage” the backside seemed to sneer.
“Fuck them all,” I thought. I was going to keep writing my comic and if it only helps a single woman through her ratshit time, then it will be worth its weight in gold. The New Zealand public health system tells us less than nothing about miscarriage, if I have to drag my bleeding heart across the stage to do better, so be it.
The Miscarriage Support Pack page was put in the comic to try to help friends and family know what’s going on when someone is going through a miscarriage, and how they might be able to help. It also hints at what is going to happen for a person going through the miscarriage themselves, It’s going to hurt, they’re going to be grieving and this is all ok. The only thing I perhaps wussed out on was the amount of pink I drew on the sanitary pad, it’s not cute the amount we bleed. The other shocking thing that many people don’t know and might be confronted with is that they might see something in the blood. There was a baby after all, and you or your loved ones may see the remains when it comes out. I know this is too much information but I really wish I had known this beforehand. That damned piece of paper from the hospital never said a word about it. Confronted with a miniature person lying in all that blood, I had my opportunity to say goodbye.
This last panel the face of “miserable” needed to be something truly exaggerated. I was trying to think of the face I wanted to draw as I sat down to pen this page. Scrunching my face up in the mirror to see where all my wrinkles appeared. There was something in the face I’d seen before somewhere, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Finally, I figured it out! It was the face Midoriya from My Hero Academia pulls when he’s feeling particularly miserable. I ran to my bookshelf to pull out the comic and paid homage to Kōhei Horikoshi.
The next thing that happened after my miscarriage was more blood tests. I was then called and asked to go in the next day for even more. Then the next day, and the next. It turns out the tests were showing that I was still pregnant.
It was during all these blood tests that I started to get really sensitive about all the needles. I’ve always been fairly stoic around needles, blood tests and immunisations have never bothered me, I was so fine around medical stuff that I considered becoming a nurse. But when I was getting two or three blood tests a day, my body started reacting to needles in a way I couldn’t control. I started flinching whenever the needle went in. I explained this to one of my blood tester persons (do they have a title? I’m not sure) and he said it was very normal to become so sensitive after so many tests. He then proceeded to get out a needle with a long plastic tube and plug attached to it, put it in my vein, then he DROPPED THE TUBE AND PLUG so that the tube thing fell down and yanked the needle that was in my arm. Both Isaac and I flinched and went to try catch it when he released it from his hands, both of us failing to stop it falling. The dude then casually said, “ah don’t worry, the vein holds the needle in.”
THE VEIN HOLDS THE….
We had just told him how sensitive I was getting so he drops the tube to…i don’t know, display how strong my vein is??? I was starting to think at this point that I was cattle to these people.
Not all of them were like this I will say. When I came in the next day to get another test, I was taken by a lovely woman to draw my blood. She took one look at my arm, which had a horrific bruise on it from what had happened the day before and said, “It looks like someone has bruised you, I’m so sorry.” This meant the world to me. I then prayed every day that I would be taken by her to get my tests done. She was kind, gentle and patient. She had a soft touch, I never felt the needle go in, and she never once bruised me.
Back to the story. So we were still pregnant according to the tests. Twins??? We definitely had a miscarriage so it was the only logical explanation we could think of. The HGC levels were rising every day when they should have been falling, however they were not rising at a normal rate which indicated the pregnancy was not viable. This is was how we were told.
She paused ever so slightly to say “sorry” before continuing on with her speech. I couldn’t get it out of my head that we were cattle to these people so I amused myself by trying to get her to say the word “baby” instead of “fetus” or “zygote”. I was in a lot of emotional pain by this stage and wanted one goddamn healthcare professional to acknowledge my baby for what it was.
So in typical sarcastic, but tearful, Becky style, I would repeat everything she said but swap out words. I think she started with “your baby is not in the womb.” Followed by “The HGC levels aren’t rising as they should be, telling us this pregnancy is not viable.” She then called it a fetus from then on.
“So the baby, isn’t in my womb?”
“Yes, the fetus isn’t in the womb.”
“Ok, so. Where is the baby then?”
“The fetus will likely be in the fallopian tubes or elsewhere in your body.”
“So the baby could be anywhere?”
“Yes, the fetus could be anywhere.”
Pretty sure she knew what I was trying to get her to say. It was pretty childish of me, especially because I knew exactly what an ectopic pregnancy was. I just wanted some validation of my dead child’s short life and acknowledgement of all the pain I had gone through to get where I was. Something I did not get in the hospital.
Instead, we found it in family.
Thank you for reading my story.
I hope you found some comfort in my words if you’ve gone through something similar. Please look after your family who are going through, or have gone through, something like this.
Expecting won the Chromacon 2019 Art Award in the Comics category. It also won best narrative zine at Auckland Zinefest the same year. I was awarded my Chromacon trophy by Toby Morris, who I loved meeting again. I’m going to post some photos of the Chromacon award ceremony below but I need to give you a little timeline first. My miscarriage was in April and my chemo shot was on May 3rd, Chromacon was the 1,2 of June so less than four weeks after this all happened. Now I want you to imagine a woman who has just been through all this, trying to finish a story for a competition less than a month away when she has only recently been getting out of bed. Imagine more a goblin than a woman, hunched over a drawing screen, crying as she draws an image which only weeks ago was her reality. That was me, and I was beautiful.
I do not know how I completed this comic.
Anyway, here is me, goblin Becky, recently out of bed Becky, accepting the Chromacon art award.
All photos were taken by the talented Ishan Kokulan whose work you can find here and here. I met Ishan at Chromacon and the awards night and he’s super lovely and friggen talented so if you’re looking for a photographer in Auckland, I highly recommend Ishan.
You can purchase Expecting here