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In 2007, I was diagnosed with a blood condition called lupus anti-coagulant. It means that my blood clots quicker than normal. I was devastated when I heard that I have a 90% chance of miscarriage. I always imagined I’d have a crazy brood running around the place one day. I was only in my early twenties and was crushed. I decided then and there that I didn’t need a baby to be happy, that a couple of dogs would fill the void because I knew I would never survive a miscarriage……...that was until I met Michael.
Michael and I met in a crowded bar in 2017 both eagerly awaiting the All-Ireland Football Championship between Dublin and Mayo. As my friends and I entered the bar, decorated in a sea of blue, we got booed at because one of the ‘pals’, as we liked to call ourselves, was wearing the only Mayo jersey in sight.
It was agreed that I would order the first round of drinks. We knew Louise, the ‘pal’ in the Mayo jersey, would get heckled had she approached the bar and everyone else were defending her, to the best of their abilities. I personally don’t drink alcohol but have absolutely no problem being around those who do.
As I was waiting for the barman, a heavy-set man in his twenties, to take my substantial order, I scanned the busy room, my gaze stopping as I reached Michael. He was a sallow skinned, well-built man, with a perfectly trimmed black beard. He went to take a sup of his cider when I noticed a fabulous tattoo sleeve on his drinking arm. Our eyes locked. I immediately pulled away, afraid he thought I was staring at him. I ordered the drinks and returned to my ‘pals’ after the barman mouthed that he’d bring them over.
At halftime of what was an exciting game, I really needed the loo. As I returned to the table I bumped into the hunk with the tattoos. ‘Sorry!’ he said. I smiled in return, and we looked into each other’s eyes. His were the kindest, big brown eyes I had ever seen. Our stare was interrupted as a drunk, stout women, emerged from the ladies and bumped into me. Abashed, I walked back to my ‘pals’ and felt his eyes on me as I went.
Not two minutes into the second half, that same guy approached our table. I presumed it was to say something to my ‘pal’ Louise and her red and green attire, however, he asked ‘can I buy you a drink?’ I was disappointed because I automatically assumed he was talking to my ‘pal’ Grainne, beside me. He couldn’t possibly be addressing me, the girl with the body issues, to have a drink with him when Grainne, a stunning looking blonde, was by my side.
I felt Grainne’s elbow dig me into my ribs. He asked again, this time I looked up and realised that he was actually talking to me. I looked at Grainne, eyes open wide in shock. Nobody ever asked me that question before. She looked at me, ‘of course she would’, she said, and gestured me to leave the table with the fine specimen of a man.
My legs went to jelly and the blood drained from my face. I smiled and approached the overworked barman, my stomach in my mouth. There was a roar from the crowd, indicating that Dublin had scored a point. I looked at my knight in shining armour and noticed that he was looking back at me and not at one of the three television screens that were placed in various places around the pub.
I smiled, a smile which he returned. I felt flustered not knowing what to do in this alien situation. He tried to ask me what I would like to drink but his words were drowned out by the crowd. He resorted to pointing to his empty cider glass and pointing at me. ‘Coke’ I mouthed to which I got the thumbs up.
Eventually after we got the attention of the busy barman and our drinks, he whispered something in my ear. I couldn’t make out what he was saying as Dublin scored a goal at that very second. He took hold of my hand and led me to the smoking area.
The well ventilated, airy space was deserted. ‘Hi,’ he said, to which I smiled. ‘My name is Michael,’ he offered, and before I could tell him mine, he added, ‘this is much better!’ and looked at me affectionately. ‘I’m Mary,’ I told him. He smiled making his eyes twinkle in the sunlight beaming down on the empty space. We both said, ‘I don’t smoke,’ in unison and laughed.
Our whirlwind romance had begun. Every time Dublin scored a point we heard the crowd roar, and equally groans when Mayo scored theirs.
After three months we were engaged and married within six. My family couldn’t grasp the urgency of it all, but we did and that was all that mattered. Both of us were in our thirties and even though Michael had also dreamed of a house full of kids, we decided that we were enough for each other.
Not long after we got married, the Mayo supporting ‘pal’, Louise, gave birth to her third baby. She had a one-year-old and a ten-year-old already and asked if we could watch the one year old, Jack, for her for a couple of hours not long after Ben was born. Of course, we were only too happy to oblige.
Jack was a busy boy. He was into anything and everything. As I was taking a little break with a mug of tea, I watched how Michael was interacting with him. In my mind I just said, ‘screw it, I want one of these.’
I filled Michael in on my longing for a baby that night. He was cautious at first knowing my fertility issues yet agreed because he also couldn’t see us without one of our own. I was willing to go through the pain and heartache of a possible miscarriage because I had him by my side.
The first thing we decided the next morning was to throw out my birth control. The second thing we agreed on was that we weren’t going to be one of those couples who used ovulation sticks or go on a timetable as to when we had the best possibility to get pregnant, we just wanted to continue thinking that kids weren’t on the horizon and see what happened. We also settled on the decision to keep the whole baby business to ourselves, just in case.
We must have been the most fertile couple in the world as we got pregnant straight away. I had a sick stomach, and thought it was a virus which happened to be going around. After a week of feeling ill Michael insisted, he bring me to the doctor. One of the first questions that was asked was if I could be pregnant. We traded glances and I smiled and answered ‘well, actually, yes.’ The GP did a pregnancy test there and then and the stick turned blue. We were pregnant! Michael threw his arms in the air and kissed me delighted with himself. I was thrilled for us yet cautious.
We kept the information to ourselves in agreement that no one else could know until the twelve-week ultrasound. That were glad because two weeks later I got my period. We were devastated. I felt inadequate and barren, but Michael was so supportive throughout the whole situation.
He wondered if it would be too much to try again, to which I laughed because we didn’t try the first time. The same conditions agreed upon, we were ‘not’ trying once again.
We both got food poisoning from a dodgy Chinese restaurant, which has since been closed. As we were taking our turns being sick, Michael moaned ‘it was the spring rolls,’ as he rubbed his stomach. My sickness seemed to go on longer than Michaels. Once again, we made the trip to the GP and once again the stick turned blue. We didn’t overly celebrate this time remembering how much of an impact the first miscarriage caused so we gingerly continued with our lives.
We made it to the twelve-week scan, barely able to hold our delight to ourselves, with plans to have a family barbeque that weekend to tell everyone.
The sonographer, a young dizzy woman, poured the cold slimy gel on my stomach. With Michael by my side, my right hand encompassed by his, the sonographer started the ultrasound. She went silent for a minute and said she had to get someone more senior to have a look. Michael and I looked at each other worried.
The lovely Dr. Megan entered the room, ‘I am told we’re twelve weeks along,’ she said as she put on a pair of gloves and sat down on the stool in front of the ultrasound screen. She applied more gel and said ‘ok, lets see,’ then went silent. She was very sombre as she told us there was no heartbeat. I broke down in tears, as did Michael. He was in denial and asked her to look again. She showed us on the screen where the foetus was and where she should be able to see the heartbeat. She told us that the foetus was just over eleven weeks old. ‘But I’m not even spotting,’ I sobbed.
‘I’m afraid you’re going to need a DNC,’ she commiserated. ‘Please do it today,’ I insisted.
Dark times followed and I thought to myself that I couldn’t go again. Months passed without another word about babies or miscarriages. I said to Michael as we snuggled in bed one Saturday morning that I wanted to go on birth control again. He agreed.
We went back to the GP that Monday morning to get the prescription for birth control. She was obliged to do a pregnancy test prior to giving me the script ‘just in case’. To our surprise, once again the stick turned blue. We couldn’t believe it. It was the last thing we had expected to hear.
Michael was so fearful that of another miscarriage that he insisted that we see Dr. Megan ASAP. The GP concurred and wrote out the referral letter there and then.
We sat in Dr. Megan’s office a week later not knowing even how far along I was. Dr. Megan offered us an ultrasound to find out.
Once again, I lay on the blue material covering the examination table, and as the cold gel was applied to my belly, I prayed. I’m not a spiritual person, but as I lay there, praying for a heartbeat seemed fitting. Michael held my hand in both of his and lay his forehead on them.
Suddenly there was a noise, could it be? ‘Theres the heartbeat,’ Dr. Megan said. I opened my eyes and looked at a teary Michael. Dr. Megan took some measurements and told us that we were fifteen weeks in. I explained to her that that couldn’t be as I wasn’t feeling sick. She explained that every pregnancy is different. We couldn’t believe it. ‘But we weren’t even trying!’ Michael explained, tears running down his cheeks getting absorbed by his beard. ‘It must be a miracle baby then,’ she replied and shrug her shoulders. ‘Is it ok to celebrate?’ he asked as she offered him some tissue. ‘I’m very optimistic,’ she smiled.
Michael got up off his chair and kissed me before he jumped in the air and shouted, ‘were pregnant,’ all over the room. He was ecstatic, as was I.
In the delivery room five months later, my heart melted as Joshua was handed to me, gunk and all, at six pounds ten ounces. His cry was the most glorious sound I had ever heard. Michael who was also crying like a baby, kissed my forehead and said, ‘we did it honey!’
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What a lovely happy ending -
What a lovely happy ending - hoorah!
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