I was always sure of two things in my life. I wanted to be a mum and I wanted to have a successful career in journalism.

The latter box I ticked relatively early on. By my early 30s, I had been a crime reporter, music journalist, deputy features editor and a busy freelancer writing for regional and national press. But I’d been so busy with single life and career I hadn’t really had time to meet the man I wanted to start a family with.

Until I turned 36. We married when I was 40. In those intervening four years I had two miscarriages. Both were utterly cataclysmic episodes that sent the pair of us reeling. And both were experiences with no medical follow-up or mental support, apart from being told I would have to have three miscarriages before I could be ‘investigated’.

I fell pregnant a third time. Was I happy? Of course. But the overriding emotion was sheer terror. ‘Third time lucky’ was what everyone said, obviously meaning well. Sadly, it wasn’t lucky and one night, eight weeks in, I started to feel the all too familiar cramping and pain in my lower tummy.

I looked at my husband who was sitting next to me on the settee and he looked as helpless and as hopeless as I felt. I knew the drill. I rang the hospital and was put through to a nurse who, in a matter-of-fact way, asked: “Is it just blood or are there bits in it?” When I told her it felt like I was in the throes of a full-blown miscarriage, she said “you’d better come in then”.

Eventually, I was placed in a hospital bed on the maternity ward. Thankfully, I had my own room but I could hear the cries of newborn babies throughout the night. My husband wasn’t allowed to stay with me because I hadn’t actually had a baby.

The next morning, I was wheeled down for an internal scan. I sat slumped in the wheelchair as a porter pushed me along the maternity ward where babies were being breast-fed and new mums and dads were cradling their newborns. Pink and blue balloons were tied to beds and the babies were making themselves heard with kitten-like cries.

And trundling through it all was me, a broken and emotional wreck. Why couldn’t they take me for a scan by a different route? Was it really necessary to put me on a maternity ward at all? Throughout the whole experience, I was made to feel by a certain midwife that I was far too old to bother with.

Karen and her son. Photo courtesy of Karen Connolly.

As I came back from the invasive scan, where I was told by a doctor that “no, there’s nothing left” before being wheeled off again through the maternity ward, the same midwife said the words I have never forgotten: “If you really want a baby, you need to hurry up. You haven’t got much time left at your age and Down’s Syndrome is high among older mothers.” The usual me would have told her to piss off, but this was me at my most vulnerable and emotionally and physically exposed. So I took it.

However, after I had some time to think, I came to the conclusion that surely three miscarriages gave me the golden ticket in terms of an investigation into what was going wrong? A few days later, I rang the hospital to make an appointment. They had nothing until after Christmas. I pleaded. No, they were fully booked and couldn’t do a certain day because they were all going on their “Christmas do”.

I was working in a busy newspaper office. This was a place used to expletives being bandied about freely, but I think even the most hardened hacks took pity on my cussing and screaming down the phone that day. My work had been totally supportive of me throughout each miscarriage – unlike the medical staff. I had my investigation (before Christmas) where they found nothing was amiss.

When I was 41, I fell pregnant for a fourth time. What followed was nine months filled with uncertainty and, wouldn’t you guess, acute, long-term hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness. But here’s what I got. A beautiful baby boy born after a 48-hour labour on a dark and cold January night.

He’s now a strapping 23-year-old musician who was worth waiting for. I never had any more children. I couldn’t go through it all again.

By Karen Connolly

 

If anything in this article has affected you and you would like to share your experience, please send an email, which will be treated in the strictest confidence, to the Editor of Northern Soul, Helen Nugent, at helennugent@northernsoul.me.uk