When my husband and I decided to start a family, our doctor warned us that my biological clock wasn’t just ticking – it was chiming.
I was over 40 and that meant bad news all around. Getting pregnant would be harder, the chances of a successful pregnancy would be lower and the possibility of genetic problems higher.
We learned of the first miscarriage on a day that should have been an exciting event. We sat waiting for our 12-week ultrasound in a room filled with expectant mothers and fathers both eager and nervous to see their baby for the first time.
When our turn came, instead of being shown a blurry black-and-white ultrasound image of our little offspring, a stone-faced doctor came into the room and delivered the shocking news: The fetus was dead. I was no longer carrying a baby. I couldn’t understand how that could be. I had no signs of anything wrong – no cramping, no bleeding. And I “felt” pregnant.
Stunned, my husband and I immediately returned to my gynecologist’s office. He told us this was more common than most people realized and scheduled a D&C for the following afternoon. We went home despondent and confused. That night and the next day before the procedure, I felt a growing sense of panic and horror at the realization that I was, and had been for weeks probably, carry a deceased fetus in my womb. I also didn’t quite know how to mourn its death – I never saw it, it had no gender, no name.
To make matters worse, against common advice, we had already spread the happy news of our pregnancy. Now we had to tell everyone that “it” was no longer.
The second time was a carbon copy of the first. This time we were in less shock in one way – we knew it could happen – but also in more shock because you never expect the same bad thing to happen again. Determined to keep going, I told my doctor I didn’t care if I had to go through this 100 times – I would do it.
The third time was mercifully less drawn out. I found out I was pregnant just days before my husband and I were to leave for a long-planned motorcycle trip over the winter holidays to Texas and Louisiana. Christmas Day in San Antonio, I began to bleed and didn’t stop. Our Christmas dinner was spent over a bottle of red wine, both of us wondering how much longer we could keep this up and thankful that at least we had each other.
Three months later I was pregnant again. My husband was away when I found out and my only reaction to the news was sheer terror. I was again going down the roller coaster with no idea what was at the bottom. This time, though, we were in the hands of a specialist.
The first time we visited a fertility clinic, I was amazed by the number of women (and men) sitting in the vast waiting room with the same look on their faces as me: How did this happen? We were all about the same age – late 30s, early 40s – professional women who simply by circumstances or design had put off having children.
With me it was simple: I hadn’t met my husband until we were both in our mid-30s, and it wasn’t until after we bought a house together five years later that we both felt ready to be parents.
My generation was born in the midst of the feminist movement in the late sixties, so we were the first women to grow up with all the benefits of gender freedom. We could have careers, not marry if we didn’t want to and use the Pill – we could control our own futures. Now we found ourselves in the unexpected position of perhaps not having a choice. Biology trumps all.
Our specialist ran tests and prescribed me hormone suppositories. For weeks I had to give myself a needle in my belly for a condition they eventually determined I did not have.
I was also going for weekly ultrasounds. They were a blessing – at least I would know – and a curse because they filled me with dread. All we could do was wait it out with fingers crossed.
At 12 weeks, things were still on track and we started telling our family the good news. Weeks later my mother-in-law, who’s a devout Catholic, told me over the phone that she had been praying to St. Jude every day for me and the baby. I knew her well enough to know that there must be a reason for her to pray to St. Jude.
“What is St. Jude the patron saint of?” I asked.
“Oh, well … he’s the patron saint of … of lots of things,” she said with a stammer.
Her evasive answer made me suspicious, so as soon as I got off the phone I googled St. Jude. What I found made me laugh out loud. My mother-in-law thought I’d be upset if I knew that St. Jude was the patron saint of lost causes.
Five months later, two-and-a-half years after we started trying for a family, on the evening of the feast day of St. Jude, Oct. 28, I went into labour.
The next day, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl whom we immediately named Audrey Jude. Audrey because it was the only name my husband and I could agree on, and Jude because she taught me there is no such thing as a lost cause, as long as there is will and hope.
Audrey is now a precocious three-year-old, and though I’m not a religious person, I do believe in counting my blessings.
Cornelia Principe lives in Toronto.