“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”
The Eleventh Doctor, Vincent and the Doctor.
This quote is one I have written on a piece of paper that I used to carry around everywhere. It’s taken from Doctor Who Series 5 Episode ‘Vincent and the Doctor’. In a show that is packed full of heartbreaking, emotional moments – this is one of the saddest. His companion, Amy Pond, thinks that an act of unbelievable kindness would give new meaning to Vincent Van Gogh’s life – only to discover he still commits suicide. It’s a reminder of two things two me. One, that life is full of highs and lows – but most importantly, secondly – that whilst the best things that happen to you can never take away the pain you have gone through (or will go through), you should never let those painful moments lessen the joys of your happiness.
2017 was one of the happiest, best year of my life – but it was also the hardest and most heartbreaking. There was the continuation of existing problems. My chronic joint problems hit back and for about three months around the summer, I was having to pre-load up on painkillers just to get to the toilet. I had two bouts of depression, one related to the joint problem, one to what this blog is about.
I also spent most of the year dealing with a gallbladder that needed emergency surgery in October to remove. And I have to say, the returning of feeling hungry is one of the weirdest feelings I’ve experienced.
And then, the good things. I got married. I never thought that would ever happen to me. It was the craziest, is the craziest, feeling ever. To find a crazy person who is crazy enough to say yes, I don’t think there is a word in the Oxford English Dictionary that is yet to fully explain the feeling of love. And I don’t think there ever will be. The nearest thing I can get to it is this. From about 19 years old, I have had depression. It is a horrible illness, and during the worst of it, it was like Tim was taken away and replaced by someone who just had the pain of life. Looking back at the worst days when the fog would not lift, I can’t remember who that person was. It is like Jekyll and Hyde, it is like that was someone completely different. Meeting my would-be wife was like rediscovering the person I was becoming back when I was 19. That journey had begun before, but it was like I was walking the journey and then she came along – and it was like entering the TARDIS,
It is a cliché, but the wedding day was the happiest day in my life. Sometimes clichés are clichés because the cliché is actually right.
But the year had the toughest, saddest, most painful moment of my life. My now wife and I had two miscarriages in the year.
The first was so soon, that my brain had never got to that stage that accepted she was pregnant. It was almost as if it was an egg had just made a valiant attempt to hold on. I know it was a foetus, but there is a stage that everyone goes through in the pregnancy process. I had just not reached that.
If I being brutally honest, I think the beginning stage is always going to be different for the father and mother. After all, it is not the father’s body that creates a life-support system! And looking back, maybe it hit me harder than I realised – maybe it was because I saw the impact it had on her, or maybe it was because I was further down the process than I realised.
But then came around September, and she was pregnant again. There were signs, and she was completely convinced that she was pregnant – but until the test is taken, then, well. It becomes real.
Six weeks went by and we had an early scan. I don’t know if this turned out to be the right thing or a terrible mistake – only time will tell. We decided to do that because of the earlier miscarriage, and because we were getting married one week after the twelve-week scan you get with the NHS – if something was wrong with the foetus, we wanted time between the events.
On the ultrasound, it was just a circle. A tiny circle, but a flickering circle. A heart-beat. And I burst into tears, because, because it was a living creature. Then this flood of stupid realisations hit me like I was going to be a father. Its stupid, because I already was, but a picture speaks a thousand words as they say. Getting the bus home, I wanted to scream to the world, shake every stranger’s hand. Its a tsunami of joy and excitement that floods your arteries and stays there.
Of course, fear comes to spoil the party. Things like worrying if you are in a good school district hit your brain for the first time in your life, you end up worrying about where you are going to store all the nappies, and toys. Trips to the shops change because instead of buying computer games or books, you start looking at baby clothes. It’s like your brain has a parent switch, and nothing you can do can turn that off.
Christmas 2017 became this big new event. It was our last time, probably ever, that we would be able to spoil ourselves with silly presents. Christmas 2018 would be about the baby. Even though it would never remember it.
The baby had a name, and I couldn’t help it. Even though we obviously had no idea of gender, I still imagined it, both male and female: their first steps, first smile, first crawl, the first day of school, the first crush, the first cup of teas – a tidal wave of firsts that we all go through. And sometimes I would cry at the thought: happy tears.
And the strangest thing was that I had never imagined me having kids. It was never anything near the top of the list of things I wanted in my life – then again, I didn’t think I would find someone crazy enough to become my wife. But now, if just felt right.
Stupidly, I had even begun preparing a present for the baby for Christmas 2017. I know it would be just about fourteen weeks at that point so it couldn’t open it. But it was a sort of photographic diary of my wife and I’s romance up to the wedding day – and then leading up to the pregnancy. So in a way, it was also for us.
And then, came the worst week in November, the week of the 2017 SSE Scottish Cup Final. We had been down in London that week, as I was supporting my fiancée in a work competition. When we came back, there was a letter for us about our wedding. It was about choosing the ceremony choices and I was smiling. Big beaming smile, excitement bubbling through.
And then she came through to say she had been bleeding. Her face of horror is something that remains imprinted on my eyes, that sometimes when I close them, that is what I see. It is a face that I hope no one ever sees. The emotion of ‘something is terribly wrong’, it was like an icy knife to the heart. What made it worse was the contrast of the emotions. I was going to write it was like being on top of Everest and falling to the deepest point in the ocean. But that doesn’t come close. It was nearer like to being slowly pulled and stretched out into a black hole.
Frozen, in a moment of time, drowning in the pain.
And then, I had to try and be supportive to my fiancée who had almost accepted that she had had a miscarriage. Yet I was clinging to the last thread of hope, and “Hope is a terrible thing on the scaffold” (Doctor Who, Hell Bent). What to do and say in that moment is impossible to get right and impossible not to get it wrong.
When it came to the clinic, there is a lot that I can’t remember. I can barely remember walking through the hospital to the clinic because thoughts are racing. The thing that I remember the most about the surroundings was in the ultrasound room, there was a poem on the wall. I cannot remember a single word from it, no matter how many times I read it. But it is the moment when hope retreats from your body and I were overloaded by dread. Because the poem was about the death of a foetus. It was a poem about the pain of miscarriage.
And then, when the nurses confirmed what we had both accepted, it was the opposite to the early scan. This time, a tidal wave of pain, sadness, fear and heartbreak broke my body’s defences and. The rest of the day is a blur. A blur of macaroni cheese, Netflix and tears. Just an absolutely unbelievable number of tears.
Leaving the house was painful. I felt guilty laughing at jokes, even if it was a joke my fiancee said. If I had a happy thought, it was almost as if I was being unfaithful. Those first few days were the most horrible and painful I have been through.
I had told my sister that we were expecting – and this was the worst thought I have ever thought. When I was telling her this, my baby was dead.
It is in the first trimester where the majority of miscarriages happen. It is why it is traditional for future parents not to share their news until they reach three months. But it doesn’t make it any easier. Yes, we didn’t have any clothes for the baby, nor a cot, nor had we decorated a room or bought it any toys.
But as any child will tell you when they tell you they are scared of the monster under their bed, and something adults sometimes forget – something doesn’t have to be real to be real. When the miscarriage happened, the baby didn’t have a fully formed hand, but in our heads it had. It didn’t have any gender, but in our heads it had. It didn’t look like a human being on our ultrasound – but in our heads, it had become that.
It had hopes, dreams, love and everything a child has.
Writing this, I don’t think I have fully gotten over this. My brother is expecting his second baby, and its due date was the same as ours. And whilst I felt so happy for him and his wife, at the same time, I felt sad and angry. Because it is that question of why do they get to go what we lost. Twice.
But every morning I wake up, I am reminded of the best thing in my life. Because as I said at the start, life is a pile of good and bad things. The way weddings are portrayed, it is like the fairytale is about one day. And actually, the day doesn’t matter.
The most amazing fact about time is that we are all time travellers. Everytime you move, you travel into the future by a minuscule fraction of a second. As the Twelfth Doctor says, “Time is a structure, relative to yourself”. And marriage is about travelling through time and space. Finding someone to spend Christmases and the moments of pure happiness in life is easy. The real challenge is finding someone you want to walk, hand-in-hand with through the hell-storm that life brings up. Marriage vows are not about pledging to walk through Eden, but saying you will both be the hand to pull each other through hell.
The miscarriage, of course, made me doubt whether I should get married now. Surely you should be happy to your happiest day. But, as I said, the experience symbolises what those commitments are about more than anything you see in a film.
At this moment, the 2018 SWPL season is getting closer and I have to admit, I have in two minds about whether to continue Tartan Kicks. Part of me wants to, part of me doesn’t. I think the second part is because the miscarriage is linked in my head with that cup final. Because I was going to the game and it sounded like a wonderful match to watch. But the pain is linked.
If I do carry on, I will need to recruit help because doing it is at times exhausting. But rewarding.
However, I come back to how I began this. You shouldn’t allow bad things ruin good things, and despite all the challenges I had in running Tartan Kicks last year, and some of the mistakes I made – it is definitely a good thing.