Feeling Proud! 1st Selected in a new short Story Competition!

I must be having a run of good luck, good energy and good writing! I’m absolutely over the moon to be 1st selected in the Secret Attic Monthly Short Story Competition for September 2021.

This is the first time I’ve entered this competition, but I was feeling brave and with a 2000 word limit and any genre format, I thought I could come up with something.

I’ve always said that my favourite (and possibly best) writing comes from personal experience and this piece is no exception.

Miscarriage and still birth is happening to real people every single day, yet there’s still a crazy taboo telling expectant couples that they can’t tell people about the pregnancy news until after 12 weeks.

Sadly this leaves a huge portion of couples alone in their grief if they do lose a baby – friends and relatives unaware of their struggle. Of course, not every pregnancy ends this way, but many couples, us included, have found it difficult to open up to people about one of the saddest and most painful experiences of their lives.

This story does come with a trigger warning, because I don’t want to upset or hurt anyone who is living through this horrible situation. I just hope that now broadcasters, authors and journalists are talking openly about it, it will make the taboo disappear for future generations.

The content of the story is difficult to read at times, but this is a reality for many people, and sadly you only learn how to manage it alone and the hard way.

I’ve tried to add a bit of lightheartedness to it with the title, but this is a little humour covering the entrance to a story about love, guilt, fear, loss and most of all hope.

I hope you read it and find the mini emotional rollercoaster makes you smile and frown in equal measure. Maybe it will help you understand what a friend or relative has lived through, or maybe it’ll jog your own memory (as it did for me) and you’ll take a moment to remember your own pain and loss.

Thank you so much to Secret Attic, not just for selecting my entry, but also for providing lots of fun competitions to keep us writers (yes I count myself as a writer now!) on our toes.

**********

TRIGGER WARNING – THIS STORY CONTAINS VIVID DESCRIPTION OF BABY LOSS

No Sheath, Disbelief, along comes Grief, is there ever Relief?

Although he stood by her side every step of the way, she felt it was her mistake, she’d done something wrong, and now they were both suffering.

“Babe, listen to me. These things happen. It’s not your fault. It just wasn’t meant to be. Please stop blaming yourself.”

“Thanks” She replied whilst staring blankly at the car park outside. Even the view from the ward was terrible. “But it’s my body, my health and my responsibility. I hate even saying this, but maybe if you were with someone else, you’d have a baby now.”

She paused as a squirrel ran up a tree.

“I just feel like I’m holding you back. You deserve better than this.”

Although painful and sad, her stay in hospital was thankfully over quickly. 

Her guilt remained, but his dedication to her never faltered, and that gave her strength.

On the way home she imagined giving herself that chance again. What could she change so that next time they made this journey, they’d have a new human on the back seat?

1 year later…

Trying desperately not to echo the mistakes she thought she’d made the first time, she changed everything.

Her regimented keep-fit sessions were relaxed drastically. Some days she did nothing energetic. She just sat. She discovered hobbies, things that gave her joy in new and interesting ways. Decorating, drawing, writing – she found a long forgotten creative side that gave her something to distract herself within the quiet moments.

It was while taking a break from renovating the kitchen that it started to happen.

“Babe”

“BABE!”

“Did you call me? Hang on – I’ll come up” He put down his paint roller and tray and turned off the radio, wiping his hands on his t-shirt as he got to the bathroom. 

“What’s up?”

“Here we go again…” She smiled nervously and handed him a white stick

“Jesus. You’re joking?”

“Two blue lines, love. It’s hard to fake”

“I don’t know what to say. I mean, I’m excited. Happy too. But should we celebrate? How do you feel?”

She sat on the edge of the bath and took a deep breath.

“Well, we always knew we wanted to end up here again, didn’t we? I guess, maybe we’ll have to be a bit more guarded this time. Lets just keep it between us for the next month or so, okay?”

“Yeah. Of course. Sorry babe. I’m shocked. But so happy. So happy!”

“It’s ok babe. I wasn’t expecting it either. It is a shock. We can be shocked and happy together”

They smiled at each other, a knowing smile. That ‘thing’ they both weren’t saying hung silently between them, so they hugged and squeezed each other until the pain of the last attempt could be packed away again. They’d had to unpack it by surprise today. It was hard for them both to remember.

3 months later…

On their tip toes, they crept the path of pregnancy together. ​

The first scan was given at 12 weeks thanks to their previous loss. The gynaecological doctor had explained they’d monitor things closely this time.

They were happy to have jumped the first hurdle, the sonographer confirming that things looked normal. Even so, their smiles to each other were crooked, damaged by their last attempt, they didn’t feel they could allow themselves to be happy.

The plain sailing to month 4 seemed unbelievable to them, but they kept it in their bubble.

One morning…

“Are you awake babe?”

He yawned “Yeah I’m awake. What’s up? Do you need a drink?”

“I’m sorry”

He stared at her for a moment, still doughy in the head after being awoken at 3am. He didn’t understand.

“Why are you sorry? What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know why this keeps happening. Why me? Why us?”

She motioned towards the sheets between her thighs. He looked down almost not wanting to see as he did it. 

There was blood all over their bedding.

His shoulders fell as he sat up and wrapped his arms around her. They sat silently for a while. Feeling each other breathe and knowing that all they wanted to do was take the pain away for their partner. 

Fresh, salty tears trickled down her face as she let in the realisation that it was, once again, over. This time though, they’d told no one, so all they had was each other. It became clear that keeping things quiet (even though it’s what everyone says you should do) wasn’t actually a good way of managing. 

The early morning drive back to the hospital along those same roads just resurrected the memory of last time. 

She felt sad and scared but didn’t want to say anything.

He felt sad and scared but didn’t want to say anything.

Their love for each other continued as it had the first time, giving them each the strength to get through what was coming and how hard it would be.

The same nurse they’d met last year welcomed them to the same grey miserable ward with a look that said “I’m sorry” without saying a word.

In the moment, they became grateful for small mercies. This time they had a private room and she could see straight out of the window to the hospital garden. The early morning sky was a mix of pinks and purples, making them both feel that it was a girl they’d lost.

He never left her side until she went for surgery. She was laid on the hospital bed waiting to be wheeled to theatre. As she looked at the anaesthetist, her mind was just praying for this day to be over. Then her eyes closed.

It felt like mere seconds, but when she awoke and they removed her breathing tubes, she was told by a nurse that the operation had taken 30 minutes and was successful.

Once again, she was overwhelmed by the feeling of loss and guilt. It was over for a second time, and she felt to blame. She knew he would reassure her; he would never blame her, and he would support her back to health in every way possible. However, none of those things would stop her believing that somehow, it was her fault because she did something wrong.

Their love for each other never wavered, despite living this awful reality for a second time on their own. They were on the ward for 3 days and 2 nights, and he never left her side, sleeping in a hard chair with a blanket and resting his feet on her overnight bag. They’d wake up tired and bewildered like every other person in the world, until the hopelessly sad reality hit them and they’d re-enter the all-consuming grief that had been sat on the side-lines, waiting for their dreams to end.

On the journey home, she was transported back to the first time. How she’d sat in the same car and on the same road, making a promise to herself that next time it would be different. How many times would they make this trip before they’d got their parenting wings? She realised even the journey was depressing. A reminder of the same awful situation being repeated.

They arrived home and she went to bed. She never wanted to wake up to this reality again.

Nearly 2 years later she was packing her overnight bag. They’d managed to get pregnant again and here she was at 38weeks. They were nearly at full-term. What did she change? Nothing. Why had they made it this time? No idea.

A friend telling her about a group of women that met every week had been the shining beacon of hope. She’d entered a depression after the second miscarriage and desperately needed help out of it. No one seemed to understand what she was going through. The shame, the guilt, the blame, the deep sadness. It was bleak.

All 8 of the women had lost babies at various terms. When they met they’d talk about everything. It wasn’t a sad group of women crying over their loss. They’d laugh, make friendships and support each other when things got tough. It was only with their support, helping her realise and accept that the past was not her fault, that she felt ready to try one more time.

And this time it had worked. She sat on the end of the bed looking at the cot next to her side, ready for the imminent arrival. 

“What was that? Babe. BABE!”

Footprints hurried up the stairs.

“What? What is it?”

“I think my waters just broke”

Ready for their bundle of joy to arrive, they calmly grabbed the overnight bag and baby bag and got in the car. As he fired the ignition, she put her hand on his and looked at him, smiling.

“Can we take the longer route this time, Babe?”

“Of course. Let’s do it differently this time”.

**********

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

2 thoughts on “Feeling Proud! 1st Selected in a new short Story Competition!

    1. Thank you so much. Comments like this make me feel proud. It was awful to write, but I don’t regret it. Sometimes you have to let things out. Thank you again for really making my day 😊

      Like

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