Mar­ry­ing… mis­car­ry­ing

As glided serenely Jen could to­wards her Al, no one was guess the tragedy she hid­ing from the guests

Real People - - REAL PEOPLE - Jen Fer­gu­son, 40, Tun­bridge Wells, Kent

Agony be­neath my gown

The to-do list of a brideto-be sat in front of me. Venue, menu, dress and guests. Flow­ers and cars, a party into the small hours…

I ticked them off one by one. There was the cake-bak­ing. Tick. Speech-mak­ing.

Tick. Baby-mak­ing – the most im­por­tant one.

I didn’t want to hang around, you see. I was

35, 10 years older than my fi­ancé, Al Fer­gu­son.

And, though I had Louis, eight, from a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship, and Al was di­vorced with a one-year-old daugh­ter, we wanted a baby of our own.

Me and Al had met when he was a freshly minted teacher, join­ing the pri­mary school where I’d taught for a decade.

Over the fol­low­ing year of timeta­bles, school trips and par­ents’ evenings, we’d grown closer, be­come best work friends, then more…

Six months on, he’d pushed a ring on to my fin­ger. The huge di­a­mond in the mid­dle was sur­rounded by other di­a­monds, and yet more gems winked from the band.

Now, fam­ily plan­ning and wed­ding-plan­ning filled my head.

I chose the Salomons Es­tate, a coun­try house in Tun­bridge Wells, for our re­cep­tion.

They had a can­cel­la­tion for three months away.

‘We’ll take it,’ I said.

It was in the mid­dle of the school sum­mer hol­i­days, which, as teach­ers, we needed!

I de­cided Louis would be the ring bearer and Al’s daugh­ter, Isla, would be a flower girl.

Louis and my dad, Keith, 60, would give me away.

My brides­maids would be my younger sis­ter, Katie, 33, best friend, Sian, 36, my uni friend, Carla, 35, and Stacy, 24, who I used to babysit for.

They’d wear pale pink dresses. I’d be in a fit­ted, strap­less floor­length lace gown with a fish­tail and a sweet­heart neck­line.

With six weeks to go, I sat with pen poised over in­vi­ta­tions when a thought flashed into my brain. My pe­riod was late! Could it be? An­tic­i­pa­tion stopped me from sleep­ing that night, so I woke Al at 2am.

‘I want to know for sure right now,’ I said.

I climbed out of bed and took the test. I showed it to him.

We both broke into de­lighted grins. The guest list had just grown by one!

But, a cou­ple of weeks later, I no­ticed spots of blood when I was in the shower.

Al quickly went on Google. ‘It can be per­fectly nor­mal in preg­nancy,’ he said calmly, try­ing to re­as­sure me.

But I was anx­ious. This hadn’t hap­pened when I was preg­nant with Louis.

The GP re­ferred me for a scan at Pem­bury Hospi­tal’s early preg­nancy unit.

‘It’s too early,’ said the sono­g­ra­pher. ‘Come back next week.’

So, still scared, I re­turned the next week… to be told the same thing. How­ever, the bleed­ing stopped and my anx­i­ety less­ened. Only for it to start again. A feel­ing of dread en­gulfed me. By now, I was walk­ing around with my hand cupped pro­tec­tively around my tummy.

At the next ap­point­ment, I was 11 weeks gone. The sono­g­ra­pher turned to me with a som­bre face.

‘I can’t find a heart­beat,’ she said gen­tly.

I clasped Al’s hand. Stunned, we lis­tened as she told us a mis­car­riage was 99 per cent cer­tain.

I had two op­tions: let the mis­car­riage take its nat­u­ral course, or have a sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure to re­move the re­main­ing preg­nancy tis­sue.

My heart was bro­ken. I fixed on that one per cent. A mir­a­cle, that’s what I was ask­ing for. In a daze, I chose to let na­ture take its course.

To pray for a chance…

I wasn’t think­ing of the wed­ding, just one week away.

I was think­ing of my baby. I still had a bump.

‘How is my tummy still grow­ing if I’m mis­car­ry­ing?’ I asked Al, be­wil­dered. And I still had morn­ing sick­ness, too.

How could I be go­ing to lose the baby if I still had all the symp­toms of preg­nancy? Heart­bro­ken, I clung to hope. I asked my­self, should we can­cel the wed­ding? But in the fug of sad­ness, I was de­ter­mined about one thing. I des­per­ately wanted to be mar­ried to Al.

‘I want to go ahead with it,’ I whis­pered.

Was I think­ing straight? Cramps racked my bump and I con­tin­ued to lose blood. I told my mum, Ca­role, 62, my sis­ter and the brides­maids what was hap­pen­ing.

As the morn­ing of my wed­ding day dawned on 31 Au­gust, 2013, pain coursed through my tummy, worse than ever. I be­gan to bleed heav­ily. I turned to Al.

Both cry­ing, we made our vows

‘It’s hap­pen­ing to­day… on our wed­ding day,’ I said in a small voice.

‘But I’m de­ter­mined to get mar­ried,’ I added firmly.

Al nod­ded.

He hugged me sadly, put on his wed­ding suit and set off.

I strug­gled into my beau­ti­ful gown. I still had a lit­tle bump.

But I was los­ing blood. What if it seeped through on to my gor­geous white wed­ding dress?

Wor­ried the pain would show, I swal­lowed a cou­ple of painkillers to try to stop the cramps sear­ing through my tummy.

Then, fix­ing a smile on my face, I stepped into the As­ton Martin that was tak­ing us to the cer­e­mony.

The blue sky over­head was glo­ri­ous. This should have been one of the hap­pi­est days of my life, but in­stead I ached with sad­ness.

I barely reg­is­tered the rose pe­tals strewn along the path for our out­door nup­tials.

Dimly, try­ing to fo­cus, I spied Al’s wor­ried face wait­ing for me. I willed my­self to walk to­wards him and we stood side by side. Cry­ing softly, we made our vows to each other.

We were locked in a pri­vate tragedy, and our 100 guests couldn’t even guess.

Af­ter the cer­e­mony, we had af­ter­noon tea with them and an evening BBQ.

I kept my face fixed in

a smile for the cam­era and tried to fo­cus solely on my lovely new hus­band and our hap­pi­ness at be­ing to­gether. But I was con­stantly check­ing to make sure there was no blood on my dress. And my mask must have slipped, as I found my­self stand­ing alone at one point. As I clutched my tummy, my sis­ter, Katie, ap­peared by my side. ‘Come on,’ she soothed me. ‘Be here.’

In the mo­ment, she meant. This mo­ment wouldn’t come again… ‘I’m do­ing my best,’ I replied. But by 10pm I felt worse and whis­pered to Al, ‘I want to go.’

At our ho­tel, Al helped me out of my dress.

The first night of our mar­ried life I spent in agony, be­ing sick and mis­car­ry­ing our baby.

Days later, it was all over, and I felt so des­o­late.

There was only one rem­edy for the sad­ness, so we kept try­ing.

Three months af­ter the wed­ding I was preg­nant again.

I was elated but, equally, fear­ful. What if the same thing hap­pened again?

This time, I couldn’t bring my­self to look at our baby dur­ing my scans. But the 12-week scan came and went, and no blood spot­ted my un­der­wear.

Yet I didn’t stop feel­ing scared un­til I was car­ry­ing home a beau­ti­ful, healthy new­born son.

Teddy ar­rived in Au­gust 2014, a thriv­ing 7lb 8oz.

We wanted a sib­ling close to his age, so, just one month later, we started try­ing again.

From time to time, I opened up our wed­ding al­bum.

I felt sad as I flicked over the pages, see­ing that tight smile on the day that be­trayed my pain.

‘I wish we could do it again,’ I sighed to Al.

‘We will,’ he an­swered. ‘We’ll re­new our vows.’

So, on an im­pulse, I bought a dress sim­i­lar to, but shorter than, my first wed­ding gown. I hung it in the wardrobe to be ready for the happy day.

But then I fell preg­nant. And sobbed as I mis­car­ried at 12 weeks.

His­tory was re­peat­ing it­self. An­other five times, I be­came preg­nant over the next three years, and lost our baby each time…

I could never get be­yond the 12-week scan.

So, as my 40th birth­day ap­proached last June, I was re­mind­ing my­self how lucky

I was to have two beau­ti­ful sons.

I was de­ter­mined to en­joy a day of cel­e­bra­tion with my fam­ily. ‘Let me plan it,’ said Al.

He kept all the de­tails se­cret, while I splashed out on a cobalt blue Karen Millen dress.

On the morn­ing of my birth­day, I un­wrapped a neck­lace and a voucher for a spa from the boys.

Mean­while, Al dis­ap­peared to the venue, wher­ever that was! The door­bell went. Baf­fled, I watched open­mouthed as the girls who’d been my brides­maids piled into the house… with a make-up per­son and a hair­dresser.

‘You’re get­ting mar­ried!’ shrieked their voices in uni­son.

Yup, Al had or­gan­ised an­other wed­ding for us, dis­guised as my big 4-0!

Heart pump­ing, I pulled out the white dress I’d cho­sen for re­new­ing our vows from my wardrobe.

Out­side, a car pulled up – the same As­ton Martin that had taken me to my first wed­ding. Where was I go­ing?

Soon the coun­try house where we’d wed first time around came into view.

Tears pricked my eyes as we stopped out­side and I was met by Louis and Teddy, dressed in grey morn­ing suits. Beam­ing, I strode in­side. ‘This isn’t a birth­day party,’ Al was telling our guests. ‘It’s a wed­ding. We want to turn heart-break­ing mem­o­ries into pre­cious mem­o­ries.’

Five min­utes later, we were re­new­ing our vows.

I had to speak off the cuff be­cause I hadn’t known to pre­pare, yet the words came eas­ily.

‘I will love you till I’m old and grey,’ I told Al.

Later in the evening, we all went on to a Mex­i­can restau­rant to cel­e­brate my birth­day.

Now, when I look back on the pho­tos, I see a bride fi­nally burst­ing with hap­pi­ness on her wed­ding day.

Me and Al have known such joy and such heartache, and we have two wed­ding al­bums to re­flect it.

But one emo­tion ties them both, and that is love.

Me and Al with Teddy as a new­born Here’s our Teddy now, wear­ing his wed­ding fin­ery!

I looked like any other bride, but in­side I was bro­ken This time, my wed­ding limo was driv­ing me to hap­pi­ness

Louis, Teddy and me: smiles all round!

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