On Thursday a text from someone whom I love dearly prompted me to tweet a prayer request for all those bearing the hidden grief of miscarriage.
The response was generous, with comments appearing in many forms and from all directions, some quite unexpected....and I thought to myself, "I ought to reflect on this. It's clearly huge for so many people".
But somehow, I didn't quite want to.
That puzzled me. Though I am that strange contradiction, a shy extrovert, I much prefer to engage with people in total honesty, and a major aspect of the blog has always been as a place to do just that. To work through who I am before God in the situations of the day, and sometimes to look at the past in the light of the present.
But I've never written about my miscarriages, that I can remember.
I had so many of them, you see.
I'd only been married a few months when, unexpectedly, there was a little ring at the bottom of a test tube and I found myself joyfully pregant.
My parents were married 11 years before I appeared on the scene, and died before I thought of asking what lay at the root of the childless years...For some reason I always assumed infertility (possibly because of my mother's life long health problems) so I was jubillant that I had managed to conceive so easily.
We phoned everyone...
Just days later, I started to bleed.
As we phoned everyone again, I began to learn of just how "normal" this is.
Many had stories to tell. We were among the first of our own generation of friends to marry and attempt parenthood, but so many of our older friends shared their own stories of loss, redeemed in healthy families (our peers...who might have had brothers and sisters to be our friends too).
It didn't help much, though at least I began to realise that all the things I was feeling had been felt by others before me.
I was introduced to the Miscarriage Association and cried as I read of the experiences of others, my sisters in secret bereavement.
By the time it happened again, I had a small collection of books and pamphlets on my shelves....and mourned the lost babes whose stories were told there even as I mourned my own.
I wondered if my body, - always taken for granted as efficient, if not beloved, would forever let me down.
It was ironic - years earlier, while trying to plot a course for my life, I'd realised that my longing for children was absolutely fundamental, non-negotiable. I'd abandoned the vaguest possibility of serious singing, because a wise teacher told me
"If you can think of anything else you might ever want to do, don't attempt to make singing your career".
And now, the "anything else" seemed to be slipping out of sight.
But suddenly, - before the doctors thought I could even dream of conceiving, my period was late, the tests were positive...and this time the babe stayed safely where she belonged until, one snowy January morning Hattie Gandhi was placed in my arms and the world shone.
Medics reassured me - "just one of those things...we don't know why they happen but you'll be alright now"
But I wasn't.
Again, and again, and again.
Each loss weighed heavier, until after a particularly frightening miscarriage at 17 weeks, when blood and tears seemed set to drown my world, I gave up on God.
I lay in bed in our terraced S London house on the Sunday morning afterwards. LCM had taken HG to Mass, but our West Indian neighbours liked their music loud and that morning it was, for some reason, not their usual fare but, bizarrely, the Faure Requiem.
A work I loved, had sung many times...the work I would have chosen as music for my own funeral...and I felt nothing.
Where words and music had always been a sure route to consolation, as I flung myself sobbing into God's arms, - nothing.
I was past being angry.
There simply wasn't a relationship any more.
I went through the motions, attending worship because I simply didn't have the energy to explain to LCM that the whole thing was pointless.
When I could, I found ways of avoiding it, though, pleading headaches and feeling relieved when Hattie Gandhi was fractious and needed to be taken out of church.
One day I was sitting in the car outside the Brompton Oratory and something changed...
I found myself swearing away at God, using language I'd never used in any other context, the gist of which was
"You needn't think I'm going in there to talk to you, you.........................."
And there were the words, almost visible in their reality
"That's quite alright...we can just as easily talk here".
So began the long, slow process of forgiving God. The arrival of the boys helped of course, though they were never "replacements", but always, gloriously, themselves.
Time helped too.
And I woke up one morning realising we were gently, undramatically, friends again.
But I've never really made sense of that waste of life's potential, those oceans of tears wept by so many women.
I understand now that God weeps too...and that each of those babes is safe in God's arms...but for those whose arms remain empty that's never answer enough.
No wonder I've not written much about this before. I try to make this blog a place of resolution as well as honesty - but some things are beyond resolution this side of eternity.
I don't hurt any more, but I truly couldn't offer any words in answer to the prevailing question at the time "Oh God, why..."
So, once again, I invite you to pray for those bearing the hidden burden of loss that is miscarriage...