It was with great sadness and a lot of sympathy that I heard of Lily Allen's miscarriage. This is always a tragic and traumatic situation to have to go through. But for someone - a young girl - to endure it in the public eye, including the full glare of the paparazzi, it must be unbearable.
She will be suffering not just the physical pain and discomfort, but also the inevitable sense of loss which is as real as any bereavement of a loved one. Added to the psychological effects, which could include anything from a sense of failure to a feeling of guilt, then the effects are almost debilitating.
During the course of my marriage I had three miscarriages. Each happened in different circumstances and for different reasons, but the worst one by far was the first.
The day I discovered I was pregnant for the first time was a Saturday. We had been shopping in Belfast and I had sneakily bought a pregnancy testing kit in Boots without my husband knowing, because I was sure I was expecting.
On the way home we stopped for lunch at Cutter's Wharf - at the time a brand new pub which had only just been opened and was a stone's throw away from where we were then living.
We had watched the place being built and couldn't wait to see what it was like. Patience was never my strong point. Which also explains why I immediately nipped into the Ladies and did the test, full of excitement and anticipation, while he perused the menu, completely unaware of the life-changing event about to unfold ...
What followed was a scene of utter joy. Hugs, laughter, tears ... completely spontaneous outpourings of love followed by a convenient outpouring of champagne. We were, after all, in the perfect place for a toast.
A few days later, the doctor confirmed what we already knew and the official ball started rolling - visits to the hospital to book my first scan, registering with a midwife and health visitor, buying maternity clothes and books about babies, writing to all my family and friends to pass on my tidings of great joy.
I felt so blessed I even started going to church again after a few years of neglect.
While I waited, as always impatiently, for the first scan at 12 weeks, my mum and dad booked a flight over from England. They, too, were overjoyed at the prospect of a new grandchild and wanted to help us celebrate. I was so glad they were coming at last.
Since we had moved to Belfast two years earlier they had been worried sick. Images of smouldering buildings and burnt-out cars were on the news every night and I wanted to show them all the positive things about living here and to reassure them that their newest family member would be safe and secure.
They arrived on Father's Day morning and we went out for a celebratory lunch to Newcastle's Slieve Donard Hotel - Part One of my charm offensive - where father and father-to-be were serenaded by a pianist before we took a stroll along the coast where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.
They loved it and I was so glad. The next day, after my scan, we were heading off for a week's tour of Northern Ireland beautiful coastline and this was the perfect start.
Unbelievably ... I mean I didn't believe it ... I wouldn't believe it, there was no heartbeat. The shape of a baby showed up on the scanner, but it was motionless. And, worse still, silent.
The radiographer panicked and left the room to get a consultant, leaving us staring at the frozen image on the screen and, in the face of a nightmare, for what seemed like an eternity.
"I'm so very sorry ... " the consultant said after a few minutes of analysis and a few more pokes of the scanner handset.
"It appears that what you have here is what's known as a 'blighted ovum' ... it's effectively a foetus that cannot survive because it's heart has not fully formed."
He shook his head sympathetically as he said it, knowing full-well that by making such a diagnosis he would be breaking another two hearts. I was then given the bleak choice: be admitted now to hospital for surgery - or carry on as normal and wait for nature to take its course ie, a miscarriage, which could happen today, or in a week's time, or even longer. But happen it must.
Placed between a rock and a hard place, in shock and disbelief, it was difficult to make such a decision. But I chose the latter - to wait and see - just in case they were somehow wrong and/or a miracle happened.
The next few hours were a bit of a blur although I do remember I had to be helped out of the hospital because my legs gave way and I was wailing uncontrollably like one of those poor bereaved women you see in war-zone news reports.
Dad poured me a huge whiskey while mum comforted us. I was glad that they were there. I needed them and to draw on their strength. I was determined not to let this ruin our first holiday alone together.
"You'll be alright," my dad said. "Another one will come your way before too long."
Of course, he would say that. Mum had produced eight children without any complications. Her mum before her had had 14 - incredible but true - all without a hitch. Having babies was what we did. The following day we set off on our holiday, just as planned.
I couldn't let them down. And besides, I was sure that simply staying at home and monitoring my every moment for the early warning signs of catastrophe would be unbearable.
So off we went along the glorious coastline: Cushendall for lunch, Ballycastle overnight, the Causeway Coast, Bushmills Inn overnight, into Donegal.
My mum and dad were, as always, wonderful company and as sympathetic and understanding as they could possibly be under these extraordinary circumstances.
I still felt pregnant, still had the same hormones surging through my body, even had morning sickness like a normal pregnancy.
All this was to be expected, apparently, until my internal systems became synchronised and my hormones stopped sending the message to my brain that I had a baby on board.
I cried myself to sleep each night, but, thank God, I lasted the holiday without having to be rushed to a strange hospital.
One week after my parents arrived, I drove them to the airport and from there I headed straight to Belfast City Hospital and checked myself in.
It took me months to recover, but recover I eventually did with a lot of support from family and words of encouragement from my friends. Although two more miscarriages were to follow, within months I was given another chance.
I now have two wonderful healthy sons: living proof that life does go on even when you feel like the world has temporarily stopped turning.
I know how you feel, Lily, and so do millions of women.
But, like my dad said, You'll be alright.
I'm sure of it.
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