When I was eight I fell in love with a fairy tale, a happily ever after. A story etched on the hearts of young girls and women around the world. A simple story of falling in love, getting married and having a family. This fairy tale was more than my first love: it was my first dream and my first plan and I surrendered my unguarded heart to this happy tale. But, unlike other childhood passions – like learning the flute or having a pet, this love was not fleeting or fickle, it grew with me, burying deeper into my heart, my thoughts and my dreams. I fell head over heels in love with this fairy tale, with this happily ever after and I believed that it would just happen. That life would float by and carry me safely towards my happy ending.
The fairy tale ended when I was thirty, curled up on the toilet floor of a Virgin Pendolino travelling home to Chester. My concerned husband scooped me up at the station and drove me to the hospital where the doctor confirmed my miscarriage. We returned home where I sat silently cradling a hot water bottle, slowly realising that the story I had fallen for was not coming true.
With each miscarriage my fairy tale became warped and twisted – no longer full of hope and new life, but dark with death and despair. Instead of bringing joy, the story I had fallen in love with left me feeling empty, lacking. It defined me and isolated me as I retreated from those who were living out the ‘happily ever after’ I had given my heart to. A story of lament repeatedly written onto my heart with each birth announcement and each of my miscarriages, my hopes for the future dressed in mourning. But what I’d forgotten is that in every fairy tale there is a fight, the story doesn’t just move from the beginning straight to a happily ever after.
A good fairytale does not deny the existence of sorrow and failure, it embraces it, celebrating the ways that struggle can shape and change the protagonist for good, building towards an ending that catches your breath and lifts your heart. I used to believe that struggle meant failure but now I know it’s the opposite, the struggle is what makes the story worth telling.