Friday, July 21, 2017

I'll just be over here, quietly bleeding: A personal story of miscarriage

Miscarriage is a strange word. One word to describe a litany of different losses. Any pregnancy loss occurring spontaneously during the first 20 weeks is considered a miscarriage.  Though the difference between week one and week twenty is unfathomable. At week 6 or 7 you miscarry a beating heart; by week 12, a face and tiny hands. Maybe it was "just" an empty sac that only took form in your mind. Or maybe you weren't either aware or excited to be pregnant when the cramping and bleeding set in.  Miscarriage-- it implies wrong doing, doesn't it? There's someone to blame when there's a miscarriage of justice, why not when a life or life ingredients are miscarried? It's cold comfort to many women that most miscarriages were predetermined by some ill-fated chromosomal abnormality. It wasn't the coffee, the anxiety, or that glass of wine you had before you saw the second blue line.

I was holding the bag of freebies from the prenatal nurse-- already, at week 7 feeling pressure to toss the formula samples and steel myself for another breastfeeding attempt. She had the pleasant, vacant smile of someone who has the same life-changing conversation with 8-10 women per day. Her face sank in to concern when I told her about the bleeding that had started that morning.

Then came the waiting-- waiting for an opening in the doctor's schedule for an unplanned consult, waiting for an hCG level that turned out to be inconclusive, and the eventual waiting for the likely intensification of bleeding that would seal the deal.

I wasn't prepared. I was sad, but also relieved. Our lives were so full and stressful at the time and I just couldn't see how we were going to manage a second baby. And then the guilt set in swiftly thereafter. My womanness was shaken to its seemingly shallow core by what felt like a heartless and unmotherly reaction.  And then finally, the authentic sadness, sadness that realized it had all been true. I had wanted another child and had been hopeful and joyful when we found out I was pregnant, but our lives truly could not handle another little one, no matter how much I wanted it.

After a couple of days of processing and trying make sense of all the feelings, judgments, and doubts, I felt ready to move on. My body, however was not ready. This is the part I really wasn't expecting. How do you deal with the loss of someone you've never met when the loss itself takes weeks, three weeks in my case, which was all I could tolerate before requesting a D and C? No funeral, no pronouncement of death marking the end and some new beginning. Just the alternating slow trickle or frightening rush of blood and tissue, day in and day out. The never ending rotation of sanitary pads, mild nausea from lingering pregnancy hormones, all constant reminders that you were, still kind of are, but soon definitely won't be: pregnant.

I was lonely, angry, feeling misunderstood and invisible to most everyone. Very few knew I was pregnant in the first place. I didn't know how to tell the people I trusted about the miscarriage. I hadn't HAD a miscarriage, I was HAVING one right then and there. And that felt a bit like announcing over dinner that I was having a heart attack.

Now that the D and C is done, and I am hopeful that my body will start to feel like a safe space and less like a burial ground. I realize that the thing I wanted most, the comfort I was seeking, wasn't a different outcome, but relief from the difficult and conflicting feelings. All that hurt and rage and doubt. Sometimes we need to be smacked in the face with pain to remember what it means to be human. That's the meaning I'm hoping will start to feel true eventually. Not yet, but soon.

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