There are varying statistics bandied about, but it is said that up to one out of four pregnancies ends in a miscarriage. This seems to me like a phenomenally high number. It supposes that many many women (and their partners) go through this. For something that is so widespread, I did used to wonder why no one ever seems to talk about it.
People endure other negative experiences – cancer, car accidents, natural disasters – and these are discussed at great length. But miscarriages are almost never talked about. If they are brought up, it is often in a short conversation, spoken in hushed tones.
But now that I have gone through a miscarriage I do understand why we don’t talk about it. How can I discuss something that was nothing more tangible than a blue line? How can I talk about what was no more than a feeling in my body or a whisper of a promise of a new future? How can I tell someone how I am feeling when I feel such a mixed bag of emotions? It seems impossible to package up my ‘miscarriage story’ in a way that would be suitable for polite conversation.
How Do I Feel?
The first thing someone will probably ask me is how do I feel. And I tell them I am fine because it is much better than the following eclectic emotional monologue. This is how I feel right now:
Sad – At first it was an overwhelming heartache. I couldn’t stop crying when I got off the phone after the test results confirmed it. My gorgeous two year old kept saying “Mummy sad, Mummy sad” while trying to cuddle me. I felt weak crying in front of him but I hope one day he will understand better. Now, a few days later, it has changed to a quiet melancholy, but one I suspect that will stay with me for a long time.
Mad – Unlike my sadness which started high and has gone mild, my anger still fluctuates. I can be rage filled, fuming, livid or just a little annoyed. I am upset at myself for getting my hopes up and looking forward to a new future. I had already programmed the expected delivery date into the pregnancy app on my phone. I was getting emails: “Six weeks old – it is the size of a lentil”. I am furious at my husband who has stated quite honestly that he doesn’t feel the same way I do. And how could he? He saw a blue line on a pregnancy test and then went about life as normal. He is very supportive and giving me lots of hugs, but I am seething at him anyway. I guess it is an easy outlet. I am annoyed at the world and life and the unfairness of it all.
Puzzled and Confused – There are so many questions that I will never have answers to. Why did this happen? Why did it happen to me? What was wrong that caused it? What could I have done differently? Should I have not taken that flight/ eaten that ham sandwich/ had the couple of glasses of bubbles on my son’s birthday (before I knew I was pregnant)? Or would nothing have prevented it?
Happy and Relieved – In some ways I do weirdly feel okay. Maybe my body was not ready, or it was not viable in someway and it is a good thing that the pregnancy failed. And the miscarriage could have been a lot worse – it could have been much more painful, I could have needed hospital treatment or could have happened much later in the pregnancy.
A Wee Bit Selfish – For a couple of days afterwards I let myself have some ‘me’ time to grieve/ mope. I only wanted to give it a couple of days because I know in the scheme of things, this is simply not a big deal. There are far more tragic situations that occur every minute. Just amongst people I know I have heard recent stories of cancer diagnoses and terminally ill children. I need to get myself out of this, start feeling authentically grateful for my life and start to get happy about the future. I have a wonderful family and amazing two-year-old son. I know I am beyond blessed. But at the moment I simply want to eat chocolate and wallow.
What Not To Say
If we don’t go down the road of feelings, what else is there to discuss? If the conversation ventures down the “what happened?” road then we start to get into mucky territory as well. Most people don’t want to hear the finer details, as this will often involve words such as “blood”, “clots”, “discharge” and “cramps”. Too much personal and medical language for both parties.
So if we cannot discuss feelings, or details, there isn’t much left. Anything else stated will at best sound trite and meaningless and at worst make me want to punch you in the face or burst into tears. Statements along the lines of “ sorry for your loss”, “it is very common – my sister / friend/ aunty had one”, “well it shows you can get pregnant”, or “never mind you can try again soon” all fall into this category.
Secret or Shared?
I think for some of us, we want to keep miscarriage as our own secret hurt. There can be a preference to sort out our emotions privately and to not have to deal with the reactions of others. And I thought I was like that. Only a small handful of people currently know about my miscarriage.
Because I also want it to be okay to talk about miscarriage. Yes it means that I will lose my privacy. Yes it means others will see me being emotional. Yes it means I am stepping out of my comfort zone and into a realm of extreme vulnerability. But perhaps then one day we can get to a deeper level of conversation about miscarriage. We can get past the short, hushed talks and open up about the emotional toll it has on women and families. And maybe this will lead to more soothing, helpful and meaningful responses from others.
Hopefully if we make the hurt a little less secret, this will help it to hurt a little less.