Birth/Rebirth: Giving Miscarriage a Birth Story, Too
Not every pregnancy gets a story. I’d like to change that.
My second pregnancy ended six months before I had planned it would.
When I reached out to people I needed, some of them surprised me. They told me about their own miscarriages—that had happened during the time we’d been friends.
Why did you not say anything? I asked them. They shrugged. One said, Well, you know. I didn’t know.
I respect experiences that are private, but I suspect that miscarriage stories stay untold because they don’t have the same pay-off that birth stories do. At the end, there’s no baby. What’s the point in telling them?
The point is that we’re humans.
I needed miscarriage stories
Anything I’d read or heard somehow added up to the idea that miscarriage was an hour-long event. Something obvious, tidy, final. No book or article or conversation in my life prepared me for what to expect.
Up to a quarter of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but I had no story to lean on.
Here’s mine, short version:
I walked around with twinges and questions that nobody could answer for over a week. Then I passed through the 13 most physically harrowing hours of my life. I bled more blood than I thought I had. I breathed through more hours of contractions than my first full-term pregnancy. It felt much like birth. My body needed to heal for a full two weeks. My heart, longer.
I discovered a way to commemorate
Miscarriage stories are also hard to tell because no pictures have been taken yet, no memories made, most likely not even a name chosen.
You haven’t yet met the person you’re mourning.
We have no ritual, no cultural observance. So you get to make your own.
My husband bought flowers—which he doesn’t like to do.
The night of the miscarriage, he said, “I hate buying flowers because they just die. But, for this, nothing could be more appropriate. We’ll enjoy them, and then they’ll die. And we’ll be grateful to have had them here, even for just a little while.” I will always love hydrangeas.
I didn’t know it then, but he also pressed some of the flowers for us to keep.
I found the perfect locket to carry them in, close to my heart.
I found something to anticipate
Pregnancy is a prolonged experience in anticipation: Is it a boy or a girl? Which name will we choose?
The minute you know for certain that you’re miscarrying, all those questions and plans and possibilities vanish. I’m no longer excited for April 24th.
I didn’t plan it this way, but the month I miscarried, I was working on a project that involved nine artists and writers sending me art and words. Knowing that they would soon send me expressions of inspiration was one of the few things that kept me from closing all the windows to lie in the dark and play Candy Crush until my eyes fell out.
There is one small voice I’ll never hear.
Anticipating and sharing these voices became a method to manage my grief.
I’m telling a story
If you miscarried, you might have heard consolations: you can have another baby, at least you weren’t farther along, something was probably wrong with it so it’s good you didn’t have it.
They all pass over this heartbreak:
You had a baby and now you don’t, and so that baby doesn’t get a story.
So tell a story to celebrate that child. Tell it however you feel comfortable: as a painting, through a dance, in a notebook, with a research project. Tell a story with your life that says we can be kinder, more compassionate.
And when the time comes (as it will, if you’re paying attention), a woman you know will be living her version of the miscarriage story.
Love that woman enough to ask if she wants to tell it to you.