Birth/Rebirth: Giving Miscarriage a Birth Story, Too

Posted by on January 9, 2014 in Family, Friendship, grief, guest post, Journeys, motherhood, personal notes, suffering | 23 comments

Guest post by Kathy

Image by Neal Fowler

Image by Neal Fowler

Kathy is a writer living in Phoenix, Arizona. The original version of this piece appeared as a guest post at freshly-picked.com.

 

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.

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23 Comments

  1. This was so beautiful, Kathy. Thank you for telling your story, and for opening the space for others to do the same.

    I especially love your husband’s words about the flowers.

    • Thank you, Rachel.

      I love his words about the flowers, too—so grateful now that he had that insight then.

  2. Thanks for sharing these true and poignant thoughts. My three miscarriages were among the hardest experiences of my life. And the most painful: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. (I thought labor with my miscarriages was far worse than giving birth naturally, which I’ve also done.) Hurray for your husband! Write that due date on your calendar and ask for flowers then too. It’s so hard to mark that milestone with a flat stomach and empty arms, when no one else remembers what day it should have been.

    • So sorry to hear you went through that three times, Anita. Sorry you’ve had to mark three of those empty days on the calendar. Thank you for the idea—I’ll use it. Much love to you.

  3. Thank you so much for this powerful and important contribution, Kathy. I know that I have been at a loss as to what to do/say/act when I hear someone has had a miscarriage. A close friend who had miscarried told me through tears that a man in the ward had said to her, “Com’on, when ya goona have a baby?” like her miscarriage was akin to a sport event where she came in second. She was at odds and speechless… and yet felt like she wasn’t able to talk about it, as though she had let down her team (family/husband), and felt the painful loss of her child, so could only mutter and shrug responses to those who asked about it because it was too painful for her to speak aloud. With the encouragement you have recommended, I now will ask when I am aware someone has miscarried. But I will ask gently, and privately and with the love you have exhibited in your writing.

    Bless you for this crucial contribution to the Birth Series.

    • Thank you for the story, for the wisdom and for having made me a better person just by reading this.

      • Sorry for posting it on the wrong place.

    • I’ve been in the same situation (not knowing what to say/do/act when responding to someone else’s loss). It’s tricky, isn’t it? You seem like such a kind person—and that speaks volumes.

  4. I love this piece so much–your focus on how stories can help us is inspiring and I love your husband’s words, too. A profound metaphor and not a bit easy to do when it comes to the people we love and lose.

    I can’t resist linking to another moving piece on miscarriage previously published on Exponent: http://www.the-exponent.com/mourning-sickness-dealing-with-miscarriage/

    • Thank you for adding the link to that post, EmilyCC!!!

    • Thank you, Emily! I appreciated reading that post so much.

  5. Wow! These are powerful words. Thank you

    I always feel this way about miscarriages, if and when I hear of them from friends. It’s such a blow and a let-down and a grief to have all that hope and anticipation – and then just none.

    When I was young I dreamed of my future children. I gave them names and thought about FHE lessons and treehouse building plans. But now my uterus is gone and I will bear no children. And I feel the loss of those plans and that anticipation.

    I understand what you mean about stories. Some days, I want a story. And even a grave to kneel by and weep.

    • I think many of us, at times, seek the nonexistent grave wherein we can weep for the loss of those who are beloved. Thank you for adding this priceless comment. <3

  6. “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’m short of English words to express how much I relate to that, but this is making me ridiculously cry in front of my computer at 0:30 AM.
    Having experienced both the death of a baby on her birth day and a miscarriage (in that order), I can attest the pain, although an order of magnitude different, is related. Whether you’re grieving a person you’ve barely met or the loss of a project depends on how involved you’ve been with the pregnancy and how you’ve already been considering the baby, but either way the lack of acknowledgement of your story as a “real” story, and being told to “get over it” and “focus on the kids you already have”, is not helping.
    I’ve found talking openly about my experiences and “telling stories” about them, have been the most helpful ways to welcome these events as part of my life.
    Thanks for this beautiful post.

    • Regarding this powerful flower metaphor, I can’t help sharing this English version of a Françoise Hardy song we played at my daughter’s funeral…. Please listen to it, it’s quite a nice song anyway…

      A lifetime comes and goes
      And as my friend the rose said only yesterday
      “This morning I was born
      And baptised in the dawn
      I flowered in the dew
      And life was fresh and new
      The sun shone through the cold
      And through the day I grew
      By night-time I was old”
      “At least there’s never been
      No, you have never seen
      A rose more bright and gay”
      A lifetime comes and goes
      And as my friend the rose said only yesterday
      “The good lord smiled on me
      So why then should it be
      I feel I’m falling now
      Oh yes, I’m falling now
      My heart no-one can save
      My head begins to bow
      My feet are in the grave”
      The rose God smiled upon
      Tomorrow will be gone
      Forever gone away
      A lifetime comes and goes
      And so my friend the rose was dead at break of day
      The moon is shining bright
      And in my dreams tonight
      Beneath the starlit sky
      My friend the rose goes by
      He has seen my dreams I see
      A soul that wouldn’t die
      Still watching over me
      Whatever fortune brings
      I’ll hope for better things
      Or life will just be grey
      “A lifetime comes and goes”
      That’s what my friend the rose
      Said only yesterday

    • I’m very sorry for your losses, Jerome, but am glad you could share a part of your story here.

      The story of the flowers is what will stay with me from this post, too. I’d never thought of flowers at funerals as having a deeper meaning other than something nice to look at, maybe a counterpoint to the sadness. But the way Karen’s husband put it, they do carry meaning in times of loss.

  7. I lost my baby on Feb 14, 2007 it was the hardest thing that I ever had to endure in my life. When I was in the hospital going thru the miscarriage there was a woman yelling about she didn’t want her unborn baby she was drunk and on drugs. I’m crying my eyes out cause I was in the process of losing my child and here’s this woman trying to get rid of her child.
    Every year on Valentines Day I think about the baby wondering what if?

  8. This post is beyond beautiful. I myself have suffered through three losses, and the agony is never forgotten. The first two miscarriages happened before I actually carried to term, the last happened almost two months ago, after carrying three healthy term babies. It may just be my situation, but it seems outsiders and “well meaning” people are quicker to “dismiss” an early pregnancy loss when you already have children. Even my husband cannot understand why I am still “hung up” on our most recent loss when we have healthy children already.

    I guess I’m writing to say thank you more than anything, you make me feel I’m not alone in wanting to celebrate and commemorate the tragically short time I had with my babies. If only everyone could understand just how important it is to have a strong support system.

    To the writer and other commenters, I am so very, very sorry for all of your losses.

    • This was such a heart wrenching story, it resonated with me so deeply. My husband and I were expecting this coming May. It would have been my third child, and his first. We got a positive hpt on September 2nd. 2013. We were so excited about the life we had created together, and could not wait to meet “him or her.” I told my Mom and my whole family, they were so excited for us. My husband wanted to wait until I was further along before he told his family. We had no idea that he would never get the chance to.

      September 04, 2013
      I went to the hospital for sharp pains that would not subside, and severe vomiting. The doctors did an ultrasound to see if the baby was ok…thats when we learned that our baby had no heartbeat, and appeared not to be developing. The doctor said it closely resembled a non viable pregnancy. I was diagnosed with a threatened miscariage, and was told to expect to miscarry antime. In my discharge paper work it said for me to follow up with an obgyn within 48 hours. My husband I returned home with devastation, and horror in our hearts; we were afraid for our baby, and prayed the doctor was wrong. The next day I called the obgyn and they did not want to see me until the next day. I was tormented by my thoughts, all I could do was pray for my baby.

      September 06, 2013
      I went to the obgyn…as I sat in the waiting room I could’t help but notice all of the pregnant woman who’s bellys you could see they were obviously pregnant. Then I looked down at my own and hugged my belly tight, afraid that I would never see it grow. The doctor did yet another ultrasound, and said “you are still very early, this looks like a normal 4 wk pregnancy.” He thought that maybe my dates were off, and wanted to give the baby more time to grow. As a precaution, they wanted to check my hormone levels and schedule another appointment two weeks from then. I was sent home with little hope, but still no certainties. The next two weeks were agonizing, I started spotting brown, and I could feel my hormones subsiding. No more swollen tender breasts, no more nausea, and no more flutter inside my belly. I still held out hope that my baby was alive, but deep down I knew. My bloodwork results were in….the nurse that called me said “your test results came back you are definitely pregnant!” I told her that we already knew that! What were my levels? Did they increase!?! The nurse then finally said your levels are definitely decreasing. I lost it! I started screaming and beating my fists against the wall. The nurse said the doctor wanted me to schedule another appointment to talk options. I cried myself to sleep everyday until that appointment. I felt like a tomb, instead of growing and giving life, I was feeling it slip out of me. I cradled death in my womb, and it broke my heart everyday. My body had failed me. My husband and I both agreed that the passing of our baby from my body was taking too long. I feared it happening everyday to the point of that was all I could think about. I couldn’t even begin to heal, I was going off the deep end. We decided a d&e was the best option for us.

      September 18,2013
      It is the day of procedure, at last there was finally a definite day it would all be over. I was put completely under, I have no memory at all except for when I woke up in the recovery room. I asked the nurse am I still pregnant? The nurse looked at me sadly and said ” no sweetie” I began to weep uncontrollably as she wiped the tears from my face as she held my hand.

      January 11, 2014
      I still mourn my unborn baby, and my four year old daughter still asks where her baby sister is; she was so sure the baby was a girl. I know that I have two beautiful healthy babies, and I might seem ungreatful for saying this….but I was already very much in love with someone I had never even met. I wanted so badly to hold you in my arms, even if it was just for a little while. The loss of a child hurts at any stage in life.
      RIP BABY BAROCIO Mommy and Daddy love you Angel

      • Kylie, I’m so sorry. Thank you for sharing your story here. It is quite heartbreaking. I hope that sharing it makes the hurt a little easier to bear.

  9. Kathy this post was beautifully written and so insightful. I’m so glad you shared it here. I believe we should share our heartbreaking stories more often.

  10. Thank you for this post. I had a miscarriage with my second pregnancy. I remember the ultrasound at 9 weeks where the heartbeat wasn’t there and looking at my doctor and saying, “Is this where I start to panic?”

    I chose a medical procedure instead of a natural end to the miscarriage. I’m glad I did because I don’t remember it being painful.

    The only other thing I remember was that I felt like it was my fault because I had used hair color in my bathroom and the smell was really strong. I worried that the chemicals had caused the miscarriage.

    Although it’s not pleasant, this experience is important for me to remember as well. Thanks for opening the door for these stories.

  11. Thankyou for sharing and you really described the feelings I had. I had a missed miscarriage at 12 weeks as the babies heart had stopped a few days before our ultrasound and I felt sick that I didn’t know it had happened.

    We had made the decision to have another child and felt blessed to have fallen pregnant we had many discussions about what gender the baby would be who it would look like and names all before 12 weeks because we were so excited.

    The morning of our 12 week scan saw us joking about it being another girl because we already had two healthy girls and my husband was hoping to even out the family a little with a boy.. The moment the sonographer turned on the monitor my heart broke I held my breath and was silent and still- the baby we wanted and had thought so much of was laying there still and there was nothing we could do.

    I chose the medical procedure instead of a natural miscarriage as I wondered if my body didn’t know the baby had died how long would it take to figure it out and I couldn’t wait days or weeks for something to finally happen.

    There was little pain or discomfort after the procedure and we seemed to be coping as well as I think we could’ve been until I received a follow up call from the obstetrician. We had a partial molar pregnancy- something nobody seems to know about unless they have been through it but to put it simply not only did we lose our baby but I’m going through weekly testing to find out if I’m going to end up with cancer as a result of the pregnancy! life throws some tough blows I am grateful for the children I have and will always miss the one that we never got to meet

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