Content Warning: Miscarriage
The entire experience seems so unnatural. It feels like it should never happen, and yet it happens a lot, with little discussion. I never heard many, or maybe any, conversations about miscarriage. That is until it happened to me. Suddenly it seemed that every woman older than me in my life had at least one miscarriage, some more times than one could even fathom.
I’m writing this now, a year out, because these are the things that they didn’t tell me, and I wish I had heard. The sad yet theoretically comforting fact is that I am not alone in this experience. Miscarriages happen with such frequency today that it is horrifyingly seen as normal. Some research has suggested that miscarriages happen in more than 30% of pregnancies (marchofdimes.org). I feel with all my being that this is not normal and should most definitely not be treated as the norm. I, like many people, will never know why this happened to me. The fact that so little is known about why pregnancies are lost at such an alarming rate is disheartening and is yet another example of where priorities lie in healthcare and research. I know that everything in our environment plays a factor, but why this isn’t alarming to the entire human population is beyond me. I could go on and on, but my point is: they’ll tell you it’s normal; I’m telling you it is anything but normal.
They didn’t tell me during my first ER visit (where I sat in the waiting room for over 6 hours, bleeding with toilet paper stuffed in my underwear) that I would end up nearly passing out in my bathtub in the most excruciating pain only 12 hours later. They did tell me to go home that night and expect “like a regular period but just heavier flow.” They didn’t tell me that my body would literally go through labor with painful contractions. They didn’t tell me that I would be lying in the shower puking from the pain, watching every burst of agony flood the tub with more blood than I ever thought possible, feeling cold as ice with burning hot water running on me. They didn’t tell me that I would be pale, shivering, nearly faint, and thinking of the last (casual) message I had sent my friend and how that would be the last thing they heard from me before I died.
They didn’t tell me that I would have to be carried out of my childhood home on a chair stretcher, where I was forced to sit and put more pressure on my very painful cervix, to then lay in the parked ambulance alone for 10 minutes bleeding through my robe, as the EMTs decide which hospital to take me to, again. They didn’t tell me that for over an hour, I would lie on a stretcher “inline” in the hallway of the ER behind 5 other people as my body contracts, all while cut off from my family.
They didn’t tell me that I would be assigned a chair in the middle of the hallway in front of the waiting room with just a flimsy curtain, where I had to convince the nurses that I couldn’t sit on the bare chair because my thick floor length white robe was soaked at this point with blood let alone the fact that sitting was putting more pressure on my cervix. They didn’t tell me that I would be appointed the most ignorant and insensitive nurse to experience the worst time of my life with. They didn’t tell me that my throat would burn all night from spending an hour puking and that I would be refused water. They didn’t tell me that I would feel so mentally numb when I went for my third (and very painful) vaginal ultrasound of the last 24 hours, with no one telling me what was going on in between. They didn’t tell me I would feel so violated and dehumanized as I lay alone on a table looking at my own reflection in the surgical light above me as the doctor and insensitive nurse painfully scraped and pulled at tissue in my vaginal canal. They didn’t tell me that I would have to stop the scraping to ask if I could go to the bathroom after 5 hours in the ER or that I would then have to walk down two hallways in my gown while holding a hand towel to my crotch. They didn’t tell me that I would literally see tissue the size of a tennis ball sticking out of my vagina on the toilet, not knowing what was happening and terrifyingly thinking my uterus had prolapsed. They didn’t tell me the “gestational sac” would come out naturally as I sat on the toilet. At the same time, the insensitive nurse (who held the door open to the hall when I hit the call button) would stand in the bathroom with me, waiting for the doctor. During that time, while leaning on the bathroom wall with the same gloved hand she was using during my “exam,” casually asked me if it was my first [miscarriage], that she’d had five, and that “they’re a pain in the neck” as if this was the minor inconvenience of stubbing my toe. They didn’t tell me how horrifying and humiliating it would be to spread my legs on the toilet as I watched the doctor pull at the tissue sticking out of my vagina with medical prongs and put it in a container. They didn’t tell me I would be looking at an ominous plastic container in the bathroom, only to be told just then that that would have been my baby. They didn’t tell me I would then have to go immediately back to the table to continue to be scraped out, where my heart and spirit would crumble as I broke down crying. Only then did they think of bringing my partner into the room with me. They didn’t tell me that what would have been my baby was stuck in my cervix for the last 5 hours (which they knew from the ultrasounds but didn’t tell me), and that’s what was causing so much pain, especially while they forced me to sit for so long.
They didn’t tell me that during the weeks of making phone call after phone call arguing to be seen by a prenatal doctor only to be told I would have to wait until May 1 when the insurance (promised through treaty rights) would activate when I would be in the second trimester. They didn’t tell me that for 6 strenuous weeks, I would have to “wait” while anxiously wondering if everything was normal and if I was doing everything right. They didn’t tell me we would have just finished emotionally telling our immediate families we were having a baby only hours before ending up in the ER. They didn’t tell me that while I wasted hours on the phone arguing, and as my body continued to grow, at week 5, my embryo had stopped growing, but my body didn’t recognize this, so I continued to test at the conditions of a 12-week pregnancy. They didn’t tell me that in the 6 weeks of me even knowing I was pregnant, I was carrying around the dangerous weight of decaying “birthing material,” and if I had gotten to see the doctor like I was begging, maybe I wouldn’t have carried decaying “birthing material” for 6 weeks which would inevitably cause me to end up in the ER, twice. They didn’t tell me I could have prevented having to text our families the dreadful disappointment that we aren’t bringing a new family member into this world after all the excitement we saw on their faces only days prior.
They didn’t tell me that in the days proceeding, I would be a disconnected skeleton of a person, battling myself in my mind wondering what I did wrong, what didn’t I do, what bad karma did I bring on myself, feeling so immensely guilty for ever feeling anxious, scared, and unsure if I was ready. They didn’t tell me that I would spend days exhausted from crying, from going through labor, and from bleeding for 16 straight days. They didn’t tell me how much grief would sit between my partner and me. They didn't tell me that the loss would change our future together in a way we never predicted. They didn’t tell me that people wouldn’t know what to say to me. After all, what do you say? They didn’t tell me that months later, people would only see me for the tragedy and invalidate any other emotions I had in completely unrelated matters, simply because I had to be nothing but emotionally unstable once they found out about the miscarriage. Maybe that feeds the quietness around miscarriages; after all, who wants to be the main entrée for pity gossip talk? Obviously, as a society, we have much to learn about common decency and consideration around miscarriage.
They didn’t tell me that the second worst thing I would feel would be the ghost pregnancy, that I would often feel my belly imagining what I would be experiencing at week 16, week 20, or week 25, through the entire pregnancy. Or that I would have to continue my “daily routine” the day I face the due date months later. They didn’t tell me that I would feel the spirit of this baby I was already starting to envision in the very being of me. They didn’t tell me that there wouldn’t be any mourning “protocol” because there was never a breath of life, yet I still mourned the life of a being I spent weeks imagining in the preparation and acceptance of pregnancy. They didn’t tell me that I will always remember my pregnancy when I see the babies of the people who were also pregnant then. They didn’t tell me that I would easily feel the pain when I stepped back into that bathtub, the very same one that once brought me comfort. They didn’t tell me that I wouldn’t be able to even think “baby” without crying for an entire month.
They also didn’t tell me that I would find healing in a moon ceremony exactly a month to the day later. They didn’t tell me that the therapist that supported me during my pregnancy would also have to support me in the gentlest, most understanding way through a miscarriage. They didn’t tell me that the anxiety I battled for years would diminish astonishingly after realizing I went through the absolute worst experience and pain of my life and survived. They didn’t tell me that I would later realize that the feeling of life leaving my body in that bathtub wasn’t my life, but rather, the spirit of the life I almost brought to this world. They didn’t tell me that I would find comfort later learning that the cells of every pregnancy intertwine with the mother’s and will stay with the mother for decades. Even though life continued to swirl around me as if nothing happened, it did, and I feel it because the memories of those pregnancy cells are in the cells of my body.
They didn't tell me that although I am terrified of getting pregnant again and don't plan on trying for many years, I now hold my painful experience as a strength. A strength to bring this taboo conversation to the many tables where it has been long overdue. A strength to be able to teach people to stop asking ANYONE the archaic question of, “When are you having a baby!?” People avoid the topic of miscarriage out of repelling discomfort, but it is known that growth arises from discomfort. So when will we as a society choose to grow? Choose discomfort, a choice not out of fun or pleasure but because society needs change, and there is a person right now, somewhere, that needs this conversation right now, who needs to be heard and to feel seen. They didn't tell you but I see you, and I hear you. Change will come.
For more information on miscarriages and for a free bereavement kit to support with grief after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of a baby at or after birth, please visit marchofdimes.org/bereavement-kit-form.
About the Creator
I am but a borrowed body trying to remember life and love. I write to untangle my thoughts in hopes of finding my way to my true self. My mind focuses on cultural identity, purpose, character, mental health, relationships, and nature.
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