Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
My first due date was March 24, 2009.
The second was October 15, 2009.
The third was December 31, 2010.
The four was May 2, 2011…but she stayed long enough to be born and (eventually) healthy.
Miscarriages happen; the most-often-quoted statistic I’ve heard is 20%. Stillbirths happen; I personally know three people who had them). Neonatal losses and SIDs happen; I saw the former during my daughter’s 6-week stay in the NICU.
Miscarriage is what I call an “ordinary” tragedy. (I put divorce into this category as well). It’s horribly painful, but it’s extremely common…even “normal.” Almost everyone I know who has a child has gone through it. It’s obviously the most common and least extreme of the kinds of losses that are being memorialized today, but it’s so much harder than you would imagine if you haven’t experienced it. (Stillbirth and neonatal losses are downright unthinkable…which is exactly why it’s important that people who are comfortable talking about theirs do).
My losses were early. Most people who knew I had a miscarriage would want to know how far along I was, and they’d neatly file it away the way people do when they find out a loved one that you had lost was old or very ill.
It’s still a loss. I wanted a baby so badly. While the first was the most traumatic, and it took with it any chances of having a blissful, innocent pregnancy, each of the three of them forced me to completely reorganize my view of the future. My dreams disappeared. By the third, all I could see when I looked ahead was blackness, because I couldn’t not doubt that it was ever going to happen.
I told people I was pregnant well before 12 weeks. Why? Because I was excited, and I’m not so superstitious as to think that telling people somehow increases the chances of miscarriage. After my first loss, I continued to tell, because I knew that I would need support if I had another loss…and you can’t get support unless people know.
One of the few things about which I’m assertive is grief. I tend not to give people an “in” to invalidate my grieving, and I’ll let myself mourn even the tiniest losses privately. If it’s something bigger, I’m open about it in order to get support and to let the people around me know that I’m comfortable with grief. When I lost my dog, I said something like, “my parents had to euthanize my childhood dog yesterday, and I’m very upset about it, so you’re going to see me cry.” No one had the nerve to push back in any way.
I assumed that a miscarriage was obviously sucky enough that no one would question my sadness about it. And no one did, exactly, but…
I’m still a little outraged about this.
In the early-to-mid-2000s I was on a message board of maybe 30 people–most of whom had at least met in real life. The people from the board who lived in this area got together to go to concerts and have potluck dinners. There was one guy in particular on there that never really cared for me (and vice versa…but I only disliked him because he was cold to me…there was nothing objectively wrong with him). I was talking about my second loss on the board, and he responded “don’t take this the wrong way…but…” and proceeded to condescendingly suggest to me that I keep my pregnancies to myself until 12 weeks.
I still wonder if this was just bait to start a flame war. I was obviously in an emotional state, and I’d be likely to lash out. I didn’t. But it does bother me that someone on a Tori Amos message board–which was full of survivors of all kinds of trauma that is “uncomfortable” to discuss. He should have known and understood that talking about painful life events can be a part of healing.
Talking about my miscarriages wasn’t painful–having them was.
We’re basically talking about a medical situation..objectively no more TMI than having to have a mole removed…so grow the fuck up.
I know that I’m lucky, that I could have had it much worse. In all cases, I knew something could possibly be wrong by 7 weeks. I even got a heartbeat.
I have a friend who didn’t know until her first sonogram at 10 weeks. Her doctor said, “There’s nothing there” (it was a blighted ovum). That’s three more works to fantasize about your future with the baby, three more weeks toward the safety of the 12-week mark. I think it would have hurt even worse to hear “there’s nothing there.” I know it’s objectively true, but it’s invalidating. She was pregnant.
My sister had a stillbirth, vaginal delivery, and c-section within 12 hours when she was 26 weeks pregnant.
I used to be very close to a woman who lost three of her children in a drunk driving accident.
Obviously, my experiences were not even close. I do have them in perspective. But they still hurt, and it’s okay to say that they hurt and to feel sad on this day.
Even my fourth, “successful” pregnancy was far from perfect. My daughter was premature. She had to be on a ventilator (then C-pap, then other minor problems), and I wasn’t allowed to hold her for six days. Going home and leaving your baby at the hospital sucks. Having a child in the NICU–even if you know she’s going to live–is kind of traumatic. I was stressed and mourning the early loss of my pregnancy.
Now, I have a child, and she’s incredible. Most of the time, it does feel that having her healed me. But I still think about it on this day, and any time I hear/think of “Playboy Mommy” or anything else from From the Choirgirl Hotel.
Anders Nilsen’s Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow and The End (which are more broadly about loss), and that album were the art that got me through my losses My favorite quote on miscarriage is from Tori Amos:
|Y’know, once you’ve felt life in your body, you can’t go back to having been a woman that’s never carried life. The other thing is feeling something dying inside you and you’re still alive. Obviously when it was happening, it was already over, but in my mind, you don’t know that it’s over yet. You’re doing anything, thinking, ‘Oh God, maybe if I put a cork up myself, maybe it’ll keep this little life in.’ That’s why in ‘Spark’, I say, ‘She’s convinced she could hold back a glacier/But she couldn’t keep baby alive.’ You just start going insane. There’s nothing you can do, so so you surrender and then… start again.|