Two months ago I had a miscarriage. Miscarriages are things people don’t talk about, though I wish they would. Perhaps if we talked about them more, we who go through them would know what to expect. Did you know, for example, that if you are over 40 and pregnant you have a 1 in 2 chance of miscarriage? And that 1/3 of all pregnancies end in miscarriage?
Miscarriage, which is the involuntary termination of a pregnancy, can be painful. It can also involve a fair amount of shame. I was embarrassed to go to a doctor; I was embarrassed to discuss it with the emergency nurse who triaged me even while I was hemorrhaging severely. What kind of woman was I, one who could not stay pregnant?
No one, not even advanced medical science, knows why individual miscarriages happen. Advanced maternal age is one predictor; low hormone levels are another. Mismatched chromosomes in the embryo is a third. This uncertainty, together with what miscarriages represent – the maternal body ejecting a forming embryo – is what gives miscarriage its stigma. We don’t know why its happening to you, doctors say; let’s shoo it under the rug and get on with it.
A few brave souls have published their miscarriage stories online. These are like birth stories, except the “birth” is the birth of the tissue. And instead of delivering in hospital, women deliver in their own toilets, usually at home. These stories are usually accompanied by great trauma. Desperately longed for embryos become waste matter, which either rots inside you, according to some, or gets trashed, according to others. Some women schedule D&C’s and let hospitals take care of things. Others carefully collect their “tissue,” saving it to bury later. There is a small industry online that enables you to purchase some memento of your birthed tissue, a Christmas ornament perhaps, on which you can engrave your memories.
If miscarriage happens to you, you are not alone. Miscarriages are very common. In fact, and as the blogging literature makes clear, they frequently happen at work. Since they can take up to a month to complete, they also are frequently completed at work. Which gives new meaning to the word “multitasking.”
Miscarriage can be an incredibly traumatic event, made worse by the fact that (a) it usually takes you by surprise; and (b) it is usually kept confidential. Which is why I want to offer here my respect for those who miscarry. For me, preparing for miscarriage was akin to preparing for birth. You can feel your body getting ready for a very important event. Acting entirely on its own schedule, your body then carries through that event. And it does so with complete, almost terrifying efficiency. All of this is done under wraps, while you carry out the other details of your life.
Props to all those who miscarry. Your bodies are very powerful. You are to be respected.