It’s hard to believe that one month ago, I was waking up in a hospital after hemorrhaging during a miscarriage that didn’t progress properly. Like the other significant events of my life, it seems like yesterday and it seems ages have passed. Most of you know the story already but if you missed it you can read the original account here. As promised, here is an update on what it has been like for me to recover from miscarriage.
I’ve healed a lot during the last month, physically and spiritually, thanks to the love of my family and friends and some significant amounts of chocolate and ice cream. I’m trading the latter in for hiking shoes soon before I need a new wardrobe!
The truth is, I’ve had a really hard time writing this, partly because it’s sad and I didn’t know how much to share and partly because my two year old deleted the whole thing after I’d written it. Ah, life! These are some personal observations I made following my miscarriage. Some of them are blunt and raw but I included them because I've learned quite a few women I know ran into these situations and words after miscarriage. Hopefully, including them here will help us all to be more thoughtful about how powerful our words and actions can be when directed toward a person who has lost someone they love.
For those of you who are looking for a more specific "what to expect following a miscarriage" list, it's here.
This month, I discovered that the “silent pain” of miscarriage is silent for several reasons. Sometimes, it’s easier to just put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Less messy. The pain of losing a child is deep and personal and almost too physically draining to discuss. Second, there is no ceremony, no ritual that marks the passage of an unseen child which would make talking about it seem normal and offer people the freedom to offer their condolences without wondering if they've crossed a line. Lastly, an unborn child is held inside a place of blood and water inside a woman, a topic that seems to be kind of taboo in our culture.
Without a funeral, grief feels illegitimate within a very short time. We’re supposed to put on our happy face and act like we feel better already even though we actually feel like our lives have hit a full stop while everyone keeps moving around us. I felt self conscious writing about this again. What would people think? Should I be over it already? Stop feeling sorry for myself?
Even though I said I would allow myself to grieve, I soon discovered it was harder than I thought, both because of normal social customs and other people’s expectations. The common greeting, “How are you?” usually asked in a perfunctory manner, became difficult to answer. A few people asked with genuine interest but most expected the typical “Good.” Especially when the latter was expected by people who knew what I'd been through, I felt like saying, “Let's see, my baby died and I'm lucky to be here myself. How do you think?” Of course, I clung to the social norm, looked at them blankly and asked, “How are you?”
After awkward moments like this, I was even more grateful for kind friends. The best friends didn’t just say, “Let me know if you need anything.” That’s so difficult when you’re usually an independent, strong woman. How does one ask for help? I felt relieved and thankful when friends went out of their way to call me and ask how I was doing or bring a meal. In another post, I’ll list some helpful things you can do for friends who are suffering a loss.
Some other people in my life tried to “fix” what had happened by offering words they probably hoped would diminish my chances of depression. While I understand their intentions and appreciate that they meant well, their comments still seemed to minimize the grief I was feeling. Some were probably trying to be comforting while others were just uncomfortable with what had happened and didn’t want to talk about it or didn’t know what to say. These kinds of comments often came from the people closest to me - but I realize they were just at a loss for how to help.
“Thank God you’re ok. Now you can just move on with your life and focus on the beautiful children you already have.”
“Well, the important thing is, you’re ok. Now you can just move on with your life.”
Catching a theme here? I’m sure these people were just horrified by what happened and wanted to save me from depression by pointing me to the wonderful things in my life. But, I needed a moment to catch my breath and grieve for the dream of the sweet baby I had lost. The truth is, an event like this becomes a part of who we are. I am so thankful for my girls. But, I loved this baby. I dearly wanted this baby. And this baby will always occupy a place of love and grief in my heart. He or she is a part of me now.
While I was still in the hospital, someone said to me, “I know you don’t want to hear this but you’re now a statistic.” You’re right. Didn't want to hear that. But...
This event connected me to a new group of people who have lost children. After my first post, an incredible number of women contacted me with their own stories of loss and grief. Their words were a balm to my heart as I realized I really was not alone. I cherish every message.
I am not a statistic but I have undergone a rite of passage that, similar to getting married and giving birth, has offered me access to a circle of women who I might not have known otherwise. While I never would have chosen to lose a baby, I am so grateful for the connection I have gained to these dear women who opened their hearts to me.
This experience was not without its spiritual lessons either. I have long believed that women possess powerful intuition and connection to the spiritual world especially in times of blood, like menstruation and pregnancy, and near the death of a loved one. In the western world, where science and the empirical method reign supreme, we often ignore this spiritual wisdom and do our best to escape the discomfort of being wet and bloody. But, blood and water can be signs of new birth.
Looking back, this spiritual wisdom manifested itself in my life several times before, during and after the miscarriage. The weekend before my miscarriage, I was overwhelmed with deep grief and kept bursting into sobs over unimportant things. At first, I credited pregnancy hormones, but then a voice clearly said, “Maybe something is wrong with this baby.” I pushed the thought away but I believe it was a gentle indication of what was to come.
The same spiritual wisdom may have saved my life during my miscarriage. After the first pangs of labor yielded results, I wanted to rest a little. But, this little voice prompted me to tell my husband, “I want to sleep but I’m afraid I’ll bleed too much. Will you watch over me?” Within an hour, I was breathing oxygen through a mask as an ambulance whisked me to the hospital. What if I hadn’t listened and had just gone to sleep? This event convinced me to listen even more closely for wisdom. She’s pretty loud if I will only open my ears.
This month has seemed so long and so short. I learned a lot about life and myself I didn't realize I needed to learn. While I have felt the normal sadness, anger and depression that comes with loss, something else has taken over my current mood. About a week ago, I woke with a hope in my heart that sort of squashed that sad/numb feeling that had previously surrounded me. It was strong enough for me to choose to smile through my tears.
I still have sad moments and I’m sure they will continue to come at times but for now, I’m willing to take the pain along with the joy. It’s what reminds me I’m alive.