The first time I started writing this, I started writing about what happened. About the events of the miscarriage, as if by giving a blow by blow account, I could somehow relay what the experience has been like. While it may give a picture, it also doesn’t.
Now a month later, having read the blow by blow account, I can see it as a stage of the process of dealing with loss. Getting to grips with the what happened, running through the series of events to figure it out, make sense of something that as far as I’m concerned shouldn’t have happened, and still shouldn’t be.
I’m left with loss, anger and a great huge massive disappointment. With the fact that it was a risky pregnancy from the first, disconcordant twins, but that despite the risk we dared to dream. We spent hours imagining our new lives, parents of twins. Debating names, thinkin of next steps, getting our very excited heads and hearts around the very beloved, very wanted, very happy expansion of our love and our family.
Two days of shuffling from doctor without ultrasound, to doctor with ultrasound, to gynae with even better ultrasound who confirmed that one of the twins was already gone, and the other had no heartbeat, and then referred me to the person who my medical aid would pay for to do a D&C (where they scrape out your womb). With varying levels of kindness, concern and compassion, and various levels of skills with their bedside manners, we had a cycle of hope and despair, which culminated in my tears rolling down my cheeks as I sunk into the unconscious of general anaesthetic, probably the most alone and out of control I’ve ever felt in my life.
Waking up after the operation, no consciousness stopping my thoughts coming out of my mouth, my first concern was what happened to the tissue that would have become my babies, what did they do with it, the nurses replied immediately, comfortingly that they would be burned, not a proper burial, or any kind of cremation to mark my loss of dreams, but burned, so at least not sitting in a bin somewhere thrown away like a piece of rubbish. For some reason the distinction was and still is very important to me.
And then we had to start telling all the people who had known about the pregnancy that we were no longer pregnant. It was a responsibility I abdicated, especially in the first couple of days. I didn’t want to speak to anyone, I didn’t want to have to deal with any sympathy when I knew sympathy was all most people had to offer. I didn’t want to have to talk about it to anyone. That still echoes, most people around me have no idea of the extent to which its still impacting me, mostly because I won’t show, and I won’t tell.
And then when I did start talking, what I got was an overwhelming response of people’s stories of their own loss of children, early miscarriages, stillborn’s, of horrific experiences with doctors and medical staff, of the lack of choice, and many of their subsequent pregnancies. What I’m left with is a sense that like rape, like domestic violence, that miscarriage is SO common, so ordinary, so everyday, and yet like these other things that are so common to women’s lives, they are also silent. Also at the mercy of doctors and other professionals who are vague about the impact. In my case, I wasn’t even told I had alternatives to a D&C operation (like waiting for the miscarriage to bleed out naturally, or taking medication to push the bleeding along). Like a friend who shared her rage that when she chose the option of the medication that would initate cramping and bleeding, that her doctor told her she would experience some cramping and pain, and fairly heavy bleeding, and what turned out to be the case was blood splattering, earth shattering pain which required care, attention and assistance, not being sent home with the idea that this was just routine. Like the other friend who’s doctor kept giving her induction drugs until the baby was killed, and the ceaser resulted in stillbirth, and then to add insult to injury, she was stitched up so badly that she got infected and had to go back three times.
And vague information about allowing yourself time to mourn, and being aware of the impact of shifting hormones and a re-adjusting body which in no way describes how mood swings, overwhelming irritation which could make something as simple as a tomato cut the wrong way turn into an end of the world magnitude event and result in wailing. About the vividness of nightmares, and the shame of loss. Even when I know this all, having counselled for years, being aware of the cycle of grief to the degree that I can watch myself and say ‘oh look, there’s anger’ makes no bloody difference.
And this silence, this veil of ‘secrecy’ that exists about how common this occurrence is, that the figures of between 1 in 4, and up to 40% of pregnancies are known miscarriages (some never know, just have a heavy period), that this silence is so absolute. Until you start telling your story. And then find out how common your experience is. And the thing that sucks – THAT MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE! In fact, it makes me feel like I just need to deal with my grief that much more quickly, to just cope because people do, all the time. And while I don’t want to define myself by my loss, I don’t want it to congeal into a major part of my identity, because of this, I’m struggling to allow myself room to feel, room to mourn, room to be angry that life (once again) has not turned out the way I thought it would. Guess I’m still learning that lesson in every way.