You know, I’m OK with my miscarriage

Recently I’ve seen a couple different discussions of miscarriage that emphasize how grave and terrible a miscarriage is, including this article from Babble: 10 Things You Should Never Say to a Miscarriage Survivor.  Now, I agree with that article – those are really stupid things to say to a woman who’s just had a miscarriage.  And I certainly agree that a miscarriage is a terrible experience.  Everyone knows that “miscarriage” means losing a pregnancy, but there are further nasty elements I didn’t know about until I had one.  First, it’s a fairly drawn-out process, rather than an event.  It took several days for my body to finish the obvious part of the process, and several weeks for my HCG levels to drop and the medical visits to be over.  Also, miscarriage really kicks you while you’re down – you’re having this traumatic emotional experience, and in addition it’s painful and can be really horrifyingly gross.  So I agree that miscarriage  is a terrible experience on just about every front.

But the thing that isn’t true for me is the idea that it’s a lasting trauma.  Of course I felt gutted when the doctors told me what was happening, and all my hopes for that baby disappeared.  But really, my main source of pain was the worry that I would never be able to have a baby at all (it was my first pregnancy).  As it turns out, one year after my miscarriage, I had a three week old baby.  I was very nervous during the first few months of that second pregnancy, but everything went fine.  She’s a terrifically wonderful 8 year old now.  And she’s part of the reason I don’t have lasting pain about that first pregnancy – as you can see from the timing, she wouldn’t be possible if that first pregnancy had stuck.  Of course if it had, I’d have a different fabulous kid and wouldn’t know I was missing anything, but still my hindsight will forever be colored by my love for this child.  So the comment that “they will always grieve the one they never got to know” just doesn’t apply to me.  I really don’t grieve anymore, even though I did have to grieve at the time.

People say you never get over a miscarriage, and it will be sad forever.  Again, this isn’t the case for me.  I can remember how sad and wretched I was at the time, and I can imagine that many women do feel lasting sadness, but actually I have gotten over it.  People say that losing a pregnancy is the same as losing a born child, and for me that’s also untrue.  I think I would truly be sad forever if I lost one of my children.  Maybe it’s because I really don’t view an embryo as a “baby.”  In fact, it upset me that the medical professionals who informed me of my miscarriage kept saying “your baby.”  I felt distressed enough at the end of all the potential and hopes, I didn’t want people telling me I’d lost more than I actually felt I had!  Of course this is difficult for the health care folks to navigate – probably a majority of women would prefer they use the term “baby” and would be offended and hurt if they said “embryo” or “fetus” instead.

And that’s the real upshot of all this musing – it’s legitimate for women to feel however they feel after having a miscarriage.  And they’re bound to have strong feelings.  That combination is what makes all those dumb comments so problematic – no matter what you think you know about miscarriage, each woman is going to have extremely potent and individual feelings (and some of them may even conflict with each other), and to vocally assume you know her feelings is insensitive.  I agree that the best thing to say is “I’m sorry.”  Maybe “Is there anything I can do for you?”  And if you’re close, I’ll offer something useful a family member said to me: “It’s OK to feel awful, and it’s OK to feel OK too, when you do.”

(Oh, and I have some black humor for you that I appreciated even at the time, when I was grieving.  If you are having a miscarriage and you stay up all night watching movies to distract yourself, do not choose the ones I did: Like Water for Chocolate (huge focus on a baby and breastfeeding), Love and Sex (main character has a miscarriage), and Someone Like You (main character’s sister has a miscarriage).  I kid you not, I had no idea about the movies except the first was critically acclaimed and I’d been meaning to see it, and the latter two were fun, silly romcoms – what better to take my mind off my own troubles!)

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About Christine

I'm a full-time mother to two kids, an ex-lawyer, a breastfeeding counselor, a skeptic, and (to steal a phase from Penn & Teller) a "science cheerleader." You can e-mail me at skepticalmothering (at) gmail (dot) com.

Posted on February 27, 2012, in Parenting and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I would say the same thing about abortion. It’s like it’s forbidden to not be devastated and destroyed by these things.

  2. I recently had a miscarriage and although I’m sad it happened, I’m not sad. Perhaps this is because it was my fourth pregnancy or the fact it was completely unplanned to begin with. I don’t know, but either way I am glad to know there are others like myself who are also ok to have had a miscarriage. Thank you for sharing.

  3. You’re so right on. Often, I relate to your posts so much I wish I’d been able to articulate my thoughts as well as you do. This particular one really hit home. My first pregnancy also resulted in a miscarriage. I wish I’d had the guts to wait out the process like you did, but I was so disgusted with my body and its malfunction (as I perceived it) that I opted to have a D&C. It resolved the physical pain and the gore, but not my feelings of failure and fear that I would bot be able to have children. I was also lucky–less than a year later I was holding my son, an incredible little boy who is now big brother to a five-week old little guy. I was somewhat nervous during that first pregnancy after the miscarriage; not at all during this latest one. I’ve learned to trust my body and have made peace with its unwillingness to hold on to that first embryo. Clearly, in retrospect, my older son was waiting in the wings for his turn to come into a body, and he was the baby I was meant to have. I also agree that other people’s touchiness about the subject has much to do with their political position on when life begins. Thanks for writing!

  4. I myself am a child who arrived after a miscarriage- if my mom hadn’t lost my sibling I wouldn’t be here.. sometimes it makes me sad.. we are not religious, but I have said thank you/I’m sorry to my sibling for.. I’m not sure what.. survivor’s guilt??.. but I do think me coming along helped my mom.

  5. Since i was experiencing an – well, not unwanted – unaffordable pregnancy i thought i wouldnt mind having a miscarriage. Well i just did a few hours ago. Weirdly i found myself mourning my baby, but im not scared or heartbroken. Is that wrong?

    • ivy, I don’t think you can be wrong in how you feel after a miscarriage. You will probably feel lots of different, probably conflicting things as you heal from it and your body gets back to normal. It’s OK to feel sad even if that baby would have been a big challenge you didn’t really want to face, and it’s OK to feel all right too. Take care of yourself and be gentle toward yourself.

      • Thank you so much. Its always nice to have someone validate your thoughts and feelings. I think im doing ok but im exhausted physically and emotionally, and havent had an opportunity to rest or relax. Thanks again

      • A woman was asking questions on yahoo answer about her cervix because she was expecting a miscarriage. She posted it under the pregnancy category, makes sense to me. A pregnant woman, whose screen name was something like JAndy, left a comment throwing a fit that she was asking about her miscarriage under the category of pregnancy. And stated that pregnant women didnt want to think about her miscarriage. What an awful b****. This made me so upset. This woman cannot control what her uterus does. Maybe she had no one to turn to! How dare JAndy try to make her ashamed of asking questions about what she’s having to experience while “JAndy” sits in front of her computer enjoying her healthy pregnancy. I know i was certainly a hormonal mess in my 1 month of pregnancy. Maybe i can take that awful comment as the ravings of a hormone – crazed female. Still i am offended but also feel silly for worrying about someone irrelevant to me.

  6. I am a baby that wouldn’t have happened except for an earlier miscarriage. I say thank you/sorry sometimes to my sibling, and I’m not even religious! Glad to know my arrival may have helped my mom’s pain a bit.

  7. On the note of black humour, never watch the remake of charlie and the chocolate factory the night before your stillborn daughters cremation. The opening scene still haunts and amuses me in equal measure.

  8. I’m 46, have a grown son and a 15 year old daughter; I also have a son that died 15 years ago, 5 days before his 10th birthday. Anyhow. I was around 7 or 8 weeks pregnant and last week had a miscarriage. It was not a monumental event. In fact, I didn’t clue in at that exact moment that that’s what was happening; it was the wee hours of the morning. I don’t feel sad. And this disturbs me because popular culture says I’m supposed to feel monumentally sad. It frustrates me that society/culture tells women how they’re supposed to feel. Thanx for this post. It makes me feel like less of a monster.

    • I’m so sorry for the loss of your son – I can only imagine how painful that must be. I really wish people would learn not to tell women how they “should” feel about these things. Is it too much to ask for some simple compassion and support as each person needs it? I’m glad I could help in some small way.

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