This miscarriage business is complex.
We buried our “miscarriage” last night. Picking the right spot was tormenting… the first spot was too exposed; the second place was too far from the house and I cried about not being able to see it or protect it; the third spot, in the garden, was at least visible from the kitchen sink and dining room table so I could keep my eye on it. I like that it was within the fence and not just out in the wild. We named it “felt”.. the in utero nickname I’d been using for the past several weeks.
I remember one 15 year old client I was working with who miscarried at 8 weeks. She and her adolescent boyfriend and some cousins and pals crafted a small coffin out of a shoebox and lined it with velvet. They had a funeral and buried it. She was devastated. I was supportive and appropriate in my social worker way but I secretly thought it was very strange and way over the top.
As I buried my own little one yesterday, I thought about her. I don’t think she was strange or over the top anymore. She was authentic and heroic and brilliant for grieving so thoughtfully and doing what she felt she needed to do to deal with that loss. I am a mess. My condition makes her look stoic.
The etymology of the word “miscarriage” dates back to the 1300’s with “mis” meaning wrongly.. so to miscarry is to “wrongly carry”.. by 1527 the word came to mean “to deliver an unviable fetus”. It all sounds so active and implies some failure of the deliverer/woman.
It also seems a pale euphemism for what the “delivery of an unviable fetus” really looks like and feels like. A rougher word with more hard consonants or something might feel more appropriate….. maybe it’s not the word that is the problem. Maybe it is the relative silence around the experience that affects 1/3 of all pregnancies (that’s a lot of women, partners and families). For me, it is a bloody, painful, gut wrenching, mournful, dissonant, guilty, jarring, and isolating collision. I just keep thinking in disbelief, women go through this all the time.
I sent Blase to rent the dumbest romantic comedy he could find at our little store. He brought home a box that seemed to fit the bill with some nice looking couple on the front, smiling and stuff. The kids finally fell asleep and we turned it on. The opening scene looked to be set in the 50’s or 60’s and was of a woman, crying as she was wheeled into a hospital – having a miscarriage. The next scene was that same woman, again being wheeled into a hospital, screaming – for her second miscarriage. This repeated through her subsequent miscarriage – totally 7 in a row.
We were amazed. Neither of us could think of any movie in recent memory that even vaguely or lightly depicted miscarriage. On this day when we wanted only distraction from our loss and miscarriage pain, we’d somehow gotten this film. What were the chances???? ( It was a great film – check out “The Music Within” if you haven’t already.)
Anyway, the woman suffering the miscarriages was totally broken by her experiences; no doubt compounded by the historically insensitive (abusive) treatment of women by the medical establishment in decades past. Every year, she made a cake and decorated and had a birthday party for each lost baby. Every party ended with her unconscious on the table after overdosing on sleeping pills. This happened 7 times each year. The movie is based on a true story.