“The fact that miscarriages are so common should not diminish each woman’s own experience.”
I wrote this a few months ago, and saved it but never published it. Then I read A Significant Loss, the title of which obviously grabbed me because of its similarity but also its difference to the title I’d chosen for my own story. I think I didn’t publish this before because I thought ‘Nobody wants to hear this sob-story’. But then I read Endrené Shepherd’s frame saying ‘Talking about it eased my sense of isolation’, and I thought hey, maybe somebody does want to hear this sob-story. Maybe the general silence on the subject of miscarriages sends the message that it’s not a big deal, and not something we should make a fuss or feel too sorry for ourselves about. But the fact that miscarriages are so common should not diminish each woman’s own experience. A miscarriage is something that makes you feel bad and sad and guilty and maybe relieved and maybe a million other things, and we are not alone when we feel any of them.
A few months ago, I had a miscarriage. I really wasn’t far along at all, and had only been aware of the pregnancy for about two weeks. It was the kind of pregnancy that I probably wouldn’t even have known about if I hadn’t been waiting for it, dipping Pregnosticks into my urine every other day. But it was there. I knew about it, and could feel it, even if people say you can’t so early. There were two stripes on two different pregnancy strips, and then one day I woke up with a bit of bleeding.
Medically, it wasn’t a big thing. I didn’t need any procedures or even any medication. Just an ultrasound and a pair of blood tests. I got booked off from work for two days: one day for the cramps, and one day for the heart, I guess. I spent the heart day mostly thinking about the ways I’d perhaps indicated to the universe that I didn’t really deserve another baby. I’d been less than compliant with regards to my folate supplements. I’d had a sip of my husband’s beer each night at dinner. I’d told my friends I didn’t know if I was ready for a second kid. I’d worked the whole weekend before the Tuesday it happened, barely seeing the awesome kid I already have.
I had told my colleagues I couldn’t come to work because I had gastro, but on my first day back at work, when they asked me if I was feeling better, I got the weepies and told them the truth. I spent my first morning back feeling physically quite fine, but resentful that I had to deal with other peoples’ problems when I had a sore heart of my own. I was irritable and terse. I made the interns nervous.
I was offered all the usual consolations. ‘Back in the day, you wouldn’t even have known you were pregnant.’ ‘You know those first trimester miscarriages happen for a reason.’ ‘Maybe the universe is trying to tell you something.’ ‘At least you already have a beautiful, healthy child.’
And as my day and my call wore on, I started to feel guilty about being so sad about something that, objectively, did seem rather small. The few (probably genetically abnormal) cells I’d lost was really nothing compared to the losses my patients and their parents face every day. Tiny babies succumbing to the perils of prematurity, toddlers losing the fight against cancer, children maimed and senseless after car accidents and shack fires and stray gunfire. I already have one perfect child when so many will never have any. I am still young and healthy and all I have to do is try again.
In medicine we have a joke about the way patients sometimes try to downplay their illness by saying something like ‘I have a touch of diabetes, doctor’. The joke goes: ‘That’s like having a touch of pregnancy. You either have it or you don’t. There is no in-between.’ As the days ticked over and the smallness of my lost pregnancy started to look even smaller when placed next to all the tragedies of this world, I started to feel like maybe it was possible to be just a little bit pregnant. It felt more and more like I fell on the far end of some spectrum, very distant to the full-blown, moving, thumping pregnancies in their second or third trimester, a bit closer to but still far less pregnant than the women women with first trimester fetuses seen on ultrasound.
But you know, even if I was just a little bit pregnant, and even if the loss of my mini-pregnancy was no big deal compared to the other losses so many women and men sustain every day, it was still a loss. It was small, but it was significant to me.
Reposted with permission from Karen Milford’s Medium collection, called The Baby Test. See more of her posts HERE
‘Karen lives in Cape Town where she is trying to be a good mom, a good doctor, and a connoisseur of good food and wine. On most days, she’s a distracted mom, a passable doctor, and is happy to eat fish fingers with tomato sauce and beer. She writes when she has time and when she has something she really wants to say.’