Content warning: this article contains description of miscarriage
I sent a photograph of the test to my friend. She could see it too – the second pink line that confirmed the past week’s suspicions. I was pregnant. She congratulated me in all caps, with multiple exclamation marks and various emojis. I thanked her but couldn’t allow myself to share in the excitement. The joy I desperately wanted to embrace couldn’t make its way past the panicked onslaught of what ifs.
“This is a different pregnancy,” my husband reminded me. And he was right. But I felt rooted in the first pregnancy – the one that ended. The miscarriage only four months earlier on New Year’s Day. “We’re allowed to be excited,” he said, and I tried to separate this baby from the one I was still grieving.
Unlike the last time, we didn’t discuss names or parenting styles or talk to my stomach. We were quieter in our future planning, but nevertheless, our new life unspooled. We snuck conversations about the due date and when we would tell our parents. I let the app on my phone know that I was pregnant and it eagerly told me that our baby was the size of a sesame seed. It all felt eerily familiar.
“I knew immediately. It was happening again. The future that my husband and I had been secretly mapping out was quickly erasing itself.”
A week passed and I was comforted by the creeping nausea that roomed in my gut. Lockdown meant that I was working from home, so I spent days in pyjamas and napped on my lunch break. But the what ifs were louder than ever. Each twinge had me running to the bathroom to check for blood. Thankfully, there was none.
Until the morning there was a small speck – barely noticeable if I hadn’t been scrutinising each sheet of toilet paper. I spent the day pleading with my body – not again, not this time. It complied for several hours until there was a sharp pain in my uterus, like the quick tearing of a piece of paper.
I knew immediately. It was happening again. The future that my husband and I had been secretly mapping out was quickly erasing itself.
The midwife advised that I was safe to miscarry naturally. There was no need to go to the hospital this time, no need to once more have the lost life scraped from my insides while I slept, no need to sign a consent form that allowed for a mass cremation “for what’s removed”.
Over the next few days, I bled and ached and railed against a God I had never believed in. I felt boundlessly lonely in a body that kept betraying me. I knew that one in four pregnancies ended in miscarriage but I couldn’t understand why it had happened again. I began to hate my body and all its covert processes. It couldn’t be trusted.
“I wanted to be with my family, my friends, to hold the hands of loved ones and feel them squeezing my palm at the right moments. But lockdown made that impossible.”
After my first miscarriage, I was vocal in my grief and protested a world that refused to speak openly about pregnancy loss. I discussed my pain publicly. Women shared their own stories with me in return and, together, we lifted a layer of isolation. But I made others uncomfortable. I watched people shift their weight from left to right foot and grapple to find the right words or else give up altogether, clunkily changing the subject.
After this second miscarriage, I didn’t know what to say. I worried that I had exhausted the sympathy of others. The circuitousness of this particular grief was familiar, so I gave myself permission to feel everything.
I called my mother and instantly felt her arms reaching out for me across the phone. I wanted to be with my family, my friends, to hold the hands of loved ones and feel them squeezing my palm at the right moments. But lockdown made that impossible. The monotony of life lived indoors offered no escape. Quickly, the rooms in my house began to tighten and grief papered over each wall. I thought about The Outside and all its untainted places.
Like many other women who have endured the trauma of miscarriage, I went online. Countless miscarriage forums and women on social media offered advice and visceral accounts that didn’t reach for the comfort blanket of euphemisms. Finally, I was seen and I was heard. Here, the once secret society of the ‘one in fours’ was loud and unflinching. It was liberating to speak openly to an audience who refused to look away.
“Like many other women who have endured the trauma of miscarriage, I went online... Finally, I was seen and I was heard.”
But alongside these conversations, I scrolled past flippant remarks relating to the rise of ‘Quarantine Babies’ due January 2021 – when the baby I had just lost would have been born. On Facebook, I winced at pregnancy announcements, the pictures of smiling, pending mothers cupping their swollen bellies, and the ‘Being a Mum’ ten-day photo challenge.
Why them and not me? I thought of every woman I knew with children and couldn’t make sense of my own situation. How do I survive as an un-mother?
Openly discussed is the postpartum body, but not mine. So I’ll keep talking – as part of my own healing and for the innumerable women who feel silenced by a society that hasn’t yet learned the language of this conversation.
Elaine Taylor is a freelance journalist based in Glasgow
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