Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On Miscarriage

The ever-smart and ever-thoughtful pottymouthmama is talking about miscarriage today, in her stigma-busting series. You can read through her comments list for shared stories. It got me thinking about my own experience of pregnancy loss, and reminded me how important it is that we talk about miscarriage - so common, and yet so often suffered in silence.

To that end, here's the first column I ever wrote for Coast Kids Magazine.

Pregnant with my first child, I lived in the city, with an osteopath, an aqua-aerobics teacher, a yoga instructor and an office full of supportive women always up for a coffee or four. When the irrepressible Ivy Scout arrived, we packed her up with the toilet paper and the lentils and moved down the coast to a sleepy town on the beach. Now we live up a dirt road with tank water, a composting dunny, a derelict vege garden and neighbourhood sheep. Instead of glamorous gay men and boutique carrots, we have boys on dirt bikes and neighbours who leave lemons at the letterbox.

When I got knocked up again, my small-town pregnancy was a different experience. Mainly because first time around I was free to spend all my time languishing on the couch, arranging tiny clothes in baby-shapes, eating Chocolate Montes and watching Love My Way. Second-go, I had a toddler who begged at my feet like a dog, hitting herself in the head dramatically until the Montes went back in the fridge. We were in a West Wing phase by then anyway. Life was a little more intense.

In the early weeks of pregnancy with the foetus we named Banana, my dilemmas were several. First, I had three months between finishing breastfeeding and getting knocked up again. Why didn’t I spend the whole time with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a plateful of Brie, sushi, ham and salami in the other? Secondly, how could I get anything done when I had to sleep for two hours in the middle of the day? Thirdly, did my stomach really pop out twelve minutes after the blue line appeared, or was I just joyfully releasing the belly leftover from last time?

The major dilemma, though, was this: to tell, or not to tell?

The generally held wisdom is that you should wait until the magic twelve week moment before releasing the news of your pregnancy to the world at large. It’s all about the prospect of miscarriage. It happens a lot. It happened to us before the adorable Ivy came along.

At ten weeks pregnant, I was getting ready for work one morning when I discovered a bright red spot of blood. It was the start of a devastating 24 hours that ended in surgery to make sure that all the ‘products of conception’ were removed from my uterus. Things get very clinical very fast with miscarriage. Your foetus has become ‘product’, your baby no longer exists, and you are no longer a mother. I got home feeling empty and shocked, and went to bed.

My partner got on the phone. He told a few friends and family, who passed on the news. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but the cards, flowers and messages started arriving and when I returned to work, women sensitively found moments to share their stories with me. I had become part of a community, where the members understood my loss, and shared and grieved with me.

Miscarriage is an experience shared by, on average, one in six women, although many don’t talk about it, and in the joyful, hopeful world of pregnancy and motherhood, talk of losing babies can seem inappropriate, even distasteful. It can just feel like bad juju. In a subsequent pregnancy, 80-85% of women will go on to produce a healthy baby. I was lucky enough to be among the majority, and in good time Banana became Theodore Fox, known to us as Teddy the Beautiful, Foxy the Ox and (surprisingly tall, with sky-blue eyes and golden hair) Sven Olafson the Watchmaker, secret son-of-milkman.

I’ve never regretted the telling. When you give the people who love you the opportunity, they will support you with kindness and sensitivity, as well as Chocolate Montes. Losing a baby was a sad and traumatic experience, but for us, grieving alone would have been worse. And in my new coast-community, I’m sure I would have found the same community of women, the shared sadness, and the support.

7 comments:

  1. One of my closest friends miscarried a year ago & it was so devastating. All she has ever wanted was to be a wife & a mama. We don't live close by & it's so hard to be away from her knowing what she's been through. We've been so lucky with our babies so far, what do you say to someone when you have been so blessed...I'm glad people are talking more about it. It can only be a positive thing & a support to those who have suffered such a loss. I always found it odd that we were supposed to keep a pregnancy secret until we get through those first 3 months, when if something were to go wrong, wouldn't we need people to know, to help us through, to offer their support & to understand our grief...thank you for sharing your story...

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  2. As the hospital chaplain said to my best friend, who lost her beloved little one at 34 weeks because of a car accident, "You will always be a mum." Miscarriage and stillbirth are no less than any other bereavement, yet often it's dismissed as so little. My sister has had many miscarriages, and some of the comments have been so hurtful: "It was God's will", "There was probably something wrong with it". A baby is always a baby, and a mama is always a mama.

    Thanks for sharing your story. This is the way it gets less secret and shameful, little by little.

    P x

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  3. you are a brave soul to share this private moment. I smiled when you described being pregnant with Ivy- laying arounf watching love my way- exactly what i did.

    A close friend of mine , who lives in this small town , lost a baby at ten weeks, she had told everyone she was pregnant straight away and it was awful for her to be constantly running into people and having to tell them... because of this we only told a couple of close friends who were absolutely sworn to secrecy.

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  4. Lexi's post was great and this article is fabulous too. I have not (thus far) miscarried, but am definitely one to tell as soon as I'm pregnant. Because I can't do the burden-carrying alone, whether the news is joyful OR sad. Thanks for your openness.

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  5. Commented (in a v rambling way) over at PMM but a quick one here too

    Again thankyou for your courage sharing here and thereby helping many others

    some lines that really stand out for me from your post and comments

    "ive never regretted the telling"

    and "a baby is always a baby and a mamas always a mama"

    Really makes you realise that being a mama of 2 healthy full term children is a privilege and not something to take for granted - thank God for them every day (but need reminders too of the fragility/blessings of life when it all gets too much)

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  6. Such a beautiful and heartfelt post to read. Thank you for sharing, I loved this, full to the brim with truth, humour and totally brimming with authenticity. I love reading your writings. xxx

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  7. I've never regretted telling either and in our following pregnancy we decided to share the news as soon as we knew, because then whatever happened, we knew we would have the support that we needed.

    Thanks for this post. It's so important that this isn't something that is hushed up.

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Thanks for talking to me. I don't got cooties. Oh, except for when I got cooties.