When I first typed miscarriage into a search engine, and scanned through forums, blogs and online articles which detailed the experiences and queries of women suffering from a miscarriage, the content was predominantly concerned with women who got pregnant with the intention of starting a family. This suffering must be unquestionably world-shattering, and recovery from it complex and strenuous on the physical and mental health of the couples who go through it – something universally accepted.
But my purpose for searching through such personal and painful accounts was to try and find answers on what I myself should do. I was not trying to start a family, and I was not even in a long-term relationship. I was a twenty year old student who had been told a day previously that I was pregnant, but that I was currently miscarrying.
When I found out, the back of my throat went dry, and my limbs had gone stiff. This is unbelievable, I thought, especially seeing as only seconds before I had imagined a “wouldn’t it be crazy if” scenario in which I had been told I was pregnant, and fast-forwarded to picturing a montage of me living out endearing single-mom problems like changing nappies and warming bottles, Katherine Heigl chick flick-style. The reality of the severity of the situation, and the irony of casual jokes had with partners about accidental-pregnancy suffocated these ignorant images in an instant.
Pregnancy aside, I had no way of preparing myself for the weeks that the miscarriage occurred. For days I couldn’t even make myself say the word out loud. Miscarriage. Up to 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage. Most miscarriages are caused by abnormal chromosomes. Some miscarriages last days, some last weeks. The majority of women unknowingly experience a miscarriage at least once in their life.
Essentially, my body had made a critical decision for me and was expelling a mistake I hadn’t even known about. I bled for weeks, with a constant worry that one of the check-ups at the doctors would end in being told that it had been unsuccessful and I would have to get an abortion, prolonging the nightmare even further. It seemed never-ending, waking up each day hoping it would have stopped by now – surely it had stopped by now? At one point I told a friend who knew, that I wanted to just go to sleep and only wake up when it was over, something she said sounded a lot like being in a very dangerous stage of depression. I felt as if my body had betrayed me in its attempt to fix the situation, I had no idea what to do until it stopped, I didn’t recognise myself. Like everyone, I have harboured insecurities about my body all my life, but when I began to mature and learn more about my body on my own and with partners, I found that I was quickly able to become very comfortable with learning to understand my own needs and capabilities. My period for example was regular, and I’d never felt the need for medicated birth control. This was not the same. This was irregular and sporadic, and hollowing to my self-esteem.
At first discovery of advice message boards on dealing with the trauma, I felt as if I had no right to feel as in shock and upset as I did – these women wanted to have children, and by some random cruelty of nature had been denied it. I did not want a baby, so how could I relate? What right did I have to look for advice? It would only affect my life as much as I let it, and I was told by some that I seemed to be handling the situation very well. Internally, I was dividing up the people I spoke to into categories of those who knew and those who didn’t, sometimes feeling that rather than have to constantly be checking myself on what not/to say, I should either tell everyone or no one.
I truly do commend and revere the hard work which doctors and nurses put in to making sure their patients are definitely safe and healing how they should be, but I can’t stress how alarmingly sensitive I became to communication during the appointments and examinations and scans conducted on me because of the changing faces, and approaches to forging a professional/patient relationship. One doctor was very nonplussed but sturdy, even play punching me in the arm as she left the room and telling me that I’d be alright, another was a mouse-like trainee who, with a condescending tilt of her head, spoke very slowly to me and as if I had a concussion. One male doctor sat leisurely talking on his phone in a very obvious personal call, before telling me the results of tests I’d been sat waiting two and a half hours to hear. Though no real individual fault of their own, they collectively sent me yo-yo-ing through and array of stress, ease, uncertainty, and annoyance week after week.
Despite the fraught development of mentality during the experience, in order to reassure any other twenty-something experiencing a miscarriage with no clue how to relate, I will say this: the painful truth is that you just have to roll with the punches and get on with what you’re going through. Make sure you have a good support system of friends and/or family around you who will be there for you when you need them, but don’t feel the need to say anything you do not want to unless you are ready. Appreciate the hard work of people working in medicine, even if they do sometimes tactlessly throw around words like ‘tumour’ accidentally out loud, in attempts to grapple with how to best inform you about your situation without freaking you out – they are just trying to work out how best to help you. Your relationship with your body is a long and arduous ordeal that you will never stop learning from, and you have to make your peace with that, and do not diminish your pain by using others’ as a yardstick for comparison.