Category Archives: Miscarriage

Triggers

I’m going through old notes to get prepped for writing my new chapter. I came across the notes from one book, that I remember very well that I was reading as I lay in bed in June of last year, unable to sleep because of my contracting uterus during the miscarriage. So I’d have a few minutes where I could read, and then even longer minutes of agonizing pain during which I might or might not drag myself to the bathroom to see what the hell was going on. Not a very good memory and I’m having a little trouble with the notes I later took from the book. While I laid in bed, I had a little piece of paper I was tearing up, making page markers out of. I don’t remember when I transcribed the passages from which I wanted notes. Clearly not that day. Fortunately, I don’t think it’s that important of a book.

So now I feel fairly miserable. I rarely think to myself that I ought to have a 9 month old infant now, because that memory has been so subsumed by the loss of Natan. I feel so much more strongly that I ought to have him. Like I’ve said before, I just kind of accept that loss as a painful, but inevitable event.  But when I see references to “your childbearing year” I can’t help but feel an angry, “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me.” I saw some crazy public service announcement on TLC the other day that suggested only a selfish woman would have trouble giving up coffee and alcohol for that “very short time” she’s pregnant, and my pregnancy book tells me I might very well miss being pregnant. And, people we know are suggesting we’ll be unable to accomplish much on our work once this baby arrives. Again, I say, you’ve got to be freaking kidding me.

Now I’m not actually lamenting my lack of wine with dinner. I’m lucky to be pregnant. I’m grateful to be pregnant. But this hasn’t been a “very short time.” By the time this baby arrives, if I’m lucky enough to carry him to term, I’ll have been pregnant enough months to practically birth an elephant (an exaggeration only by a few months). My doctor gets it. You all get it. Dr. K is very conscious of how damn hard it is to have gone through three first trimesters, two second trimesters, a miscarriage, and the death of our son in a very short time. Losing Natan didn’t make my uterus or my stomach muscles return to their never pregnant state. Part of the reason I’m going to contract a lot in this pregnancy is that my body “remembers” labor last time. Oh that’s nice, could someone remind it that that was the WRONG decision last time? Well, that’s what we are doing with the progesterone, and it’s working and I’m in love with whoever thought of trying it out first. And when I do get up to walk, I’m limping, because my left hip hurts from all the time I’ve spent leaning on it.  I will happily deal with that issue when the baby arrives.

I’m aware of the risk of postpartum depression. I’m considering talking to Dr. K or a psychiatrist about a preemptive round of an.ti-anx.iety meds for that period. And I’m definitely prepared to go to counseling at any instant.

But, and here is where I know I may hear of lot of protestation. To the folks who think we aren’t prepared for the difficulties of managing work with a baby, all I can say is heaven forbid they ever have to try to get back to work without the baby. Now those are some tearful and sleepless nights.

We’ve talked and thought a lot about strategies for helping each other stay productive with an infant around. We both have no obligations other than writing and caring for him and each other.  All of this of course assumes that the baby is born healthy, without a need for significant NICU time or other physical demands. But given that ideal situation, I think we’re going to be fine. Not because we’re naive, but because if anyone in this world has thought about what it means to have a living baby in the house, it would be us.

What are you really trying to say?

If you look at my links, you’ll see I’ve included a “political” section and if you check out this week’s “Top 10 Conservative Idiots” you’ll see that a congressman in Tennessee has proposed requiring death certificates to be issued for aborted fetuses. The author of Top 10, Earl G, makes enough of the ridiculousness of this proposal that I don’t really need to do more. But my non-sophisticated un-philosophical response is that it’s mean-spirited. I am quickly learning about fear and guilt associated with fertility and childbearing and it seems the Tennessee measure’s intent is to shame women. Unable to successfully criminalize them, this legislator wants to create a public record of women who have abortions.

It caused me to reflect on my treatment at the hospital. Overall, the nurses and doctors were profoundly kind and compassionate. Thankfully they don’t see a situation like ours every day, but even still, they do see tragedy often and still they were sincere in their empathy and grief. During my week in the hospital, I went through every possible emotion. I felt guilt, like I must have done something wrong despite having spent months preparing my body for pregnancy and then following every guideline for making it a healthy one. In weak moments I felt ashamed at my apparent inability to easily accomplish such a “natural” task. (So much for the Fit Pregnancy magazine and Bradley Method to Natural Childbirth book I happily purchased in November. My subsequent pregnancies will involve bed rest, a throng of medical professionals, and probably a C-section.) I was so upset with myself at times that I was shocked by the medical staff’s concern for me, as well as our baby. Over and over they expressed that my life was their first priority, and reassured me that I was a good mother. Even as we all confronted the death of Natan, as the passing of a real person, I was struck by the care and compassion they expressed for me.

With the miscarriage, however, it was different. None of the medical personnel mourned the baby as a real person with a soul and an identity, and neither actually did I. I thought I did at the time, and I would never reduce the experience of miscarriage to simply a loss of tissue. As I waited for the fetus to pass, having chosen not to get a D&C if it wasn’t absolutely necessary, I spoke to it, telling it I would always love it, but that it was time to move on. I was distraught over losing the pregnancy, but I didn’t know that fetus like I knew Natan. I passed an 8.5-week fetus, and honestly I couldn’t discern much of a human form. The idea of a death certificate would be bizarre – we wouldn’t even know the sex and as we know the law doesn’t accept intersex as a category.

But let’s not get into that debate. Ultimately I am trying to discern why the Tennessee proposal angers me as a mother and why I relate it to my feelings of inadequacy and guilt over Natan’s death. Some of it, I think, is appropriate. I was his mother and I loved him. I wanted him in this world, even more than I wanted myself. Of course I’m heartbroken over losing him, and of course I think about the events leading up to labor. Of course I wish something could have been done to save his life, and will always have some “what ifs” in mind.

The shame, however, I think is reflected in much of the way women, fertility, pregnancy, and babies are presented in media and conversation. Why did I see so many pictures of Reese Witherspoon’s daughter, Kate Hudson’s son, and other celebrity kids in the US magazine I paged through this morning at the gym? Why can I not turn on television news programs without hearing about missing children, pregnancy fads, or pedophilia? We are baby obsessed in popular culture (academics please forgive me for not footnoting that phrase) and I think it has very little to do with true compassion for children. It’s narcissism. I love Natan infinitely, but it wasn’t only my love for him that made me excited when people out in public could tell I was pregnant. I liked the attention. But not in a healthy way. In the same way pride in my athletic body in high school turned into an unhealthy obsession when that became difficult to maintain in college, I realized I was putting too much value on a popularly represented body image. And that body image was of a baby-making machine. I am certainly not saying that a pregnant body isn’t beautiful and that the sight of a pregnant woman shouldn’t make us happy or that we should not be concerned about the welfare of babies and children. But when we portray motherhood as the be all and end all of a woman’s life, we ultimately devalue life. We cheapen the experience of pregnancy by making it a universal commodity, something we all must do and have. And we say that if a woman cannot achieve it or does not want it, she has failed.

When we obsess over childhood and children, we create impossible norms. If you care about your children’s well being, do you subject them to constant scrutiny? Do you comment on everything they do, say, and wear? Do you make them play out their personal pain in front of everyone you know? If every moment of your every day is spent chronicling every detail of your children’s lives, are you really thinking first about them, or about yourself?

The Tennessee proposal reflects this shame. Death certificates for fetuses have nothing to do with individual children, with increasing their real chances for life or for improving its quality. It doesn’t even have anything to do with reducing the incidence of abortion. It has everything to do with portraying motherhood as the norm, and with ignoring diverse experience that complicates it.