A Feminist’s Miscarriage
Posted on May 14, 2013
If things had gone as planned, I would not be in India when this post goes live. Instead, I would be taking care of a newborn baby right now. My due date was April 20.
I miscarried at eight weeks, during the first three days of the fall semester. The routine ultrasound on that Tuesday revealed a slow heartbeat, and instead of an 8-week fetus, there was something closer to the size of a 6-week embryo. When my doctor came in to speak with us, she said, “Hope for the best, of course, but prepare for the worst.” Her demeanor was kind. By Tuesday night I began to miscarry. I worked through Wednesday, walking slowly to my classes and introducing syllabi. My supervisor found out what was going on and encouraged me to take a few days off, and so I spent Thursday and Friday at home. My mom took care of Ruthie, and Chalupa and some dear internet friends took care of me. By Saturday, everything was over.
The pregnancy was a planned one, and yet I never felt connected to it. I wasn’t sick like I had been with Ruthie. I felt few, if any, pregnancy symptoms, and when Chalupa and I went in for the ultrasound, I said, “They’re going to find something wrong. I don’t think we’re going to have this baby.” Two weeks before that, when a best friend from college let me know that she was miscarrying, I didn’t tell her about my pregnancy for two reasons: one, I though it would be cruel to tell her during her miscarriage that I was pregnant, and two, I was pretty sure I’d be in her shoes before long.
At my follow-up appointment the next week, my doctor gave me six months’ worth of birth control pills, which I eagerly accepted. I knew for a fact that I was not ready to go through this again any time soon. I needed to figure out what it meant to go through a miscarriage before I was ready to be pregnant again.
What does it mean to have a miscarriage?
While I was miscarrying, several dear friends spoke up and shared their experiences with me. I got together with that college friend a few weeks later at Starbucks, and we talked about how our bodies and emotions were doing in the aftermath. I’ve seen friends fall apart after their miscarriages. I’ve seen others move on like little happened. I’ve had friends who count miscarriages as their “children in heaven.” For women whose pregnancies have been unplanned and unwanted, miscarriage has felt like a second chance at life. For women who have felt that a given pregnancy was their only chance at motherhood, miscarriage has been among the greatest tragedies of their lives.
It seems that miscarrying means something different to every woman who experiences it.
Because miscarriage is a uniquely female experience, I found myself asking: What does it mean, as a feminist, to miscarry? And: Does my worldview as a feminist affect my understanding and processing of my own experience?
Truthfully: my feelings about my miscarriage are not all very intense at this point. I was sad to lose the pregnancy, and the change in hormone levels in the weeks surrounding the event was difficult to navigate. I haven’t suffered any long-term side effects, and I didn’t even think of the lost pregnancy on what would have been my due date. I thought of it that week, sure, but the day passed without me even recognizing its significance. I don’t feel that I lost a baby, and aside from the first two weeks and a few acute moments in the following months, I felt little need to grieve my loss in the way that other women have grieved theirs.
I feel lucky that the pregnancy ended itself as early as it did. We hadn’t told out friends yet, and I certainly hadn’t made any announcements on Facebook. I accept the common wisdom that a miscarried pregnancy is often the result of an embryonic abnormality, likely a heart defect. I am grateful that I accepted the offer of an 8-week-ultrasound, because it was so comforting to know in advance what was going to happen–even if it was only four or five hours in advance.
It feels a little heartless to say all of this, especially when I think of my friends who have suffered so much because of their pregnancy losses. But this is my experience. The story of my second pregnancy goes like this: I was very excited, then very anxious, then very sad, then a little sad, then not sad anymore.
I’ve come to the conclusion that my understanding of this event as a feminist simply backs up my earlier understanding: that miscarriage is different for every person who experiences it.
As a feminist, I believe that life feels different to each person. What hurts me may not hurt someone else. What makes me happy is not going to make someone else happy. What devastates someone else may not even make me flinch. That’s why we find such joy in shared moments and mirrored experiences–because that feeling that someone else knows what we’ve gone through is such a special one that doesn’t come around all that often.
If I had not miscarried, I would not have been able to accept the position as the India trip leader. I wouldn’t say that that makes it worth it, but I would say that I recognize that every life circumstance is complicated. If there is a lesson I learned from my miscarriage–aside from the fact that the whole experience is generally shitty–it is that people’s responses to difficult circumstances should be respected, no matter what they are. The grieving woman who has lost a pregnancy should be free to mourn her loss in whatever way is best for her. The woman who is relieved to miscarry should not be made to feel guilty for that. The woman like me who is sad about the loss but not devastated, should be able to embrace the broad swinging pendulum of emotion that goes from “devastated” to “fine, thanks” without feeling like something is wrong with her.
Note: This content is being published while I am out of the country, so my involvement in the comments may be limited until I return.