Miscarriage – Breaking the Silence.


Meghan Markle has spoken out today about her miscarriage. “In the pain of our loss, my husband and I discovered that in a room of 100 women, 10 to 20 of them will have suffered from miscarriage,” she wrote. “Yet despite the staggering commonality of this pain, the conversation remains taboo, riddled with (unwarranted) shame, and perpetuating a cycle of solitary mourning.”

Meghan is right. Too many of us stay silent about this devastating loss. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my own little story, in the hope that it encourages other women not to mourn alone.

In this world, there are 1,100 ejaculations every second, with nearly one million conceptions every day – half of them unplanned. Aged 36 I became one measly bit of maths in this staggering equation when I took the one test you can’t cheat on – the pregnancy test. And failed. I was half packed, ready to embark on a hectic book tour. I also had two children under four, one of whom had just been diagnosed with autism. The timing couldn’t have been worse.

How could this have happened? I hadn’t been playing ovarian roulette. I’d used contraceptives, on all conceivable occasions. But let’s face it. All men should have bumper stickers on their genitals saying Caution : Baby On Board. Nobody can never be 100 percent safe.

The first signal that I was pregnant again had been my sudden craving for pickle sandwiches, pedicures and holidays in the Hebrides (well, they’re the pregnancy cravings I get!) And once my inkling was confirmed, I wondered: how would I break the news to my husband? Perhaps the next time I was vomiting and he asked if there was anything he could do, I could simply reply “Um, how about carrying our third child to full term?” Subtle yet dramatic. And more direct than a sudden declaration that I’d be declining all bungee jumping invitations for the next nine months. I rehearsed the dialogue in my head but had no doubt that it would be just like the baby in my belly : so easy to conceive, but so hard to deliver.

My husband however, was euphoric at my embryonic news. As he held my hair back while I stared down the throat of the toilet for the tenth time that day, he whooped like a Californian aerobics instructor.

But I just couldn’t get excited. I tried to think of the miracle of life stirring within me. But my spouse had recently washed up the dishes without me asking, so I’d already witnessed my miracle for the year.

The trouble was, I’d just got my body back. I didn’t want it to be stolen by aliens once more and replaced with the body of Pavarotti. In my final trimester, just trying to sit down on public transport required torches and flares as if landing a jet. <I did not want to arrange to have my salary paid for a third time, directly to Osh Kosh and Mother Care, for the third time. I did not want to have to wear a ‘sheep dog’ ever again either- you know, the sort of bra that rounds ‘em up and herd’s ‘em in. I wouldn’t even be able to dull the humiliation with alcohol… Mind you once the baby realized what an exhausted and fraught wreck they had for a mother, the poor kid would need a drink, I reasoned with myself. And then there was the thought of another arduous labour. I don’t even want to do anything which feels good for thirty three hours…

But a month later, when the bleeding started, I felt a deep and unexpected sense of dread. Perhaps it was just “spotting?” Then the cramps took hold. By midnight I was bleeding so heavily I was curled into a fetal ball around a hot water bottle . In the hospital the next day, the springs of the examination table seemed to mourn as they took my weight.

As the doctor dolloped a globule of cold jelly onto my abdomen for the ultrasound, and ran the scanner over my belly, my mind was as blank as the screen. There was a whooshy echo – but no tattoo of tiny heartbeats. I turned my head. In the bleary black and white of a scratchy prewar newsreel, tenuous images began to emerge. I peered in on the water bottle world where my baby should have bobbed, buoyant with life. I searched the little black sack for a grainy profile. Empty. I heard the doctor’s voice from a long way off, telling me, kindly, that one in five pregnancies ended in miscarriage. It was probably a genetic fault.

I told myself how good it would be to have my body back. Not to feel ill. Not to feel sleep deprived and exhausted for the next two years. “Let’s go out on the town!” I suggested spontaneously to my sister as we left the hospital. “I’ve only go this cleavage for another few hours. This,” I pointed out my pumped up, hormonal bust line to a startled motorists at the traffic lights, “is not from a wonder bra!”

But later, as I sank into the bath, sending ripples out towards my toes, I found myself ambushed by unexpected emotion. The heating system in my bathroom is connected by an umbilical cord of pipes. As they shuddered and juddered, pulsing water around the house, it made me think of what the doctor had described as uterine material, that had been pulsing within me. I’d wanted to pretend that it was just a missed period, just a tiny bunch of cells, just a blue line on a bit of blotting paper. But I now realized I’d qualified for the World Indoor Record for Self Delusion. There had been a little commonplace miracle stirring inside me. A miracle I’d wished away. How callously I’d marked the gift ‘Return to Sender.”

Waves of remorse began to replace the waves of nausea I’d felt when pregnant. I thought of all the cracks I’d made at the baby’s expense – “Sure, I wouldn’t mind having another child,” I’d said to anyone who asked, ‘if someone would have it for me.” I thought of all the glib asides I’d made to my sisters about how the baby would be the only infant on the block wearing black baby clothes.

But in truth, I’d become a furtive pram-peerer. I’d secretly started fantasising about that little face. The tiny clenched fist. The mouth puckered at my breasts. The hushed excitement of the ultrasound as the doctors tired to discover the embryo’s sex. The euphoria, post birth. The friendly invasion of friends and family. Dressing the baby up in kangaroo Babygrows with a pouch and pointy ears – photos that would provide maximum humiliation on a 21st birthday. I’d started to think about mother’s day cards glued in macaroni and string.

Guilt began to hammer on my mind’s door. Logic battled emotion. If women could wish away their pregnancies, there would have been no backyard abortions or morning after pills. I told myself that the foetus had probably been compromised and that losing the baby had been for the best. I am pro-abortion. And passionately defend a woman’s right to choose… But the trouble was, I’d spent the last eight weeks secretly adjusting. The hormones had kicked in. Emotions began to tear at my throat.

When my crying finally abated, I pulled out the bath plug and let the guilt drain away with the water. Guilt is such a useless emotion. It’s the gift that just keeps on giving. Miscarriage is nature’s way ; guilt is purely man made. The best antidote to the grief of miscarriage is to talk about the experience – so that no woman need ever again feel so alone. Like me, that night, lying in that cold, empty bath.

Please feel free to share your own story, here, and hopefully take some comfort from knowing you are not alone.  With love, warmest best wishes and sisterly solidarity, Kathy x

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