miscarriage invisibility
February 18, 2015 11:00 AM   Subscribe

a lost possibility: women on miscarriage (an open discussion on a topic that nobody talks about)

Alice Bradley (Finslippy) - Eighteen Attempts at Writing About A Miscarriage
Sarah Shemkus (Slate) - Losing the Baby: My week of gestational limbo
Kate Clancy/"Grace" - Motherhood Won and Lost: One Woman’s Story of Miscarriage
Caitlin Lubinski (Christianity Today) - The Miscarriage Secret
Kate Merry (Vice) - Why Is Talking About Miscarriage Still Taboo?
Sonja Essen (BlogHer) - The Other Taboo of Miscarriage: I Was Grateful

Abigail Rasminsky (at The Archipelago on Medium) - I’m Pregnant. So Why Can’t I Tell You?
"When a woman conceals the first trimester of pregnancy, who is she trying to protect?"

Cassie Murdoch (Jezebel) - Should You Tell Your Facebook Friends You've Had a Miscarriage?
Jody Pratt (Babble) - Suffering in Silence - How One Woman Coped With Her Miscarriage
Wendy Zamora (XOJane) - Why We Shouldn't Have to Keep Pregnancy A Secret For the First Trimester

Penelope Trunk (The Guardian, 2009) - Why I tweeted about my miscarriage

Jennifer Oradat (on ScaryMommy) - What You Should And Shouldn’t Say To A Friend Who Miscarried

Paula Knight - Miscarriage comics – talking about it
see also: Words can be tricky, in panels ("the language and euphemisms used to refer to miscarriage")

TrollXChromosomes (Reddit) - My friend is suffering after a miscarriage, and I had this horrible realization

Suzanne Sadedin (Aeon) - War in the womb
"A ferocious biological struggle between mother and baby belies any sentimental ideas we might have about pregnancy"
posted by flex (51 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I'd like to add a lovely poignant comic by MeFi favourite Lucy Knisley about this very thing.
posted by Kitteh at 11:14 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir, Elizabeth McCracken.
Not to be missed.
posted by Dashy at 11:31 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

All of these are relevant to my family's interests but I am SO SO SO reluctant to share them. There are just too many feels involved.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:34 AM on February 18, 2015

posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:46 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Most people would be happier never thinking about miscarriage. Many people will never have to. Staying quiet about it makes lots of people happier, at the expense of those who don't have the choice of not dealing with it.

The same is true of losing a child who was born live, as we did. When that happened to us, we were sure that no one we knew had ever known anyone that it had happened to -- clearly, it must be a vanishingly rare thing, because it was never talked about.

Not true. When we started talking to friends and family, we found out that quite a few of them knew of someone who'd lost a child. It's just that the topic is relegated to the shadows, dealt with only by the people it happens to.

I think these things should be talked about more. Not just for the sake of those who go through it, but so that everyone can get some perspective on it. Miscarriages happen all the time; you certainly know someone who's had one. Infant deaths happen, more rarely but there's still a fair chance you know someone who had a kid die. Pretending these things don't happen robs everyone of part of the human condition, and it marginalizes the people that they happen to.
posted by gurple at 11:58 AM on February 18, 2015 [32 favorites]

Of course these things should be talked about more. We can't develop an empathetic society by keeping secrets.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:05 PM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]

These are really intense and oddly beautiful. The art does a very good job of representing different ethnic backgrounds and shapes and so on.
posted by poe at 12:29 PM on February 18, 2015

A few years ago my Mom and I went looking for the shrine to miscarried babies in Tokyo. We never found it unfortunately.

As a last child I'm only around because my Mom miscarried between kids number three and four.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:51 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Penelope Trunk piece is an excellent inclusion. I don't get to choose how any woman feels about the experience or know what stage they are at unless they reveal it. Being at work while life is changing/not changing as part bodily function is pretty surreal.
posted by lawliet at 1:09 PM on February 18, 2015

My magnificent Mrs C and I briefly tried for kids, and played the fertility games, stopping short of in vitro.

There were a couple of early miscarriages on the road. Mrs C described them at the time as disappointments, and we weren't so intensely wanting to have children; only much later and by accident did I find out how profoundly upset she really was about it, but didn't let on at the time. Still tears me up that she felt that she had to carry that alone.
posted by Artful Codger at 1:14 PM on February 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

This is a great post. Thank you.
posted by josher71 at 1:18 PM on February 18, 2015

Heck, I'll try to tell my story. I'll have a smoke first if you don't mind.

I attempted parenthood late. Pregnancy was difficult and I miscarried twice, once early with nobody knowing, the second later after informing family. Among those closest to us, the prevailing attitude was that my failure to complete a pregnancy was indicative of obvious character and moral deficits, or because I used cannabis, or because I didn't go to church.

During the second experience, I learned of our little kinnakeeter's death from the expression on the face of the ultrasound technician who said nothing but sent me on to see our asshat OB-GYN, an agonizing 20-minute drive away, to actually hear the news. He thoughtfully followed this with the observation that "I'm sure you will be great parents, just maybe not in this lifetime," before sending me home. Hours later I would be rushed to the ER with intense pain and bleeding. Virtually everyone I encountered at the hospital behaved as though I were radioactive or filled with contagion. It was terrifying and isolating in the extreme and I have not willingly interacted with medical staff as a patient since.

My OB-GYN, by the way, is soon to be tried in a very public way for his wife's murder. I look forward to re-living my despair and trauma every goddamned time his face appears in the media.
posted by kinnakeet at 1:18 PM on February 18, 2015 [19 favorites]

I wonder if what I have to say will be upsetting to people, but I don't agree with this at all. There is no stigma or "silence" attributed to miscarriage. If there is, it's usually because the person who experiences it doesn't really want to talk about it- and that's fine. I can't blame them for that.

Like a lot of families mine puts a lot of pressure on the women to get married and have kids. The ones that don't get badgered about it constantly. My cousin who was in her 30's had been trying to get pregnant for ages and was SO HAPPY that it finally happened for her. She told her husband (who is a complete deuchbag) after he had promised never to tell anyone when a pregnancy happened because you know- Miscarriages tend to happen in the first 3 months. Despite his promise, he went and told EVERYONE. So everyone went to congratulate her and the family treated her like she was finally worth something because she was finally going to become a mother. Well guess what happened? She miscarried.

I don't think I need to tell you the heart-break that concluded. She went back to feeling ashamed that she wasn't a mother and hating her husband for putting her in that position when simply keeping his promise would've avoided it all. And of course she couldn't face any of the family without them making her feel worse about it- even though most often they were trying to do the opposite by consoling her.

Women often CHOOSE silence for this matter and they have good reasons for it. People's hopes go up- Parents think they're going to be grandparents...Brothers and sisters think they're going to be aunts and uncles... and then all the hopes are suddenly dashed. It's not something people generally want to dwell on, least of all the person experiencing the miscarriage.
posted by manderin at 1:23 PM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

There is no stigma or "silence" attributed to miscarriage....

Women often CHOOSE silence for this matter and they have good reasons for it. People's hopes go up- Parents think they're going to be grandparents...Brothers and sisters think they're going to be aunts and uncles... and then all the hopes are suddenly dashed. It's not something people generally want to dwell on, least of all the person experiencing the miscarriage.

That's kind of the definition of "stigma" that would create "silence" about the issue.
posted by jaguar at 1:35 PM on February 18, 2015 [20 favorites]

He thoughtfully followed this with the observation that "I'm sure you will be great parents, just maybe not in this lifetime," before sending me home.

Holy crap I'm so sorry you had to deal with such a jerk.

I lost my first pregnancy at 20 weeks, it was horrifying and traumatic in all kinds of ways, but the memory I keep going back to is that when they printed out the confirming ultrasound picture for us, they gave it to us in a little envelope with a line drawing of stork w/bundle and the caption "Baby's First Photo". Where exactly does the medical profession get these people?
posted by Daily Alice at 1:36 PM on February 18, 2015 [6 favorites]

I think there is a stigma and silence attributed to miscarriage because so many people say the wrong thing because it is still considered unusual (even though it isn't, really) and we have not developed social conventions about dealing with the death of children.

It's not something people generally want to dwell on, least of all the person experiencing the miscarriage.

Every woman I have known that has suffered a miscarriage HAS dwelled on it, and often times the thoughtless or innocent remarks of other remind them of the miscarriage when usually the other person would never had made those comments had they known of the miscarriage.
posted by saucysault at 1:36 PM on February 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

I would have been deeply grateful for an open conversation about what had happened, but was unable to instigate same. Any reassurance would have been welcome, but none came; people made it plain they viewed the situation as my problem (read: failing) and not something they felt comfortable discussing. The experience was over 15 years ago but it irreparably changed my relationships with others and destroyed my belief in so-called "unconditional love". I did not choose isolation.

When I lightly remarked on this recently, one in-law replied breezily "of course we all knew you didn't want to talk about it." This is a dangerous assumption to make when someone is in obvious pain.
posted by kinnakeet at 1:49 PM on February 18, 2015 [16 favorites]

If there is, it's usually because the person who experiences it doesn't really want to talk about it- and that's fine.

Sure, but when someone (like me) DOES want to talk about it, because they want to hear it's okay to be sad, that it's not their (my) fault, that a miscarriage doesn't make them (me) a bad person, then it's radio silence, because " It's not something people generally want to dwell on " translates to "shut up I don't want to be depressed, you're SO depressing get over it, it's just a miscarriage."

I dwelled. For fifteen years.

You know how I stopped?

BY TALKING ABOUT IT. To other people. By finding out how many friends had experienced the same thing. By crying with other people who've lost pregnancies. By opening up with my partner about my fears about being pregnant. By TALKING ABOUT IT.

So you can take your "women choose to not talk about it" and shove it in a dark hole and sit on it and think about what you've done to silence women who want and need to talk about their experiences.
posted by FritoKAL at 1:58 PM on February 18, 2015 [18 favorites]

My OB-GYN, by the way, is soon to be tried in a very public way for his wife's murder.

The words "jesus tap-dancing christ" burst involuntarily out of my mouth when I read this.

Women often CHOOSE silence for this matter and they have good reasons for it. People's hopes go up- Parents think they're going to be grandparents...Brothers and sisters think they're going to be aunts and uncles... and then all the hopes are suddenly dashed. It's not something people generally want to dwell on, least of all the person experiencing the miscarriage.

The idea that women owe their relatives these experiences and thus have "dashed" other peoples "hopes" (like what, ON PURPOSE?) if they personally suffer what is often physically and emotionally a tremendously painful experience...is the whole fucking problem. There's a stigma around miscarriage because we have such a fucked up view of pregnancy as some kind of weird sacred duty that women perform as a goddamn public service.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:00 PM on February 18, 2015 [32 favorites]

I mean I'm not saying that people shouldn't love and feel invested in their nieces and nephews and grandkids and whatnot. But if your daughter has a miscarriage and you're so sad about not having a potential grandkid that you can't possibly bring yourself to hear about how to help your actual already born daughter who is in tremendous pain? Well...that's a pretty asshole way to be.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:12 PM on February 18, 2015 [21 favorites]

Women often CHOOSE silence for this matter and they have good reasons for it. People's hopes go up- Parents think they're going to be grandparents...Brothers and sisters think they're going to be aunts and uncles... and then all the hopes are suddenly dashed.

Yeah, and you know who gets blamed for those dashed hopes? The woman who miscarried! The woman who's just been through a potentially traumatic medical event, the one who's possibly just seen her dreams of motherhood tossed out the window. Maybe if you hadn't eaten that cheese, maybe if you'd found out sooner, maybe you need to do a cleanse, maybe you need to go to confession more. Maybe god has a ~plan~ for you. Maybe you're just not meant to be a mother. Maybe you should lose some weight before you try again. Maybe next time you should make sure you're eating clean.

The moment you become pregnant, everything you do and everything you are comes under scrutiny. People criticise your food choices--are you sure, they say, you should be eating that? Or, maybe, do you really think you need that? They criticise you for exercising--should someone in your condition really be doing this? And they criticise you for not exercising, because hey, I've heard that weight gain in pregnancy can give you a fat baby; you really should get out there and exercise some more. If you're excited, you're told not to get your hopes up, or told horror stories about days of labor and dead, dying babies. If you're not excised, you're setting yourself up to fail--don't you know that the fetus can sense your emotions? What sort of person isn't filled with unrestrained delight at the idea of motherhood?

Nothing you do is right, and you can't win. I'm crying typing this, sitting in my living room and sobbing, because I had my first child when I was too young, and she was born tiny and sick, and then I had miscarriages, and every single thing I say in this post is something that someone's said to me, something that someone has put on me when I was already miserable and in pain and doubting myself.

So I feel like I understand really, really well why women would choose silence for this matter, as you put it, and that reason has nothing to do with not wanting to talk about it.
posted by MeghanC at 2:16 PM on February 18, 2015 [30 favorites]

Miscarriages are startlingly frequent:
We identified 198 pregnancies by an increase in the hCG level near the expected time of implantation. Of these, 22 percent ended before pregnancy was detected clinically. Most of these early pregnancy losses would not have been detectable by the less sensitive assays for hCG used in earlier studies.
The total rate of pregnancy loss after implantation, including clinically recognized spontaneous abortions, was 31 percent. Most of the 40 women with unrecognized early pregnancy losses had normal fertility, since 95 percent of them subsequently became clinically pregnant within two years. (N Engl J Med 1988; 319:189–94.)
And most of the clinically recognized early ones were apparently due to chromosome problems:
The first chromosomal analysis of spontaneous miscarriage was carried out in 1961.
Since then numerous studies have been reported. From these it has become clear that the majority of first trimester abortions are caused by chromosome anomalies.
posted by jamjam at 2:24 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

If there is, it's usually because the person who experiences it doesn't really want to talk about it- and that's fine.

No, it's not fine. It's usually because they don't want to talk about it because other people will make them feel worse about it. Just like every other sentence in your comment shows. They choose silence because people will blame them for having failed at childbearing if they talk about it. What kind of definition of stigma do you have that doesn't encompass that?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:51 PM on February 18, 2015 [12 favorites]

My Grandmother had twelve pregnancies and two children, and one of the children was incredibly premature and almost died; my mother was her only healthy pregnancy. I knew about it because my mom told me, but I never talked about it with my grandmother (my mom had two pregnancies, two healthy babies). I wonder sometimes how she must have felt about it. As an elderly person, she had such rage inside of her that came out in all of these weird, twisty ways - I loved her, but I lived on eggshells around her*. I can't help but think her experiences with trying to have children must have shaped her as much as the abuse she suffered as a child.

Even the language around miscarriage is weird - as a lot of these posts point out - and most of them apportion blame on the person carrying the proto-child. There is a long history of women being held responsible not just for pregnancies, but also entirely for children and their behavior; it's part of an entire pattern of responding to the suffering of women as if we caused our own suffering - a weird sort of assumed-omnipotence for women, but only when we're in pain.

*I have a very amusing, to me, story about how I packed out my garbage at her house the way you do with a campsite - coming with trashbags, storing them in my suitcase, and then throwing out whatever trash I generated at home. This was because there were several ways trash could be disposed off, all in different places, she was furious if you got it wrong and furious if you asked what to do because from her perspective it was obvious. It still makes me giggle when I think about it. When I told my mom - she hadn't noticed - her mix of amusement and horror made me giggle, too.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:14 PM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]

I've had four miscarriages. They were all very early, well within that time frame that people don't talk about pregnancies because "things happen." Well, you know what? Things happened, and I wanted the support of my community when they did. I was fortunate that nobody blamed me for not being able to carry a baby to term, partly because it was so early (all my miscarriages were prior to 9 weeks), but it was still very hard. During the second one, my three best friends were all pregnant, and I can't imagine how difficult it would have been for me if I'd felt compelled to keep it a secret from them to protect their feelings.

In my experience, it's not that women don't want to talk about it; it's that they are too fragile to risk being told, directly or indirectly, that their friends and families (sometimes even spouses and partners) don't want to hear about it. We know that our pain makes you uncomfortable, trust me. It makes us uncomfortable too. That's kind of what we were hoping to get some help with.
posted by KathrynT at 3:16 PM on February 18, 2015 [18 favorites]

I had a miscarriage in my mid twenties and felt I couldn't or "shouldn't" talk about it. Mainly, the subject seemed to make other people really uncomfortable (and I mean family and close friends - my own mother, even).
posted by marimeko at 3:26 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Women often CHOOSE silence for this matter and they have good reasons for it.

I don't think anyone is begrudging women the ability to choose silence, or insisting that none of the women who have done so have done it of their own volition. There certainly exist women who prefer to not talk about their first-trimester pregnancies or miscarriages, and that's their prerogative. Nobody's saying that they should talk if they don't want to.

However, there are also women who feel pressured to remain silent even though they'd like to reach out to people. And that is crappy as hell.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:26 PM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]

Also, to the people who are sharing: thank you. I really appreciate hearing your experiences and perspectives.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:30 PM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

I am a labor and delivery nurse, so bearing witness to "early" (first trimester) miscarriages isn't part of my experience; women miscarrying early pregnancies rarely require hospitalization. But I have been present for many "late" (15-23 week) miscarriages and at the birth of many stillborn babies who were of a viable gestational age.

Women themselves may not talk about their experience very often, but the nurses do. We talk about you all the time, with gratitude, and we talk about the way being present for your experience has changed us.

We remember you as clearly as the day we held your hand and cried with you. We might not remember your name, but we would recognize you anywhere. And we remember your babies, their faces and fingers, and we remember the horrible finality of bringing their bodies to the morgue.

So if you feel like no one wants to hear about your loss, or if you feel like no one remembers the baby you didn't get to take home, please know that your nurse wants to hear, and remembers. Please be certain that you aren't alone with those memories. Your nurse is still there with you.
posted by jesourie at 3:37 PM on February 18, 2015 [70 favorites]

The moment you become pregnant, everything you do and everything you are comes under scrutiny.

This is true. There's something about fertility and especially pregnancy that seems to give the general public carte blanche to talk about all your choices, touch your body, relay unwanted pearls of wisdom on you and generally treat you as public property.

However, I think this is just an extension of how, generally, women's lives are not allowed to be private. So much advice and questions of women starting from when they are very young, whether they are dressing demurely enough, keeping their legs closed, being friendly to men, being sweet and kind, whether they are planning a family, whether they are having sex too young or too old. Other women are especially nosy because we all seem so suspicious of each other and apparently all want to be doing the *right* thing at the right time. And then justify our decisions to the world! And the world is ready to judge us anytime we like: yes, you look pretty; yes, you are being a good mother; yes, your career ideals are just right: a little ambitious but not too ambitious – don't forget the needs of the children! And on and on.
posted by amanda at 3:38 PM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

...and of course, this kind of scrutiny and public access just comes up full stop when women need the help. So much advice for women on how to live their lives. So little help when we need it.
posted by amanda at 3:41 PM on February 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

That's kind of the definition of "stigma" that would create "silence" about the issue.

No it isn't.

If you want to buy someone a gift you might keep it a secret until you are sure you can purchase said gift because you don't want to needlessly get their hopes up. Would you call that person being silent due to stigma? Of course not. Many women don't want to reveal their pregnancies before the 3rd month simply to not get others hopes up if miscarriage happens- including their own.

Stigma implies punishment by others. If someone reveals mental illness they might lose out on jobs or relationships. People insult them, put them down. With miscarriage, what happens is that the woman chooses not to talk about simply because it makes her FEEL bad to do so. When others find out they give their condolences to try to help...this makes her feel bad. Family members tell her "It's ok, it'll happen for you, you'll see." This makes her feel bad because of her OWN insecurities on as to whether or not it really will. No one is out to make her feel bad. It comes from herself. More often than not a woman would rather no one had known in the first place than have to deal with all these well-meaning reminders.

I understand that not all families are like this, but that is the vast majority. Even in my family where there is pressure for women to make a family even if it may not be what they really want, this is what happened with my cousin's miscarriage. Wanting to keep something to yourself to keep your own hopes and others hopes from inflating is not stigma or forced silence. It's an issue that isn't talked much about because most women simply don't want to.
posted by manderin at 3:57 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had my second miscarriage in December. It was (both physically and emotionally) far less painful than the first, and I have been very vocal and open on social media, among friends and family, and at work* about what happened to me.

Both were early (baby stopped developing at 6 weeks), but my body stubbornly kept going until week 10 before realizing the pregnancy wasn't viable. So there's been a lot of blood, and pain, and heartache. For me, it's not quite as bad as birth contractions, but not as mild as cramping. "Cramptractions" are the word I use. But I also have a high pain threshold.

Both times when I've posted on Facebook about the loss, I've had anywhere from 2-3 women reach out to me privately to tell me their miscarriage stories. One had only occurred three weeks prior to mine; I had no idea, she'd said nothing publicly. Another came to me at work and told me she'd been trying for eight years.

We're lucky. We have the offalarklette (now nearing 2) and she makes it so, so, so much easier to deal with the loss. My hat's off to parents who continue past one, much less two, three, four, or seven. I already have a ceiling of how many more of these I'll put up with before we put up the "closed for business" signage on the Pop-Up Camper of Love. As of about an hour ago, I just started menstruating which confirms this month's attempt to get pregnant is over, and I can breathe a little sigh of relief, have a little wine, and start planning the next attempt.

I've read many of these articles in the past to help myself get through miscarriage. I have asked myself if I should be talking publicly about it. Based on the comfort I've shared and given to other women who have been through the same -- who would not have talked to me otherwise -- I think it's worth it.

Finally, last time around I joined a community because my optimism was high and it helped to have like women to talk to. When my miscarriage started and my Ob verified that the baby had stopped developing, I wrote a "practical guide to miscarriage". I can't emphasize enough that if you are going through an early, pre-2nd tri miscarriage and are cool with "letting it happen" that you invest in some of those adult incontinence pants. Your pride may not thank you, but your underwear collection will.

* I work in a place that doesn't punish me for getting pregnant or getting sick. I'm very open with my boss that I put my family before my job, and he's on board because he's the same. I wouldn't do this in a workplace where my supervisors weren't 100% okay with these sorts of discussions.
posted by offalark at 4:02 PM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

I had an early miscarriage and was devastated - I thought nothing could ever trump that for sadness and loss. Then I had a child, born a little early, but pretty healthy. Then I had a miscarriage at 7 months after having gone to the hospital in labor and being sent home in "false labor"; I can't even begin to describe how terrible that was - there just aren't words for that kind of thing. Then, several years later, I had an ectopic pregnancy and lost that, of course. Then I got my tubes tied. All this was in the 60s and early 70s.

Only in the last few years (!!) have I figured out what it was all about. I'm Rh negative and my husband was Rh positive, so we had what was called the "Rh Factor." In today's world, it's only rarely significant and easily treated, but in those days it was not that way at all. Every pregnancy increases the odds of miscarriage or stillbirth, so it's easy to see why multiple pregnancies can result in multiple miscarriages. Because of the increased knowledge they have now, there's simply no excuse (never WAS any excuse) for anyone to judge a woman for her inability to carry a child to term; it's very likely a matter of incompatibility between her blood and her partner's.

Every miscarriage is the loss of a child - it hurts beyond belief for both parents, but as far as there being a stigma to miscarriage, I find that one horrific idea. The pain in the hearts of the parents who came so close to having a child and then lost that child don't need any more crap than they have already.
posted by aryma at 4:17 PM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

With miscarriage, what happens is that the woman chooses not to talk about simply because it makes her FEEL bad to do so. When others find out they give their condolences to try to help...this makes her feel bad. Family members tell her "It's ok, it'll happen for you, you'll see." This makes her feel bad because of her OWN insecurities on as to whether or not it really will. No one is out to make her feel bad. It comes from herself. More often than not a woman would rather no one had known in the first place than have to deal with all these well-meaning reminders.

This is so different from and so dismissive of my experience that it beggars belief. Please, stop putting words in my mouth; I am "the woman" and I am right here.
posted by KathrynT at 4:39 PM on February 18, 2015 [33 favorites]

It's an issue that isn't talked much about because most women simply don't want to.

Given that there are quite a few women in this thread who are saying that this is entirely untrue, possibly you should consider that whatever your experience with this is, it's far from universal. What you're saying is dismissive and hurtful--many people who've had miscarriages are right here, in this thread, saying that we'd like to talk about it, and feel unable to do so because of the stigma that surrounds it.
posted by MeghanC at 4:41 PM on February 18, 2015 [20 favorites]

It's an issue that isn't talked much about because most women simply don't want to.

How do you explain the women sharing on this thread? (On preview: What MeghanC said.)

I've also provided counseling for women and families who have lost children, both before and after birth, and they do want to talk about it and do find that there's a societal stigma that makes it uncomfortable to do so.

So if you want to talk for yourself or your own family, fine, but please don't universalize that to assume you know what most women or most families want.
posted by jaguar at 4:45 PM on February 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

With miscarriage, what happens is that the woman chooses not to talk about simply because it makes her FEEL bad to do so. When others find out they give their condolences to try to help...this makes her feel bad.

This is so revisionist, invalidating, and evil it takes my breath away.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:45 PM on February 18, 2015 [13 favorites]

manderin I think you might mean well, but your comments in this thread are really just phenomenally tone-deaf in the context. Shit, *I'm* finding them to be heartless and hurtful, and I am neither pregnant nor formerly so. Please listen to the women in this thread who are telling you things that are true.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:57 PM on February 18, 2015 [9 favorites]

What a great post.

Condolences to everyone in this thread.

My stats: 12 confirmed pregnancies, 3 live births, 2 surviving kids. My daughter was not abnormal in any way: she had a mismanaged 2x nuchal cord & died 4 days later.

I am so glad to be done. I live in fear for my boys every day. Happy fear. But man. Bodies. They start babies and then...what???

People are super weird about all this stuff. We don't know what to say about empty arms. Grieving parents are not even all the same.

Hugs to all who want 'em.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:06 PM on February 18, 2015 [15 favorites]

This is a great post! I had two miscarriages in six months last year and I SCOURED the internet looking for resources that didn't make me want to vomit ("rainbow baby?" NOPE) or didn't let in horrifyingly misogynistic comments (Reddit). I found very little. I'd announced the first pregnancy almost immediately because I was JUST! SO! EXCITED! and couldn't wait. When I had to announce the miscarriage, I was FLOODED with emails and private Facebook messages from family and friends telling me about their miscarriages, most of which I had no idea about. I was really struck by how frequently women suffer in silence. YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO TELL ANYONE YOU'RE PREGNANT UNTIL WEEK 12 SO NO ONE SHOULD KNOW ANYWAY. Right? Ugh.

I remember so many details about both of my miscarriages. The unexpected kindness from the receptionist at the ER when I was crying so hard I just handed her my driver's license so she could get my name and birth date. How happy I was to get an APN at the ER and how she surprisingly kind of sucked. How they left me bleeding and crying and half-naked in an exam room for two hours. (I decided if they were going to do that, I didn't have to feel guilty about bleeding on their exam table. HA!) How the ultrasound tech took pity on my and told me I was measuring five weeks with no heartbeat instead of the expected ten and pulled me out of the agony of suspense and into grief. (No, really. I was grateful to her.) How I bled for a fucking MONTH after the first one. How I bled for two weeks after the second. How pathetically grateful I was to have only bled for two weeks. My lovely midwife telling me, "It's not an event, it's a process."

I WANT to talk about these things. Mostly, my friends and loved ones WANT to listen. But there's this gulf between us. Like, what should I tell them? What's too much gross detail? How much is too much of my sadness and anger and fear to spew on them? What should they say or not say? Women will talk about their births in minute detail but no one knows how to talk about miscarriage. I'm SO glad these women are starting the conversation. I'm so glad we're having it. I'm sorry we're all here together.
posted by Aquifer at 5:31 PM on February 18, 2015 [18 favorites]

I think manderin makes a significant point - that everyone's experiences will vary.

With my miscarriages, I never felt any sort of stigma from anyone - just gobs of compassion and sadness and encouragement to try again and stories of how many miscarriages others had experienced before they had a successful pregnancy, etc. I was grateful for the caring, but honestly just wanted to be alone a little bit, to tell the truth.

But when I lost my baby boy at 7 months and in such a traumatic way - after having been told everything was okay at the hospital and then barely making it to the toilet when I got home before I had him in my hands - well, that one was so overwhelming I could have used a sedative or something to get through it. It was obvious to everyone who knew me that I was pregnant and happy about it and when I lost the baby I was deluged with condolences and messages meant to be supportive and strengthening, but every card I got, every call, just made me fall apart again. I cried myself sick for weeks and many times just wished it would all go away and everything could get back to its rut and I wasn't constantly being reminded of those terrible minutes over and over.

The ectopic loss was more frightening than anything because I was at work when this incredible pain reached an intensity level that was too much to handle. I hobbled, with help, off to the infirmary/nurse's office (I worked at Hughes) and they called an ambulance, thinking it was my appendix. The ambulance put me on a stretcher and hauled me through the middle of the plant with no cover over me, and I was wearing a short skirt and had my knees pulled up in pain. I was so upset - I knew and worked with all those guys and was embarrassed beyond belief. Anyway, at the hospital they determined it was an ectopic pregnancy and it would clear itself up so I was sent home with some pain meds and told to see my regular doc for follow-up.

Back at work, all the men I expected smart remarks from instead said they were glad to see me back at work and stuff like that - not one smart-ass crack! No one knew what the diagnosis was - I only told some of my closest friends, but overall everyone was kind. My dipshit boss was the only one who gave me trouble, hinting that it was all just a ploy to get out of work; for him, I waiting until he got way out of line and then told him I'd just lost a baby, which shut him up for the first time ever. And I wasn't even married then. The ectopic, for some reason, hit me hard; I think that's when I realized I wouldn't be having more babies and that was pretty gut-wrenching.

I honestly never felt any stigma from anyone else, but I many times reflected myself on the fact that all my friends had two or three or more kids and all I could manage was one, and then on to could I make a decent life for a single child - to me, that was going to be hard to do, and I felt the loss of my babies now from that standpoint.

I think it's very, very sad that some women have had to deal with so much judgement when they're already trying to deal with losing a child, but I think there's also room for the experience of other women who haven't had to deal with any stigma but who have intentionally kept the information to ourselves just to avoid reliving it every day. Actually, as I go over this now in my memory I do recall my ex mother-in-law making some diminishing remarks about how no one else in the family ever had trouble making babies, but everything she said at that time came out that way so I didn't pay any attention to it - she was a small and narrow-minded woman who was stupid enough to think that because her family came from upstate New York that made them something special - yadda yadda - but from what I could see their family was nothing to brag about so I never paid any attention to her nonsense. Maybe my "consider the source" had something to do with my unawareness of any stigma -
posted by aryma at 5:45 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Aquifer, all of that, though in my case it was the hematologist who was kind; the ultrasound tech in the ER kind of treated me like I was being hysterical when I'd been bleeding for five days and was clearly going into shock. It was the hematologist who told me my blood count was dangerously low and to take it easy, okay?

As far as stigma goes: most of mine is self-inflicted. There's this feeling I carried around with each miscarriage that I am a failure and I failed this potential child. I know it's irrational; I feel it anyway. It's not easy to talk to someone about if they haven't had the experience. My husband is supportive but admits he doesn't understand (but tells me every time if he could, he'd take that pain away from me), my mom never miscarried and doesn't really want to talk about it; she always changes the subject, and was actually more devastated by miscarriage #2 than me.

The only person who I really can talk to it about is my older sister who, like me, has miscarried multiple times. So I guess I'm blessed in that. Like me, her first was her worst.

Most of the online communities are a little too saccharine for me, too. Too much talk of religion and rainbow babies, too much misinformation. It doesn't help me, so I don't participate. But I can't be angry. These people are coping the way they know how. It's just not my way.

I'm sorry we're all here together, too, but I'm glad we can talk about it. And moreover, live to talk about it.
posted by offalark at 5:52 PM on February 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

8 pregnancies, no living children here. I had one stillborn child due to class I HELLP, and 7 miscarriages between 8-14 weeks. I don' t even know what to say on these kinds of threads.

There is a lot of support, but most people don't know how to talk about losing babies. There are words for people who have lost their partners or their parents, but there are no words for those of us who lose children.

My workplace was *wonderful*. My friends were there as much as they could be. I also lost friends-- especially after the stillbirth. Pregnant friends, who were afraid loss was catching. Friends with children, who told themselves I didn't need to be reminded of my loss by seeing their happiness. I wasn't invited to baby showers anymore. Friends left their kids at home before they came to see me. There were a lot of people who just didn't know what to say and so said nothing.

The stigma was visible in all the advice. My former in-laws to this day believe that if I had given up my career I would not have lost the pregnancies. There's something about the way our brains work which makes us look at people in the grip of loss and think "she must have done *something* wrong". Did you wait too long to try? Did you use an IUD when young? Did you eat the wrong food? Did you drink in between pregnancies?

Hell-- even I judge myself for letting it go on so long. But when you can get pregnant easily and the doctors find nothing wrong, you just keep thinking somehow it will work eventually.
posted by frumiousb at 6:11 PM on February 18, 2015 [12 favorites]

There's something about the way our brains work which makes us look at people in the grip of loss and think "she must have done *something* wrong".

Yup. It's the Just World Hypothesis, and it's why so many people find it easy to blame victims.
According to the hypothesis, people have a strong desire or need to believe that the world is an orderly, predictable, and just place, where people get what they deserve. Such a belief plays an important function in our lives since in order to plan our lives or achieve our goals we need to assume that our actions will have predictable consequences.
It's hard to exist in a world where tragic things happen to people who have done nothing to deserve it, and it's terrifying to think that no matter how good we are and how carefully we behave, we can't prevent bad things from happening to us.

Our brains have a really hard time sitting in the middle of that kind of dissonant mess, so we invent reasons why the victim deserved what they got. Then it all makes sense, and generally speaking humans would rather things make comfortable sense than be accurate.
posted by jesourie at 6:35 PM on February 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

I miscarried my first baby at 11 weeks. I was incredibly lucky and got pregnant again four months later and give birth to a healthy boy. The fact that my son wouldn't exist if the first pregnancy had been successful makes it difficult to regret the miscarriage, but threads like this make me remember all those little details that I try not to think about anymore.

My miscarriage was extremely fast and unexpected. I told a few of my close friends on Tuesday that I was pregnant, because I was 11 weeks along - so close to that 12 week magic number! Wednesday night on the drive home from work I started having period-like cramping every 10 minutes. Around 7pm I started bleeding extremely heavily and I realized the cramps were contractions. I laughed and said horrible things like, "Well, I'd rather it die now than in six more months" while my husband just looked on helplessly and brought me water to drink while I cried on the toilet. After the fourth time I'd flushed a toilet full of blood and tissue I wondered if I should be looking in the bowl for a fetus to bury, but I decided that seeing it would be even worse. I then thought about the scene in Private Parts where Howard Stern and his wife talk about taking a picture of the toilet and I finally got the joke, 15 years later. I tried to go to bed, but I woke up every hour to a horrible gushing feeling and ran back to the bathroom, yet another pad soaked through.

By 8am I felt like I'd been exsanguinated and was shaking from the blood loss, shock, and sleep deprivation. Fortuitously, I had a doctor's appointment previously scheduled for that morning, so I went in as usual. At the counter I told the receptionist that I was there for my appointment but that I'd miscarried the night before. She looked at me in confusion and asked, "How do you know?" I have no idea what I said. The ultrasound technician was very kind, but it was a transvaginal ultrasound so it was extremely uncomfortable. Thankfully the doctor told me that I had expelled everything so I did not require a D&C; it was "over."

The next day, I got an email from the OB/Gyn office asking if I would please visit Survey Monkey and fill out an evaluation of my appointment. I laughed like an insane person and was enraged on behalf of any similar woman who found their idiotic automatic e-mail fucking painful.

I was glad that my close friends knew and cared and helped me grieve; knowing that other people knew that my baby existed made things hurt a little bit less. I cried myself to sleep most nights until I found out I was pregnant again, and then I cried myself to sleep most nights until I was 16 weeks along and started to believe it might actually stick. Once I saw my son's face I finally felt healed.

I'm five weeks pregnant right now. It's unplanned, but not unwanted. I'm trying to focus on the unplanned part so that if I miscarry again I don't have my hopes up too high, but I know that trying to artificially allay the potential grief is pointless.
posted by gatorae at 8:12 PM on February 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

My first miscarriage I knew was coming. I went in for the 6/7 week ultrasound, there was a heartbeat, and the doctor said that there didn't seem to be enough fluid, that it probably wouldn't make it. I spent the next week drinking a ton of water (as if that would help in some way), came back for a follow-up ultrasound, and there was no heartbeat. I was told that because it was a "missed miscarriage" (no bleeding), I should get a D&C. But they couldn't do the procedure, basically because they couldn't afford the abortion crazypeople insurance. So I had to go to the hospital and book it for myself. It was awful.

The second time, about 4 months later, came out of nowhere. I had a healthy 6-week ultrasound, strong heartbeat. I went in at 9 weeks for a follow-up, and the doctor asked how I was feeling. I said "nervous." She gave a reassuring smile and put the wand in and I watched her face change as she realized there was a problem. Sometime in the intervening weeks, probably the week before, the fetus's heart had stopped. Again, I had to go for a D&C. But I couldn't schedule it right away, so I went out of state to my sister's wedding with a dead baby inside me, not sure if I was hoping I would bleed that weekend or not. Or whether to tell my family or not - I didn't want to ruin their joy, and my sister-in-law had just announced her pregnancy the week before and I just couldn't talk about it in front of her. I ended up telling my mom, who leaked it to my sister after the wedding was over, and it was fine - maybe even good. But I can't see those pictures without thinking about it. When I got back home, the lovely doctor performing my second D&C saw me and said, "But you were just in here..." It was like an extra sock to the stomach. I was never able to conceive again.

I still blame myself for the second one. I still remember some of the problematic things I ate. I still think deep down that if I hadn't said "nervous," if I had said "excited," maybe the baby would have made it. It's ridiculous, and I know it's ridiculous, but I can't make it go away.

And I really didn't talk about it with my friends, because when you don't tell anyone you're pregnant, it feels almost impossible to suddenly burden them with the miscarriage. It feels like an attention-grab. I couldn't do it.

Meanwhile, fucking Destination Maternity insists on asking for your due date when you buy anything, even a stupid box of preggie pops, so be ready to have them blithely asking after your (missing) children if you ever buy something there again.
posted by Mchelly at 6:20 AM on February 19, 2015 [12 favorites]

Thanks for this fpp. These issues really call for more popular understanding and awareness. People don't realize just how many people are dealing with these kinds of invisible problems due to the social stigma around acknowledging and discussing personal challenges and grief publicly.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:28 AM on February 19, 2015

If nothing else did, the sheer anger of women in this thread who've experienced miscarriage and stillbirth would easily convince me there's considerable stigma attached to pregnancy loss. I am so sorry that your terrible losses and grief were compounded by misunderstanding, alienation, and insensitivity, especially when it was from people you trusted to take care of you.
posted by gingerest at 3:29 PM on February 19, 2015 [7 favorites]

Thank you to all the women here who've spoken so movingly about their experiences. Sharing stories like these has an enormous amount of value and, I think, goes far to deepen understanding and empathy.

A friend of mine miscarried some years back and I took her to A&E after she called me in a panic. She had no intention of becoming pregnant and it happened quite early, so her experience was far more physical than emotional. Discussion about the emotional aspects of miscarriage seem to predominate, but I know her primary shock came from the long, drawn-out, painful physical process of miscarrying. Both in our very early twenties, we were totally unprepared for the amount of day-to-day help and pain relief that she required for a almost week.

It's notable for this thread in particular that the nurse who saw her kindly, but totally incorrectly, told her to take some paracetomol, put on a sanitary pad and that it would pass soon. I suppose if you work in medicine the whole business of miscarriage seems quite benign, but it blindsided me to see my friend in such intense pain.
posted by averysmallcat at 4:06 PM on February 20, 2015

Women often CHOOSE silence for this matter and they have good reasons for it.

Maybe you chose to shut up about YOUR miscarriage, but I didn't make any such choice. Rather, I was told to STFU, because my experience hurt and upset other people, who were worried it would happen to them.

(10 weeks, shortly after Elder Monster had turned 1. It was wretched and isolating and I still think about What Might Have Been, 22 years on.)
posted by MissySedai at 9:23 PM on February 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

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