I Thought I Knew Everything About Miscarriages Until I Had One Myself
January 26, 2021 1:40 PM   Subscribe

This essay by Amanda Allen in Elle Magazine presents powerful and raw look at the author's own miscarriage, a little acknowledged but widely shared experience. TRIGGER WARNING for those who have experienced a loss of pregnancy. Amanda Allen is a reproductive rights lawyer and mother living in Oakland, California.
posted by djseafood (22 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, no .. oh wow. It gets better in the ending paragraphs. But, just wow.

“I’m in the middle of a miscarriage.”

“I’m in the middle of a miscarriage.”

“I’m in the middle of a miscarriage.” For three full weeks, that phrase kept ringing in my ears.
posted by firstdaffodils at 1:47 PM on January 26, 2021 [4 favorites]

in the same vein but in comic form: Julia Wertz' Things You Might Not Know About Miscarriage
posted by taquito sunrise at 1:48 PM on January 26, 2021 [8 favorites]

I want people to know that miscarriage fucking hurts, both physically and emotionally. It can take a long time. Yes, yes, yes. I had my sixth miscarriage last week. Four before my son was born, and then two (so far) in the attempt to have one more baby. At nine weeks I went in for an ultrasound and the good heartbeat that was there two weeks before was gone. It hurts.

And two of my previous miscarriages have gone on and on in the way Allen experienced, something I didn't know could happen before my husband and I found ourselves in this tiny percentage of couples who lose pregnancy after pregnancy - an inconclusive ultrasound that didn't leave much room for hope, then two weeks of holding breath and crossing fingers, then the follow-up to confirm what I knew in my gut, that there wasn't going to be a living baby after all.

Miscarrying in "normal" times is hard but I have found it's even harder in a pandemic. My husband couldn't be with me at the two appointments where I've heard bad news. The nurse practitioner could only say, "I wish I could hug you." My wonderful OB, who did my last D&C, had teary eyes above her mask.

If there's any silver lining it's that people really are talking more and more openly about pregnancy loss, even in the five years since my first miscarriage. But it still hurts, and it's still hard, and it's lonely and scary, and there's still so much you might not realize about miscarriage before it happens to you, like Allen describes. We are lucky to have good support and good insurance, not mention our incredible toddler who feels more like a miracle every day, and my heart hurts for those who suffer these losses without those things.
posted by Synesthesia at 2:32 PM on January 26, 2021 [42 favorites]

Count me as someone who didn't realize that you could see a strong heartbeat at, say, 6 weeks and still miscarry. I didn't find out until 12 weeks, it must have stopped developing shortly after that first happy, happy ultrasound. I couldn't trust anything after that.

I think what I really didn't understand is that pregnancy is almost completely out of my control. No amount of happy thoughts kept my first baby safe. No amount of worry and negative thinking kept my second baby safe. I did nothing to deserve the precious baby I delivered in 2019. It's all random, cruel chance.
posted by muddgirl at 2:36 PM on January 26, 2021 [21 favorites]

I think often about how miscarriage is such an intense, private, and isolating grief. I work in a male-dominated field in a workplace that circulates health news and cards for the men's health issues and even those of their relatives - the heart attacks, cancer diagnoses, pneumonia hospitalizations, even parents dying. Yet major feminine-coded health events like pregnancy and childbirth aren't usually included in this system. After my miscarriage I pictured for a moment, what if I shared it with my workplace, only to laugh because that was completely unimaginable. I could know about my colleagues' prostate cancer surgery, but they couldn't know about my miscarriage. Yet how my soul longed for other people to know, to acknowledge what happened, to comfort me.

My partner was horrible about it, another big twist on the spiral staircase the wound its way down to the end of our relationship. Of the handful of friends I talked to, about half spewed some look-on-the-bright-side bullshit. It was just so lonely, caring so intensely for this little potential person whom no one else cared about. My biggest but also most painful comfort came from my primary care doctor, who told me that during pregnancy fetal cells move into the mother's body and live there for decades. I think often of my baby's cells, and that I still have those little pieces of him/her living in me. I'll support them the best I can, even though I couldn't support them well enough for him/her to be born. It's been years, and the grief is still so raw.
I wonder if I’ll ever feel okay about what happened and if anyone ever really moves on. Some days I feel fine and others the grief washes over me like a storm and sometimes I try to shake it off and sometimes I let it envelop me like a blanket.

Yes. That's about it.
posted by medusa at 2:57 PM on January 26, 2021 [28 favorites]

My mom had five or six miscarriages before they decided to go the adoption route and got me. Then she had another miscarriage between when they adopted me and she gave birth to my brother. After my brother, she had two or three more miscarriages (finally having her tubes tied) To say she went through traumatic hell over the course of roughly fifteen years would be a gross understatement.

I never knew all the details of this until I was married and, as women seem to do, my mom shared her history with my wife. She had the unfortunate luck to have gone through all of this during a time where information and support was non-existent, and such events could even be seen as a failing on the mother’s part by judgmental outsiders. It was the 50s and 60s, afterall.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:09 PM on January 26, 2021 [12 favorites]

Wow, what a strong essay - thank you for sharing it. I've experienced 9 miscarriages total and they sucked. That repetition of "I'm in the middle of a miscarriage" really carries so much experience. Meetings, family events, or times I cancelled on things but didn't want to say why. And I rarely talked about it, partly because we just don't and partly because the response I often got was so unhelpful.

Solidarity to everyone in this stupid club.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:28 PM on January 26, 2021 [15 favorites]

Thank you for posting this. It was a very well written piece, and I could relate to it, though my pregnancy losses were different. I could relate to what she said about the constant thinking, right now, if all had gone well, I would have a five month old. I'd be on maternity leave. My child would be in kindergarten. I am sure I will still know on my deathbed exactly how old my children would have been had they lived. My son would have been 45. My daughter would have been 40.

A while ago I was talking with a friend and we were trying to remember when something had happened. I said, "I know it was before 2014." This is how I remember things: pre-2014 and post-2014; pre-2016 and post-2016. Those were the years of my losses. So, also, pre-2016 and post-2016. I suppose it is like how parents remember things in relation to when their children were born, except mine are the unpleasant sad anniversaries that cast a pall on a conversation instead of provoking pleasant reminiscences.

I wouldn't wish my experiences on anyone, but I am very grateful there wasn't a pandemic going on when I had my losses. I was able to have my partner with me in the hospital both times; we could receive in-person support and hugs from friends and family. It would be so much worse to have this all happen with yet another layer of isolation on top of it, and I really feel for this author and everyone else who is going through this during COVID.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:42 PM on January 26, 2021 [11 favorites]

There are eight years between my children and so often, people casually wonder why. I very much appreciate people sharing their stories and long for the day that every prospective parent who experiences this (esp. over and over) could get the time to process and pause after the immediate event. I am fortunate that trusted colleagues at the different institutes I have been at could cover for me the day of, and the day after, a D&C, but this is not normative for partners, and certainly not possible for many many devastated people less fortunate workwise than I. I also felt the absolute need to return to work asap and never mention my brief absence. I try to do more by talking about this openly IRL if it seems appropriate, but it's still so tricky.
posted by recklessbrother at 6:24 PM on January 26, 2021 [10 favorites]

It broke me. In a way I didn't even know that I
could break. And I knew that all the talking and therapy in the world wouldn't put me back-ish together. I was so lucky (and scared all over again, because I didn't think I could survive another one-all the promise, my body not even realizing I wasn't still pregnant, just chugging along like a 12 week pregnant body, until I'm laying there getting an ultrasound, holding my husband's hand like I'm reenacting a sitcom, and then someone else tells me the life inside of me isn't. Like, how could I not know that? Someone had to tell me?) that I got pregnant again the second cycle after and went to 37 weeks w twins who are now 16 months old. And so lucky I got twins- we're done. And I never have to stare that down again. I don't think I could. It was just so....it really felt like the truest truth that that was my chance and flunked it and I'd never get another one.
posted by atomicstone at 6:47 PM on January 26, 2021 [10 favorites]

My wife had 2 miscarriages between kid 2 and kid 3. Agonizing. A form of silent suffering. My heart goes out to the author and to all of you.
posted by sockshaveholes at 7:13 PM on January 26, 2021 [5 favorites]

I had two miscarriages before my successful pregnancy. That article and the comic taquito sunrise linked to really bring that time back. One thing I’d all but forgotten was how awful the OBs and their office protocols were. At the very least they need some kind of code to keep their admins from calling repeatedly to remind me of appointments that were scheduled for later in the pregnancy. The second time I knew enough to actively cancel those appointments... and they kept calling to get me to reschedule.
posted by Kriesa at 7:30 PM on January 26, 2021 [11 favorites]

That if they want to force people to stay pregnant and their pregnancy fails, that the interventions they are offered—pills that start contractions and empty the uterus or a procedure that removes the pregnancy—are the exact same options available to people who need abortions.

A thousand times this. All of the self-righteous zealots who wail and gnash their teeth at the cruelty of late-term abortions have no clue what they’re talking about. A D & X isn’t like getting Botox or having a wart removed.

I held my wife while we lay in bed together, trying to sooth her crying not just because of the loss we were going through but also from the cramping, caused by the laminaria the doctor applied to her cervix. That was 24 hours before the procedure. Afterwards, she bled for three weeks.

It is a shitty, horrible procedure that is absolutely necessary at times because either someone has died or is in danger of dying. People who oppose it on the grounds that their ignorant, lazy beliefs should trump what a woman in the moment needs to do for her own health and safety get nothing but my undying enmity.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 9:13 PM on January 26, 2021 [15 favorites]

I lost track of how many miscarriages I had once it got into double-digits. I am well aware that I have PTSD from that and the hospitals, and I very rarely think about them now in reflexive protection.

One thing that has deepened hugely is my commitment to abortion access, which 90% of my social group are against. I can with a lot of effort understand why some doctors and nurses might refuse to train in or offer abortion, but I think you should only be allowed to be an OBGYN practitioner if you are willing to provide abortion access, it's that fundamental to pregnancy care. And they should be very affordable.

I called them Schrodinger's pregnancies, that wait when you don't know anything except dread.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:52 AM on January 27, 2021 [11 favorites]

And I want medical offices to consider the impact of their seemingly benign but thoughtless protocols, like having to tell them your “due date” in order to be patched through to the urgent nurse line after you said, “I’m in the middle of a miscarriage.”
This struck a nerve.

The room where I had the ultrasound that confirmed the ovarian cancer that had spread to my uterus - the walls were covered from floor to ceiling with pictures of beautiful babies matched up with pictures of their prenatal ultrasounds.

As tough as that was for me, who had pretty much already decided I didn’t want children, I can’t even begin to imagine how it would be for someone who was there to find out that something had gone terribly wrong with a wanted pregnancy.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:13 AM on January 27, 2021 [10 favorites]

“Club member” here. My awful OBGYN murdered his wife not long after it happened and is currently awaiting second trial years later so seeing him in the news periodically freshens the PTSD.

Thanks for this. I’m still not able to articulate my own experience but am grateful for those strong enough to do so. Hugs all around.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:00 AM on January 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

The room where I had the ultrasound that confirmed the ovarian cancer that had spread to my uterus - the walls were covered from floor to ceiling with pictures of beautiful babies matched up with pictures of their prenatal ultrasounds.

My loss was at 20 weeks, so quite far along, and they gave us the ultrasound pictures they had used to confirm the fetus's severe defects. In a cute little envelope with a line drawing of a stork with bundle and the caption "Baby's First Photo". Those fuckheads.
posted by Daily Alice at 5:29 AM on January 27, 2021 [10 favorites]

We had a miscarriage. Our doctor told us about it and we were devastated, he said it would come out like a strong period. A week later, my wife started bleeding badly, I took her to the ER.
The fuckers treated her like shit, left her in a wheelchair in a freezing waiting room at 3am without even a blanket, then were curt and unpleasant while examining her. I picked up they thought she'd had an abortion. I called them on it and they kept being assholes.
Her doctor (finally) arrived, and him being a doctor and saying it was a miscarriage made all the difference, because of course we were lying but a doctor would never lie.
They suddenly remembered their oaths, professionalism, etc.
It was one of the shittiest nights in our lives.
I curse them silently every time I pass that clinic, and would never go there again to so much as have them take my temperature.
posted by signal at 6:09 AM on January 27, 2021 [14 favorites]

After my wife's first miscarriage, we started monthly donations to Planned Parenthood, which will not stop in my lifetime. I am not able to be vulnerable about our own experiences at this time, but to those who have shared here, please know that you are amazing warriors and I'm very, very grateful to you. This is a painful but affirming post and thread.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:28 AM on January 27, 2021 [12 favorites]

I didn't realise it was possible to see/hear the heartbeat of a tiny, tiny foetus, so that's another thing to worry about if my daughter ever becomes pregnant.

I didn't know about the possibility of a 'blighted ovum' either, until it happened to me and I found that the much-wanted first pregnancy had stopped just after fertilisation, so that everything except the zygote was developing. I would have found out sooner if the consultant, whose name was apparently God, had listened to me telling him I was at 12 weeks when I saw him, instead of dismissively telling me I was at 8 weeks. Back then, one didn't get a scan until 16 weeks. It was at 17 weeks by my count - not, of course, the official one, thanks, "God" - that I started to bleed, and the scan I got then showed uterine chaos but no foetus. Cue D & C. I never really know how to count that one—was I actually pregnant or not?

We need so much more education about these things. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Pentickle at 9:37 AM on January 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

We had a stillbirth at full term...

Hugs to all.

posted by Windopaene at 3:14 PM on January 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

I am here with you all. Thank you for sharing.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:09 PM on February 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

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