Four years ago today I miscarried. The word makes it sound short and concise but it really wasn’t.
I was at the museum with a friend just wrapping up our visit when I felt a wetness I couldn’t explain so I ducked into the washroom to check it out. Blood. I was pregnant and bleeding. It wasn’t necessarily the end but it might be and I was alone in a public washroom with no idea what would happen next.
Upstairs I told Marnie I was pregnant and bleeding. The whole thing was news to her but there was no time for explanations. I found a phone and called Peter. He met me at the hospital.
I could talk about the way we orchestrated five kids and my tenuously functioning self on to the subway and home with Marnie. I could tell you about the triage nurse and the doctors and the transvaginal ultrasound I had the following day that felt like an assault to an area already in pain, but what stands out most is the pressure of a useless IV in my arm, the fort I built on the couch where I would spend the better part of the next two weeks and my sister, the only one brave enough to tell me the truth.
At the hospital they took blood and told me to come back for an ultrasound. It wasn’t a sure sign of miscarriage. My midwife told me some people bleed. It’s not a necessarily a miscarriage. My sister, an OBGyn, said “you’re ten weeks pregnant and you’ve been bleeding for hours. It’s a miscarriage”. She also told me what would come next.
“Expect more blood, and cramping. I don’t know why they are not telling you the truth”. I read her my blood results that confirmed I had the hormone levels of a person four weeks less pregnant and she told me point blank: “your baby died four weeks ago, your body is just getting around to expelling it now”.
After I hung up the phone it wasn’t the news that shook me, I expected that, it was the willingness of other medical professionals to string me along. After that call I checked in with my midwife once or twice but it was back to Mila that I went when I needed help.
The next two weeks were all about mourning. I cried on the couch, I shook on the couch. I cramped and bled and mourned on the couch. I tried so hard to be the person my family needed me to be until Peter told me to stop and I did.
By the forth week I realised that I had heard countless women of my mother’s generation flippantly mention that they had miscarried but that no one my age was talking about it. It wasn’t possible that miscarriages just weren’t happening in my circle of friends, possibly that they hadn’t yet, but I was determined that the next woman I knew who miscarried would know she wasn’t alone.
Friends who had never known we were pregnant heard about my miscarriage as did all my sisters. Maybe other people weren’t talking about this but I was going to make sure no one around me went through this thinking they were the only one.
By the end of March we were pregnant with the toddler and I couldn’t stop myself from doing the math, checking to see where our baby would have been, what she would have been doing had she lived. It took me more than a year to stop feeling sadness when I looked at my new beautiful baby boy. He made me happy beyond measure but there was always a sense of what if. In four kids this was my first bout of postpartum depression but I believe the seeds were planted that day at the museum.
Of all the things I did on the couch in that first week the best was to really allow myself to feel the whole thing. We had been close to losing a baby before, our second, to a rare and sometimes fatal genetic disease but we’re so focused, so determined on her survival that as our families prepared for the worst, we never did. This death brought all of it back to the surface so clearly. All that deferred pain and fear pushed right back to the surface again.
These are the things we need to talk about. Babies are being lost, women are grieving and they are complicated women with past experiences that weigh on them and threaten to burst forth from the places they’ve been hidden.
These women need to be heard and held and helped in whatever way they choose but first they need to know they are not alone.
My name is Katharine Blair and on December 5, 2010 I miscarried a baby we named Clementine. I wear a tiny gold knot above my wedding band to always remind me of the baby I lost. I know I’m not alone, neither are you.
For more information about miscarriage: http://www.cfsh.ca/Your_Sexual_Health/Pregnancy/miscarriage.aspx
For information about depression (please get help, I did): http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-signs-and-symptoms.htm