Monday, January 22, 2018
(This post contains some details about miscarriage)
A week before Christmas we got the bad news. It was the day of our 12-week scan (after five days of being ill, which turned out to be unrelated, but was worrying as I had started spotting parallel to it and ran a fever), and we found out it was a missed miscarriage: the embryo had died in week 7, but everything else had continued to grow and develop, accompanied by first-trimester symptoms.
I had been fearful of pretty much everything relating to childbirth and being a parent, but for some reason a potential loss was one thing I neglected to worry about - not that worrying has the ability to prevent anything. It all felt right, and I trusted my instinct. Now I cannot believe how I was so sure of my body.
Before it happened to us I knew several friends and acquaintances had had miscarriages and stillbirths, heartbreakingly sad stories. Since then so many more people have opened up about their experiences, including recurrent miscarriages. We do not know what the future holds, and I am trying to learn to not worry so much about what may or may not happen - we have no control over anything - and to live with uncertainty.
Strangely, the first book I read afterwards and derived some comfort from was 10% Happier by Dan Harris. It took this sceptic's memoir about embracing meditation and mindfulness (he is not particularly impressed by the likes of Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra) to get me back into meditation, an on-and-off relationship for me (unlike my almost-daily yoga practice), but now perhaps more needed than ever.
When I started meditating again, I was surprised at how fast the 20 minutes go by. I will experience physical discomfort when sitting still and have way too many thoughts, but it doesn't feel never-ending. It is the same when kneading dough for sourdough bread (my sister gave me a starter): 20 minutes that just evaporate.
It has only been seven consecutive days of meditating and yoga, as I took a break while regaining my strength; even though I knew it would aid the grieving process I couldn't bring myself to do anything beyond the basics to get through each day, and my energy went into holding it together in company. We buried what is referred to as the 'tissue' (in my case an intact fist-size sac with the embryo, and the placenta) under an apple tree in the garden, and I am glad we did. My sister had a baby boy a day after I miscarried, so there was some light and joy among the sadness.
My confidence in my body has been seriously battered, yet in some way I feel stronger, even though I am struggling to gain weight. I had always been convinced I would want a C-section - which of course is not easy either - if we ever were to have a baby, but having gone through labour pain (I used misoprostol at home*), I have conquered my fear of natural childbirth, even though it was terrifying and traumatic and with no happy ending. I can only assume it is similar to what women mean when they say you 'forget' the agony of labour.
Here are two articles about miscarriage and the silence that surrounds it, despite the fact that it is so common:
Earlier this month Kathryn Thomas, an Irish TV presenter, talked about her miscarriages on The Late Late Show
Actress Laura Benanti: My Experience with the Voldemort of Women's Health Issues
*There is no way to predict exactly how a miscarriage will proceed, and they vary depending on numerous factors. That may be the reason women are given so little information on what will happen (the lack of information is a recurring theme in the online forums). My obstetrician and GP were both wonderful. We were unlucky to have had a bad experience with Cytotec, including side effects, and I was weak from being ill, but I would choose this option (or waiting for it to happen naturally) again; I was glad I didn't have to go into hospital for a d&c.