October is a month set aside for Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance. Many people will mark the passing of children who left too early, and writing is therapeutic to some.
I have had ten miscarriages, a number that will seem, to many, as ludicrous as the number of our living children. Ten? That’s just crazy. Am I in some sort of sick competition? Am I a glutton for punishment? A miscarriage masochist?
None of the above.
With the first (if you are very blessed) you get a modicum of sympathy and understanding. People step forward to tell you about their own experiences; there is a shared community of suffering. As you have more, however, people step back. I don’t know why. Most likely they just run out of things to say.
My own mother fell into this camp. A devout Catholic woman, she was fully vested in our decision to give our reproductive processes up to a higher power, but with each successive bodily betrayal, she grew frustrated, and that frustration was directed at me. I sat drinking my third beer as my body expelled the baby it didn’t want*, and she fussed at me over the phone.
“Well, at least you should be used to it now,” she finally sighed.
Used to it? Used to bleeding into the toilet the life I thought would develop into a breathing soul? Used to the feelings of abandonment, the certainty that I was being punished? Used to the bitter loneliness as I faced the moments in the bathroom alone, struggling to make sense of it all?
These aren’t things you get used to.
She didn’t mean anything by it. She just didn’t know what to say. Having successfully carried five children of her own with relative ease, she is uninitiated into the darker side of pregnancy.
The thing about miscarriage is that you don’t get better at it the more you have. In fact, the pain and sorrow become increasingly horrific. The guilt and confusion multiply, they don’t divide.
With one of our later miscarriages, I birthed into my hands a sac five inches long. A space capsule enclosing the body of its voyager, I could not see the contents and didn’t want to probe the silent depths, but I was certain it was a girl. I wrapped the entire thing in maxi pads and carried it breathlessly to my husband. He suggested we have a burial service at my childhood home.
A month later, we did so. My parents were the only ones aware of the loss besides my husband and me, and they left us to hold our small service in private. My husband held my hands and we prayed over the pathetic remains beneath their flagpole. I named her Zoe, which means Life. It is a special, healing memory, and I strongly encourage anyone who has suffered a pregnancy loss to hold a service of some kind, even if the pain is decades old.
It’s amazing how raw and fresh that old pain can feel, and how simple the things are that can administer relief. An acknowledgement of the loss, or a moment of shared silence while you hold someone’s hand…these are the things that a month of remembrance hopes to encourage.
It is a sad and bereft place, the infant and pregnancy loss camp. It’s not a place anyone chooses willingly. For those who occupy its halls, a kind word goes a long way.
*this is NOT recommended, by the way. Elevated alcohol levels lead to increased chance of hemorrhage, something I cared very little about at the time.