The secret shame of miscarriage

The expression ‘lost a baby’ sounds incredibly irresponsible. I mean, what kind of mother could lose her baby, right? No wonder we carry a secret shame of miscarriage.
woman holding stomach on bed

I lost a baby once.

I didn’t take it to the supermarket and then forget which trolley was mine and simply walk off pushing another person’s, realising when I got home with bags full of processed chicken nuggets, tinned soup and condoms that I’d grabbed the wrong trolley in my haste.

Nor did sit down with it in my pocket and it slipped out, and fell down the side of the couch never to be seen again.

In fact, I didn’t really lose a baby at all. I knew where it was at all times.

The expression ‘lost a baby’ sounds incredibly irresponsible. I mean, what kind of mother could lose her baby, right? No wonder we carry a secret shame of miscarriage.

In between my two children, on a cheeky holiday in Bali, we conceived another child. Never ones to keep good news to ourselves for long, we shared our fortune with our nearest and dearest. Everyone was so excited.

Even though it was such early days, I imagined myself and this child’s future. I imagined their place within our family. I imagined holding it, a whole baby, even though in reality it was nothing but a few cells multiplying at the speed of light.

I imagined sniffing its little fluffy head. My baby. Inside me.

I was only nine weeks pregnant when I started to spot. I went to the toilet every five minutes to assess the situation. In a few hours the spotting had escalated to bleeding and I went to my friend’s house so I wasn’t alone, because I just knew that this bleeding was the start of my dream baby exiting stage left.

I called my husband and asked him to come home early if he could. God knows why. It’s not like he could do anything. I wasn’t in pain. It wasn’t dramatic. I was just bleeding when I shouldn’t be.

I remember sitting there, thinking that maybe I could do something – lie on the floor with my legs in the air, perhaps – to stop the flow; to keep the baby in.

Even though logically I knew that the cells were no longer my baby, that my body was over-riding my emotions and evacuating something that wasn’t right, I was still really, really sad.

“I don’t want to lose my baby” I mumbled into my lap, sitting on my friend’s grey sofa with our toddlers playing at our feet.

My friend, who knew all too well how it felt to be in my shoes, just offered me a cup of tea or a glass a red wine and gave me a hug.

There was nothing else for it. I took the red.

I was lucky in the fact that my friend had been through it. Realistically speaking, with one in five pregnancies ending in an early miscarriage (miscarrying in the first 12 weeks is known as early miscarriage. Miscarrying in the 12-20 week phase it’s known as late miscarriage and is much more rare), chances are we all know someone who has lost a child, but there is something taboo about talking about it.

Obviously, it’s not something that you drop into casual conversation with a checkout chick as it’s intensely personal, but for some reason there is a sense of failure or shame surrounding it.

Recently, someone very dear to me elatedly announced a new babe on the way. No one really waits for 12 weeks, do they? It’s such fantastically exciting news.

A few weeks later when she went for a scan and the scan showed no heartbeat. It was a very sad thing.

She was told that the fetus had failed to grow beyond six weeks, and by now she was 10 weeks. She was carrying nothing more than a little sac of cells but it felt more like the huge weight of a dead baby. She was told that she could have a curette or simply wait for it to pass and she opted for the latter.

But it didn’t pass. After four more weeks, she decided it was time for a D & C.

It’s called a missed miscarriage. Even that moniker implies some kind of failing, like missing a train or a deadline.

I tried to call her but she didn’t want to talk. I know now that she didn’t want me to feel sorry for her, but I know she also felt ashamed.

Why does a miscarriage feel like a personal failure?

We’ve since talked about it and she said she wished more people talked openly about losing their babies. Maybe she would have found it easier to talk if she’d known of more people who had experienced the same thing. If there are so many of us, why is it so hard to find people to share your story with?

People who understand exactly what it’s like to know that your pregnancy is no longer viable and has been, very intelligently, expelled by your body?

It’s important to share these stories, so we all know that we’re not alone. There’s no shame. It’s just one of those things.

Danielle Colley is a staff writer who also writes at popular Australian blog Keeping Up With The Holsbys. This was first published there.

To read more of her work click here

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