Posted in Blog, Featured, Mother, Woman

On Loss

You don’t want to talk about your miscarriage. I get it. I don’t want to talk about mine. This thing that happens – losing a pregnancy – mostly goes unspoken in our culture. We have our miscarriages privately, abruptly ending care with doctors or midwives we planned to see many more times.

Miscarriage affects women (and men) differently. Some women don’t know or have only just found out they are pregnant and this small life is relatively easy to separate from. Others develop an almost instantaneous connection to their future baby and feel the same as if they had lost a child born at term. Some women miscarry at home, some at work, some in doctors offices.

After my miscarriage, the Bodies exhibit came to Seattle and they had a section with fetuses. In a dark room, away from the rest of the exhibit, were teeny tiny embryos resting on teeny tiny placentas. Though I felt during my second pregnancy that the contents of my uterus were private and refused the 20 week ultrasound, after the first pregnancy had ended around 9 weeks, it was incredibly healing for me to see those little baby shapes at all different stages of gestation. I was not alone. All of these little guys and girls came from women who also experienced loss. Some before me and some after. I stayed a long time in that dark, comforting space taking in each little body and thinking “oh, mine was smaller than that one but bigger than that one. That one looks like a fish, that one a dinosaur, that one a baby.”

No matter how it happens, a miscarriage is a birth. A little birth? A young birth? But a birth nonetheless. A life is formed and sustained (for some length of time), hormones change, blood volume increases, contractions begin, the life is birthed, the woman needs to recover – both physically and emotionally. But after this kind of secret birth people don’t receive all the lovely attention and caregiving afforded to women with new babies. They are often expected to continue working, to behave normally, to go about their usual routines, though they may carry a deep, unyielding sadness or drained, exhausted body as a result.

Every woman who has talked with me about miscarriage has said that they received little to no guidance or support from their caregiver on what to expect and were surprised by their depth of emotion, the way their partner was effected or the amount of blood. My experience with miscarriage was the same, which is why I’m sharing this piece when it would be easier not to. Because I think that’s what this site is all about – women sharing honestly with each other, things they can’t read anywhere else. I encourage you, though it may be difficult, to talk about your experience when and where it is appropriate. Fill in the gap with information, preparation and emotional holding for other women.

Miscarriage can:

* Feel like a normal day, be uncomfortable like a normal cycle or straight up painful a la labor. My loss was far more painful than my early labor, but far less intense than active labor.
* Make you feel relieved, depressed, angry, broken, out of control, tender, ugly, miserable, hopeful, want to have another baby ASAP (whether or not this is the best thing for your body or your family), want to never be pregnant again (even if it is very much in your plans to have a family), hate pregnant women and women with children, love pregnant women and women with children.
* Happen any time for any length of time. If you choose to miscarry naturally or you miscarry before you know your pregnancy isn’t viable, it can and will start anywhere: at your house, out to dinner, at work, traveling, picking another child up from daycare, day or night.
* Last a few days or a few months.
* Cause a lot of bleeding or hardly any at all. If you go about your normal life it’s a good idea to have many/extra super absorbent pads. Tampons are inadvisable.
* Can make you quite anemic, depending on blood loss. It’s a good idea to check your iron levels before conceiving again (or even if you don’t plan to conceive again).

I hope that neither you nor any woman you know will ever lose a pregnancy, but, statistically, it’s likely. So, if does happen, please treat yourself/your friend/your sister/your wife well. Make yourself available to listen (not talk. listen.). Scrub her toilet before you leave the bathroom, bring her a meal, take her dog for a walk (or take HER for a walk) – all the things you’d do for a new mom. And make her this soup.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Postpartum Soup*

– One whole chicken (or pork, turkey, beef, lamb of same amount)

– Shan Yao (chinese yam) – 30 grams

– Huang Qi (astragalus) – 10 grams

– Gou Qi Zi (lycci berries) – 10 grams

– Dang Gui (chinese angelica) – 10 grams

– Chinese rice wine – 1 cup

– Sheng Jiang – fresh ginger root, to taste

– Salt, to taste

– Water or chicken stock – enough to round out your soup

Simmer everything on low heat for at least 2 hours. Remove ginger and astragalus pieces. Eat at least one small bowl of soup daily.

*I recommend purchasing your herbs at Dandelion Botanicals. Of course, consult your physician before taking any medicine.

And, ladies, know you aren’t alone.


Editors note: This writer wished to remain anonymous to protect her privacy.

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  1. I had a miscarriage before the birth of my son at 7 weeks. It was horribly painful and sad. But the worst part that I will never forget, is what the ob/gyn said to me after. I hadn’t gotten far enough to make plans with an ob or midwife but after the miscarriage happened at home I thought I should at least go see a doc and make sure everything was ok. I went to this ob/gyn, he gave me a pap and told me since I miscarried at home it was probably a false pregnancy. I have never been so angry in my life. He had NO basis for saying this. It was a very real pregnancy with real symptoms, a real positive pregnancy test, and a very real and painful miscarriage during which I felt the fetus pass. To tell a woman who’s miscarried that it was essentially in her head based on nothing is medical misconduct in my opinion. The positive side of this is that I knew when I got pregnant again I would avoid ob’s and stick to midwives!

  2. Why do they even use that term “false pregnancy”? Was he actually suggesting that you were never pregnant? Or was it possibly just a term to describe an early miscarriage?

  3. I’m pretty sure he was trying to tell me I wasn’t ever pregnant. He was very condescending. He said something along the lines of ‘you didn’t go to the e.r.?’ I said no. ‘then it must’ve been a false pregnancy’. I guess he’s never heard of someone just miscarrying at home (which I know tons of women do). I bet the idea of someone having a full-term baby at home would really shock him! 😉 It was all really ridiculous. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and never go back!

  4. Oh Cara, I’m so sorry. That sounds awful. Who is he to feel like he can ever say something like that to a woman? Obviously he has NO CLUE!

  5. That sucks Cara. I’m so sorry that happened to you. You’re right, that doctor was awful and clueless.

    I miscarried at 5 weeks, didn’t even know I was pregnant at first. I basically realized something was wrong when my “period” had been going on for about a week or so. I had just moved to a new city, and had found a gynecologist right before this happened. In fact, we had discussed my wish to want to start a family at my first appointment with her 2 months before.

    Once it was clear that the miscarriage would happen, she pretty much told me what to expect, not just in physical terms (i.e., passing the fetus), but also in terms of grief and loss. She stressed that if I was feeling blue for more than a fortnight with intensifying grief, I should get grief counseling (which I eventually did, good catch on her part).

    She also said “I know this is going to be hard to believe right now, but if nothing else this tells you that you can and will have a baby sooner rather than later. Lots of women become pregnant again within a year after a miscarriage and go on to have a healthy and beautiful baby”. I needed to hear that, painful though it was, and what was remarkable is that it was said with so much empathy, as if she had known me for a lifetime, not just a couple of months. Reading your account makes me realize how lucky that was.

  6. The same thing happened to me. I was 6 weeks pregnant and started to bleed – in a hotel on vacation. Fun. So, when we got home a week later I went to the hospital where they did some checks. They did a pregnancy test, which came back negative – duh – and the doctor said, ‘it must have been a false pregnancy’. I was livid. I was pregnant. I’d been pregnant before. I know the signs. I had 2 positive pregnancy tests. Idiot!

    Of course this happened the first time I was pregnant too. I went in for my first check after finding out I was pregnant, the doctor took a test, which came back negative. I couldn’t believe it because I’d had a positive test at home and just felt like I was. He said, ‘Dear, sometimes when we want something so bad we see and feel what we want to, but that doesn’t make it so.’ WHAT?!! Luckily I didn’t listen to him. I just knew Inwas right. I went out and bought 5 pregnancy tests. Took all of them over the next few days. Took them back to him in his office, slapped my wee sticks on his desk and said, ‘Does that convince you?’ He looked unimpressed and just started filling out the paperwork. I just kept thinking, thank goodness I didnt believe him and decide to go out and drown my sorrows in drink and drugs. I could’ve really messed up my now 4 year old son.

    Doctors don’t manage loss well at all. Trust your feelings and if a doctor treats you like an idiot, find another doctor. I did.

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