Trigger warning: miscarriage.
I broke an egg on the floor this morning and in that moment I felt everything dissolve and unravel- past, present and future. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling. It’s grief. It’s like panic, a feeling like the whole veneer of my humanity is about to peel back and expose me, skinless, all my guts, all the parts of myself I’m not supposed to see. It takes me by surprise every time, even though its timing is often almost embarrassingly predictable. It’s tied to the calendar and the clock; my sense of at this time in that place is a constant, pedantic voice. It keeps me tied to wound like an umbilical cord.
I don’t talk about this one much. This is the miscarriage I had four years ago. I didn’t want to be pregnant. I was already up to my eyeballs in babies, my marriage was a disaster, we lived in the damn bush. But I was pregnant and the baby was moving and I loved it. I wanted out, and I wanted the baby and I didn’t want my life. And then one morning I woke up and I thought, I haven’t felt this guy move since yesterday. And I went to the bathroom and there was just a tiny bit of blood, and I thought, I remember this so clearly, I thought “Everything can go all the way wrong”. My husband asked if he should go to work and I didn’t want to be around him so I said yes, and the kids and I got on with the business of the morning, feeding horses, tidying up, hoping I was wrong. I had just thrown a flake of hay into the pony paddock and I felt a soft pop and my jeans were soaked and I thought “here we go”. I changed my clothes and loaded the kids and the dog into the truck and I called my midwife and I called the hospital and told them I was having a miscarriage. It was a beautiful day.
Some of us know how it goes, and like all births and like all deaths, it’s the same and different for everyone and it’s private and public at the same time. It was terrible, though some things are more terrible. I know people who have lost infants and children. That’s worse. Losing Tim was worse. But it was terrible. There was an ultrasound to confirm that he was dead, and there he was, and the tech said “what a beautiful baby”, and he was.
When he was born, I was alone. My husband was with the kids and I was just waiting. It wasn’t painful. It wasn’t scary. He just slipped out and I held him in my hands between my legs till the nurses came. I delivered the placenta and they clamped the cord just as they had with my others; they let me cut it, they handed him to me in a blue blanket. His eyes were open and they were colourless.
When whales get beached, their bodies can’t support themselves and they collapse. Blue was like that. When we looked at him on the ultrasound, he was round and perfect, baby like, but out in the world he caved in upon himself, he bulged strangely. My husband had brought my bag and I drew him.
That was how it went.
Sometimes terrible things happen.
I remember thinking, of course, that it was my fault because I had said I didn’t want to have another baby. I remember wondering if he’d had a chance to think about it and decided he’d rather not be my child. Or whether perhaps he’d had a chance to be something better, like a sea lion, or a sunfish or maybe a narwhal. A bird, perhaps.
It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t want to be pregnant, but I would have loved him and raised him and loved him. I know this because I didn’t get to raise him nor even see him ever draw a breath and I still love him.
There’s a lot of talk about how women don’t talk about miscarriage. An awful lot of us experience them; my mother did, I did, most of my friends have. If you’re reading this, I hope you know that it’s ok to talk about it, and if that’s what you want to do, I hope you have a safe place to do it. If you don’t I can point you to some resources, as can your doulas, doctors and midwives. I also hope you know that it’s ok to not talk about it. It’s ok to keep it inside, I think, if that feels safer for you. Not if it’s going to eat you up, you know. But if that’s how you keep safe, it’s totally ok.
I remember thinking a lot about rabbits, and how sometimes when they’re stressed, mother rabbits eat their kits. It seems awful and barbaric, and I can’t pretend to know what motivates rabbits, but if I had to guess, I would guess that they’re keeping them safe. I would guess that they’re getting their babies back into the safety of their own bodies the only way they can. And I guess that’s the way it is.