4 Secrets of The Most Common Tragedy Nobody Talks About
Miscarriages aren't generally considered acceptable fodder for comedy. In fact, they aren't the kind of thing most people prefer to talk about at all. A quarter (or more!) of all pregnancies will end in a miscarriage, so why is this subject so shrouded in silence? What is it like to suffer from something so common and devastating, and yet almost entirely ignored?
We sat down with a woman who had a miscarriage, both because we were curious and because our previous articles about genocide and child sex slavery proved you guys are willing to read about some incredibly depressing things if the facts behind it are compelling enough. And in this case, they sure as shit are:
Miscarriage Is a Slow, Awful Process That Can Take Days
Imagine meeting someone you really like. You're not best friends or anything, but you like them, and you think you'll be good friends eventually. Then they get hit by a bus. Now imagine that every time you take a drink of something, you see their smashed, mangled body at the bottom of the cup. That's what going to the bathroom during a miscarriage is like.
Seriously, guys, last free exit.
Losing a baby is like the unholy union of a Hellraiser film and a nature documentary, and it's happening in your underwear. You can't help but watch. I needed someone to reassure me that it wasn't my entire uterus / an alien pod / Leatherface's foreskin that had come out of me, so I Googled it, but I don't recommend doing this for fun (or at least, don't look at the images). I spent a sad, scary amount of time trying to find the best word to describe the texture and color of the horror I had just witnessed, debating whether it was more like jelly or snot or Gak.
You see this several times a day, and the process can go on for several days. Going to the bathroom during that time is like walking to the electric chair. And the whole time ...
You Blame Yourself
Science says that 10-25 percent of all "clinically recognized" pregnancies will end in miscarriage ("clinically recognized" means the ones that came up as a plus sign -- since so many women don't realize they were pregnant even after they miscarry, the total number is more like 50 percent). The cause is usually a simple chromosomal abnormality -- the wrong egg happened to meet the wrong sperm, and they decided they weren't right for each other. Science also says that up to 90 percent of the next pregnancies of women who miscarry will be successful.
Take a minute and enjoy that last statistic. It'll be a while before we circle back around to "Everything Will Turn Out OK."
Now ask me how much I gave a shit about what science had to say when my unbaked baby became medical waste.
All my doctors and nurses told me that this did not happen because of anything that I did, and I rejected them like a Duggar at an evolution lecture. My vehement denial turned me into a 15th-century peasant. "Fuck you, science! I know this is my fault! It's because of that time I accidentally slept on my stomach, or that time I had a sip of alcohol a week before conception! You can't fool me with your lies and shiny test tubes! Your mere data is nothing in the face of my self-loathing!"
"If only I'd been able to finish that horse heart!"
What convinced me to step away from the tarot cards was a woman I met who had a kid and a story. Well into her second trimester, she had no idea she was pregnant, so she continued life as usual, with all its drinking / fighting / ice hockey / bear wrestling. I sat mesmerized and horrified listening to the litany of shenanigans, and thought, "Well, fuck. I guess it really wasn't because I drank that coffee."
"You entered a nail-eating contest at five months?!"
"Yup. Pregnancy craving. What are you gonna do, right?"
At first, I was pretty upset that this person's uterine dweller had managed to persevere and mine hadn't, but it drove home for me that it was just the fault in our stars. And yet ...
The Mental Freak Out Lasts Long After the Physical One
I went to the doctor, who explained that my miscarriage had been due to a blighted ovum. I immediately felt better, reassured by the fact that the fetus had never started to grow. I hadn't really had a miscarriage. I had a false start. My uterus had started knitting a blanket, then got tired and gave up, but had left a ball of yarn floating around. My lady parts were as lazy as the lady they were living in. No bigs. I had this all under control.
Yet, a week later, I was still reading stories online and Googling "Jello-like discharge." I was lying in my bathtub for hours and texting people that I was scared I was going to pass out in there and to please call and make sure I wasn't dead. Eventually I stopped crying regularly -- I was still sad and disappointed, but I wasn't like the women I read about who couldn't get out of bed. At that point, I decided that either I was incredibly strong, or incredibly callous and evil and terrible and would have been a horrible mother anyway.
Spoiler: That train of thought doesn't help in putting your emotional well-being back together.
Weeks went by. The bleeding and cramping were over, and I stopped Googling it every day. I thought my life was totally normal again. Then I made plans to spend time around a person who was pregnant. I didn't think twice about it, but a few days before the event, I got really angry. Truly, severely angry. I was The Hulk with PMS and a toothache, and I didn't even know why. Every word I said was either cried or screamed. I decided a text from my best friend was the most offensive thing I had ever seen, and yelled about it until I tired myself out and drifted into hate sleep. I had literally gotten angry about someone telling me they had dry skin.
"I GOT YOUR PSORIASIS RIGHT HERE!!"
The day of the meeting came and I was angrier, cry-ier, and generally awful to be around, and somehow the reason I was so pissed still hadn't occurred to me. Minutes before I was supposed to leave, I lost my fucking mind and cried the biggest, ugliest tears ever. Out of me came every tear ever shed in every Lifetime movie put together. I had giant, cartoon snot bubbles in my nose. I sobbed until I didn't remember the time before crying. My bewildered boyfriend tried to comfort me, and without even thinking, I spat, "She doesn't even want that baby!" Suddenly, we both understood why I was crying, and nobody was more surprised than me.
It's Incredibly Common (But No One Talks About It)
No one knows what to say, so they say the worst thing possible. After you try to tell them about the devastating horror you've undergone, about how you want to peel off all of your skin and set it on fire ... they talk about how you should immediately try again.
Apparently, the most important milestone in life and learning to ride a two-wheeler are exactly the same.
My dad pulled out gems of encouragement like, "You're at the perfect age for breeding," and even more horribly, "You're ripe for seed," at which point I wondered if secretly my dad has been a farmer or a serial killer all this time. I'd never, ever discussed sex with this man -- so here I was, certain that he'd believed I was a virgin at almost 30, and here he was, giving me the lowdown on my downstairs right after it had taken a Rocky-esque beating. It was the worst ten minutes of my entire life, and I'm including the actual "hemorrhaging into a toilet" part.
"Pleasestopsaying'Loins.' Pleasestopsaying'Loins.' Pleasestopsaying'Loins.'"
But the most surprising part was finding out that this topic is apparently like eating crumbs out of your cleavage: It's happened to everyone, but you don't admit it until someone else does. I couldn't believe how many times I told someone that I just miscarried and they said, "Well, when it happened to me ..." These were women I've known for years, even women in my own family, and I never, ever knew this had happened to them. If I had, I would have tried to comfort them, been there for them. Instead I was feeling even sadder, knowing that someone I cared about had been through this and kept it all to themselves.
The one person I knew who had shared an experience with miscarriage was my grandmother, and that was only because she had a stroke, which does wonders for your ability to not give a shit what people think. She suddenly had no qualms about revealing every part of her life, up to and including stuff my grandfather liked in bed. Still, it didn't exactly help that this lone story I'd heard was graphic, terrifying, and included repeated use of the phrase "shitting out a baby."
She never could make cookies, but foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, Vegas-Nana wasn't without her charms.
But that's the point: It's so weird that apparently you have to have a stroke before you can feel comfortable talking about this. As sad as I was, I really wanted to share and talk and have someone tell me it was going to be okay. I feel awful for women who have suffered alone. I've read endless Internet threads of women's experiences, but it wasn't the same as sitting in a room with my best friend and hearing "This sucks, dude. I'm sorry." That was much more comforting to me than anything else.
So, do you think it was gross or tasteless for me to be this open about my experience with thousands of strangers? Let me assure you that making women feel like they can't talk about subjects like this is a thousand times worse.
For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Things You Learn Escorting Women Into an Abortion Clinic and 8 Ways the Legal System Screws Rape Victims (Like Me).
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