January 17, 2015

The Language of Miscarriage

A week ago Thursday, Colin and I sat in the sonogram room of my OBGYN's office, watching as a small, black void surrounding a minuscule white dot appeared on a screen.  The pregnancy sac and fetal pole, our doctor told us.

By my calculations, I was supposed to be eight weeks pregnant, but the baby was only measuring at 6.  Not definitely a bad thing, the doctor told us, but not good.  I was bleeding, too, and terrified.

This Thursday, we sat in that same room and watched as the doctor again performed a sonogram.  There was the cervix, and the uterus.  But that black void and white dot were gone.  By that point, we'd known for a week that our baby had left us.  But it was still so strange to look at that place where it had been visible only a week ago, and to see nothing.

I've thought a lot lately about the language of miscarriage.  "I had a miscarriage," or "I miscarried," women say.  Or sometimes "We had a miscarriage," or "We lost the baby."  That had been my language, too, for our previous two losses.  Though I did not believe that I had done something to cause the miscarriage, the language I used made me the subject.  I lost the baby.  I had a miscarriage.

But this time is different.  This, my third pregnancy and third loss, my experience was different.  The baby was in me for longer.  8 weeks, this time, rather than 5 or 6.  I had a month of knowing I was pregnant, a month of experiencing the symptoms, the pains, the emotions.  A whole month where we thought everything was fine.  And then, last Thursday night, the baby left my body.

I won't be too graphic, but I will say this: I knew that the baby had left me.  I knew it physically.  And in that moment, my understanding of our language of miscarriage changed.  I didn't lose the baby.  The baby left me.  The baby left us.

The medical community has yet another term for this: "spontaneous abortion."  Though our society is very single-minded when the word abortion is used, it does work to explain what happened.  The word "abort" is defined as "to fail, cease, or stop at an early stage."  "Spontaneous," too, is an appropriate descriptor: "without effort or premeditation." It happened out of nowhere.  Unplanned, the baby simply ceased to grow, and left.

That understanding of the miscarriage helps explain my own feeling that I've been abandoned.  I was abandoned, in a sense.  For whatever reason, the baby left my body.  We probably will never know the answer, and knowing the answer won't stop my feeling of abandonment, anyway.

It hurts to be abandoned by someone I'd promised to love and protect.  It hurts to be left.  But it hurts a lot less than thinking I am the reason why the baby left.  It hurts less to say that the baby left, rather than saying that I lost it.

I didn't lose the baby.  The baby left my body.   But it will never, ever, leave my heart.

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