The lonely, silent grief of miscarriage

“I knew you were there even before that second line appeared on the strip. I remember I was so scared. It took me a long time to come out of the washroom and when I did I saw that your dad was standing outside with a puzzled look on his face wondering what I was doing inside. I didn’t have to tell him I did the test and it was positive, he saw my face and he just knew. 

You didn’t stay very long, but for the short time you were with us, you made us a happy family of three. You made me really happy.”

Miscarriage, or the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks, is common. Approximately, 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and that’s just among women who know they’re pregnant. When you take into account that many losses happen before women even miss their period or take a test, up to half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet surprisingly, miscarriage remains misunderstood.

We know the protocol when a person dies. There is a funeral service, condolences are offered, as well as meals brought to the home of the survivors; support is offered in any way that is helpful. Death, while sad, is a part of life, and is recognized as such.

Miscarriage is death before life.

12th July 2016. I remember I had taken a bathroom break when I saw I had two red spots. I panicked for a second but then I pretended I never saw it. Pure denial. I guess I was in shock.

But after a while as I started getting severe cramps I finally told my husband who rushed me to the emergency. After waiting for more than two hours at one hospital and then being told it will take another three hours at another hospital, we rushed to a third hospital where I was attended to after half an hour. The gynecologist on duty did an internal exam which hurt like hell and told me I hadn’t completely miscarried but was heading that way. She gave me an injection and told me to come back in the morning to get an ultrasound done. My husband and I drove back home in silence. Once back home, we didn’t tell anyone what the doctor had said. That night my husband cried like a baby and I feeling numb tried to console him.

Next morning, I got my abdominal ultrasound done and nothing came up on it. It was an empty sac. The doctor was nice enough and in order to reassure me that maybe something was wrong, she called another doctor who after failing to search for any sign asked me to get a transvaginal ultrasound done since it is too early in my pregnancy thus the baby might be better visible through a transvaginal. I knew they were giving me false hopes. She went ahead with that and without disclosing anything, asked me to collect the report the next day. I just knew.

My doctor told me there was no need for a D&C and suggested I let it happen naturally and so I took her advice and stayed at my parents for 20 days or so, crying in my sleep every alternate night and keeping up a strong face in the mornings. One day as I was lying in bed with my mom, the cramping got pretty bad and I excused myself to the bathroom where the clot passed. I wrapped it in toilet paper and kept staring at it for about 5-8 minutes. That day it finally hit me that my baby was no longer inside me. I called my husband and we both cried on the phone. I guess it was the first time I actually accepted it and cried. I had to put it in the trash beside the toilet and I still feel sad about that.

Would I have felt better with a proper burial? I don’t know. Everything about miscarriage feels so wrong.

As time passed, publicly, I put up my bravest face and tried acting all strong and busy. Privately, I cried in bed while my husband tried to comfort me and processed our loss himself.

I painstakingly researched online about the facts of miscarriage. I remember entering “is miscarriage the mother’s fault” on Google and feeling relieved it wasn’t or else I couldn’t have lived with that guilt.

After my miscarriage, I felt many things: sadness, anger, isolation, and even some depression brought on by a substantial downswing of hormones. I was lucky that those very closest to me knew, and I had their support.

I also felt something I did not expect: foolish. I felt foolish for being sad. I felt I did not have the right to grieve, because, as people would point out to me, “It was really early.”

A lot of people don’t count a miscarriage as a real loss. They say really insensitive things: ‘I guess it was meant to be’ or ‘At least you now know you are fertile and can conceive again.’ Can you imagine saying that to a parent who’d lost a child who was a few days old?

Let me make one thing very clear: You are allowed to feel however you want or need to feel when you find out you have a human life growing inside of you, no matter when you find out.

And while people think and many a times point out that “don’t be sad”, “you were just 6-week pregnant”, etc, let me tell you, that there is no line graph where the love you feel for life inside you increases with the number of weeks it gestates. Pregnant is pregnant. Loss is loss.

If you want to rest, do. If you want to scream, do. If you want to distract yourself, do. If you want to cry, stuff your face, hibernate, go on an adventure, call your friend morning noon and night, do.

Miscarriage isn’t just a loss we feel emotionally. So much more than a baby is lost during a miscarriage. It’s the loss of hopes and dreams, innocence, joy.

It happens to our bodies, inside of us. We experience it physically. To expect a predetermined level of grief from a woman who has lost a pregnancy is absurd and presumptuous.

So, as a society, let’s do better. Let’s be more honest, open, and empathetic. Today, I decided I didn’t want to carry my miscarriage around like an awful secret anymore. In my post-miscarriage days, I felt that the more I opened up with my friends and talked to them about it, the more I moved into acceptance. I strongly believe in afterlife and I’m not sure how the details will work out, but I think I’m going to meet his soul someday. I guess I feel OK with the wait now.

This story is shared by Alizeh Imam.

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