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I am not sure what I expected about my check-up. I suppose I thought that the new relationship I had the OBGYN because of my pregnancy would continue on as a special relationship. I was wrong. My visit was, once again, the sterile, medical kind, and not the kind that I had with him while I was pregnant. My OBGYN performed the post surgical exam, and then spoke with me briefly.
"You're healthy," he said, "and I would recommend beginning again, as soon as you're ready, to get pregnant again. If that's what you." Then he was gone, and the nurse came in with a prescription.
"This, she said, is a prescription for a mild pain killer for cramping. Really, it's just a prescription strength aspirin." Then she looked at me and added, "I know what you're going through."
I thought she was the connection I needed. Someone who had a miscarriage in the past, and in whom I could confide, commiserate with. "Yes," she continued, "we see those frequently with first-time mothers. Not to worry, if you got pregnant this time, you will probably get pregnant again."
It left me empty. How could people who worked with first-time mothers who lost their children be so clinical, medical, and sterile about a loss so painful? I wanted to scream at them, and to make them feel what it felt like to have the life of a child scraped out of them. That, of course, would have been futile, because people do not see the child involved in a miscarriage. Nothing ever epitomized the old the saying out of sight, out of mind more than the child lost to miscarriage. The dilation and curettage (D&C) is a clinical procedure, and it scrapes the inner wall of the uterus to remove the remains, the debris, of the unborn child. That my uterus could be scraped, like a burnt cooking pan, to remove the remains of my child was a hideous thought to me.
The fact is, one's loss of a child is measured by people in terms of visibility. The more visible the child, the greater society perceives the loss to be. Since my child was nothing more than pile of debris scraped from my uterus wall, my loss was measured by others in life as negligible. In other words, no loss at all really, and everyone, including my own husband, assured me that to become pregnant again would somehow compensate me for the loss I had suffered. If my child had been far enough along to have been removed and to have been a recognizable human shape, then my loss would, I suppose have seemed greater, more real to people. If there had been a funeral, a casket with a body in it, then people could believe it was real. They would send flowers, make the visitation, and tell me how sorry they were for my lo9ss. Now, I was only encouraged to try again, as soon as possible. It was being treated as though I fell off a horse; the only way to ride again is to get up, get on the horse again to be sure that fear would not prevent you from enjoying the ride again. I laughed at myself as I equated the image of horse with that of my husband, and that I should merely mount him to erase the fear of becoming pregnant again.
The closest I came to explaining my feelings, my loss, for me, was a poem in a book by Laura Seffel and Jessica Kingsley (2006). The poem was called Like Ink on a White Blouse.
"It is an indelible loss -- like ink on a white blouse,
Something ruined, irreversible.
Bright red swirls in the morning waters.
You stare silently, you think it might be a dream,
A dream just before waking.
You're losing something, but you cannot stop it.
Your husband is running up the stairs.
Waiting for the doctor to phone.
Watching television blindly.
What they didn't tell you is that it's not over in a minute, or even a half hour.
You will eat lunch in an Indian restaurant
And at an odd instant recall
You are having a miscarriage.
It was never visible, the doctor explains.
You can't seem to hear her -- you notice her kind eyebrows.
The nurses locate places for you to weep.
"Get my husband -- I can't understand the doctor."
Tears spring as if to wash away this wrong story.
Waiting for her to say there is still a little baby somewhere
I cannot find myself. I have slipped out as well.
Perhaps something broken open.
Something has been lost.
And now what to do with the prenatal vitamins?
The cherries on our tree, tiny hard miracles,
Have quickly turned over ripe.
Sitting in the metal bowls, they exude their sticky juices.
There seem to be always more of them.
How will it end? How many pies can I bake?
My hands are already stained
With working of slitting each one and Pulling out the stone (21-22)."
It is what Soffel refers to as "grief unseen," and I refer to as the quiet mourning. There is no baby to bury, and, so people think, nothing to mourn. But the mourning does happen for the mother. I was so glad to find Soffel's book, because finally someone was expressing how I felt over the loss of my unborn child. Soffel says she had signs that were asymptomatic of a healthy pregnancy: no morning sickness, And her home pregnancy tests were inconsistent: first, a negative, then a positive with a second test a short time later, then another negative (22). Like me, Soffel hoped that the bleeding was not a sign that the pregnancy was over (22). Of course, the amount of blood I experienced was enough to alert me to the fact that it was over, but I had aged the child over the weeks in my mental relationship with him (I was sure it was a boy). He was not a fetus at the time of the miscarriage. In fact, he had graduated college and was becoming president of the United States. I knew he was destined for greatness; instead, he was scraped from my insides and disposed of as hospital hazardous waste.
The loss of my unseen child has left a hole in my heart for what was, what could have been, what would never be. Beginning within days of the event -- it's an event, if it's not a birth -- I began forcing myself to move forward. I closed my mental baby book of my child's life, and moved on. Whether or not to conceive again was not the question. The question for me was how long I would quietly mourn the loss of my child, because I was certainly in mourning alone. There is no group response to the unseen child. It was my alone to mourn. No one but me had bonded with it, so it was up to me alone to grieve the loss, and then, perhaps one day, I would wake and it would be a distant memory -- or not, but life must go on.
Soffel was so keenly aware of these feelings of being alone, of the unseen child is tantamount to not existing at all, that she has not just put her thoughts in a book, but also on a web site, found at http://magazine.wustl.edu/Winter02/alumniprofiles.html. Those women, like her, and like me, are the group she refers to as "The Secret Club (Soffel, 2009, online)."
"The Secret Club" of women who have lost a pregnancy (900,000 pregnancies end in loss each year in the United States). These women are linked by the emotional aftermath of "an indelible loss, like ink on a white blouse, something ruined.
'Miscarriage leaves no body for the couple to grieve,' she says, 'so it is also an invisible loss (online).'"
Soffel expressed her grief, the life she had known only through the bonding with the unborn life force inside her, through painting. Her book, too, is about healing yourself from the loss of miscarriage through the arts. Perhaps if Soffel paints enough of those feelings for which there are no words to express oneself over the loss, the grief, and the coldness of people who treat it like riding a horse, then others will begin to realize that there is no need to see or touch something so special, so miraculous as the force of life within us. Yet I realized that Soffel was on to something, and I wanted to see more of how mothers who had suffered miscarriages (yes, we are mothers too) dealt with their losses. I found these online…[continue]
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