The Lost Child

Start here: Miscarriage Stories

And then there’s this:

OrganDonorsandPregnantWomen

So the battle over women, their bodies, pregnancy and the rights of the unborn continues to rage.  You can’t use birth control.  You can’t have an abortion if it’s beyond a certain amount of time, or if you weren’t raped, or if the child is deformed or the product of incest.  You can have the child removed forcibly from your body without your consent (Forcible Cesarean) or if you suffer catastrophic illness, up to death (and resuscitation) and you end up in a coma, you can be kept on life support to be an incubator for your fetus (TX woman in coma) against your express wishes to not have your own life extended by artificial means.

But what about the women who desperately want a child?  Who are actively attempting to become pregnant and have every intention of carrying the child for 40 weeks to a safe delivery–and cannot?  The sheer numbers of women who are not able to maintain a pregnancy are staggering.  (Fertility Data )  A long time ago I heard that 1 in 9 couples are not able to have a child together (which includes male infertility as well).  That’s a lot of people.  It’s greater than 10% of the population–or to put it into more imaginable perspective: if you have a party and invite 10 couples over, at least one of those couples will not be able to have a child.  And most of us know at least 10 couples.

I was very, very blessed.  I have never had to go through the agony of a miscarriage; I got pregnant three times and I have three children.  But I know far too many women who have had to deal with this–and sometimes, more than once.  Even my own mother had infertility problems.  The fact that she and my father were married for two years before I was born (and no birth control during that time) and my brother is 7 years younger than I am indicates a less-than-optimal chance for pregnancy for her.  And she had a miscarriage between the two of us.

My father’s mother had a miscarriage between each of her 4 children.  My mother’s mother carried to full term a daughter with esophageal atresia  where  the esophagus does not grow down to the stomach correctly–and this was in the 1940’s.  So the surgery they do to correct this today was barely out of its own infancy at the time.  My grandmother comforted herself by thinking that perhaps my aunt’s surgery, even though it was not successful for her, gave the doctors greater knowledge and ability so that they could save other children.  

And when we visited the cemetery where my grandparents were eventually buried, we always went to look at my aunt’s tiny grave, in a row of children’s graves.

Of course I have also had friends who miscarried.  So I have been a bystander in the sorrow of losing the promise of child, the hope of a baby that you’ll never know.  I cannot imagine the feelings involved and I prefer not to try.  Once I had my own children, I couldn’t bear to even think of anything bad happening to them.  I would weep just from news stories or magazine articles that dealt with childhood traumas and accidents.

A friend share the article above and coupled with the photograph, set me to thinking about all the “stuff” that goes on around pregnancies.  I can understand why there is a hesitation about announcing a pregnancy until the child has settled in solidly (so to speak).  It begs the question of whether this generation of women is having more miscarriages than women did before all the industrial agricorp foods, with the myriad of chemicals added to everything, the state of our environment and the lack of pure, unadulterated drinking water.  I’m not even sure where to start that kind of research and find numbers to put in this blog.

Regardless of why it happens, there are many reasons for miscarriage–or what can also be accurately called “spontaneous abortion” because the body itself will expel a fertilized ovum when the zygote has no chance of survival out of the womb.  (One of the odd biology class facts I’ve retained since high school (back in the dark ages, haha) is that 80% of all conceptions end in spontaneous abortion. So the fact that we even can get pregnant and stay pregnant long enough to increase our population only attests to how much loving is going on.)  The reason for your miscarriage may be different than the reason for your friend’s–or maybe there’s no understandable or knowable reason at all.  The point is, miscarriage is a very common occurrence…but that doesn’t make it any easier for any woman who has to go through it.

I ask you, then: why are so many women silent about what has happened?  There is no shame in a miscarriage; no stigma in the loss.  Or did I miss something?  I seem to remember my mother, and her mother, talking about miscarriage in a normal tone of voice–not a hushed, secretive voice.  Someone had miscarried and while that was very sad, it wasn’t a rare or unknown event (sorry to say).  When did it go underground?  And assuming I’m not wrong about that, WHY did it go underground?

If  we wait until after that first trimester to announce our pregnancy, what do we do about the pregnancies that turn into miscarriages?  How do we honor the life that was lost? How do we acknowledge the miracle of a beloved (but unknown) soul that didn’t make it onto the Earth? How do we mourn, when there is no grave to visit? No pictures to look at, no memories of the face of our child?

Even a very early miscarriage, when it is really just a blob of cells, hardly identifiable as being something that will be a person some day…even that blob holds the hope of a child, OUR child.  Please note that I am NOT getting into the discussion of when life begins.  I have VERY strong views on that which contain such phrases as “viability” and “live outside the womb unaided” and most especially “quality of life”–for the mother AND the child.  But every act of sexual intercourse without birth control contains the idea, the dice throw of possibility, of the starting point for the creation of life, which culminates with the bringing a new person into this world, planned for or not.

It is an inalienable right for every woman to decide what she tells anyone at all about her body and its condition, and pregnancy certainly falls under that right.  So does miscarriage.  Letting them know and NOT letting them know are both good, solid options.

But silence about something this life-altering may not be the BEST choice.  And I mean both states of being: “pregnant” and then “not pregnant”.  I’m not going to discuss silence about being pregnant.  That’s for another blog someday.  So let’s move on to the silence that very often surrounds miscarriage.

There are many, many reasons not to talk about a miscarriage.  Like any other tragedy, having to repeat it endlessly keeps it fresh and dreadful in the mind and heart.  And to put it bluntly, there are just some people who don’t need to butt into your business and don’t need to be told.  Those Helpful Hannahs will talk your ear off about THEIR miscarriage, and how THEY felt when all you want to do is scream your anguish and throw china dishes at the wall.  They are worse than those whose eyes tear up and they hold you close and just keep saying, “I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry.”  Sympathy can be tolerated; clueless nattering about their pain without so much as a “I feel ya” to acknowledge yours is beyond bearing.

There’s also a sense of following the old adage of  “Least said, soonest mended.”  It’s over and done with, why keep talking about it?  No point in going on and on.  Move on with your life.  It’s not like it was “real baby” anyways…  It was just a miscarriage, for goodness’ sake.  REALLY?  I don’t care if it was an accidental pregnancy and now you don’t have to pay for an abortion.  (But you will pay in guilt and remorse for feeling relieved…and that’s not necessary, either.)  I don’t care if the woman had a history of “female problems” and was told she’d never even GET pregnant, so what did you expect anyway?  (Try to have hope that the doctors were wrong, that you can have a child of your body with your beloved…and then lose that hope in a gush of blood and pain.)  I don’t care if this was a carefully planned, carefully thought out pregnancy that ended in miscarriage through nobody’s fault, it just happens that way (and more often than one might think.)

Whatever the reason for becoming pregnant and whatever the cause for the miscarriage, you are going to have strong, sustained feelings about it.  Trying to mash them into a box in the back corner of the attic of your mind only means that they will pop out, like a Jack in the box, at the single most inopportune time and place.  Promise.  That’s how mashed feelings are.  Doesn’t matter what they are: relief, pain, sorrow, anger, whatever.  You’ve got’em and they ain’t going away.

So you lock them down and go back to “life before the pregnancy”.  Except that you WERE pregnant and now you’re not and everything has changed.  It’s like losing an arm or a leg, or suddenly being struck blind.  The world is completely different than the one before sperm and egg combined.  You can’t hide from babies in strollers, toddlers on swings, children playing tag on the grass.  You can’t pretend that you don’t see the fathers and the mothers, all with their children, living their lives together.  You cannot completely fool yourself into thinking that you’re just fine and this has not changed you in the least.

You may think to yourself, “But I DON’T want to talk about it.”  And then you get into the company of  a (any) group of women and the topic comes up.  One by one, the stories come out.  And friends you’ve had for years admit that they have a Lost Child somewhere out in the Universe, a child whose face they never saw.  And you…can either tell them or not, but you know that you are a part of this category of women forever, the Women Who Have Had a Miscarriage.

I am not advocating the wholesale blurting this out to everyone you meet.  (Although I suspect that there are women who do indeed deal with their own miscarriage by doing precisely that.)  What I’m saying is that who you tell is up to you.  It may just be to the child’s father.  Or your mother.  Or your doctor.  Doesn’t matter.  But you need to talk to someone who will listen to you without interrupting, who can offer you comfort and support, who can help you grieve for what was lost and can never be recovered, only replaced.

There is an easing of pain in this sharing of miscarriage and loss.  Trouble shared is trouble halved, so the saying goes.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that finding out that you are not alone in your sorrow, that others KNOW what you are going through…makes it possible for you to go on.  Just knowing that someone else has climbed this mountain means that it can be climbed, that you can do it as well.  Sometimes, that’s all we need to make through another day, to keep on with living until the pain subsides to a dull roar and then a faint echo that only catches us occasionally instead of constantly.

With every tragedy there is also a lesson we learn, a strength we are given or a willingness to accept what is and find a way to live with that.  Your Lost Child may guide you, through their very absence, to an aspect of your own being that you did not know you had, or had not given enough attention to its formation and growth.  It may be a chance for someone in your life to become closer to you, love growing out of like and friendship into something more, in the common bond of the grieving.  It may strengthen the relationship with your significant other; if you can weather this dreadful a storm together, clinging to each other and coming through the other side more committed to each other…then you can face anything together and win.

I would also suggest that you talk frankly, and openly, with any siblings the Lost Child might have had, in an age appropriate manner of course.  Even if it’s a bit awkward for you, even if everyone cries…this is life, it’s not always like you see on TV.  Sometimes bad stuff happens and this is how our family deals with it–together and with love (and information!).  If you don’t, you do a disservice to your children.  If they are old enough to understand it (even if it’s only that something bad happened), they are old enough to talk about it, even in the most simple terms.

My son was five years old when my grandmother died–and we were at her bedside for that last weekend of her life.  She waited until everyone had left the room on Monday morning and then departed for the other side.  So we then had to go into action, getting the body out and preparing the funeral, etc.  He went out back and was sitting on the porch when the next door neighbor came out and asked what he was doing…he told her that Grandmom had died and he was sad.  She agreed that it was something to be sad about and later on, told me what had happened.

Talk about guilt.  He felt that he couldn’t come to me, because I was up to my eyeballs in stuff and I hadn’t even realized he was outside.  So the moral to this particular little story is that even a fairly young child can understand when something momentous occurs, good or bad.  And as their parent, it is up to you to help them absorb it and express the feelings it creates.  And it’s always good to let them know that you also have feelings about it, and what those feelings are.

There is so much that can be associated with this Lost Child of yours.  The Lost Child may not have ever had a name but you will carry them in your heart for the rest of your life.  The Lost Child is a dream, the best and most perfect child one could hope for.  The Lost Child is the one that would fulfill all of your plans for offspring, would have succeeded beyond measure, would be all that you were not or that your other children could not accomplish.  The Lost Child will tease your thoughts with “What would he/she have looked like?”  “What would she/he have accomplished, would they have been like me or my husband?”  All the “what ifs”, all the unknown events and all the uncelebrated milestones belong to that Lost Child.

I offer you this bit of solace for your Lost Child: wherever the Lost Child goes, whatever your beliefs about afterlife and souls…they are never alone.  They are with all the other Lost Children, playing and singing and occasionally, whispering in your ear to remind you that once upon a time, they were YOUR Lost Child.

We each handle things in our own way, for sure. But sometimes silence is not the answer and we need to share the pain to make it easier to bear. Blessings of comfort and peace to all who have had this happen to them; my sisters, we are here to offer whatever you need, if only to listen to the story of your Lost Child.

Namaste!

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