Friday, February 3, 2012

Miscarriage as a Space of Abjection

Recently, I wrote a blog about the demystification of birth and the proliferation of its images on various websites. Likewise, "mommy blogs" everywhere have begun posting pictures of the postpartum belly to show that contrary to typical media imagery, normal women's stomachs are not flat and perfect within a few weeks of giving birth. Birth is a trauma, a natural one, but a trauma nonetheless and it takes time for the body to heal.

Likewise, spending time on Pinterest has shown me what people like to see: babies, well-decorated homes, gardens, pretty clothes, and elaborately prepared dishes. There are thousands of images with these subjects alone. What you do not see, or see very little of, is "the real." You see babies, but not ones with special needs. You see homes, but not the homes of the impoverished. These sites are places of fantasy and the imagination; the real is not allowed. I believe that's why we flock there in droves.

This is, of course, fine.  I enjoy escapism as much as the next person.  But the real exists. It is the lives we lead.  It is the truth.

In January of 2010 I suffered a miscarriage. It was gruesome;  far more gruesome than one could anticipate. On Facebook, I simply wrote "miscarriage sucks" and an outpouring of condolences and kind words filled my inbox. I felt the need to be discreet, as apparently most others do as well, but I was shocked by how many of my friends wrote to tell me that they too had had a miscarriage, and in some cases, more than one.

Why did no one talk openly about this? Why did such a common event take me by such surprise? I was in no way prepared for the experience, and it is because we hide it away behind closed doors and speak of it only in whispers, if we speak of it at all. We are ashamed. We are tastefully 'private.'

Well, to hell with that.

10 to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Why are we not more educated about it? Because it is messy, and painful, and terrible, does not mean that we should remain ignorant about the process.

So, I am going to post a little journal I wrote the day after my miscarriage which details the experience. It's gross and definitely an overshare, but such accounts need to be read.  It isn't particularly well-written, but it is honest.


So yesterday, Monday January 25, 2010, I had a miscarriage. I was four months along and had been spotting for several weeks. Sunday the bleeding increased to a steady bleeding. I didn’t sleep well that night and had some very slight cramps. I woke up thinking I had had, or was about to have a miscarriage.

I was going to take my son to school as usual and told husband to go on into work because going to the hospital wouldn’t help me if I was going to miscarry. They cannot do anything to stop it. Before taking teenager to school, I used the restroom and as I stood up afterwards, a gush of blood and a big chunk of tissue came out and hit the floor. I thought to myself “well, there’s my baby on the floor.” I quickly cleaned up and got teen to school on time. When I got back home, the trouble really began. When I stood up out of the van, blood gushed all down my legs, into my pants and shoes, and I could feel a large chunk of something come out onto my pad. I hobbled with the baby into the house and went immediately to the bathroom. The amount of blood was intense. When I took off my pants and panties, blood went everywhere. I sat on the toilet and bled out for a while while soaking my pants and panties in cold water in the sink. I got paper towels and spray cleaner and cleaned the puddles of blood on the floor and toilet. I thought the worst had passed. Boy was I wrong.

I put on a fresh pad and black pants. Right when I got back downstairs however, more blood and chunks gushed out. I again ran to restroom. This time I sat on the toilet for about 20 minutes just bleeding and passing chunks. I called husband and asked him to please come home. About this time the terrible, awful, ridiculously painful cramps began. I started getting lightheaded and felt like I was going to faint. So, after putting the baby in his highchair (so he wouldn’t fall over the back of the couch while I couldn’t watch him) I went to the bathroom to bleed some more. The lightheadedness and nausea were so overwhelming that I had to lie on the bathroom floor and wait for husband to get home to help me. This went on for a while. When my husband got home, he got me a banana to give me some strength, which disgustingly, I ate on the toilet. But I had to. I decided to get in the bathtub and bleed there instead of sitting up on the toilet. When trying to get to the stairs however, I got so faint that I had to lie down in the middle of the living room floor and rest. I gathered my strength and finally got up the stairs.

I used the toilet again and passed more chunks. The blood was just pumping out of me as if someone were pouring out a 2 liter bottle into the toilet. Faint again, I lied on the bathroom floor for a while. Husband came knocking and helped me into the bathtub. I lied in there for probably an hour, just bleeding and cramping. It felt very similar to birth. I started to think that I might be bleeding to death because I was almost too weak to turn from one side to the other. Husband brought me some Malt-o-Meal, and I was almost too weak to eat it. It took a great effort, but I did manage to eat it. Husband kept trying to get me out and into bed, but I kept saying that I just wanted to lie there. It was so painful and so messy. I felt as if I were going in and out of consciousness. Before I got out, the last thing I did was wash my hair because it was full of blood.

Finally, husband did help me out of the tub and into the bed he had already prepared with towels. It felt so good to be where I was finally going to be. I had a towel between my legs to control the blood and several under me as well. I drank some water, took some more Tylenol, and fell asleep almost immediately. I continued to cramp, but nothing like I had been feeling an hour earlier.

When I woke up, I stayed in bed for a while, took another short nap, and just rested generally. Finally, I gathered the towel between my legs, and staggered to the bathroom. The towel was full of blood, and when I stood, a large white chunk of tissue, about the size of two fists put together came out. I picked it up off the bathroom floor, and sadly put it into the toilet. I was still bleeding, but at a much more reasonable rate. I got dressed and slowly made my way downstairs.

Husband took great care of me and my Mom came over and cleaned the bloody downstairs bathroom and path to the stairs with bleach. Today, I am still very weak and I get lightheaded when I stand. Husband took off from work again today to take care of me and the baby. He made a terrible experience as comfortable as it could possibly be.

I guess we all know in theory that these things happen, but you never think it’s going to happen to you.


There it is. Life and death are messy. Why are we so afraid to speak of the ugliness? The white-washed, sanitized version we prefer is a lie. Yes, most choose to keep private matters private, and I respect that. But sometimes sharing is the best thing we can do to let others know: you are not alone.