The first thing I felt when I was told that my baby’s heart had stopped beating was shame.
This isn’t a response to loss that is talked about.
Of course, I knew that there is no reason to feel shame. I knew that it wasn’t my fault. There is nothing that I could have done differently or that I would want to do differently.
Of course, I am aware of the 1 and 4 miscarriage statistics. I am also insanely aware of the physiological reasons behind a miscarriage and the simple harsh reality that there may not be a reason.
But none of that is the point.
As I sat in the doctor’s office waiting for the ultrasound tech to return with the doctor to confirm that there was indeed no heartbeat, none of the things that I knew about myself and about what I did right and wrong mattered.
None of the science or statistics were relevant at that moment.
I just felt shame.
You see, the term “miscarriage” says it all. Merriam-Webster defines miscarriage as “to failure to achieve the intended purpose” or “to fail to reach the intended destination”.
It implies that I missed the mark.
My body didn’t fulfill the intended goal of carrying my baby to full term.
I felt like I had failed and yet there was nothing I could do to change it.
That is what made that shame so heavy. I am used to making mistakes in life, but I am also used to fixing them, analyzing my missteps and contriving a plan to make it all better.
In every conflict I am faced I am praised at my resilience and ability to create a solution.
But after I found out that I had miscarried, I kept going back to this solution-focused instinct of, “How could this be?” and “There isn’t anything else we can do?”
Those are the questions I asked my partner and myself.
There wasn’t and isn’t a way to fix the fact that my baby died.
When a woman is pregnant, no matter how far along, that becomes the sole focus of her attention. Her internal dialogue is always focusing on the baby.
Is this good for the baby?
Is that bad?
Let me look up if I can do this.
I probably shouldn’t have that.
Not only is it the sole focus of her attention, but of everyone else’s.
For the brief time that I was pregnant, people didn’t ask me how work was going, how my relationship was, or if I was up to anything new, they simply asked, “How are you feeling?” “Do you have any cravings?” “What is it like?” “Aren’t you excited?” and “How’s mama holding up?”
Everything becomes about that woman AND her baby. Just like that, this inner dialogue was silent.
So when my baby died, I simply didn’t know what I was supposed to do next.
What was my worth without it?
What would I think about for the next gazillion days?
What will I talk about now? What was the point of it all?
What am I going to do with the baby registry that I started? The list of names that we started?
Will we be able to get pregnant again? What if we can’t? What if we can?
What am I going to look forward to next?
What is my purpose now?
I felt like my world had stopped and I couldn’t face anyone because I knew that they would be searching for the right thing to say.
I didn’t have the solution to this problem and that is where the shame lied.
It was truly one of the loneliest feelings in the world.
When I’ve tried to express this feeling of shame to others, they rush to protect my ego. “Don’t say that.” “You did everything you could.” “You’re so strong.”
Also trying to fix a problem that just can’t be fixed.
So how have I resolved these feelings of shame? How have I processed this and moved to the other side of grief?
And I guess that that is the point of why I am writing this. I haven’t shaken this feeling and I probably never will.
I have learned that society expects a woman who has experienced neonatal loss to understand that it isn’t her fault, that she can always try again, that the next time will be better, that miscarriages are totally normal, that they happen more than you think and blah blah blah (all anecdotes from various people and medical providers that I’ve encountered since the miscarriage, by the way).
They expect this defeated woman to feel optimistic and hopeful and at peace with the fact that miscarriages just happen.
And while I do know all of those things, I would rather sit in the fact that I do feel shame and sorrow and embarrassment for this loss.
Because then at least I know I am feeling something real. Maybe one day this shame will transform into peace and closure, but it might not either.
And having the space to lean into all of these feelings, even the scary ones, is so much more important than searching for a fix to something that is insoluble.