On the body, knowledge, and miscarrying

The first time I had a miscarriage, it was “missed.” Sometimes they call it a silent miscarriage, because there are no symptoms. The only time you find out is when you lie back to have the ultrasound, but instead of a baby, nothing is there. 

Though my body and mind missed the miscarriage when it happened, there was one peculiar sign. In the weeks before we found out, a particular song was stuck in my head – She’s Leaving Home by the Beatles. The body and mind know things even when you are not exactly conscious of it. The song was a kind of displacement, or what in literary studies we might call metonymy. Here are the lines that ran through my head,

“She’s leaving home after living alone for so many years.”

But adjacent to those lines is this one: 

“She breaks down and cries to her husband, ‘Daddy, our baby’s gone’.” 

I think this was my mind’s peculiar way of trying to communicate. I now really hate this song, though I know it’s not logical. 

When I had a miscarriage again recently, the answer came to me in a dream. The doctor while giving me a dream ultrasound said, “The baby is in the wrong place.” 

You never get used to having a miscarriage, and very often people say the wrong thing though they mean well. “Nature has a plan” is not very comforting. “They happen to everybody” does not really signify when it is happening to you. Sometimes people will tell you “You’ll have another one soon enough” or “At least you already have children.” But they fail to recognize how monumental it feels to lose even one, or how fragile any predictions for the future must be. 

A friend of mine who miscarried used to comfort herself by looking at it logically. She compared the act of giving birth to the passage of baby sea turtles from an egg buried under the sand to the open sea. Not all the baby turtles survive, but some do. I respect the fact that the thought gave her comfort, but it is still hard to think of small things dying. 

There are so many things that women (and nonbinary folks) do not know before becoming pregnant. We aren’t told that though our bodies may contain life, they can also contain death. We are sold the idea of the blissful pregnant woman who glows with ease, when the body is so fragile, and it is miracle that anyone is born at all. We do not know about the unsympathetic medical system which very often belittles mothers’ choices and wishes, and especially in the case of black people, ignores their pain. We are not told how some people reduce our humanity to a vessel, carrying a life thought to have more importance than our own. 

This is why I would fight for the rights of any woman (or non-binary person) to NOT have to be mothers. Because the US has the highest rate of mother mortalities in the Western world. Because though giving birth can be humbling and incredible, it is also a physical, bodily effort which involves pain of many different kinds. 

Somehow in writing this, I have moved from the sadness I feel about the miscarriages to the right of people not to be pregnant. The way I see it though, it is all bound up, because both are a source of anxiety for Western culture. What do they do with the woman who miscarries, or with the woman who chooses not to have a baby at all? It’s time that we rewrite the stereotypes without shame or blame: new stories that admit the precarity of life, and the labor that goes into creating it.