(An important caveat: I did the Bradley birth thing for my first three kids. I am a planner and I like to research the heck out of things. I read books set in the place I’ll visit before a trip, and I read birth stories when I’m pregnant, and pestered friends and strangers alike about their homeschooling decisions before starting that particular adventure. It is just how I feel most comfortable. If you don’t find yourself nodding in agreement, this post probably isn’t for you.)
My third pregnancy, I experienced some light bleeding around five weeks and endured a weekend of dread while I waited to learn if my hCG levels were rising. They were, and it’s hard to look at my vivid tornado of a toddler and imagine her survival was ever in question. But the scare, followed by a close friend’s loss, got me thinking.
I am not a midwife or a doula or a spiritual advisor. I’m just a woman who knew a lot of other women who had miscarried, and felt scared, and wanted to know what to expect in case it ever happened to me.
And then last month it did, and in the moment when I was dissolving into tears of disbelief in the dark ultrasound room as I crushed my husband’s hand in mine, I wasn’t completely lost, even if I was completely heartbroken. As with the birth plan I had long ago drafted for my living children, I’d already put some thought into this dreadful possibility.
In the awful weeks since, I’ve sometimes had women comment to me that they never knew such and such was an option in miscarriage. I knew only because I had done what I’ve always done when faced with the unknown: ferreted around, asked people to tell their stories, and read up.
I can’t really convey how weird I feel sharing this. Like I’m morbid? Or an anxious mess? (I mean, I am.) But as the Fanuccis say in their book, Grieving Together, “[B]eing open to life means being open to grief.” If we spend so much time thinking about the entrance of our living children into the world, even planning for circumstances we’d like to avoid (like C-sections), it might make sense to also spare some thought toward how we’d welcome a child into the world even if hope were gone. Just like reading the C-section chapter in the hippie birth book won’t somehow jinx you into having to have a cesarean (but might equip you to make decisions in that crisis), giving a thought to miscarriages before something is wrong might help you someday, too, if only to make you a more compassionate and helpful friend.
If this is something that reverberates with you, I thought I’d include a few resources:
- If you read one thing, this is the thing I’d recommend: Your rights during a miscarriage, by Mary Haseltine (author of Made for This, below).
- Many pregnancy books contain a little section you may not have noticed (or staunchly avoided) about pregnancy loss at the back. Those are a great place to start. The Orthodox pregnancy book Fertile Ground: A Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy (reviewed here) has a beautiful, loving one I read and weeped through immediately following my news, and Made for This: The Catholic Mom’s Guide to Birth has a very informative section. Both authors have experienced their own losses, and that compassion informs their writing.
- My own miscarriage plan, which I never consulted during the ordeal but which informed the choices I made. It’s pretty bare bones, as you can see. And you definitely don’t have to write it down, like I did — just have a conversation with your husband so he knows.
- If this ends up happening to you, it’s helpful to feel informed. The physical process of having a miscarriage at home is described here in more detail than my midwife offered, and includes a list of supplies to gather, which somehow felt really concrete and helpful for me, like I had a job as I waited for the baby to come.
If you have experienced a loss, too, please know I am so sorry. Right now, at least, I’m finding a lot of comfort in trying to make women feel less alone and unprepared. If it helps you, too, please leave a comment about what you wish you’d known before your miscarriage.