Posted by: Kate | February 13, 2007

Worth the Risk

First off, I’m grateful to the support and interest and empathy from all y’all who commented.. note to general public: comments are good, they make blog authors happy. Especially when they’re supportive about heavy and uncomfortable topics (though I’m always up for a good debate, or just to make you look stupid, if you’re feeling argumentative).

Miscarriage is one of those deep, dark taboo topics that we don’t talk about in polite company, but once it happens, it really takes over your whole life for a while. Somehow it gets less attention, less validity, than other losses, such as the death of a post-natal family member, the loss of a relationship, the death of a pet, for God’s sake. I understand, cats are important, dogs are friends, whatever – but it always shocks me a little to wander down the Hallmark aisle and see sympathy cards for pet death but no corresponding card for the despair, the self-doubt, the inadequacy, the loss of hope associated with miscarriage.

Yes, sure, maybe it was meant to be – or wasn’t meant to be, depending on your perspective. Maybe there was a genetic problem too great to support life, or a chemical imbalance, or a bad phase of the moon, whatever. And I have worked hard, usually successfully, to create a life that is not characterized by regrets. I’d love to erase certain experiences and knowledge from my life, but I’m a firm believer in the “Change One Thing, Change Everything” philosophy. If I hadn’t had some trauma with a side of PTSD through high school, I wouldn’t have been so desperate to go away to college and wouldn’t have skipped my senior year. Then I wouldn’t have met Willem, wouldn’t have dealt with his good guy/bad behavior stuff, probably wouldn’t have moved to Boston. And so on with the house-that-Jack-built which is my life. Likewise, if I hadn’t had the miscarriage in 2003, I wouldn’t have had Jacob in 2004. I might still have had a baby, and chances are good that I’d have been fond of it, but it wouldn’t have been Jacob, and I could have gone the rest of my life with an absence in my heart that I could never quite define.

But. So what if it was an accident of genetics or God’s will, or something in between? It still was a tremendous loss – not of a child, I don’t pretend that having a miscarriage is a fraction as traumatic as it would be for me to lose one of my children now, but it was a loss of hope, and plans, and confidence in my own body.

And it was also a loss of wide-eyed innocence, and I’m not exactly overburdened with naïveté to begin with. The comments that people would make, which in most cases were, presumably, intended to sound supportive and helpful, often came across as crass and thoughtless.

“Were you trying to get pregnant?” asked my neighbor, when I answered the door the day after the surgery looking just exactly like I felt. “Because if you weren’t planning on it, then this could be a good thing!” Oh, yes, now I feel bright and sunshiny, thank you.

“Oh, you’ll get over it, don’t worry about it,” interrupted the head teacher at Emily’s Montessori school, as I tried to have a quiet discussion with Emily’s teacher because I wasn’t sure how much she’d picked up on and how much she understood about it all. “I’ve had four miscarriages, and now I have three kids, and you just have to shake it off and get over it.” From the Dog-Out-of-a-Pool School of Grief Counseling, apparently. And by the way, your kids are poorly-mannered oafs without an ounce of social grace. Neener neener neener.

“This is the problem with early pregnancy tests,” from a source near and dear to me who should have known better. “A few decades ago, you couldn’t test so early, so you never even knew you were pregnant. You just thought you were having a late period.” Well, but I did know, so it does matter, and by the way I had the miscarriage at 13 weeks. Seems like even a few decades ago, someone might have noticed being that late.

“Obviously something was wrong with the baby. You should be grateful not to have to deal with a handicapped child,” from a professor at school who felt obligated to approach me based on what he’d heard through the grapevine, despite having no personal relationship with me. Which, first of all, shut up; second of all, you’re a psychologist and should have been trained better even if you didn’t know better to start with; and third of all, I have a sister with a disabling illness and my life has only been enhanced and improved due to my dealings with her. And fourth of all, shut up.

And so on, and so forth.

So, it’s a hard topic in the first place, and then people react like well-meaning imbeciles, which is just so much worse than the deliberately hurtful imbeciles because somehow I end up feeling guilty for not liking their words. It’s not that big a surprise that we don’t talk about it.

But when we do, more often than not, it turns out to have been worth the risk. People often rise to the occasion, if you let them, and talking about bad stuff might cause the mouths of the idiots to open and let words fall out, but it also allows the good eggs in life to speak up and offer their support or wisdom or presence. Like my husband, picking up the reins of the household despite working more than full-time out of the house, and not trying to solve the problem but just letting me work through it. Like my mother, driving 9 hours in a day just to take me to an appointment. Like the online community that I sought during my months on bedrest in Jacob’s pregnancy, people who have become as close as any friends I’ve ever made away from the computer.

So, thanks. And even a thank-you to the idiots, who have made the rest of the world look that much better, by contrast.



  1. I heard many of the same platitudes after both of my miscarriages and it frustrated me that these people did truly mean well but just managed to say completely the wrong things. Miscarriages are heartbreaking no matter how much the “imbeciles” try to minimize them. I can definitely relate to a lot of what you have been saying in your last couple of posts.

    (( hugs ))

  2. It took my husband a long time to admit that he wasn’t there for me after the miscarriage, and that he didn’t understand. I think it was when his coworker’s wife lost a pregnancy when I was finally able to explain it to him. It’s not the same as losing a child you know and love, it’s not the same as losing a pregnancy at 35 weeks, but it is a loss. It hurts and the person going through it deserves the kind of respect that anyone going through a difficult loss deserves. He finally apologized…thanks again for these posts.

  3. Yep…been there, done that.

    I had a miscarriage in ’93. Know what my fiance (at the time) did while I was waiting in the ER? He went home to smoke a joint and watch TV! Yeah…just one of the several reasons I decided not to marry the guy.

    Know what’s been even harder than the miscarriage itself? Not getting pregnant since. Infertility is incredibly painful.

  4. Losing a child is terrible. I lost a pregnancy at 7 weeks. I know it was early, and while I consider it easier than losing a child after birth, it still sucked and I still lost a child.

    It does get easier, but that was almost four years ago and it hasn’t gone away. That baby is not forgotten.

  5. Oh Kate, I’m so sorry about all this. I know words cannot make you feel any better or heal any faster, but I’d like to offer my sympathies.

    How is it that you can write so beautifully about something so painful? You truly amaze me with the “soul” in your writing (for want of a better word). This was my favorite line: “but it was a loss of hope, and plans, and confidence in my own body.”

    Take care. I’m glad you have an outlet for your feelings that allows you to touch other people.

  6. Oh, Kate! I’ve been trying all day to think what to comment. In some ways I feel ill equipped to offer up any words at all because I have never lived through the particular hell that is miscarriage (firsthand, anyway). In fact, I have never been pregnant at all. What I can relate to, very closely, is the “loss of hope, and plans, and confidence in my own body”. Infertility, or more specifically hearing the word “never” spill out of a doctor’s mouth as easily as the word “sunshine”, made me hate my body and made me feel disassociated from it for a long time. And I know all too well the diahrrea of the mouth that some people suffer when they try to be nice, or supportive. October is my dreaded month, the one that brings up feelings of hopelessness and loss and downright hatred for our bodies that don’t perform basic reproductive funtctions. And while I know an inferility diagnosis is not the same as the loss of a pregnancy, I agree that we should talk about it more in our society. I don’t understand why so many people fidget or give me odd looks when I talk about something that is a reality of my life. I don’t understand my mother’s incessant need to tell me that I am “nine months pregnant” because I am expecting our daughter to travel home soon. So anyway, enough rambling. Just know that I am thinking of you.

  7. I just had my 3rd one last November and am still dealing with the physical problems of it (my body and schedule are so out of whack right now).

    As a Biologist, I try to tell myself it was good if there was something wrong with it – women miscarry every day – it is VERY common….

    On the outside, I act like its no big deal….
    BUT – man, on the inside I’m crying my little heart out and am frustrated as hell that I can’t conceive that last wanted 3rd baby. Why me? Why why why….

    So – I totally understood where you were coming from in that post. I didn’t comment before. Sometimes it is hard just to do that.

  8. Blogger sucks.

    I just wrote a comment and Blogger ate it.


    You will have to trust that it was lovely and eloquent and insightful and simply genius because I don’t have the energy to replicate it.

    Big hugs.

  9. I learn alot about you via your blog. I am sorry that you had to go through those things and am so very happy and proud of you for not regretting. I truly admire you. You are and always have been my measure of beauty, smarts, and grace. Thank you for being my older sister!!

    I LOVE YOU!!!


  10. Oh my God, Kate, I’m just catching up. I’m not going to try to offer any words of comfort here, because you are absolutely right — people are basically morons when they try to talk you out of grief that you need to own, on your own terma, and until you are ready to move on. But I just wanted to say that this post, as well as the one relating to it, were beautifully written, and they touched my heart.

  11. Awww. I heart Sarah. 🙂

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