Why I hate the term “miscarriage”

I never really thought about the term “miscarriage” until I had one.  Until I had to tell my family that my second pregnancy had only lasted a few weeks.

We’d been trying for a few months, and I was thrilled to be pregnant!  My daughter had just turned 3 and she seemed ready.  I would soon be 40.  It was time.

I expected to menstruate a few days before Halloween 2018.  My period didn’t come.  I took a test, and it was positive!  We were so excited.

Later on in November, I bled.  It was lighter than my usual periods, so I held out some hope, but I menstruated as normal in December and then again in January.

But not in February.  I’m pregnant again!  Now 40 (December birthday), but that’s ok.  I experienced different first trimester symptoms: less breast tenderness, more fatigue and headaches.

I waited 6 weeks before scheduling a prenatal appointment.  When I went in, they did a vaginal ultrasound.  There’s a fetus (yay!) but it was small.  Huh.  And no heartbeat.  Ugh.

So I’m pregnant, yes, but expecting to miscarry.   Again.

I officially decided I hated that word back in November.  I thought, I should write about that!  But then I never got around to it.  Well, here we are again.

 

Here’s my rant: 

“Miscarriage” sounds like “miss carriage”, like I failed to carry the fetus.  Like somehow I’m to blame, like I dropped the baby, like my womb didn’t do its job.

Well, I’m doing my job.  I’m carrying on with all my responsibilities – professional, house-work, and parenting – despite the hormonal changes that make it harder.  I’m carrying that fetus.  It’s not doing its job of growing and developing.  This is so not about me.

“Miscarriage” sounds like a word coined by a man, who was disappointed that his seed wasn’t carried to term.  To me, it stinks of medical misunderstanding, misogyny and patriarchy.

According to Wikipedia, “miscarriage” is a gentler term than what had been used before: “spontaneous abortion”.  I’m not anti-abortion, so that word doesn’t carry stigma for me, but both these terms have the same connotation: that somehow the mother’s body is to blame for the loss of the pregnancy.

My midwife explains my current pregnancy as a “missed miscarriage”.  I’m sure it’s an attempt at compassionate medical terminology.  Maybe some women find that comforting, I don’t know.  For me, it’s still a Yuck.

What’s real?  My first pregnancy had a healthy embryo, and the next two were non-viable embryos.  It’s likely there was problem with the chromosomes or the development, it’s nobody’s fault, and nobody “missed” anything.

My husband, thankfully, understands and doesn’t use the term.  He tells people we lost the pregnancy.

Isn’t that so much better?

 

What to say to my daughter

Well, it’s a lot easier if you’ve explained menstruation.  Let’s start there.

There’s a big difference between talking about menstruation and hiding it.  Part of being body-positive and sex-positive in our family has included being open about excretion and menstruation.  My daughter has accompanied both me and my husband to the bathroom, and of course she noticed when I was menstruating.

I explained that it’s normal for a mama (or a grown up woman) and that it shows her body is ready to have a baby, if she wants one.  There’s blood, yes, but mama’s not hurt.  I might be tired, but I’m not ill.

My daughter mostly notices pads, not so much tampons.  We call these my “little diapers” and she likes to help me put a new one on my underwear…cuz, you know, stickers are fun for any 3 year old.

With her knowledge of menstrual pads, has she snuck into the bathroom, unwrapped a few, and played with sticking them all over herself?  Yup.  We didn’t have a big reaction; we just told her they’re not toys.

She’s picked up the word, too.  With her little-kid lisp, she’ll do her best, asking me, “Mama, are you menstruating?”  She wants to know if she gets to help me with a fresh pad.

When I tested pregnant last month, my daughter was in the bathroom, watching me pee on the stick and examining the results.  I explained that if the baby was healthy, it would slowly grow in my tummy.  If it wasn’t, it would be menstruated out.

She’s prepared for the news.  We’ve even been talking about chromosomes.

 

Then there’s the emotions.

My husband hasn’t expressed many yet, but I grieved.  I think I want a second child more than he does, and I was more excited.  I’m also way better at processing emotions and crying than he is.

I have a new crop of fears.  Are my egg cells no good?  Am I infertile at 40?  Will I continue losing pregnancies?  Will I never have another child?

The rate of pregnancy loss for mamas aged 40 and over is 45%, and I lost the coin toss twice.  Easy to rationalize.  Yet the fears are there.  Fears are so often irrational.

And the envy is new.  One friend of mine is the same age (well, 1 week older – we used to have joint birthday parties), less healthy overall, and has had 3 successful pregnancies in a row.  Some part of me is indignant that I haven’t had similar reproductive success.

 

Why share this all with you?

Well, I want you to know that I have my challenges too.  That I’m smiling in the photos, but not all the time in real life.  You guessed as much, I’m sure!  But now you know.  I have as much emotional gunk to clear as anyone else.

I’m confident when it comes to parenting and talking about sex and relationships, but there are other places where I’m not so confident.  I’ve got irrational fears and unhelpful self-talk.  I live with fear and uncertainty, just as you do.

Plus, I wanted to rant.  Maybe we can shift the language.  Maybe you don’t like the term “miscarriage,” too.  Maybe it has a shameful tone you never noticed and now you’re sensitized.  Or maybe you totally disagree.  That’s fine too.

And, when I do have a second child – because in my heart of hearts, I believe I will – you can all celebrate with me, knowing that it wasn’t such an easy road, not smooth like clockwork.

Thanks for reading.  I think this one was less in support of you, and more in support of me.

🙂

Anya

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16 Comments. Leave new

  • I lost a baby at 5 months. Delivered the tiniest girl. Gave them a name for a death certificate. It was called a miscarriage. It’s a ridiculous term at any stage of the game. The term is dismissive and trivial for the loss of something so profound.

    Reply
    • I agree, Denise. I’m sorry for your loss.

      Reply
    • Sara Giita Flores
      March 19, 2019 12:32 pm

      The way I see it, you did a beautiful service to the soul of that tiny girl by carrying her for five months. Which is not to diminish the profound loss, but to acknowledge that our bodies can serve in ways that are often underappreciated.

      Reply
      • Thank you, Sara! It’s a nice reframe, to think of it as service, and to a soul. I don’t know the sex of either embryo, and I carried the first for only a few weeks, and this one…well, we’ll see how long cuz I’m still carrying it!

        Reply
  • Hi Anya,

    Thanks for this. The loss of pregnancies is yet another part of life and women’s experiences that people tend to shy away from, and women end up carrying the shame and blame for.

    I have a 9 yr old daughter. I had her in my early twenties. I’m with a new partner now in my thirties and in a much better place, mentally, emotionally, socially, you name it, to have baby. Yet we tried for two years and lost two little lives. We were both at times depressed, anxious, angry and resentful that, like you, we had to just watch friends and acquaintances get pregnant and stay pregnant easily. It was devastating.

    I’m happy to say that we now have a two month old daughter, which is amazing.. And crazy hard in its own way.

    Lots of love and support to you on your journey. I’m sure a little soul will great you in its time, though it sucks right now. Hang in there. 🙂

    Reply
  • Sara Giita Flores
    March 19, 2019 12:35 pm

    Hi Anya, I have not thought much about the term before, though I have experienced the loss of a pregnancy and all the sadness and doubt that can come with it. I am glad you are staying positive- perhaps a little soul coming into the world is more complex than our mind and ego can comprehend!

    Reply
  • Oh, Anya. My heart grieves with you. This happened to me once too. I don’t suppose I thought much about the inadequacy of the language we use to describe this kind of moment, mainly because I can’t imagine there is any language that would ever be adequate- it is an experience beyond words. In the end, I decided that whatever little spirit was with me for a short short time needed exactly the amount of love I/we gave it (which was lots) and that when it had what it needed it was ok to move on to whatever is next beyond this physical life. And then I was able to send it on with love, and love it still, and that helped a lot with the sadness.
    You have probably already done this but in case not, make sure everything with your dental health is absolutely tip top and infection free. If you have ever had any dental work done, get a cone beam xray, which is like a 3D xray of your mouth, and if anything is there you can see it, where it might have been missed on a regular xray.

    Reply
  • Dear Anya, I’m very sorry for your loss. I’ve had a similar experience 22 years ago and still remember too well the intensity of the grief. A cynical me thinks no mater what you call it a woman will always blame herself for the loss of pregnancy…”who lost it?” – “I lost it”…“why did I lose it?”…“what did I do wrong?”…

    Reply
    • I think you’re right, there’s truth to that. BUT, I also think it’s because of our conditioning. Women are questioned more often than men, and we’re taught to question ourselves. That’s a cultural dynamic which I’d like to see shift.

      Reply
  • I am so sorry Anya! Sending hugs to you and your family.

    Reply
  • Laurie A Garner
    March 19, 2019 7:52 pm

    Sending you so much compassion and understanding. Thanks for the honesty and the sharing.

    Reply
  • Dear Anya,

    Thank you for sharing your story and I’m so sorry you are going through this. I imagine your story has helped others feel validated in their feelings and that they are not alone. There is a lot of beauty in that. I hope you are able to get the kind of support that you need as you navigate through this. Sending comforting thoughts your way.

    Reply
  • Hello, so sorry to hear about your experience. I went through it twice myself and I say when I talk about it that I gave birth to baby angels! Because it is a birth, and no matter for how long or short a baby stays with you, each baby touches you and transforms you forever.

    Reply
  • Kathy Slattengren
    March 20, 2019 5:25 pm

    I am so sad to hear about your loss of your baby in November and that there wasn’t a heartbeat found for this baby. I lost a baby after a few weeks (we were so excited to be pregnant after trying for over a year). It was devastating. The doctor said something about how complicated the initial process of creating the baby is. It is an amazing thing … and eventually we ended up with two healthy kids which I am eternally grateful for. I wish you and your family all the best as you go through this difficult time.

    Reply

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