“Enter Title Here” (On Miscarriages and Wisdom)

I had a miscarriage a couple of weeks ago.

I was waiting to write about it. Partly because it’s my story and I can tell it how I like. But partly because I was waiting until I had something clever or wise to say about it…maybe there’d be a pithy title like “How To Succeed in Miscarriage Without Really Trying,” and you’d know it was really hard for me but that I’m doing a Good Job going through it with all the characteristic wit and charm I aspire to have someday.

Or maybe I would call it “Critical Failure” because in my family we often explain things to our kids in terms of gaming. We told them that being pregnant is like rolling a 4 sided die so when the miscarriage started we told them we were rolling a 1. In gaming terms, rolling a 20 is called a “critical hit” because it’s the highest and best roll. Rolling a 1 is called a few different things. Critical failure (though it really isn’t…it’s not like you did something that caused you to roll a 1), Critical fumble (just…nope), or critical miss (this feels the closest to the truth).

Then again, maybe I’d come up with something serious, wise, and broadly applicable. Something that would help other people who have gone or will go through this. That’s a lot of people, by the way. At least a quarter of all pregnancies end this way, which means way more than 1 in 4 women has had a miscarriage. Maybe I should’ve shared my miscarriage story because while birth stories are easy to find, miscarriage is awkward to talk about. Maybe there should be a space where I share my story and invite others to do the same if they want to, so we could feel a little less alone, and maybe someone who is in the middle of it would have a place to look for information about what happens, so things don’t feel quite so scary. One of the hardest and most unnecessary parts was being so unsure of the process of miscarriage and what to expect when you stop expecting. I might still do that at some point. The pithy title for that essay writes itself.

What I have discovered so far is that there is no broadly applicable wisdom for this. There is no one correct way to go through having a body start to grow in your body and then suddenly stop. There are things that might be helpful to me along the way, but that doesn’t mean they will be helpful to everyone whose path converges for a minute. I spoke with a friend who was going through the same thing at the same time and she was feeling very comforted by thinking about the bigger picture and finding the beauty in or around what happened. I would never want to take away what is helpful for someone else, but that place is not where I start. I need to sit with my sad first. For longer than may feel comfortable to watch. If you are reading this and that’s the case, I invite you to look away. At its core this is really kind of a one person job anyway.

Don’t get me wrong. People have come around me in amazing ways. A lot of people. We’ve had friends and family bringing food over (crazy vegan food for our crazy vegan family because my husband had heart surgery 6 months ago…it’s a long ridiculous story but basically the gist is that we’re hard to cook for so when people take the time and effort to figure that out and feed us anyway…it’s a big deal). People who care about me have called to check up on me and come to entertain my kids while I stayed in my bed, bleeding and crying. People have spent time reminding me to breathe when I seemed to forget how. People who have their own stuff have continued to reach out to me through their own pain in really brave ways, and even allowed me to sit with their things sometimes which reminds me that even when I feel broken and small and afraid I am not really made of glass.

Even if I had something that made me feel better every single time I thought about it…I wouldn’t tell it to someone else as a cure-all for their problems. The confusion is part of the process as much as the joy. Trying to take someone’s confusion or sadness away by force will not work. Because it’s not actually possible. Telling someone else how to feel or how to process is like changing someone’s written recipe after they’ve already begun mixing the ingredients together. If you don’t list “baking soda” in your muffin recipe, it’s not going to make sense when the baking soda (which is present in their recipe because they are not you and you weren’t there when they started) and the acidic ingredients have the chemical reaction that causes the muffins to rise. If I really want to help someone, I have to respect that the work has already begun. The recipe is already well under way and instead of telling them what to add first off, maybe a better place to start is to find a way to identify what they have in the mix.

The way that translates into daily life for me right now is that when someone offers me an extra ingredient, like “It’s not that bad…it was early!” or “You can always try again” or “Everything happens for a reason” I can appreciate the kindness behind it, but recognize that it does not belong in my recipe at this moment. I can allow other people to comfort themselves at me without being confused about why the exact words don’t feel helpful. The care is helpful, and that’s enough for me right now.