The wide hallway.
I walk down
To jab a needle in my arm
Watch the numbers fall.
Of what almost was.
I wasn’t always this way.
A car –
It’s not where I expected.
In a glass door.
My heart races
And then calms.
It is only me.
– Rebekah Miklusicak
I wrote those words a few years after my miscarriage in 2013. The memory, and the trauma, was still fresh. It isn’t so much now. But miscarriage is common, and trauma following a miscarriage is common too.
Different sources say that between 10% and 25% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage.
A UK study that examined PTSD, anxiety, and depression following a miscarriage showed that the prevalence of these symptoms has been previously underestimated with miscarriage trauma lasting “longer than we realized.”
Those of us who experienced the trauma are probably not surprised by the statistics.
One month following a first trimester miscarriage, 29% of women had symptoms of PTSD, 24% had anxiety, and 11% had moderate to severe depression. A year later 1 in 6 still carried PTSD symptoms.
In miscarriage, we’re met with our own helplessness and often with feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy. We labor on our own with no support or knowledge of what to expect. Future pregnancies are met with fear. Our grief is often invalidated, so we are quiet.
Medical professionals tell us we have to have three miscarriages to do any tests, and they’ll let us miscarry “as a diagnostic tool” and refuse to test our progesterone. They refer to our babies as fetal tissue, biowaste, products of conception, and say things like, “Why were you even pregnant?”
Why am I sharing this?
Because the experience is lonely. If this is you, you’re not alone. Talk to someone who’s gone through it too. Even those of us who have experienced miscarriage won’t always have the right words to say, but sometimes we need to share the story and hear someone else’s just so we know we’re not crazy.
Because people are unaware. If this isn’t you, you almost undoubtedly know someone who has had this experience, and a friend to be present and patient in the midst of it all can be invaluable.
Because the terminology and the medical care should change. Care providers, take your cues from the parents. Talk about the baby and the loss the way the mother does. Save your clinical talk for other clinicians. You might not be able to make it better and that’s ok, but please try not to make it worse. Talk to mothers about their mental health. If you can’t help them or give them the care they’re requesting (like testing progesterone) send them to someone who can.
For so many women, their motherhood had traumatic beginnings, traumatic chapters, and holds lingering trauma. Please be gentle with us.
We might not ever go back to “normal”. Sometimes that’s a hard truth, but it’s because our babies mattered enough to change us.
Note: Because I know a lot of people who follow me know me in real life, I’m ok. I’m just sharing this, because some mothers aren’t.
For those who want to try again: