(I wrote this post not long after I had a miscarriage, but I did not feel ready to publish it until now).
Despite a dream where my baby passed away (which, ironically, occurred around the time the doctors advised that my baby would have died), and what I would consider standard pregnant woman nerves before my 12 week scan, I did not have any deep sense of belief or intuition that the scan would go badly. If I had, I would not have decided to take my son so he could also see ‘his’ baby.
My ‘carefree’ perspective was partly because my anxiety tolerance was used up on being sick and the sickness to come from an expected high-risk pregnancy illness about which the medical field knows little. But in my heart, I feel it was partly because I could not get my head around the possibility that the world would give me another broken mother-child bond. It wouldn’t really be fair. Would it?
When the sonographer said, ‘It doesn’t look too good guys’, my heart jumped a beat, but I thought, ‘Oh she is making a mistake of course.” As soon as the sonographer told me the news, she looked like she might cry. I felt like I needed to comfort her: ‘That’s ok’. I’m very good at remaining outwardly calm in distressing situations.
Inwardly I thought, “Well, the world took my mother. Now it has taken my baby. I guess that makes sense.” It seemed, sadly logical. 1+1=2.
After our first son was born, I often remarked to my husband that I felt I had been ‘cut out of’ the Circle of Life: my biological ties and ancestral lines had been severed; my pregnancies had increased foetal risk and were so physically painful and psychologically difficult (ie the high risk pregnancy condition). Contemplating another pregnancy after my first baby was not easy, no matter how much I wanted more children. I did not really stop to think about whether another pregnancy would result in another child. I had simply assumed it would. But you know what they say about making assumptions.
Almost immediately after the sonographer’s news, my brain made a clear association of one mother-child loss – the one where I was the child – to another mother-child loss, where, this time, I was the mother. It then went on to other things, such as, thinking about how I had lived through my circumstances, yet my very wanted baby did not make it to the outside world. I wondered how – leaving aside any issues of justice or divine intervention in the world and looking at pure practicalities – a baby whose mother was in high stress during pregnancy, who had access to very limited food and care during pregnancy, could possibly survive, whilst a baby whose mother had no comparable worries during pregnancy, did not survive? A baby that was so unwanted that even its own family (mother excluded) didn’t care whether it lived or died could survive, but a baby who was wanted and loved, could not.
Life is arbitrary, so it seems.
That these thoughts travelled in places that my post adoption counsellor indicated were simply not places that the mind of most women experiencing miscarriage would go, made the loss of my baby seem even more isolating. I did not know anyone who could understand my feeling and I definitely did not know anyone who could understand the double loss sensation I felt. I was even more cut out of the circle of life than I had first thought. I felt very few seemed to understand the connection between losing my Amma (mother) and losing my baby. They saw it as two separate things, if they saw my adoption as a loss at all. To me, there was a bigger picture, but most could only see the fragment.
Most people in society do not recognise my adoption as a loss – and there are also many people in society who do not consider a loss during the first trimester to be a loss, either. In both cases, the losses are not seen as the loss of a real person or relationship and there are no clear grieving conventions or norms. Bringing up either experience is almost an inconvenience to others. After finding out that my baby had died, there are times when I have needed to talk to someone or do something, but I delayed my response to them because our original conversations pre-date my miscarriage. I always face a dilemma – do I mention why I haven’t contacted them? The problem being that, if I do mention it, it could be awkward or even distressing, depending on how that person responds.
Then there are all the people that I didn’t tell because at 12 weeks, I hadn’t told many people in my daily life that I was pregnant. I had told very, very few people. Now there is this weirdness that exists as a space in every conversation between me and those friends and family that I did not tell. Am I supposed to tell them by making some kind of inverse pregnancy announcement?
The same happens with adoption where I might naturally start talking about, say, my sister, but the point will eventually arise that we don’t live in the same country. And there will have to come a time that I say that I didn’t meet her until she was 18 and I have to wait to see whether people will accept her as my sister or whether I’m going to get treated with derision, like, you know, she isn’t really my sister because I didn’t grow up with her.
There is a view that I don’t really know my biological family. Same with my baby – a view that I did not really know him or her. But whether I knew my family between the time I was born and my first son was born or whether I knew my baby who never came to be born, my family and my babies, they are all human beings intimately connected to me, all from my circle of life, all flesh of my flesh. All life lives only until it dies. The amount of time you know someone is simply a statement of time. It doesn’t guarantee anything.
I feel there is pressure on me to conform to other’s views on how to grieve and how long to grieve. Rules on what I should or should not do. What is normal or a bit weird and what amounts to plain crazy…and I feel there are gaps between my definitions and other people’s definitions. I feel there are eyes that looked to see how I managed losing my baby. Did I keep things together, did I look on the bright side, do I still like babies, am I smothering my son or talking to my husband? There is an expectation from some that you should move on, that you can just have another baby…an expectation to behave a certain way. There’s also this weird stigma around having a miscarriage and so there is a part of me that hates to bring it up for the possible reason of having to deal with other people’s pity, instead of their empathy, when it is obviously the latter that I need and prefer.
And the same things happened after my baby died and I thought time stood still and I was in an alternate universe where all the oxygen disappeared as when I met my mother and felt my heart smash on the floor and splinter everywhere…Life just kept going on around me anyway.
As if these things were totally everyday things to deal with.
And immediately people kept wanting me to do things for them and with them, do the things I said I’d do before all of it happened and then all these new things too. And they wanted to talk to me about who knows what, at a time when I didn’t have a word to say about television, the weather or even about politics this time.
People say, ‘things happen for a reason’. I wanted to ask them what possible reason was good enough to justify cutting me off at every generation – mother and baby.
And although, when it happened, I did have a moment when I broke down and thought that I had caused the miscarriage, I mostly operated on logic, and what I had learnt years ago in health psychology class, which was that miscarriage before 12 weeks was very common and that the mother couldn’t control it and the doctors wouldn’t have been able to prevent it.
But the truth is, there’s always this feeling, that maybe I did cause it.
You know, just a little bit.
People will annoyingly try to find some bright side instead of saying words along the lines of, ‘I am sorry, that is a horrible thing to experience’. Instead of generally acknowledging the loss for what it is, they will bring up positivity. (By the way, thanks to the people who understood that reminders to look on the bright side were not kind or gentle – you helped me greatly). In my opinion, there is nothing positive about a baby dying.
But there is one thing – that sometimes helps.
In my life, as an adoptee, there are many things I never knew for years- tens of years. I did not know if my birth date was real, whether my race was what I had been told or what it was like to look like anyone else in any way or shape. I spent years upon years away from my mother, living lives that were worlds apart. But as a person who was born and did not see her mother again until decades later, there is one thing I do know. There is one thing I can tell you about mothers and their babies.
Mothers and babies are connected forever.
Whether the connection is in a world where people bleed and breathe, or in a memory, or somewhere in a place beyond where we are now, or in the earth, or wherever our souls or bodies go after we die, whether it is acknowledged, embraced or neglected: that connection exists.
And in that connection, a mother’s lost baby always lives.