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Jan 6

The child that almost was

Posted on Tuesday, January 6, 2009 in Family, Little known facts, Philosophy, Strange and Unusual, Taboo

This is a post about miscarriage.  It’s not maudlin, I’m not looking for sympathy, it’s just that it’s a subject that a lot of us come across many times in life that isn’t spoken about much.  It’s awkward, it’s deeply personal, and it sends people running.  If you would like to run, now’s your chance!

What do you get if you cross a dead guineapig with clock gears?


You’re still here?  Good stuff.  This is just my story, maybe it’ll help someday if you’re caught unaware, maybe it’ll help to know… what to say, if anything.  If you’re looking for a guide to help you figure out what you’re supposed to be feeling, I’m afraid you’re on your own, for I haven’t figured that part out yet myself.

I wrapped a yellow bow around the pregnancy test, it was February 12th when it tested positive, so it went into a Valentines day card for TAT.  He was chuffed beyond reason.  Perhaps not the best timing for a child, but when is?  I told my mother in law later that it was an intentional accident, much the same as the rest of my kids.  Accident and surprise should own the same word, if you ask me.

The week before superstition would allow me to boast about my being on the bubble, it arrived.  Lots and lots of blood in all the wrong places and I knew, even before I called my friend for advice, what was happening.   The pain followed soon after… a milder form of labour pain but horribly evil with no possible chance of a happy ending.  I slugged Vodka.  I took Ponstan and Solpadeine, but nothing would take it away.  No more baby.  Just dead cells and intense discomfort.  I had it easy compared to most, which is a horribly scary thought.

I was brought into hospital where an ultrasound told me I’d been carrying those dead cells for four weeks… nature had seen it fit to call it a halt to this kid’s development after only eight weeks of growth.  Why, though?  Why have Laughingboy develop to term, only to have him suffer with disability in his life? Why take this child now?

The pains stopped suddenly… so suddenly that I wondered if I’d imagined the whole thing, and ten minutes later while seeing a man about a dog, I laid an egg.  Right there, into the toiletbowl – *plop*.  What a way to go.

I cried, then, purely because I didn’t know what else to be doing at the time.  I knew when I scooped the foetus out of the toilet bowl and wrapped it in tissue, that it wasn’t a child, that it probably never was.  I wanted to keep it, bury it in a shoebox, and not tell anybody.   Instead,  I handed the wadge of tissue to the lady at the helpdesk who asked me if I was okay, but I couldn’t answer with anything but a limp smile.  A few moments later found me spreadeagled on a hospital bed, being probed for a D & C.

“Seems you’ve done all the work for me!” the doctor smiled.

“Yeah!”  I laughed.  I actually laughed, as though we were speaking about furniture removal or earwax or something equally as mundane.  No sadness, just emptiness.

We stopped off at a relative’s house on the way home against my fervent wishes, and I sat alone on the couch.  Nobody spoke of what had happened apart from one or two statements that I really didn’t want to hear, and nobody has mentioned it since.  Far too awkward.  Far too scary.  Get on with your life already, woman, and count your blessings.

It was when I got the letter a week later that it hit home.  I was invited to a mass in the hospital for the souls of recently miscarried babies including my own.  I didn’t reply.  I waited as the day arrived, and as the mass began elsewhere, I suddenly felt immensely guilty, like my baby was floating in a dense fog somewhere, counting on me to release it from it’s horrid limbo.  I sat on my couch and tried to ignore it, tried to pray my own prayers, but the feeling stuck.  I did nothing for the soul of that child, if there was such a thing, it’s existence on this planet went totally un-noticed.  Is that wrong?  I don’t know, for nobody’s really given me that much of a chance to talk about it.  It’s probably a question which has no answer anyway.

If you do meet someone who’s going through this experience, I can arm you with advice… just listen.  That’s all you have to do.  Try not to say something for the sake of breaking silence… phrases like ‘It’s probably for the best’, or ‘Sure you can always try again’, or ‘Time’s a great healer’… they really don’t help.  Boxes of chocolates go down extremely well, hugs are surprising, human contact sometimes is an excellent remedy… it fills the hollowness wonderfully.

Miscarriage is one of those feelings that stays inside a person.  Even though the body is gone, the memory persists, an innate feeling that one has failed in a responsibility to another human being.  Somebody died on my watch.  It’s a tough cross to bear sometimes, and if left to fester can cause a multitude of other problems.  It needs to be let out, so let it out.  Talk.  Listen.  Remember that tiny pile of cells to somebody else, write stories about it.

Above all, never, never feel too ashamed to talk about it.

However you find this, whether it’s by search-term or by fate, I hope it helps.  I hope it’s comforting to find you’re not as alone as you think you are, male or female, brother or cousin twice removed.  You’re the proud owner of a new scar and it defines who you are.  Wear it.  It’s beautiful in its own weird way.

Bring on the comments

  1. susan says:

    Wow, what a brave post. You’re right, nobody seems to ever talk about it…but when it happens you hear about Aunt So-and-so and the neighbour and all the co-workers it’s happened to, too. So much sorrow, unspoken.

    Funny you would post this today, because I packed up clothes this morning to take to the charity shop, and one roomy sundress was one I’d bought just when I found out I was expecting our third baby—who was lost. I had *just* told my mother on the telephone that she’d have a new grandbaby, but she had a bad cold and couldn’t talk; she told me she loved me and she’d phone later. She never did, she died in her sleep instead. Because I was so OLD at the time (38) and had to fly long-haul for her funeral, the doctor sent me to ultrasound for clearance to fly. No heartbeat.

    So there’s a ‘ghost child’ with us, always. No sorrow anymore really, four years later, but a lingering what-if and the memory. Maybe it helped, that I imagined the baby and my mother together as they left: she loooved babies.

    That ‘for the best’ line always wants to be punched back down the speaker’s throat, definitely. (Parents with special-needs kids get to punch twice, btw–that’s my rule!)

    So, we’ve got extra hugs for our little ones who made it all the way, who will end up putting us in the old folks’ home a few decades from now…hey, maybe we’ll be roomies, you and I?

    Meanwhile I’ll send you a big hug too.

  2. Grannymar says:

    Tonight Hugs are all I have to offer!

    Major hugs.

  3. How common this is saddens me.

    How dismissed it is by some frustrates and angers me.

    The very thought of it terrifies me.

    All the best K8.

  4. Kelley says:

    The experience is different for every one. The outcome the same.

    Sometimes the well meaning words can cut the deepest.

    But hugs are always best.

    Hugs sweetie.

  5. Kate says:

    I’m here via Susan up there (working my way through her blogroll).

    I had my third miscarriage just before Christmas. In fact, 4 weeks ago today I was admitted for a D&C (the other two sorted themselves out). I’d gone for my first scan, (and I’d never got that far) and then there was no heartbeat.

    I’m doing ok though, but this seems to be upsetting people. I’ve had people comment to my man that I’m “dealing SO well”. It’s like I should be falling apart and they’re disappointed that I’m not.

    I had the letter for my specialists appointment come through today. We’re spending a bit of time thinking up good things when we need to and one of them is the fact that they will now be doing all sorts of tests on me to find out what’s going on.

    Thankyou for your beautiful post, I shall be coming back here quite a lot I think.

  6. Nick says:

    Fate’s Granddaughter has written very perceptively about this as well. My sister Heather had a miscarriage before she had a successful pregnancy. What strikes me is that it becomes such a strong memory and is associated with all sorts of tangled emotions like guilt and protectiveness and inadequacy. Odd that nobody talks about such a common everyday occurrence when there’s obviously a lot of painful experience that needs to be talked about and dealt with.

  7. Jo says:

    My mother had four miscarriages, and her first child died after birth.

    I am so utterly, unspeakably grateful that I haven’t experienced this.

    She said she once went off to a work do thing of my father’s, and another ‘wife’ had just miscarried – and nobody was mentioning it, like you say, it was a bubble of silence. She was incredibly relieved to be able to talk to my mother about it. It’s harder when it’s fresh though, I suppose.

  8. Queenie says:

    People say things like that because they are embarrassed or they don’t have experience of miscarriage.

    I struggled to carry my fourth child, up until the 32nd week when he was delivered, very sick but alive. Four years later and he is autistic, and going to need care for the rest of his life, but I would not have wanted to lose him, even if I had known he was going have a disability.

    I often hear people say things like, “it’s better to lose these babies” not to my face I might add, as they would find it difficult to talk with broken teeth.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is, although I have a child with autism, I would rather have him than have lost him and not known him…does that make sense?

  9. K8, and anyone else, this is a post by JaneG from last November, about remberences.

    I think this is hugely important.

  10. You write this sort of thing so well K8. Brave and honest as always.

  11. Conortje says:

    So sorry you had to go through this. Thank you for sharing for sharing this post. Big hug!

  12. K8 says:

    Susan; What an amazing story, so tragic but with a warm ending… the thought of one taking care of the other is so beautiful. I hope we do end up as roomies and not sharing a park bench somewhere… our kids wouldn’t do that to us, right?!? ;)

    Grannymar; Hugs are always a kind offering and gratefully received!

    Xbox4nappyrash; You too, dude. Thank you.

    Kelley; Hugs ARE best. Back at ya.

    Kate; Hello! I’m so sorry for your pain, but I’m glad for you that it’s a means to an answer at least. I’m sending you strength by etherweb by the gallons, I hope those investigations are fruitful. Thanks for commenting :)

    Nick; Death is a difficult subject at best, but when a foetus is involved, it’s swept under the rug. Perhaps it’s because there’s still the overhanging question… does a foetus have a soul? I think people are slow to comfort the loss of a tiny growth, a hiccup in fertility. While it represents something enormous to the mother, it can seem so minute to someone else. It’s an esoteric subject that nobody wants to know about which is a crying shame to those that matter.

    Jo; God that’s harsh. To have a miscarriage is a tragedy, to lose a baby or birth a stillborn child… that’s unthinkable. I was wondering where you get your strength from, now I know.

    Queenie; Amen, sister, it most certainly does make sense. It is undeniably an honour to have kids like ours. This is what gets me… what does nature deem as a disorder? Why the obscure selection? Why do so many women miscarry? I was fascinated (somewhat morbidly but whatever…) to find out what the autopsy said, but obviously staff wouldn’t tell me the full story. I wish they would, I really wanted to know.

    Xbox4nappyrash; Thanks for linking this story, it’s beautiful. I think the idea of planting trees is the best way of coping I’ve heard yet. Replace life with life.

    Moodog; Thanks dude, I know it’s hard commenting on this sort of stuff so I seriously appreciate the effort :) Sound out.

  13. K8 says:

    Conortje; Same to you, dude. Thanks for commenting, I know it’s hard to think of the right thing to say in response to such dodgy postings so it’s really appreciated :) Don’t be sorry, though. Perhaps my posting of experience can help someone else? I sincerely fucking hope so otherwise I’m one embarrassed chick!

  14. K8 says:

    I have to say I’m beginning to worry that nobody’s commented on the clockwork guinea pig… he’s a work of art!


  15. Kate says:

    I hadn’t clicked through to the guinea pig…BUT NOW I WANT ONE!
    I guess it shows that no-one ran… xx

  16. Tinman18 says:

    Susan’s right when she says that it’s only after it happens to you that people tell you about others.

    Before our first son we had a miscarriage (about two days after we’d told everyone) and my father said “sure we had a miscarriage before we had you”.

    I know he was trying to encourage me, but now I had a child AND a sibling to mourn.

    And I also felt pee’d off that I wasn’t really the eldest, and guilty as hell for feeling that…

  17. Holemaster says:

    My parents used to have eight kids. The eldest girl died aged 14 before I was born. The eldest boy died when I was 3 and I have a few very vivid memories of him. But I always wondered about my eldest sister. About a year ago, there was a picture of her in the paper with loads of other kids from the Central Remedial Clinic. I looked at her, she was 13 then. Suddenly she became my little sister and the first time, I cried over her little soul and for the rest of my family who all loved her so much.

    I think the grief of losing children is the most powerful and most physical emotion there is.

  18. Quickroute says:

    I’ve known forever that my Mum had 3 miscarriages – I never really thought about how she must have felt until now as it was just a family fact never discussed but that’s an Irish specialty – sweep it under the carpet.

  19. Kate says:

    Thank you K8 – I lost my twins 28 years ago – one 2 months before the other one. It was the strangest experience and made worse because everything seemed to go on for so long. I remember saying at the time that there should be people to talk to but as usual nobody knew what to say!
    By the way my daughter will be 26 on Sunday – they all knew what to say when she arrived!

  20. We had a miscarriage…painful

  21. Jennifer says:

    K8 that was a very brave post and I imagine it wasn’t easy to write. Hugs from me too.

    Chuffy is indeed a (little unusual) work of art.


    Here’s mine, buddy girl. Better out than in, as they say.

    Hugs x

  23. steph says:

    K8, well done for writing about miscarriage with such refreshing openness and honesty.

    I too have experience of miscarriages but had never managed (until now) to openly admit that I miscarried one of my babies into a bedpan. Somehow, for me this represented the final insult to the child I’d failed to carry to term.

    Reading your account of how you bravely retrieved your foetus from the loo, has made me realise I’ve nothing to be ashamed of and I thank you sincerely for that.

    You may be interested to hear that my father was to one to always recognise my losses (my mother buried the subject) and I was very touched to find that he’d recorded the loss of our son, Daniel on the family tree.

    I was delighted to find Xbox’s link to Jane G and her post about the MA remembrance service. I too wrote about that day and linked it back to another post I’d written about Daniel.

    I feel very sorry for people who suffer infertility and miscarriage – a double blow for which no words suffice.

  24. K8 says:

    Kate; Chuffy owns beauty in his ugliness, a must for every bookshelf! By the way, I keep meaning to say I love your pictures of Foley! I have a cat which looks pretty much identical to him… it never occured to me before that cats could have doppelgangers.

    Tinman18; Oh no that’s awful… confusing as hell? I have to thank you for the thought, though, I hadn’t considered the fact that my kids might have the right to know about their potential sibling in the future. It must be such a weird surprise when you’re all grown up.

    Holemaster; The pain lies in not knowing what could have been, I think. I’m so sorry you lost your sister, life is so cruel for taking her away from you all like that. Perhaps she’s still there, in a way, looking after you though you may not know it.

    Quickroute; Yeah, as a nation we’re not great bonders or discussers of personal things… I think them in the U.S. have it sorted in that department. Our mammies are too proud to admit pain, which is a bad thing for the most part.

    Kate; That’s awful, I’m so sorry that happened to you… such a traumatic thing to have happen especially, as you say, if there’s nobody to talk to… but it’s never too late. Thank you for remembering your twins to me, I know it’s not easy.

    Roy; I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine how this must feel from a father’s point of view, you need to hold things together without fully understanding all the reasons and that’s an increadibly brave and patient thing to do. Give the missus a hug for me, willya?

    Jennifer; Hugs back! Chuffy is special. I think we all have certain elements of him inside of us. ;)

    English Mum; Thanks, your writing is so touching… kid’s questions are often the toughest of all. I totally agree about the hospitals putting miscarrying women in waiting amongst pregnant women, that’s such a tough thing for both sides to witness. I remember TAT kicking up a fuss about this but as usual he didn’t really get anywhere.

    Steph; I’m so glad this proved to be a kind of release, you’re right… nature is cruel and has a twisted sense of humour, but we’re just puppets, there’s no shame in what happens to us. I think it’s beautiful that you named this child. I never did that, but I never really associated things that way. After reading Xbox’s link I’m seriously contemplating the tree idea though. That’s beautiful.

  25. I’m sorry that you had to go through this. But I’m pleased that you’re brave and posted it. One of the greatest gifts of the Internet is brave bloggers; I count you among them.

  26. Baino says:

    Sorry K8 running late due to being a tour guide. 75% of women miscarry their first pregnancy, some don’t even know it. I was devastated . .simply devastated . . .then being RH- had the indignity of having to have a quick D & C within 24 hours of miscarrying my ‘plop’. That’s got a lot to do with my first born being so close to Christmas. Once it happened I had this overwhelming compulsion to become pregnant. It’s a horrible thing to go through. My obstetrician just told me to bed rest knowing full well that it wouldn’t do much more than make me feel better. I miscarried at 16 weeks so no need for the naming thing.

  27. K8 says:

    Jenny; Thanks, that means a lot! Mind you I confess that writing this was still preferable to disassembling Christmas that day. Any excuse, what?

    Baino; Ah jeez thanks for commenting, you’re life’s a bit mental at the moment so you must be wrecked! That’s seriously harsh, what you went through… when I remember all the bitching and whingeing I did, considering the pain can’t have been a patch on that of a later miscarriage. I remember that urgent need to try again now that you mention it… nature’s way of distracting us maybe.

  28. NaRocRoc says:

    Beautiful post K8.

    My brother and his new wife had a miscarriage just before Christmas and it’s been something of an elephant in the corner. I now feel the time is right to offer my ear and a hug so cheers for the encouragement.

    I was amazed to discover how frequent miscarriages are. Something like 1 in 3? And yet it’s rarely if ever discussed in our society. Madness.

    Anyway you speak so openly and courageously here. Such honesty is so admirable. Fair play. Maybe you could award yourself the Dog’s Bollicks award?!?

  29. K8, I’m a regular reader in so far as I regularly read anywhere, then every now and then you come up with something so impossibly moving, as this is.

    I hate people who fill those silences in any awkward situation with platitudes, I try hard never to be one.

  30. Mary Witzl says:

    This is so sad, and I’m so sorry you had to go through with it.

    I try hard not to be a platitude person too, but sometimes I fear I’ve managed to say the wrong thing, out of desperation to say something. When my mother died, I couldn’t believe the number of people who told me it was for the best — what a stupid thing to say! But I figured they were just trying to say something, too…

  31. Kirk M says:

    Wow. I’m so glad I had a chance to read this. Not that I could possibly understand what it’s like being male, you’re description brought me the closest I’ll ever be.

    I’ve always believed that a woman is the most amazing being and after reading this post my belief is justified once again.

  32. K8 says:

    NaRocRoc; You’re right, there’s a buffer zone sometimes… maybe the elephant is better left alone for a week or two, especially at Christmas. My heart goes out to your brother’s family :( I wish them much luck.
    I can’t give myself a Dog’s Bollocks because I can’t display the badge here!!! Anyway, they smell kinda funky.

    Grey Wright; Thanks for the compliment, it’s lovely! As for awkward statements, I try to avoid ’em too, but foot-in-mouth disease is very easy to catch sometimes. The wrong words can unfortunately be the most memorable and not the thought implied which is a crying shame.

    Mary Witzl; That’s where the simplicity of a hug lies… words can too easily be taken literally.

    Kirk M; It’s not really all that amazing being a woman… we’re the same, but with different burdens, differently shaped problems. If it weren’t for men, we wouldn’t be here at all. Thanks for saying so though! Makes me proud without really knowing why :)

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