You know how they say you can’t smell your own perfume, so you have to careful now to wear too much? I feel a bit like that about my body. Specifically, my scars.
I’ve lived with the damage for so long that I cannot judge how severe it is. Mostly, I don’t think about my scars at all. They’re not a consideration in dressing anymore. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed of what they may signify. I usually find any rudeness engendered by my patchwork skin says more about the observer than the observed.
However, every once on a blue moon I have a moment. Often it’s my own doing. I catch sight of my reflection at an unusual angle or change under different lighting and I’m shocked. Horrified maybe. Not so much at my appearance as the fact that I did this to myself.
More rarely it’s as a result of another’s extreme reaction. A gasp or frightened look stirs much more than judgemental comments. When my battle scars scare others it stirs the old guilty feelings.
In either case it is doubt that knocks my confidence. I find it impossible to determine if my body is hideous or merely slightly disfigured. Without a clear grasp of what I have done I feel adrift. It takes me back to my days in the self harm trenches; never knowing how serious a wound was. Unable to grasp onto any equilibrium.
Am I a dramatic fool over nothing or inflicting horror on innocent parties? And which would be worse? The uncertainty shakes me. I feel an imposter. For all my proclamations of body confidence there are times when my self inflicted seams run deep.
I’m stuck in a moment right now. I fight the urge to hide. Steal myself against thoughts of splitting those seams open. It’ll pass. In the meantime I’ll have the long sleeve weather to regain my surety.
The universe is determined to give me opportunities to discover social faux pas. The events of the last weeks have revealed to me a host of new things that lots of people say when one talks about miscarriage. The vast majority of these comments are very well meant, but nonetheless, have considerably missed the mark.
Being open about having had multiple miscarriages seems to unfurl two main threads of conversation. The most prolific being enquiries as to why it keeps happening and what I have done about it. I think I know why people ask these questions. Partly fear, no one wants this to happen to them. I suppose people think if they know the whys they can avoid it or fix the problem. The other side being an assumption that everything can be fixed. I understand that, we are so used to living in a world where things can be cured or treated. I know from having chronic conditions that people are often confused to learn that some things can not be corrected. In the case or recurrent miscarriage this enquiry is unhelpful for variety of reasons. Firstly miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage and infertility often fall into the category of ‘don’t know’. About half of those who suffer recurrent miscarriage are unable to find a reason after testing. I am one of those people. I have had all the standard tests and investigations to little avail. I did have some adhesions that were successfully removed and I have PCOS, but no Dr I have consulted believes that to be the cause. The short answer is, no one knows. Asking this question isn’t helpful. If a person doesn’t know, you’re just underling that difficult fact by making them explain it again. If they do, they may not want to discuss such private and sensitive information with you or anyone else.
Offshoots of this such as, Have you seen a Dr about this? You should get another opinion, My friend did such & such or surely there must be something they can do, are unwelcome. I have had four miscarriages. I have lost four children that I desperately wanted. Of course I have done everything within my power to find out why and prevent it from happening again. The suggestion that I haven’t offends me. It indicates that you think I am either stupid or careless. I understand that wasn’t the intention, but please, think before you speak. It’s also important to be aware that the NHS usually won’t begin these investigations until after a third miscarriage. Not everyone has the resources to seek private medical treatment. Anyone in that situation doesn’t need nosey salt in their wounds.
The other comments this loss has garnered are of the don’t give up variety. A lot of people have reached out to tell me there’s always hope. The have shared their own experiences of loss or struggles to conceive and assured me that miracles happens. That they eventually had their baby and it was all worth it. I know you think you are helping. I know you are trying to be kind. Let me just say this, not everyone gets a miracle. We are not all able to try again. There are limits to what the body can do, physically & emotionally. There are time constraints. Relationship constraints. Financial constraints. At this moment I don’t feel like I have another try in me. Losing another baby would destroy me. Maybe I will feel differently in the future (it would have to be the fairly near future), but I don’t think so. Facing the reality of my limitations is not weak. Recognising that I can not square this circle is not giving up.
I don’t intend this as an attack. I realise these aren’t purposeful attempts to hurt. I just want to have an open discourse. I think these confusions arise because we don’t talk about this topic enough. If you want to offer support to someone who has suffered this kind of loss it will be appreciated. Simply offering your condolences and assurances that you are available is enough. Respect that everyone grieves differently and your kindness will cherished.
I want to talk to you about something that isn’t often discussed. In a world where almost nothing is taboo miscarriage remains an uncomfortable topic. I know from personal experience that friends and family are often unsure how to approach such a loss. A misplaced belief that a mother’s (&her partner’s) privacy must be maintained or worry that bringing up the subject will cause distress can leave a grieving parent feeling isolated. I’d like to open up the subject, share my experience & hopefully change your thoughts on how best to support a friend who has suffered a miscarriage.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to acknowledge a person’s loss. Miscarriage feels like a death, you have lost a life that you created & have already given your heart to. Let your loved one feel that pain out in the open. Treat this grief as you would any other. Send flowers, a sympathy card, be available to listen. Acknowledge that the child who hasn’t made it into our world is real. To feel that those around you care for not only you, but your unborn child is a crucial part of the healing process.
There is no rule book for recovering from miscarriage. Some people need to throw themselves into work or a busy social schedule. Others may require time alone to process what has happened. There is no right way, listen to what your friend tells you they want & support them. Whether that is getting raucously drunk or cuddling them whilst they cry. There are so many complicated emotions attached to losing a child. I felt a crippling guilt. I know others who have felt rage & some people who accepted the loss as part of their path or an act of god. There is no correct way to feel. As irrational as these responses may seem to you, let your friend feel what they feel. Listen, reassure, but never judge. Each person knows what is appropriate for them, respect that.
Miscarriage is a life changing event. Conceiving again does not wipe out the loss. Your unborn baby can’t be replaced. For me a permanent memorial was necessary. Many people need to commemorate their baby. Be it tattoos, planting a tree or a gathering do not shy away from involvment in these acts of love. Allow you friend to carry their child with them.
Don’t assume that miscarriage is best kept secret. In the immediate aftermath & in the years that have followed, I have wanted to talk about my experiences with miscarriage. Sadly, I haven’t always felt that I was allowed to do so. My loss was treated as something that must remain private. Whilst I am sure this attitude was well meaning, it left me unable to express emotions that I felt suffocated by. If your friend, family member, colleague or even a stranger on a bus wants to talk about their miscarriage, please let them. You cannot imagine how freeing it is to let out the tumult of thoughts in your head.
Miscarriage is not a rare occurrence. Many women will have to find their route through its consequences. This post is based on my personal experience & the consensus of the many women I have known who have had the misfortune to share that experience. Of course there will be parents who have differing views. I can’t speak for everyone. Ultimately you must trust that each indivdual knows what they need & follow their lead. However, I do hope that some what I have written has given you pause for thought. Moreover it’s my wish that my suggestions will ease this painful journey for others.