For the longest time I didn’t know what to say about miscarriage because I would either dismiss the subject or try to make a joke. Even now, as I write, I’m tempted to leave them as a footnote instead. But if I gather together the four failed pregnancies and the three months they each took, the miscarriages were a year in our marriage. It’s an ever diminishing year as time moves on but this is the reflexion I owe it.
The first miscarriage I had was into our second year as newlyweds in the month of February. We were excited to become parents and savoured the feeling. The three month ultrasound showed a seven week foetus, quiet, a circle of white in a little sea of black, suspended there with perfect little human indentations that could have later stretched out into little arms and legs, the beautiful spinal curve, the head still tucked in. We were still uncertain of the joys a child could bring.
I’ve always liked being a reasonable patient. I knew miscarriages were common, I didn’t feel like crying when the doctor came in to confirm it offering me Kleenex, explaining the options for its removal. Dilation and curettage is a simple operation where the cervix is dilated and the uterus is swept clean. The procedure was new to me and with Christian I followed the steps with mild curiosity. I was a secretary at the time and my supervisor insisted I take the next day off. I went to a small jeweller in Saint-Boniface and bought myself a necklace to commemorate this first failed pregnancy and the being that might live on somewhere above me, somehow linked to us, his or her would-have-been parents. I tried to feel sadness and searched for tears but couldn’t find any. The necklace had a curved silver piece that swept around a blue stone and I imparted it with maternal symbolism.
The second pregnancy resulted in a tiny little girl and so when I had a second miscarriage, Christian and I hoped we were following a pattern. Soon after I fell pregnant again a fourth time. It was to be the third miscarriage.
This third miscarriage hurt. Christian and I started to question our feelings, our little bit of grief like the restlessness you feel when it’s another cloudy day. I started to look for a meaning. This little bit of pain suddenly morphed into something that, if you were to pull at it, would cause an unravelling. What was a miscarriage? Was this aborted project a real, whole human, with a soul, a purpose, a beginning, a mission, and an end? Or was it just the very beginnings of a life, yet to be infused with a soul, yet to grow into a purpose, yet to know an end? And we began to question our grief. Why did this third miscarriage hurt? Had we suffused this pregnancy with more expectation than the other two? And if we had, the grief we felt was it not perhaps more indicative of our thwarted intention than it was of knowing a life had ended? What were we grieving? Was it a project or a being? I had to decide to stop thinking about it, to accept the event that highlighted our imperfect knowledge and our limited understanding.
My gynaecologist ordered tests and I discovered an inherited Robertsonian Translocation. One in one thousand three hundred people are carriers of this genetic imperfection. Christian and I found ourselves in the enviable position of knowing why we had miscarriages. When I had a fourth a year later I went to the hospital and bought magazines to while away the time. It was September. My mind was placid if impatient.
After that September Christian and I had two boys in surprising quick succession. The miscarriages are now in the realm of faded experiences. Awhile ago they consumed all our thoughts. I used to track my symptoms and attempt to calibrate them against a successful pregnancy. Christian and I would imagine superstitions for ourselves sometimes announcing the pregnancy or keeping it a secret. For three months I would try to develop an inner ear to match that of those women, who, like witches with magical divination, were so attuned to their body they could know if it was bearing life or not. I would think of names. Sometimes I’d talk to this mass of burgeoning cells, thinking of it as a baby, sometimes I wouldn’t. Sometimes it was too painful to decide whether talking to it was helpful or not. It didn’t matter but I would catch myself wishing it did. The wear of it would depress me. I would waver between exercise and distraction. Regardless of the outcome, pregnancy was fatiguing.
There is no advice I can give about living a miscarriage but I don’t think that the experience is lost. I think that as I went through four of them, clumsily even, I had the chance of growing in grace, of cultivating patience and empathy, of practicing kindness even while selfishly wanting to hoard it all for myself. Even if I don’t have anything tangible and can barely grasp at the words to express the sensation, these four miscarriages are part of me, part of our couple, part of our family. I’m trying to learn to be grateful for them.