On miscarriage, Johnson jokes, and how uteri are murderers
I am enduring the unfortunate circumstance of going through a miscarriage during my first pregnancy at age 40. I found out about the non-viable pregnancy via ultrasound two days ago and now am waiting around for the physical process of this miscarriage to complete itself (or be medically assisted, if it comes to that). While there are many sorrowful platitudes to be expressed over this tragedy, what I am trying to get my head around is that miscarriage happens to 30–40% pregnancies (at my age in particular). These are my platitudes, sorrowful or not, that are helping me think about this thing I am going through, in hopes it can help, entertain or enlighten others.
#1: I have a pulse
When I was trying to get pregnant and I would get my period I would get sad. I had the thought “My body cannot sustain life” and then I corrected myself: “Shut the fuck up! My body sustains MY life!” I can roller skate, bike, swim and run. I breathe and think and feel joy and laugh. That is a hefty, heart-filled life to sustain as it is. And my body isn’t failing me if it keeps me alive. So when I was lying on the table in the doctor’s office, surrounded by two midwives and my husband, all trying to hear a heartbeat of a theoretical 11-week old fetus, they could definitely find my pulse. And even though everyone was trying to play it cool and be positive about the “baby,” my “tilted uterus,” and “noisy signals,” I kept thinking, “I have a pulse. I am alive.” And it helped.
#2: Making dick jokes about being pregnant is fun.
My husband’s last name, which I do not share, is Johnson. So even before we got pregnant, I made a joke about trying to grow a Johnson. When I found out I was pregnant, I said I was growing a Johnson. If it was a boy, I’d be growing a Johnson that was growing its own Johnson. Now that I know I’m having a miscarriage, I can say that “My fucking Johnson won’t grow.” It still works as a good dick joke.
#3: Uteri are the original gangsters and I am now a witch
If 30% of all pregnancies result in miscarriage, then uteri (or women’s bodies in general) are on a murderous rampage if the crazy religious zealots are right that life begins at conception. This is witchcraft! This is evil! Women’s bodies expelling all of these precious life-forms that were deemed unsuitable for further effort. The gall of these uteri! While I was thinking I had a viable pregnancy, it was hard for me to think about abortion because I was trying so hard to keep the Johnson growing (how exactly? — eating right, positive vibes, not drinking alcohol, not drinking too much coffee, eating a lot, sleeping. Working on the awesome-carriage. What is the opposite of miscarriage? Procarriage? Overcarriage?). Now, I think about how some people demonize women who choose with an organ other than their uterus to terminate a pregnancy because that makes them somehow murderers. But if it is their uterus — which commits the crime much more than any other organ — it is God’s will, or a genetic reject or a natural process. How come a brain or heart can’t come to a similar conclusion about the viability of producing and caring for a child, considering other things besides biological constraints: being in an abusive relationship, financial stability, career/life goals, being 12…
I’m even more adamantly pro-choice now because my uterus is pro-choice whether I like it or not. And I respect myself and my uterus, even though I’m sad we couldn’t agree on this one thing. I guess it knows something I didn’t… How horrible a world it would be if we really believe that these uteri are killing machines, destroying life. This kind of thinking leads to blaming women who miscarry which is ridiculous because LOTS OF US DO. [We’re all evil witches. Killing machines. We should never be trusted.]
#4: Now it’s a baby, now it’s not
This was one of the disturbing things I found about pre-natal appointments. Everyone was so chipper and hopeful about my gestation process and used the term of “baby” quite early on. It made me uncomfortable because I knew the chances of miscarriage were high. I wanted to know it was a viable thing before calling it a baby. Let’s prove it has a skull first. [Yep. My skepticism KILLED IT! ← not really. Blame my uterus.] I had one appointment where we got a book about healthy pregnancy (which, if it is truly a 30–40% miscarriage is a kind of slap in the face. Ha Ha Ha, you lose, Unhealthy Pregnancy Lady with your Healthy Pregnancy book — would they do that with a cancer with a 40% mortality rate? “Here is your book on ‘Surviving Cancer.’ If you don’t make it, don’t worry. Just, fuck you.”) So when they were looking for “baby’s heartbeat” and couldn’t find it, it was sad and scary. And by the end of the visit, I didn’t have a baby anymore I had an “yolk sack” and some “tissue” that would be “released”. No matter what, when you are pregnant you are planning for the future, trying to bank sleep [HA HA HA — it doesn’t work that way, but I can think it. Oops, I slept on my back a lot. My sleeping killed it. ← nope], cleaning out a spare room, imagining cribs and changing tables and cute onesies. And then, in a flash it is all gone.
For me one realization that is a real gut punch is that I’ve been miscarrying for most of the time I thought I was pregnant, if the yolk sack stopped developing at 6 weeks (or 1 week after I had a positive pregnancy test) and we’re at 11 weeks now. Yep: 5 weeks of destruction I interpreted as gestation. Somehow this also makes me feel better, that I wasn’t pregnant all along. But I was, kind of. Maybe that might be some denial. I was still hot and nauseous. [BTW — I think that sounds like a strip club name, for pregnant strippers. Hot and Nauseous.]
#5: Miscarriage sucks to talk about, but should be talked about
I had to tell folks early on about my pregnancy. I play roller derby and removed myself from practice as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I also work in a university chemistry department where I can be exposed to toxins and teratogens (← chemicals that cause fetal injury), so I had to tell people at work to protect myself from exposure. That meant that I told my family because it seems rather dickish to tell your roller derby team and your colleagues about a pregnancy without calling the parents. But this also meant that I had to tell my parents about the miscarriage.
It seems now the norm now not to “reveal” the pregnancy until the second trimester because people don’t want to share with others the roller coaster that is a lost pregnancy. I can see that it is in some way easier to suffer in silence, if people don’t know about it, then you don’t have to tell them your uterus killed their grandchild and any hope that you’ve finally earned some adult-child credentials by breeding. (The struggle is real, my friend.) My husband and I talked about revealing the pregnancy early and said, “Fuck it. Everyone is going on the roller coaster ride with us. So be it.” It was the the second most painful part beyond just me grieving: informing the parents was tough.
I just can’t imagine going through this and people NOT knowing. I now have a pretty good excuse for not going in to work, or cancelling a haircut, or not going to a party. “Sorry, I don’t feel like doing that thing because I am having a miscarriage.” Which, in reality is like a long awaited bad period (and I get BAD periods — which I can’t phone in sick about. I once sent my husband to a party that I said I’d go to, but I was too crampy with my period to go. And he showed up and told the room, “She’s got her period and can’t come” which mortified a lot of people. I don’t really care that he said that BECAUSE IT WAS TRUE.) Now I could send him to a party this weekend that I don’t think I have the emotional capacity for and he can tell the party-goers, “She’s not here, she’s miscarrying at home” and they’ll all be horrified thinking of some movie scene of a women crying, with BLOOD EVERYWHERE. Which would make him a monster.
But we know who the real monster is: my uterus.
Or nothing at all. This is just earthly evolutionary mammalian stuff, which is nobody’s fault and isn’t murder and shouldn’t be a source of shame or terror or PTSD. I’ll get over it. I’ve got a pulse. And a discerning uterus. And a good life.