The Harrowing Story of My Miscarriage

Susan B.
Susan B.
Feb 5, 2017 · 12 min read

Decades Later, Grieving for My Baby Who Never Was

Jizo statue by jonny-mt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, I hit an emotional bottom and realized that I need to work yet another 12-Step program, this one around my family of origin trauma issues. Last year was a year where the veils of denial were ripped away around the facts of my childhood and its effect on my own parenting and life path. Gratefully, I am sober, abstinent, solvent, you name it. But now, it’s anger, sadness, and other emotions that have taken me captive.

All that is really fodder for another article. The reason I mention it is that now, a few weeks into my dedicated recovery as an adult child of a dysfunctional family, story after story about miscarriages, keeping them secret, and grieving the loss, have come my way.

So, now (as of the date I’m posting this article), 27 years, seven months, and 26 days since my miscarriage, I am going to share the story with you. Of course, I cannot know the exact date my pregnancy ended, but I know that June 11, 1989 was surely the date that the end began. It was also a memorable date because I got married that Sunday.

I was only about 14 weeks pregnant when I definitively found out that the fetus growing inside of me had died. I understand that the pain of a miscarriage doesn’t compare with the horrifying experience of a mother delivering a stillborn baby or the death of a living child. But I also know that this was a deep loss for me, nonetheless, and I believe it deserves my attention, despite the fact that society encourages us to dismiss miscarriages as a comma in our lives rather than a period.

But I also know that this was a deep loss for me, nonetheless, and I believe it deserves my attention, despite the fact that society encourages us to dismiss miscarriages as a comma in our lives rather than a period.

I know that technically, what was growing inside of me was a “person under construction.” But emotionally, this was my baby. I cannot speak for anyone else’s point of view or feelings around this. I’m just giving you my own. I don’t want to get into a pro-choice vs. pro-life debate. Please. That is not why I am writing this story.

So now, let me tell you what happened.

The Engagement

The relationship with my fiance had been stormy, abusive, and laced with addiction and second-hand cigarette smoke since day one. That’s a story for another time. But you just need to know that “I wanted to have been married.” (Yes, that is the syntax I intended — present and past all at the same time. I doubted we would last even before we began, but I believed that being divorced meant that someone had loved me enough to marry me, and that fact would give me more standing in the world than being single — ridiculous, I know, but in 1989 at the age of 34, that’s what I believed.)

And so, despite all our friction and fire, and because we were extremely close and bonded in a terribly dysfunctional, but comfortable, way, we (with my invisible hand pushing him on) decided to get married.

Our wedding was going to take place in the backyard of friends of my parents. The husband was an obstetrician, which turned out to be an interesting side note. My mom had died eight years before. My father, egged on by his psychiatrist wife, made it clear that he wasn’t going to give us a wedding. Oh, he adored my now-ex-husband. It was me he didn’t really like. But he said he’d definitely be there, and reluctantly agreed to walk me down the aisle.

It was just a couple of weeks before the wedding that I discovered I was pregnant. We had been planning to get married for a couple of months, so it wasn’t what you might think.

I was grateful that I had been sober for a few years by that point, though I still struggled with compulsive overeating. But I had been taking prescription medication at the time, which I immediately stopped. The thought nagged at me that this could have been the culprit. Or maybe all the junk food I ate and the cigarettes and drugs in my fiance’s system had contributed. Or perhaps it was all or none of those things. There is just no way to know.


I had never thought about being a mom prior to this, but was surprisingly, even deliriously, happy at the thought that there was this tiny being who had taken up residence in my body.

In fact, I was head over heels in love with, first, the embryo, and then, the fetus inside of me. I had already begun talking to him or her about, well, everything and anything because I already felt like this was my child.

My Wedding Day

On the day of the wedding, my anxiety skyrocketed. Yes, there were the hormones dragging me onto an emotional roller coaster. But there were also strange and surreal issues around this event — like my father, who showed up kind of disheveled and without a tie, who would be walking me down the aisle, and my own internal, grave doubts about the wisdom of what I was about to do. During the ceremony, as my husband stood weeping (ostensibly) for joy, I was battling screaming voices in my head telling me to run away.

After the ceremony, I felt much better and actually quite relieved. Perhaps my misgivings were misguided and the three of us would live happily ever after. But my new-found peace was short-lived. I returned from a trip to the restroom panicked and terrified by the blood I’d seen in the toilet.

Oh my God, was something wrong with the baby?

The friend/obstetrician told me straight away that I might be miscarrying. What a horrifying revelation on any day, but to hear this on my wedding day felt more like a punishment.

What should I do, I asked? We were about to drive off to our honeymoon in Maine from our wedding in Baltimore.

He told me to relax and enjoy myself on my honeymoon because if I was miscarrying, there was nothing anyone could do about it. I called my obstetrician. He agreed.

Oh, I see. I was supposed to pretend that the death occurring inside of me was no more than a mere inconvenience, nothing to worry about. Go have fun. Really? This felt more like an omen than a nuisance.

Powerless. This is what powerlessness really feels like.

Because my boundaries at that point in my life were so piss-poor, I shoved down all my emotions around what was going on inside of me and, like a “good little girl,” followed their advice.

But before we drove off to celebrate our new life, I saw what was left of the wedding cake in a box when my husband opened the trunk to pack a few more things for the trip. I remember digging out that cake and, once we were on the road, stuffing it into my mouth as fast as possible to help me pretend that nothing was wrong.

The Honeymoon

The honeymoon was a disaster.

When we arrived, it was night. As we drove through a Stephen King-worthy Maine town toward our hotel, we saw an unavoidable spider web stretched across the entire road, from streetlamp to streetlamp. As we approached and then drove through it, our headlights illuminating it, we saw something larger than life, tall as it was wide. It seemed as if it was going to engulf us, like we were human delicacies to be consumed by the God knows how big spiders who created it. Omen, anyone?

Gratefully, we arrived at the hotel with no trace of a sticky web attached to the car. Just a bad memory. Another one to add to the list.

As we drove through a Stephen King-worthy Maine town toward our hotel, we saw an unavoidable spider web stretched across the entire road, from streetlamp to streetlamp. As we approached and then drove through it, our headlights illuminating it, we saw something larger than life, tall as it was wide. It seemed as if it was going to engulf us, like we were human delicacies to be consumed by the God knows how big spiders who created it. Omen, anyone?


I truly wanted to relax and enjoy myself. I wanted to compartmentalize what was happening inside my body so that I could be distracted with, hopefully, the enjoyable things we had planned for our honeymoon.

But “the miscarriage” (so as not to offend anyone, I won’t call it “the death of my baby”) wasn’t going to let me ignore it. In fact, it was causing severe, gut-wrenching, nearly unbearable pain that doubled me over. But it didn’t occur to me to see a doctor or go to a hospital. I was on my honeymoon, after all.

Unfortunately, the nightmare extended even further outside of my body, because my new husband had a thin skin and began taking offense at nearly everything I said. Somewhere around day three of our honeymoon, he decided to stop speaking to me entirely to punish me for not being nicer. In his defense, I’m sure I was extremely irritable. In mine, I was carrying around a dead or dying fetus and my body was screaming in agony.

So I endured the rest of the seven day trip and the gut-wrenching pain as best I could. I tried to be nicer to him, even apologized, but to no avail. He continued giving me the silent treatment. I shoved it all down with food and tears.

The pain had pretty well subsided by the time we came home, and my husband started speaking to me again. So there’s that.

The Test that Told the Truth

I had scheduled a test for when we got back. It’s called a CVS or Chorionic Villus Sampling test and is given to check for genetic or chromosomal defects early on (at around 14 weeks). In 1988, because I was 34, they considered me high risk so didn’t want to wait until I was five months pregnant to do an amniocentesis.

I remember them inserting the catheter and I remember the ultrasound machine where I could watch what they were doing. But then, it all gets fuzzy. The only other thing I remember is them telling me that they were sorry but (I don’t remember how they phrased it) I had miscarried. Because my body didn’t expel all the fetal tissue, they insisted I have a D&C. And this part I remember vividly.

Again, I urge you to remember that this is my own personal experience, not a political statement.

The D&C

I was on an HMO. So they sent me to a clinic, where they also performed abortions, to have the procedure. I’ll never forget sitting in the waiting room with the remaining tissue from my dead fetus waiting to be scraped out of me, feeling numb but with the edges of grief trying to squeeze through.

I’ll never forget sitting in the waiting room with the remaining tissue from my dead fetus waiting to be scraped out of me, feeling numb but with the edges of grief trying to squeeze through.

I remember hearing laughter and looking around at a room full of women (all so much younger than me). I know now that this was not laughter of joy, but of nervousness and anxiety, of distraction. But at the time, I thought about how attached I had already gotten to this “not quite a person” inside of me and had a hard time squelching my angry feelings that I had no choice in what had happened to me. I felt anger at the choice others were making, and resentment that they could be laughing at all a time like this. I had these feelings despite my fervent belief in every woman’s right to choose.

When I walked into the sterile room where the procedure was to happen, they asked me if I had taken any type of pain killer prior to coming in. No, I responded. I’m not sure if they even offered me anything to dull the pain that I had no idea was coming. They were just about the business of getting it done.

I don’t remember much about the D&C procedure, itself. But I do remember getting off the table, taking a couple of steps, and fainting on the floor.

I don’t even remember coming to … but here I am, so I’m sure I did. And I guess they carted off the remaining tissue to be disposed of in some fashion.

After thoughts

In retrospect, it seems to me that it was quite callous to send a woman who had lost a fetus she’d fervently hoped would become her child to a clinic for the D&C rather than to a private doctor for the procedure so that she wouldn’t have to sit in the same room as those who were choosing to stop the process.

I say that because there was a palpable feeling in that a waiting room that I have never forgotten. I was experiencing only loss and grief. But in that room, the atmosphere was permeated with a sense of relief and hope for the future. It’s astounding that our medical care system gave so little consideration to such matters. For all I know, they probably still don’t think twice about it.

As for what to do after the miscarriage, how is it possible to grieve such an event without anything tangible to hold or bury? How do you grieve potential?

As for what to do after the miscarriage, how is it possible to grieve such an event without anything tangible to hold or bury? How do you grieve potential?

So, after that, I just moved on with my life and tried not to think about it. I guess because no one else made a big deal out of it, I minimized it as well. Besides, everyone told me that it was common to miscarry in your first pregnancy.

And then, I did become pregnant again in 1990. Every single day of that pregnancy was filled with anxiety, especially after I bled again a few months in. But, as with my first pregnancy, I began talking to my son non-stop the day that stick turned pink and, this time, I told him I’d protect him. Thankfully, and with a tremendous sense of relief (because we all know I couldn’t have done jack squat to protect him), in November of 1990 I gave birth to my one and only child.

A few years later, I finally got the courage to leave my ex-husband (though emotionally, I stayed all too co-dependently attached until our son finished college). When I reflect on all that happened leading up to my son’s birth, I wouldn’t change the course of events because my son is the greatest gift of my life. And, when he was 12, I married a wonderful man who gave my son and me a grounded and stable home.

But in the years since his birth, the thought of my first pregnancy and the ensuing miscarriage barely entered my consciousness. Raising my son, working on my own 12-step recovery, and making life work took priority. My child is now a grown man and off on his own. (Gratefully, he makes far better decisions than I ever did at his age and he appears to have escaped addiction by some miraculous Grace of a Higher Power.)


Now, I’ve been given the painful gift of a “voice” demanding I pay attention to what happened to me so long ago. In one of the articles about grieving a miscarriage that drove me to write this article, the author wrote about going to a cemetery with her husband in Japan, and seeing hundreds of “ stone Jizo statues that lined the wooded paths. These small figurines dressed in red caps and bibs honor the souls of babies who are never born. Crowding their feet are toys and snacks left by parents to comfort their children in the afterlife.”

A few weeks ago, I ordered one of these statues, and I just got it.

I’m hoping that this physical symbol of my miscarriage, something that I can hold on to, will provide some small comfort and help me to grieve the loss of my first baby, the one who never was.

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Ask Me About My Uterus

Essays, interviews, and research about reproduction health, menstruation, endometriosis, PCOS, PMDD, menopause, miscarriage, identity, infertility and more.

Susan B.

Written by

Susan B.

Solvent, sober, abstinent -- @healingdoodle artist, @moneysober spending plan enthusiast, writer, wife, mom

Ask Me About My Uterus

Essays, interviews, and research about reproduction health, menstruation, endometriosis, PCOS, PMDD, menopause, miscarriage, identity, infertility and more.