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Miscarriage Memories, Paying Kindness Forward
The Universe confirmed my daughter’s name in July 2020. So I was certain she was coming, and assumed she was coming soon. But Mikaela arrived two years later in July 2022, after three positive pregnancies that then, well, weren’t. (If you’re curious about how her name was confirmed, check out the bonus section at the end.)
Before my first miscarriage, the concept felt somewhat distant, foreign. You know it technically could happen to you, but it won’t really, right? It seemed like ‘that’ only happened to others, a select unfortunate few, who whispered it to even fewer, who looked both ways before talking about it, careful it didn’t get out from behind closed doors. The word itself carried such weight, with a he-who-shall-not-be-named vibe.
Miscarriages are painful and can be hard to talk about, of course. But it was more than that. The concept felt taboo. Like maybe we shouldn’t talk about it. Like this wrongness had happened and should remain concealed. Like there was some shame involved and we should go about it alone. And that made no sense.
I was lucky in my experience, in more ways than one. Most significantly, because I had support from others, and their kindness made all the difference. So I’m here to raise my hand and pay it forward, in case someday it helps you.
As of July 2020 when I received her name, I knew my baby was coming. And I was eager. But she took a bit of time. I say ‘a bit of time’ because I realize that just over a year of trying isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, or compared to what other women endure. But to me, each uncertain doctor’s visit, each never-ending week, each dreadful trip to the bathroom, each uninvited period, each real or psychologically-induced sense of queasiness, each run to CVS for even.more.pregnancytests…it all felt like an eternity.
Still, in all of it, after all of it, it struck me how fortunate I had been.
The miscarriages were all in early pregnancy and only the first one needed medical intervention. It had been weeks of excruciating ‘waiting & seeing’. Now the picture was clear, the embryo wasn’t developing healthily and I needed to make a decision on how to ‘take care of it’, D&C or Misoprostol. I was astonished by how little I knew about this. How, even after my doctor, whom I loved and fully trusted, explained each option to me, I still felt lost. I mean, what did people do?! But I knew a couple of friends who had had miscarriages, even though we had never talked about it. So I reached out. Turns out each had undergone one of the two options. (If you’re new to this, these are basically: a general-anesthesia procedure to have the ‘tissue’ removed from your uterus, or take a couple pills, ‘insert’ others, and wait for the labor-like contractions to clock-in and do their job.) My friends were understanding and open to sharing their experiences, gory details included. Finally, I felt empowered to make my choice: the pills. In my case, they were successful and it didn’t actually feel like labor, as I had been warned by my doc. Phew.
The fact that some women need to make these very serious, very medical decisions, each with its own pros/cons/side-effects, without much or any information whatsoever, often racing against the clock, all with a thick veil of emotion layered on top, is bewildering to me. (*Now don’t even get me started on what’s going on in the country regarding access itself, to these procedures. What a privileged position I was in, and still am in, just because I happen to live in California.*)
I felt supported. I shared what I was going through with select friends around me and I felt cared for and seen, even if they hadn’t gone through it themselves. I felt the powerful energy of women looking after women. My body was hugged, my phone was lit up with texts from them checking in for days, my belly was full with perfectly-gooey brownies that were dropped off, and when I was ready, my story was heard. But how many women go through it alone, or feel like they have to?
I was in between jobs when I had that first miscarriage. This meant I was free to cry & wallow as my heart desired during the first, truest heart-break. I could also schedule and experience Pill Day when I saw fit, no questions asked. I was in the middle of an interview process for my dream-job, so I set Pill Day for the one day in between a deliverable being due and another call. It was hard to focus, but sometimes, a welcome distraction. On the day, I meandered from bed to couch in the comfort of my home, fetal position on cue, hugging red-hot-water-bag, my trusted BFF (a cynical twist that this RED thing was now bringing me ease).
In my last miscarriage - which by then I was trying to live by the mantra of acceptance of any outcome - I was doing a shift at one of the yoga studios when I got The Call from my doctor: blood test results indicated the embryo wasn’t growing like we had hoped, my body would likely realize this in the next week or so. I answered this call about 5 minutes before I had to check-in students for the next class. “Ok, thank you, bye”. Hang up. ‘Go with the motions Maria Fe, you can do this.’ Get behind the desk, heart pounding. Smile, quiver, smile. Welcome them. Class starts, go to the back office, have a quick cry on my work-wife’s shoulder (Love you endlessly L). Took the next day off and took myself to the beach, to look at the ocean. Always my healer.
You never know what someone else might be going through. Just the thought that every day women are experiencing this, juggling it with work, their bosses likely the last person they’d want to share their circumstances with, many not easily able to take time off, is heart-breaking.
I had these experiences smack in the middle of what was my ‘most spiritual’ year yet. One where I was intentionally seeking personal growth, purpose, peace. So each loss came with a sense of despair and grief, yes. But in each loss, and in every negative test in between, I was slightly more emotionally prepared to move through it. It was a year of expansion. Of trying to let go of control. Of surrendering. Of yoyo’ing from control to surrender, and back. Of obsessing, and then obsessing over trying to stop obsessing. Little by little I was getting there, to that place of being at peace even in the darkness, or at least learning to get there faster.
I had started to form my squad of spiritual teachers, who also supported me through this. With learnings, rituals, healings; with presence. And (getting more ‘woo-woo’ here little by little but trying not to scare you, lol) I came to learn and truly believe that my Spirit Baby was still there waiting. That it was my same Spirit Baby trying to come Earth-side each time, waiting for the right opportunity. (If you feel called, read Spirit Babies.) Mika was there and was coming; for whatever reason, it just wasn’t time yet.
The morning of Pill Day, I built her a little altar and sat to talk to her. Sang to her, told her I loved her and that I was waiting for her. That I would continue to wait until she was ready. I thanked my body and the tiny embryo. I invited the Pills as healers, asked them to cleanse so that we could create another opportunity for Mika to come. Husband shared in part of it too. I cried. A lot. And I felt better too.
I also came to accept that I hadn’t done anything wrong. These beliefs and efforts helped appease my eager aching heart. I’m not sure how I would have dealt with this experience if I’d been clinging to all my original patterns, ideas, and ‘what ifs’.
Once I felt a bit more on the other side of the first miscarriage, I shared it more broadly, indirectly, as I reshared a relevant story on social. Empowered and wary at the same time. Two things stunned me. First, how many friends responded with a semblance of ‘welcome to the club’. Some sullenly, some quite matter-of-factly. Then, over the next three months, three friends reached out because they were going through it then. Each had different stories, different questions, different needs. Each curious and needing community.
1 in 4. It really hit home. 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. How was this not more talked about?
Miscarriages feeling ‘taboo’ and remaining unspoken can leave us without information that’s important to know if we experience one someday. It can leave us without a community to turn to to hold our hand when we’re in the midst of it. It can leave the community without a sense of how to hold space. And it can leave us without grasping the fact that it’s not uncommon and we did nothing to cause it.
So, if you’re in the pain of it all, know you’re not alone. And if you’re on the other side of it, consider sharing your story. That doesn’t mean you have to write about it or post on social. Opening up to those closest to you (men included) can already make a difference. Let’s pay kindness forward.
As a start, know that if you want an ear, a shoulder, the science, the pep-talk, the woo-woo, or the gruesome physical bits, I’m here.
*BONUS NAME STORY*
As I shared in my previous post, I ask the Universe for guidance through signs. In this case, I didn’t really ask, but it delivered anyway. Because the Universe is always talking to us, and if we're quiet enough, we can hear it.
In early summer of 2020, I started to call in baby number two. To feel ready for it, envision it, love it. And although I say ‘it’, every ounce of me felt it would be a girl. So on July 4th, while on a deserted hike with husband and son, I found myself daydreaming about her name. Would we name her Micaela, my favorite name since elementary school, or this other shiny new one we had become fans of when I was pregnant with my son? I was in my own little world for a while, musing on this as we walked. Later, as we approached the trail end, when my mind had already come back to, we came upon a hill and saw a bench up top. Out of nowhere, a voice in my head (my voice, but also, like, not mine) suddenly states very matter-of-factly: ‘that bench will tell you your daughter’s name’.
‘Wait what? That’s SO random. That makes no sense. Where did that thought come from anyway?’
I thought I was going crazy to even think that could be true, but still, my heart pounded and my legs trembled as I climbed up, more eager than ever to get to the top of any hill, not stopping to catch my breath. I approached it, huffing & puffing, expectantly. And there it was, carved into the wood with such love: “In memory of Michael”, some hearts around it. I was shaking and beaming. ‘What is this world, how can this even be happening?’ This was the second time I had been in this kind of shock. Here I was, in awe of the magic and so grateful. I had my answer.
(We later changed the spelling, supported by a new message.)