If you missed it, you can read the first part of this post here
What No One Tells You
[dropcap]N[/dropcap]o one tells you what to prepare for when you miscarry, beyond the practicalities of industrial strength sanitary supplies.
We’d arranged to see a show in London’s west end and rather than mope at home we continued with our plans. It never crossed our minds we’d run into people who had yet to congratulate us on expecting again. I was blindsided and mutely plastered a smile, mumbling thanks. As long as I kept walking no one could strike up a conversation.
An hour later I sat in the stalls, ensconced in the dimly lit intimacy of a packed theatre, while my mind was in the Gods oscillating between daydream and distraction. It rehashed the days events, sought to shape the shards into something graspable and whole then, beaten by the Sisyphean nature of the task, took refuge in the on-stage fiction only to return minutes later.
It didn’t help that we were watching Mary Poppins; children, childhood, the blurred lines between imagination and reality; pieces of what might have been lay scattered all around. The irony wasn’t lost on me.
The next day I bled and my world shrank to the size of the bathroom. It was easier to stay on the toilet than clean up, insert a fresh pad only to wash, rinse and repeat in minutes. I had no idea there’d be so much blood, or how physically daunting it would be.
The pain ate into my mind and I felt emotionally broken. Nothing prepared me for seeing the remains of my baby. When I passed the foetus I refused to admit it to myself. I rolled up the pad and put it in the bin, convincing myself it was my imagination. Hours later I retrieved what had once been the life inside me – haunted by the wrongness of such unfeeling disposal of the child that might have been.
I now understood what people meant when they spoke of being ‘beside themselves’ with grief. I had split into two – the dominant part was some gulping, plaintive interloper who couldn’t coherently explain the reason for her tears, nor stop them long enough to say something even if she could.
What was left of my rational self looked on, bemused. ‘It was barely a baby. Why are you making a fuss? This happens to a significant number of all expectant mothers, it’s just part of life. It means something was faulty, better it happened now than later. It’s not as if you’ve really lost anything… Why aren’t you following the script?’
But it was no good. The harridan of blood and tears prevailed, there was no sense, only sensory – I swam through murky misery and went where the current took me.
The following day I buried my baby properly.
I’d promised not to torture myself wondering if the miscarriage was caused by something I’d done or not done, and true to my intention that wasn’t the agent of my undoing. Far harder to bear were the uncompromising walls raised by those who should have offered softness and support.
The first brick was laid by my mother in law. Telephone conversations between K and his family were always in rapid-fire Punjabi. “So?” I asked when the call was over, “What was said? What did they say when you told them the news?”
He sketched out the edges of the exchange, relayed his Dad’s gruff response then, sensing I was still waiting, reluctantly shared what his mother had said:
“She said maybe it happened because you weren’t a good enough muslim,”
The ground beneath my feet gave way. All I could think of was ‘I bet she wouldn’t have said that to her daughter.’
In my heart of hearts I didn’t for a second believe her. But it stung that the resilient, imaginative woman I put on a pedestal could think like that about me. It stung like a hornet and the poison spread within me, blackening, tainting.
At night I was drained but couldn’t sleep, tormented by an unquiet mind. Tiredness and grief gave way to tears. When K, lying with his back to me struggling to manage his own fallout, groaned, “Keep the noise down, I’m trying to sleep” as I convulsed into the pillow I could have torn my hair out. I wanted to smack my head against a wall, scream, hit him, run into the wind; I teetered on a precipice. A simple hug would have calmed me down but his coldness was like lighter fuel on a barbeque.
I left the bed and went downstairs to trawl the internet for support networks and forums, stalking threads in search of virtual comfort. I only went back when my eyes hurt too much to continue.
The next morning K did his classic pre-emptive strike and said he’d be speaking to his lawyer about divorce. It was a tactic I recognized as a reaction to the propaganda his parents used to hobble their children. To ensure they never married outside their own culture sons were told no white woman could be depended on, that she would use him and divorce him – K thought he was getting the boot in first.
I knew his wounding jabs came from a place of pain but I felt so alone. How would I manage if he went through with it? An unemployed single mother? All my efforts to engage with him ended in put-downs. I just couldn’t reach him, my strength was all used up.
Then, in a week or so, it all came to a head and after smashing ornaments and pulling down a bookcase in fury (while I prayed J slept through overhead) he sank into a defeated heap and the tears came. Finally, he let me in.
Perhaps if there were more humane resources for those who miscarry it wouldn’t be so hard. To those going through it, it IS a big deal. In Life’s arsenal it’s a punch that floors you, not one you roll with. It takes time to get back up.
The response that touched me the most came from a lady I barely knew at my husband’s office. She came over, offered her sympathy and told me she had miscarried too. That act of sharing was like a warm blanket. I’ll never forget her kindness – you may know you’re not alone, but until someone reaches out to you, you might as well be.
Related Posts: Story Of A Miscarriage (Part 1)