Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Language of Loss

The word "miscarriage" implies that somehow the carrier fucked up. The woman's body wasn't effective in "carrying" the fetus to a healthy end: a live birth. "They" say early miscarriage, that is, before about 10 weeks, happens in around 15% of all pregnancies, but I don't know how you could really tell since many very early pregnancy losses would be interpreted as a heavy period.

Anyway, this word "miscarriage" started to be used in the context of pregnancy loss in the 1500s. A more useful word is abortion: "ab" is a prefix that indicates that something didn't happen; "-ortion" comes from "oriri": I rise, get up. I appear, become visible. I am born, come to exist, originate. So, an abortion doesn't place blame on the carrier, it just names what happened, that the baby didn't come to exist.

Many women who suffer pregnancy loss keep it to themselves. They don't tell their stories, either because they feel ashamed that they lost the baby, or because they're worried about what other people will say, or because they don't know how to express the grief they feel. Women who decide to have therapeutic abortions, also, keep their decisions private, don't know how people will react, and don't know how to express the real emotional fact that although they decided to end the pregnancy, they still feel grief.

The reasons for early pregnancy loss are mostly unknown. Some causes could be a lack of progesterone, an embryo with chromosomal malformations,  an ectopic or abdominal pregnancy, and other reasons that remain a mystery to us. Later pregnancy loss is even more of an unknown and usually the result of an abnormality that would be incompatible with life. Unfortunately, intimate partner abuse is a recognized cause of pregnancy loss up to and including the late third trimester, as are other forms of trauma.

There are studies and statistics that talk about all of these things, but basically when it happens to you, your statistic boils down to 100%. If you've never had a pregnancy loss, it shoots down to 0%. Most women during a normal reproductive life will be pregnant a few times, have a live baby or two, and lose a couple of pregnancies, either on purpose or not. 

But the reality of losing a pregnancy, especially a later one, is something that women don't talk about much, and that means that when it does happen to you, you feel like you have nowhere to turn. People don't know how to react: they'll suggest that you should've taken certain vitamins, seen a different care provider, or done yoga. They won't know how to deal with your grief. As a whole, this society is awful at coping with any kind of pain, whether it be physical or emotional. So losing a baby is just one of those things it's best not to talk about.

Baby Magic, the podcast, is a place where women tell their stories. This week I spoke to Laura about her son's birth during her second trimester, and about how she and her family coped with the loss, learned from his birth, and what she believes women need during this difficult unfolding of the childbearing year.

Baby Magic Podcast

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