I wrote the following article in the summer of 2001 during and in the aftermath of a miscarriage.It illustrates the use of writing as a healing tool – but particularly focuses on how one might work through a difficult or disappointing life event by giving voice to the many selves that are responding and reacting to the difficulty.

My understanding of ourselves as ‘multi-voiced’ or dialogical began when a teacher explained to me that is was normal to have feelings or thoughts that obviously and even sometimes painfully conflicted with one another and that the challenge was not to suppress one voice over another and become ‘consistent’, but to give each voice the chance to speak.

 

{quotes}“Loss is nothing else but change and change is nature’s delight.” Marcus Aurelius{/quotes}

 

What I learned was similar to poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s famous advice: "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves....Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."

 

 

I am constantly learning how I might observe and listen to the “polyphony” of voices within me, without giving in to the urge to draw a conclusion immediately or ‘resolve the issue’. It requires courage, compassion, and patience with myself to remain with the uncertainty.

 

Learning to live with one’s own ambiguity has shown me that the many voices within me (and the words and voices spoken by others) are a rich source for me and ultimately make it possible to allow solutions to develop over time or even to accept that there is beauty in a harmony that may always include dissonant sounds.

 

Not every story has or needs a happy ending, but we do need ways to work with our many selves and allow them to give voice to a story that will let us go on with the joy and business of living.

 

{quotes}Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves....Live the questions now. Rainer Maria Rilke {/quotes}

 

 

An Early Miscarriage

 

 

 

The wind came through me, the messenger of death. The stillness that followed became fallow ground for healing.

 

I went for a walk in the river valley, out for supper and later to the fireworks on Canada Day. Our beautiful red and white flag, symbolizing the blood that was shed coast to coast for our freedom, could be seen perching on porches, hanging over balcony rails and waving from the windows of passing cars. This was our day of celebration and national pride. For me the day was also one of sadness and loss. I was loosing our seven week baby-to-be.

 

Just weeks before, I had found I was pregnant again. With our daughter turning four in the fall, my husband and I both felt we were ready for another child and were happy to find I was again expecting. We had gone on vacation and hoped to get pregnant, which we did effortlessly. I felt my body start to change – all the signs were there: breasts swelling, moments of lightheadedness from a more sensitive blood sugar level, and even hints of nausea. A pregnancy test confirmed we were on the way to becoming the parents of a second child.

 

What started on the Thursday before as innocent looking spotting or the beginning of a period, turned out to be the beginning of a miscarriage which seriously set in by the eve of July 1st.  The days leading up to the actual miscarriage were unsettling as I wavered between thinking this might just be a normal first trimester event or that this did indeed signal the end of my pregnancy. I phoned the midwife several times and she told me there were many harmless reasons why a woman might bleed during this period of time and that gave me some solace. Still, there was little else I could think about. Would the baby be alright? Was there something I could do? Should I start to pull myself back emotionally, and stop investing in the life to be in case of heartache? Should I keep investing in the thought of this baby growing to term and becoming part of our family just in case he/she did stay?

 

I phoned the midwife again on Saturday afternoon as the bleeding got heavier. She explained that getting an ultra-sound was the only way to know for sure if the baby was okay and I asked her if she could set up an appointment for me. But it was only the first day of a long weekend and the idea of waiting that long to hear my baby’s heartbeat (or not) seemed agonizingly long.

 

I spent a few hours that afternoon with a friend and her family and we discussed the possibilities. As a nurse and doula and a mother of two children herself, she was concerned with my symptoms too. She even offered me a book on loss, but I wasn’t  ready to face the possibility that I was loosing this pregnancy. I left her house with a package of raspberry leaf tea (it helps tone the uterine muscle) jokingly labeled “weed” and went home.

 

That evening I took a bath and let the tea steep. I figured if this pregnancy was meant to stay my uterus muscle could use all the help it could get. If on the other hand I needed to release, drinking the stuff might get me primed up for some cramping and blood loss.

 

After the bath, I tucked our daughter Sophia in and within an hour I was passing huge clots. Despite having to face the fact that I was loosing my baby, I also experienced a sense of relief when the first clot came. I remember thinking. Okay, I know where I’m at now. It’s really happening. I can deal with what I know. I remember thinking, we human’s crave security – even when it’s bad news.

 

By midnight I went to the bathroom every 10-15 minutes to pass another clot and bleed. I drank my tea and litres of almost hot water. I walked back and forth between the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom where I had my journal and pen; I wrote as a bled.

 

Strange, but true. I am having a miscarriage tonight. If I really feel what that means, I get choked up. There is also a part of me that is really calm and undramatic about it. I’m a little afraid to see the “baby” come out. I know it won’t hurt but still it seems eerie. I’m alone. Keath went to work an extra night. Sophia is asleep. It was like an angel helped her to go to fall sleep so I could be alone tonight. I instinctively know how to care for self.

 

The whole idea of miscarriage carries with it a sense of sadness and loss, and certainly that is part of the process of facing reality and letting go, but I found there were many thoughts that went through me that night and the days to follow and listening to what they casino online had to say and writing it down was very grounding. I became an observer of my own experience instead of being swallowed or overwhelmed by it. I realized that I have many inner resources to help me cope and the dialogue between all the parts of me helped me to accept. I let them speak in my writing that night too.

 

Nature: Hi, it’s me nature. This is all very natural, you know. It’s selection. You are unattached…

Humor: yeah, literally and figuratively…

Nature: You are healthy and well.

Know it all: I knew this would happen! I asked Keath and he wasn’t worried! But I knew it. Even when people would say “hope your pregnancy goes well” I would be very touchy! Of course it’s going to go well, why would they even say that?!

Mother-in-myself: You are needing some TLC. Curl up, pamper yourself.

Control: I feel stupid having told everyone at work that I was expecting and now I have to debrief everyone.

Comforting one: What’s so bad about that? They are nice people. All women and they care about you. So big deal. They’ll understand.

Other voice: Hope they don’t treat me like a china doll.

No-nonsense voice: Don’t treat yourself like one!

Perfectionist: So, you are not perfect. Mistakes happen to you. Your body can literally “lose it”. You now belong to the statistical ranks of those “unhealthy” women who lose pregnancies.

Neo-nazi in me: Yes, you have failed. You’re not an Arian after all. You pride yourself on your health. Look at you now.

Nature: This is not a failure. This is a success. Successfully letting go of that which would not be healthy!

Stating: You are not having a baby. How does that really feel Rein?

Observer of feelings: I’m still in denial a bit. My mind won’t let me think the unthinkable yet. It wants to bargain. It wants to say, maybe I was going to have twins and this is just one of them.

Feelings: Oh, oh…sadness, o, o, o, tears…

Fear of feelings: Oh, shit. Will I wake up really sad? Like I kind of miscarriage hang-over?

Feelings: It would be nice if the CORE spoke up now. I’m very unsure. Scared.

Reporter: Another big clot came out. More hot water needed here.

Experiencer: Kind of weird and eerie those clots.

Scientist: I want to look at them. See if I can see anything.

Questioner: Are you a sucker for punishment or just curious? Do you really want to see a “baby-like” object?

Experiences: Yikes. But maybe it will all seem more real then.

Carpenter: Hey, now I can help lay those parquette floors with Keath. After all I’m not pregnant anymore and I don’t have to be as careful about fumes etc.

Nature: That is not the only good news here.

Realist: She’s right, imagine a late miscarriage! Imagine an unhealthy baby?! This is so much better than a whole lot of other scenarios.

Writer: I’m getting this all down on paper.

Mother-in-me: Oh, now I will have to tell Sophia. We need to do a ritual with her. We must take her with us to a natural place. She will be a bit upset that she isn’t going to be a big sister (yet).

Planner: The kids are going to be so far apart in age now! How impractical. One will be in school and the other an infant.

Traveler: That’s the best way though. It makes you more footloose.

Planner: Yeah, but I had it all planned out. A relaxing summer if nausea set in, one more busy teaching season in the fall and then Christmas a few more weeks of work and then…

Feelings: Oooooo

Reporter: More hot water. Litres are going through at the moment.

Nature: This is keeping me healthy.

Dreamer: I did dream about red flowing blood the night before the spotting stared.

Observer: All the signs of menstruation came on. The mood, the cleaning frenzy, and high energy.

Experiencer: What a blessing this is all happening before nausea set in.

Power of prayer advocate: You know, you did ask people to pray for you that you wouldn’t be nauseated this time. Maybe this caused the hormones to stay low so you didn’t hold on. You didn’t want the discomfort.

Angry one: Of course I didn’t want the f..ing nausea. It does make you f…ing psychotic as Annemarie accurately points out. Who should have to go through that!?

Questioner: So are you telling me I had this miscarriage because I asked everyone to pray for me?

Blamer: Maybe.

Diplomatic: Is it necessary to blame someone here. Is that useful?

Blamer: Well, a lesson is ready to be learned here.

Note-taker of life: Yup, I got that one. I won’t ask for such a specific prayer next time. That was probably not a very good idea. So, hey, I’ve taken note. I see what it can cause.

Scared: I’m still afraid to have to go through that again. That horrible period of sickness.

Righteous one: It is one of God’s big mistakes.

Mother-in-me: Don’t think about that now. Go to sleep.

Practical one: Well, sleep is great but more is blood/clots is going to come out. So what about that? You can’t sleep on the toilet.

Sleepy: True. Not comfortable. I am rather tired. (It’s 3.00 am)

Mother-in-me: Try it for a while.

Observer: Slightly crampy. Very gentle.

Sleepy: Time to get some shut-eye.

Practical one: I’ll leave the bathroom light on.

 

 

The next morning I called my Mom to tell her what was happening. Then the tears came. Deep, sad, and cathartic tears. She came over and spent half the day with me. She brought a red Jasper stone in the shape of an egg and a little box with an Alberta rose in it and healing earth from New Mexico so I could create my own letting-go ceremony. Still no big cramps, just a sense that my body was massaging everything out of me. My mother, who was at the birth of my daughter was now here grieving with me at this time of loss. I felt immense love and gratitude for having her in my life in such a positive way. She talked to me, hugged me, sat on the couch with me – just her presence allowed me to feel normal. I showered and did some laundry. She watched a movie with Sophia and she must have sponged up some of my feelings because when she left she couldn’t drive more than a third of the way home and had to stop in a parking lot to ground herself. She phoned me in the evening. Both of us in tears again. She’s helped me carry it every step of the way.

 

There were also other women who played a part in my healing process. For a longtime I’ve been interested in (w)holistic medicine, energy work, the power of prayer, and other phenomena that cannot be explained well by left-brain science. At the same time I like to be a doubter and make sure I’m not buying into flaky new age ideas. I try to base what I believe on my experience.

 

What was interesting about this experience was that I feel that I was not alone – literally and energetically. Just as my mother absorbed some of the impact of my grief so I could ground myself, other friends also helped me through. The friend I visited on the Saturday afternoon got her period while we were visiting. She had cramps all that night as I miscarried pain-free. My sister was restless and worried for me, but I was at peace that night. Another friend who didn’t know what was happening kept picking Tarot cards about loss that weekend. A girlfriend from Europe, who had experienced miscarriage herself, phoned me when I had circled around the phone several times wanting to call her, while inwardly asking her if she would make the call. Another friend brought me a white rose symbolic of “cleansing” when my inner worry had been that I might not clean out completely. She also gave me lavender bath oil without knowing that I had run out of lavender essential oil for my baths and had been missing it.

 

The support extended beyond that and I soon learned that miscarriage is very common. In fact, according to statistics 1 in 5 or 6 pregnancies end this way and the chances of future miscarriages are not increased as a result of having one. But knowing the statistics isn’t what helped me grieve and release. The personal stories from others who had gone through it did that.

 

A family member came forward to share her experience of miscarriage that we didn’t know about. My neighbor, who had previously brought me a book on pregnancy to provide me with more information, also shared her feelings about her pregnancy loss. Another neighbor told me her story and it was comforting for me to hear from her that she rarely thinks of it anymore. She had also gone on to have three other children. Other friends, a couple, who had suffered their own pregnancy loss brought a card, a book on loss, and two purple irises just as they headed out on their holiday.

 

Because we had told quite a few people we were expecting (not having had reason to worry I wouldn’t carry to term) I also sent out an e-mail letting people know that I had miscarried. Many sent us words of hope and compassion and “upheld” us in their prayers.

 

Although we were previously advised by well-meaning family members and friends not to share our news of pregnancy before three months, we found having shared the happy news also allowed us to share the grief and receive the support that carried us through.

 

A man’s perspective: Of course I received loving support and comfort from my husband Keath as well, but in a sense he was more removed from the experience than many of the woman I shared it with. I asked him how he felt about losing our baby-to-be and he said mostly he was disappointed as he had started to hope, imagine and dream about our unborn child too. He also explained that as a man he experiences pregnancy through me and my body, more than directly and that his attachment would have grown as my belly did. His primary concern, he told me, was for my well-being and health as opposed to a sense of loss about the baby.

 

I’ve long been an advocate of homebirth and now I can add that a “home-miscarriage” was also the best possible option for me[1]. I could have gone to the hospital and have had doctors or nurses tell me under the fluorescent lighting what I already knew as a woman. I could have gone to see my doctor and have had her gravely tell me we would have to wait and see. I could have put my feet up on the advice of some medical professional in vain hope that it would help, but I did none of these things. I just let nature take its course and had my midwife a phone call away if I sensed something was awry.

 

I believe that one of the reasons that this miscarriage did not “burn in” and feel like a deep crisis for me was that I experienced it at home, trusting my instincts and body to do the right thing. Writing in my journal in our beautiful bedroom, sitting on the bed that my husband and I designed and built together, the subdued lighting, my sleeping child in the other room, my own clean washroom nearby. These all helped to create an atmosphere of peace and acceptance. No dramatic phone calls in the middle of the night, no sense of emergency, no looking for higher authority to tell me what I was experiencing or what would happen next

 

Later, I read that airplane travel (especially over the pole) during pregnancy can be dangerous for a fetus because one is exposed to radiation – something it seems the airline industry is not talking about very much (yet!) I had flown back from Europe in the early weeks of pregnancy and on hearing this had wondered if this had had an effect.

 

Notice how the mind is hungry for answers and how science wants to rush to satisfy this need and answer the questions. But in the end any attempt to wrap my mind around miscarriage and find a solid reason why it happened would have been useless.

 

Finding meaning in the event as opposed to looking for definitive reason provides the real peace; it turns crisis into constructive contemplation.

 

Was the spirit not ready to enter? Were there parts of me that had not made enough space in my life for another child? Did I need to experience this to make me a more full human being? These are the mindful questions that don’t require answers – they allow me to wonder and feel, without giving unnecessary energy to the pain of this perceived loss. I see myself moving on and not investing in the story that this was “terrible”; I feel I can decide whether to prolong my suffering or not. Letting go is a choice too.

 

I’ve heard it said that life and death are nearly the same experience in different guises. They allow for the experience we call life – the parenthesis in eternity.

 

As the weeks go by, the thoughts about the miscarriage are more infrequent. I still receive a few letters or e-mails by concerned friends and family as they ask how I’m doing. And perhaps if I would not have had a healthy child already, I would still be anxious and upset or if I had lost my pregnancy at a later stage, but I am at peace now. Maybe next Canada day I will light a candle and salute all life and its potential and feel gratitude for having become a stronger, wiser and more compassionate woman as a result of this experience.

 

First printed in the Fall issue of Birth Issues, 2001

Copyright © Reinekke Lengelle

 

 

 

 


[1] This is no way medical advice. One must choose their own way of dealing with miscarriage and in some cases medical help may be necessary.