TRIGGER WARNING: This post is about PREGNANCY LOSS
At 11-weeks pregnant, I started spotting.
It was Halloween too, and I had just announced to the whole world – via Facebook – that we were pregnant with our second child! Yayyyy!!!!
We were at a family event celebrating Samhain, where numerous community members congratulated me on the news of my pregnancy, when blood spots showed up on the toilet paper after I used the bathroom. In moments of prescience, I offered as sacrament to that night’s ritual fire words of apology written to my “lost babies.”
Please forgive me.
I love you.
Thank you for being of service.”
The last time I was pregnant and spotting was the summer before last, when red speckles showed up on my underwear on a Sunday after Dance Church, at seven-weeks pregnant.
I miscarried that embryo, two days later.
At that time, I tried to avoid the obvious by continuing with my day-to-day.
I drove 40 miles south to prepare nutritious postpartum food in a client’s kitchen, even though I was still spotting.
My client had just given birth to her second child.
Meanwhile, I was struggling with nourishing myself and my own family during those 7-weeks of my second pregnancy – a time when my hormones were woefully out of balance and I awoke at 3am with a raging fever followed by great chills.
Depleted by morning time, I neglected giving myself the food and herbs that would regenerate me. But there I was, miscarrying and taking care of someone else.
That momentary flicker of a life force energy in my womb, that 7-week old embryo – though brief it was, it was also mighty, for it – brought with it the message of how heartbreakingly out of harmony I was and how I needed to tend to the “wounded healer” archetype within me.
This “neglecting of myself but tending to others” tendency is a biological inheritance that, I believe, was passed down through my mother’s lineage. (A line of western, allopathic medicine women.)
Back then, I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to announce my second pregnancy. After all, I was only 7 weeks along and it’s not culturally recommended to announce one’s exciting news until the first trimester has passed. Thus, it was a relatively quiet affair (yet also highly spiritual in nature), until the very end when I called my medicine people for help after finally surrendering to what I knew was happening inside of my body.
When my body purged that embryo into the toilet, I instinctively scooped it out and went downstairs to wail at my partner’s feet. After a good, long cry, our son awoke and we three somberly moved through our own meaningful ritual of loss and release.
Documenting our process, I then shared this part of our pregnancy journey – my loss – with the world (via Facebook).
This time was different, however.
This past weekend, leading up to Halloween, I released cervical fluid on two separate occasions that looked like boogers.
In spite of my mid-wife’s suggestion to not use Google for looking up gynecological symptoms I am experiencing, I found someone online who shared in a group forum that this tinged-with-fleshy-looking-color and bulbous matter of cervical fluid can be indicative of by-products of the mucus plug (which literally plugs the developing fetus into the uterus) and, thus, early on-set labor.
That weekend, I also worried that I had inhaled 40-minutes worth of burning gasoline as we drove a friend’s old RV home from a long day spent in the country. That day, after showing our three year-old a real pumpkin patch, I felt exhausted but I still wanted to celebrate mine and my son’s birthdays at a friend’s family home in Valley Center.
By Monday morning, I had shared with a few others my concerns.
By Tuesday night, and after announcing to the world that we were expecting our second child (which was really my third pregnancy), I was spotting.
Early Wednesday morning, I put myself on bed rest and sent word that I was concerned for this pregnancy.
I prepared a hot tea made of herbs, like Raw Haw Bark, Cramp Bark, Passionflower and Wild Yam Root, for addressing “threatened miscarriage,” and then I sat down with a large journal and pastel crayons.
I tried to draw what I was feeling.
I felt really sad.
This is what I drew.
Immediately after drawing this image, a bigger rush of blood flow emerged from between my legs.
Still, I didn’t want to fully acknowledge what my intuition knew was happening inside of my body.
So, I clamped the truth shut and confirmed myself to my bedroom,
where I made more drawings.
Like this one.
And this one.
I imagined that my experience in trying to call in a girl-daughter-child for the past two years – and losing her each time – has been a lot about me re-birthing myself. As well as my re-writing the story of what happened when I was in my mother’s womb, where I internalized her neglect of herself – and, thus, me – to mean something about me, like as to how I was unwanted.
With my own loss now looming on the very near horizon, I noticed how, to this day, I can continue to neglect myself just the way my mother did and in perpetuation of this old story in which I believe that I am unloved, and unlovable.
I felt guilt for my current loss because I have been maintaining my half cup of coffee morning ritual. I have also been struggling with my physical health for over a month and a half now, even as I have continued to push energy towards running our home-based cooperative – instead of stepping back and empowering others to do so.
There is a slight feeling of embarrassment here too in that, instead of waiting the prerequisite and “safe” three months before announcing my pregnancy, I jumped the gun and announced it for all to see.
Yet, although my feelings are very real, my thoughts associated with them aren’t true.
Pregnancy loss is a regular occurrence that happens often – 1 out of every 4 conceptions. There aren’t necessarily any reasons for “why” it happens or for how to prevent miscarriage from happening.
However, when it does happen, pregnancy loss can be its own form of medicine offering us deep healing and comfort so long as we are willing to be fully engaged with our process.
For me, my process is often a deep dance between what my intuitive BodyMind knows and what my rational, reasoning mind is willing to accept. Utilizing tools, like the expressive arts, in the midst of my pregnancy loss journey allowed for me to really feel and be with what I was feeling – in lieu of just being in my fear of loss, of hospitals, of embarrassment, etc.
Sadly, our society doesn’t embrace loss as a natural and inherent part of life and, therefore, most people don’t even know how to respond when you share the news of your miscarriage, abortion or still birth. Usually, they feel uncomfortable and want to avoid addressing what us women need to talk most about and share.
And, as American women, we have been raised within a culture and a society that tells us that we should not share the news of the burgeoning life inside of us as soon as we know about it and that, instead, we should wait to be sure that it is a “viable pregnancy.” As a result, we are often left alone to tend to our losses without any real or meaningful rituals in place to support us when they happen.
Thus, miscarriage can be a very lonely, and isolating experience. Especially when our feelings of grief afterwards are brushed aside as we are advised that “You will be pregnant again soon. Just be patient, dear,” or when the experience we just lived through is not deemed important or purposeful enough to be asked about.
We need you to ask about and listen to our experiences.
We need you to hear about our journeys and to appreciate them as the arduous, life-affirming spiritual gauntlets they are – just like parenting.
I need you to know how vital this life force energy inside of me was and how, even though it only lasted for 7 weeks and 6 days (I carried it to 11 weeks, but the embryo stopped growing and was dead inside of me for some time before my body recognized that I was no longer pregnant), it taught me some of my greatest life lessons.
I need you to know that in my being fully present with my process – in my moving through the following day of getting poked by needles and vaginally probed by an ultrasound (all of which once frightened the living days lights out of me), in my learning that this life force energy was growing abnormally and not meant to live for very long, and in my telling myself that it was now time to let it go – my body did what it needed to do.
I need you to know that even as I moved through the bloody ordeal of passing the embryo and then uncomfortably experiencing my uterus contracting so that it could expel the placenta and the other residual matter, I cried when I let it go – even as I acknowledged that this is the gamble I took when we chose to procreate.
When we choose life, we are simultaneously choosing death.
It may be one hundred years in the coming, or it may be one hundred days. But it comes, it always comes. Death and loss are not to be feared, but befriended and welcomed when they arrive at our door.
I need you to know that, even as my blood pressure dropped and I grew faint and commanded my partner to prepare us for the hospital, the worst of the ordeal had already passed and that I was taking the safest of precautions because we currently have a three-year-old who depends on his father and I being present in his world now.
I need you to know that I had the wherewithal, after our son had woken and started screaming when his dad told him to stay behind, to be sure he came with us to the hospital.
I need you to know that his being there began normalizing his experience with loss as well as with taking the best care of his self when the moment demands it.
I want you to know that my partner was willing, present and at my side during this whole ordeal. That he was the one who plunged his arm into the toilet, each time, to reclaim the parts of me that had been expelled so that we can, eventually, offer these back to the Earth in ceremony. And that he rubbed my back when I was breathing through the contractions. I need you to know that he was firmly in his manhood as he carried our son down the stairs while also helping to hold me up.
I want you to know that this was a lot like an unassisted labor and delivery and that he and I we moved through this together, as a team.
I want you to know that I had a spiritual bond with this life force energy inside of me and that it had begun on the day of its conception.
I want you to know that I referred to it as a she, and that I thought of her as “Lila,” for the Sanskrit word meaning the divine play of God. In her passing, she sears within me the Truth that life lived on our planet Earth is a divine playground that we get to revel in now (and not later.)
I want you to know that, yes, it could have been a boy and that I was very willing to let life play out its hand – however it may. And I also want you to know that I am not implying that all embryos are babies. Each woman gets to decide for herself what her pregnancy journey means to her.
I want you to know that when people asked me if I was excited, I couldn’t say “Yes,” because a May due date still feels far out in the future and I am not there yet. I can only be here, where my body is, now.
I need you to know that none of us know what the future holds, and that I am in no rush to decide what we will do from here. But if I do find myself pregnant once again, I won’t wait to announce it and I will be honest in my announcement that it is #4 – even though I only currently have one child.
I want you to know that I feel at peace with my journey and fairly “complete” – although, when is anything ever complete?
The same day after returning from the hospital and while still recovering from our bloody ordeal, I went to a public place and sat there for almost an hour watching growing babes play. My deep love for children remains. I can love them all as though they are my own – even from a distance. They don’t have to be “mine.”
I also need you to know that blood, cervical fluid and other feminine processes aren’t something to hide or be ashamed of.
I need you to know that all of this is natural and that my pregnancy loss journey is just as sacred as carrying a healthy baby to full term, and then delivering it safely into our world, is.
I need you to know that this life force energy that I carried inside of me – no matter for how short of a time it was – mattered and made all the difference in the world.
I need you to know.