The first time I ever heard the word “miscarriage” I was about 9- or 10-years old. I was playing in my neighbor’s backyard, when the subject of siblings came up. “I have two brothers or sisters in heaven,” she said. I stopped my cartwheels and back-handsprings. “My mom had two miscarriages,” she explained.
In my young mind, I immediately conjured up images of my friend’s mom pushing a stroller down the street when all of a sudden the carriage she was propelling toppled over and the baby fell out and died. To this day, that is the image that comes to mind when I hear “miscarriage”—so far from reality.
The reality is that like most things in our society we gloss over the ugly truths of life. Things like death, grief, and loss; “miscarriage” is one of those ugly truths. The problem I have with this term is it sugarcoats an issue that is too sour to even dream of sweetening.
First of all, the word in and of itself doesn’t even address what it really is: a death, a loss, an aftermath of grief. It dismisses the chaos it creates, the hopes and dreams it crushes.
Secondly, it almost always puts blame on the mother. Take my young friend for instance. When she told me the story of her mother when I was just a young girl, she said, “My mom had two miscarriages”—as if her mother had a choice. She had the miscarriages. Never do you hear, “Did you hear about Bob? He had a miscarriage.” No, it’s always, “Poor Bob, his wife had a miscarriage.”
At this point, you may be wondering why I’m so passionate about this topic. Perhaps you may have already guessed it. Yes, I lost two babies in utero. It’s a nightmare. It’s every pregnant woman’s worst nightmare, and to call it something as far from the truth as “miscarriage” just to make others feel better does no one any good.
I think my disdain for the word occurred the moment I became pregnant with my first child. Reading pregnancy books that covered the topic of pregnancy loss and mentioned the word “miscarriage” again and again only added to my nauseous state.
Then 11 weeks into my first pregnancy, it happened. I lost my first child. To this day, the memories are vivid. Lying on the table in the ultrasound room, lights dim, the tech chatty at first then quiet. I stared at the black-and-white image on a large projector screen in front of me, not knowing exactly what I was looking at. Within minutes, the ultrasound tech’s face gave it away: Something was wrong. She excused herself, I looked at my husband with tears in my eyes, and he grabbed my hand.
The next morning I showed up at the hospital before the sun came up. I was scheduled for a D&C, otherwise known as a dilation and curettage. I didn’t want to do this, have my baby extracted from my body in the cold confines of a hospital, but I was told it was “for the best.”
Then the word I hated so much spilled out of my mouth more than I would care to admit. First in registration: “What are you here for today?” I was asked. “A D&C,” I replied. “A D&C for what reason?” they pried. “A miscarriage.” This exchange repeated itself, from registration to my conversation with the insurance representative, to my pre-op nurse, the anesthesiologist, countless techs and nurses, and finally my doctor in recovery asking me if I knew why I was in the hospital that day.
When all was said and done after my day at the hospital having my D&C and losing my first child, I never wanted to say the word “miscarriage” again.
Unfortunately, I experienced another loss a year later. I went back to the doctor and the medical team marked “miscarriage” in my file again.
It has been eight years since then, and to this day, every time I go to a new doctor or fill out a health form, there is that word again. Trust me, I am tempted to scratch it out and write in “pregnancy loss(es)” or even “death(s) in utero” on the forms. I refuse to make light of a word that carries such weight. But I am giving society the benefit of the doubt. I will be patient, but I will not be silent.
So what is the right term? I don’t know for sure—it’s a rhetorical question, but I think its discussion-worthy. Why the word “miscarriage”? What’s wrong with “pregnancy loss,” because in truth it is what it is. Who are we trying to protect using a term that doesn’t even describe what happened? Ourselves? It is easier to just call it something that it’s not, so we don’t have to face the reality of what it is?
I refuse. I didn’t have a miscarriage. I lost my babies. That’s the truth, and I will not sugarcoat it. Hopefully someday society will feel the same.