The Baby Who Never Was: Black Women and Miscarriage
The cramping started in the car—sharp pains that felt like the spasms I get when my period is imminent. By the time I got back to our apartment and settled in from an afternoon of pedicures and massages at a spa party with my girlfriends, my groin felt like it was being shanked by 20 angry men. And the blood would not… stop… coming.
Hushed calls to Nick… Rushed ride to the hospital… Needles and pokes and questions from men in white coats… uncertainty. Tears. Fear. Maybe I had a cyst on my ovaries that burst. Maybe I had fibroids. Maybe it was a period more painful than usual, they said. An ER room full of physicians, but nobody knew what the problem was—just that I was in pain and bleeding and then suddenly not, and whatever “it” was, it was for my doctor to sort out, but it probably wasn’t anything too major.
Turns out it was major.
“You had a miscarriage,” my OB-GYN said easily—too easily. Like she was telling me “Oh, by the way, you have sleep in your eye,” or “There’s lint on your shirt,” or “Here’s tissue—you have a booger.” These things happen, she explained in measured, clipped, technical terms. You get pregnant and the embryo isn’t sufficient and your body, knowing it’s not sustainable, expels it.
I could barely process her words; the four most hurtful ones—you, had, a, and miscarriage—crackled like thunder over all the others, and the tears—oh, the tears—rushed from my eyes like the endless torrent of water down Niagara Falls.
“You’ll be fine,” she said. Insisted, really.
But I wasn’t fine. I wasn’t fine at all.
See, Nick and I had been trying to get pregnant for a few months before then—had gone through all the requisite paces to create a family together. I was a folic acid and vitamin-popping, temperature-checking, ovulation-stalking lunatic—doing everything the books said I needed to do to get pregnant. And my husband, bless his heart, came along for the ride, dutifully doing his part to make our dream of creating a little human being together a reality, even when it started feeling more like a chore than a loving act between a man and his wife.
And that month when my period was late and I peed on the stick and I saw the faint pink line, I wrinkled my brow and got kinda happy for the kinda news that the pregnancy test seemed to be telling me. Maybe I was pregnant. Maybe I wasn’t. A faint line meant something, right? Right? I was going to be a mother. Maybe.
The blood test at my doctor’s office confirmed that I was, indeed, pregnant. And then I was not. And for weeks, I mourned the baby that never was—this child who was supposed to have been my firstborn. I wondered if that baby was a girl who would have been round and sweet and chocolatey like me—or a rough-and-tumble thick little boy who would have been full of giggles and energy and spirit, with big ears like his daddy. Mostly, I wondered why God would see fit to let me get pregnant and, before I even knew for sure if I was with child, would take my baby away from here.
He blessed me with three others, though—two little girls I carried and birthed on my own, and a stepson, all of who bring me joy every day. And I am grateful for every hour, every minute, every second that I have with them. But all these years later, I still wonder about the baby who never was. And I get a little angry that my doctor seemed a little too nonchalant about our loss. And a whole lot sad when I consider how many women have suffered miscarriages only to be hushed up. Only to have the devastation dismissed as a “natural” act. Only to be admonished for being shocked and then sad and then angry and forced to deal with the emotional trauma of it all alone.
Maybe things have changed since that fateful day when my baby was here and then not. Maybe doctors aren’t as callous and clinical about something so hurtful and real for the whopping 20 percent of women whose pregnancies end in miscarriage. Maybe there are more places to find information now, like the miscarriage information I found on THIS SITE, rather than the paltry paragraphs I found picked over and buried deep in the few pregnancy books I could find in which the subject was even mentioned. More women certainly are speaking up about their experiences—rocker Pink revealed just this week that she’s pregnant after suffering a miscarriage, and former President George Bush’s revelation about his mother’s miscarriage in his new book opened up a short national conversation on the topic. Those spontaneous conversations do help women who’ve gone through it make it to the other side—out of the depression and darkness and into the comfort of knowing that they’re not alone and there is still hope and options and life after the loss of a pregnancy. The loss of a child.
Still, people talk in hushed tones when the subject comes up or they cloak it in right-to-life vs. pro-choice arguments (for the record, though I do not believe abortion is right for me, I am staunchly pro-choice and believe with my whole heart that it is a woman’s personal, individual right to decide for herself what she wants to do with her body) or, like they do with all-too-many women’s health issues, miscarriage and the causes and study of it simply go ignored.
But for us mothers, the pain remains.
Twelve years later, I can attest to this.
I’m still missing my baby that never was.
We never forget the loss. I grieved by planting a lovely yellow Magnolia tree in our yard. I think sometimes that the little soul comes to sit in the branches as it waves in the wind. Nice to be close even for a few minutes.
I am, so sorry for your loss. I cannot begin to imagine what that felt like for you. I hope you find some peace with writing and connecting with people whom have shared similar experiences.
So sorry to hear of your loss, no words can make it easier. So I will just say a prayer and hope it is worked out for you in the best way he knows how… By loving you unconditionally and carrying you in his arms… May you feel his love all around you.
thanx for sharing. still not really able to talk about mine much.
I love that you are writing about this. I, too, have experienced the loss of children who never were. I suffered through 5 miscarriages and had a stillborn son on the road to delivering four healthy children. One of my doctors actually said to me (after telling me I was going to need a D&C because my body wasn't doing what it should to expel the fetus) 'Why are you crying, this isn't your fault", and when he called later to schedule the surgery time with my husband, asked 'Is she done crying yet?' Awesome! Thanks for the understanding. It is a horrible sadness, and my heart aches for every woman who has to experience that loss, even those I've never met. Last year a friend of mine who had also suffered the loss of a baby had me read 'An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination', it's a memoir and the author did an amazing job of putting into words the emotions felt during this sad time. Definitely worth reading. Thanks for putting this out there, I think women need to know they aren't alone in this. People always seem shocked when I bring up my history, as if I'm not the 'type' of woman this happens to (whatever that 'type' may be), but knowing you aren't the only one to feel this pain can be very comforting sometimes.
I'm sorry. I totally understand. Doctors can be so cavalier sometimes. I myself found out how many women (and men) grieve and grieve and grieve. I wish I would have know while I was grieving.
Thank you so much for this article. I suffered a miscarriage almost a year ago, and I was devastated. It was my first pregnancy and my husband and I had been trying for almost a year. My doctor was so casual about it, like she was telling me I had a cold. She said it was normal and I shouldn’t feel bad about it. I felt like she was lying. If this is so common, then why do I never hear about it. I soon learned why I never hear about it. Everyone wants you to keep it to yourself. No one wants to be uncomfortable and our stories of loss make them uncomfortable. I vowed not to keep quiet about my miscarriage because it’s not something I’m ashamed of. It happened and I am forever changed as a result of it.
Thank you for this post! And thank you for this website! God bless you for the sense of understanding, validation and solidification I so desparately needed. Thank you for helping me sort through my 8 month reoccuring “AmIreallytheonlyonethatffelslikelosingmyfreakingbabyisnotahushhushit’llsoonpasssubject” pyscho babble toture. Thank you for helping in my process to seeing through to the other side!