No matter how angry I am at this body that has betrayed me, no matter how much I hate it for taking my baby from me, I can’t hurt it anymore.
The first time I remember wanting to be a mom was when my little sister was born, 12 days before my sixth birthday. The first time we took her out I carried her around proudly and called her “my baby.” Not “my sister” or “my baby sister,” “my baby.”
Since then, I’ve known, without a single doubt, that I wanted to be a mother. I’ve loved the children I’ve cared for as a childcare provider, but I’ve known that the love I had for each of them would pale in comparison to the love I would have for my own child. I’ve loved many people, but I know none of them have been my one true love; my one true love will be my child.
On May 25, I took two pregnancy tests, and they both turned positive. Those two tests sat on my bathroom counter, and every time I saw them, they confirmed that my one true love was alive inside me. But just days after finding out I was pregnant, my OB told me she was concerned about an ectopic pregnancy because I’d had surgery on my reproductive organs to treat endometriosis only two months earlier. She ordered some tests and while waiting for the results, I decided to take another pregnancy test, just to be sure. But that test only showed one line: not pregnant.
Heartbreak isn’t a strong enough word to describe the agony I felt sitting on the bathroom floor staring at that negative pregnancy test. I cried the way that mothers do in movies when they lose their children—a kind of crying that I always thought was exaggerated for dramatic effect. For five weeks my baby was alive inside of me. Part of me. When my baby died I felt the absence inside of me, like a piece of of me was suddenly gone.
On The Fear Of Pregnancy Loss In The First Trimester
I want to be clear that this is my individual experience of pregnancy and pregnancy loss. We all have different opinions about when a pregnancy constitutes a life, and all those opinions are valid. The moment I knew I was pregnant, I became immediately attached to that life. This does not happen for all women and that is completely fine. Each experience is different. This one is mine.
In my grief-addled brain, I desperately tried to make sense of what had happened, and only two explanations seemed to fit: either this was all part of some universal plan that I didn’t understand, or my body, which had failed me so many times already, had failed again.
A lot of what people said in their attempts to comfort me was along the lines of the “universal plan” explanation. Most people don’t know what to say when confronted with the enormity of someone else’s grief, so they resort to cliches like “everything happens for a reason” and “nothing happens in God’s world by mistake” and “on the other side of every struggle is a lesson.”Either this was all part of some universal plan that I didn’t understand, or my body, which had failed me so many times already, had failed again. Click To Tweet
When I was struggling in the past, I found cliches like this comforting. But when faced with the loss of a child, they sounded hollow and cruel. How could there be some kind of lesson in this loss? What purpose could a higher power have for taking a baby from me? How could there be beauty on the other side of this?
I was forced to reexamine my beliefs on a higher power and the universe, and I came to the conclusion that I don’t believe in a higher power or a universe that would take my baby as part of some greater plan or to teach me a lesson about resilience or least of all to punish me for my past sins. And without an external force to blame for doing this to me, all that I was left with was the conclusion that my body had done this to me. My body had rejected a baby that it somehow couldn’t support.
My body was an easy target for my anger and hatred and pain because I was so accustomed to hating my body. I can’t really remember a time when I was comfortable in my body. What I do remember is the constant battle I waged against my body and the battle I felt my body had waged against me.
The Criminalization of Miscarriage Makes Me Fear My Eating Disorder
When I got my period, my body and I very quickly became enemies. The flood of hormones brought crippling depression. I started to gain weight, which is completely normal during puberty, but I compounded this weight gain by overeating to cope with the depression that had turned my world monochromatic. Within a few years of getting my period I was “the fat kid” and got bullied relentlessly.
A couple of years after my period began, I started showing symptoms of what would be diagnosed, 12 years later, as endometriosis. Every month my cramps were so painful that I could barely move, sometimes so painful that I would vomit. I would bleed so heavily that I had to change my tampon between every class. The weeks surrounding my period would bring awful GI problems that left me running to the bathroom as often as I could.
By the time I was in high school, it was clear to me that this fat, malfunctioning body which tortured me all the time was my enemy. So, I started on my quest to tame the wild body that made me feel so out of control, to make it more acceptable. What started as a “diet and exercise plan” quickly morphed into an eating disorder that would rule my life for the next 12 years. It was easy to punish a body that made me feel so awful, physically and emotionally. I believed it was what my body deserved.My body was an easy target for my anger and hatred and pain because I was so accustomed to hating my body. Click To Tweet
When I finally got into treatment for my eating disorder, I was ready to make peace with my body, but I wasn’t prepared for what that would entail. When I stopped using eating disorder behaviors I gained a lot of weight. Suddenly, I was the fat kid again, and I hated my body more than I ever had, even before the eating disorder ever started.
I was confronted with the fact that my body, when it is healthy, is an overweight body. I can force my body to be thin by depriving it and pushing it beyond its limits and punishing it constantly, but when I am kind to my body and feed it when it needs to be fed and move it only as much as it wants to move, my body wants to be fat. And that’s when I decided that, if I was ever going to be happy again, I had to accept my fat body exactly as it was. Which was exactly as hard as it sounded.
I found a really good therapist who helped me see the connection between my core beliefs that I was broken and not good enough and not worthy of love and the way that I treated my myself. And how my belief that I deserved bad things and that they were my fault meant I’d never be free from them.
Over the course of several months, I used eating disorder behaviors less, and finally, I stopped. I started hiking and doing yoga—activities that allowed me to be present in my body and see what my body was capable of doing. Slowly, I began to view my body as a vessel for my experiences in the world rather than a symbol of my value to the world.
Eventually, I didn’t really think about my body that much at all. I could walk by a mirror and look or not look, and if I did look it wouldn’t ruin my day. That was my version of accepting my body.
Acceptance was as far as I’d gotten before I got pregnant. Being pregnant was the first time I’d ever really felt at home in my body, completely okay with my body. I’d wanted to be pregnant my whole life, and when I finally was, everything felt right. This body I had hated for years was no longer my enemy.
But just as quickly as the peace was made, it was shattered. When I miscarried I felt betrayed by my body. Betrayed by a body whose reproductive system had never worked quite right. A body that was my prison while it suffered through a chronic illness. A body that had just gone through surgery to remove endometriosis so I could get pregnant. A body that I had never really liked in the first place, no matter how thin I got. A body which I had beaten and starved and mistreated for years. A body that had given me a baby and then taken it away.
I wondered how could I continue to live in my body, a body that apparently hated me as much as I hated it. Why else would it give me the one thing I wanted more than anything and then take it away?
In the aftermath of my miscarriage, I wanted to hurt my body as much as it had hurt me. But to my surprise, I found that I couldn’t. There were days where the grief was so overwhelming that I forgot to eat, but when I purposely tried to restrict or force myself to exercise when I didn’t want to, it didn’t provide the sense of relief or control that it used to. There have been times when intrusive thoughts about self harm have taken over my brain, but I couldn’t bring myself to actually act on them.In the aftermath of my miscarriage, I wanted to hurt my body as much as it had hurt me. But to my surprise, I found that I couldn’t. Click To Tweet
No matter how angry I am at this body that has betrayed me, no matter how much I hate it for taking my baby from me, I can’t hurt it anymore. I’ve learned to value my body and myself too much to cause myself harm.
I’m beginning to understand that the anger and hatred I’ve been directing at my body is misplaced. When grief is too excruciating, it’s much easier to turn to more accessible emotions and direct them at something more concrete than the abstract experience of loss. It’s much easier to assign blame to my faulty body than it is to accept that my miscarriage just happened—that there isn’t any reason or explanation. But doing what’s easy and rationalizing away grief doesn’t allow healing.
I’m starting to engage in the much more difficult process of accepting and forgiving rather than blaming and harming. I know it’s going to be a long process, but by now, my body can handle it.