Ariel Levy writes a breath-taking account of having had a miscarriage while on a writing assignment in Mongolia. (Personal History, Thanksgiving in Mongolia):
“I could not keep the story of what had happened in Mongolia inside my mouth. I went to buy clothes that would fit my big body but that didn’t have bands of stretchy maternity elastic to accommodate a baby who wasn’t there. I heard myself tell a horrified saleswoman, “I don’t know what size I am, because I just had a baby. He died, but the good news is, now I’m fat.” Well-meaning women would tell me, “I had a miscarriage, too,” and I would reply, with unnerving intensity, “He was alive.” I had given birth, however briefly, to another human being, and it seemed crucial that people understand this. Often, after I told them, I tried to get them to look at the picture of the baby on my phone.”
Stories about miscarriage so often contain a heart-breaking sense of the absurd that comes with the recognition that the vocation of motherhood has been fulfilled in some way even though there is no child to show for it.
I remember one situation, when I knew I had lost a baby, but I was still carrying it for about a week, and I was out with the other kids on business I couldn’t put off. An acquaintance approached me with congratulations saying, “I guess I didn’t know you were expecting again!” It had been kind of a big deal for her to come up to me, because I didn’t know her well, but I knew I liked her and wanted a chance to better befriend her. Up to that point, I had not found a good reason to start a conversation that wouldn’t seem weird or over-interested.
There was that beat of silence as I struggled to pay homage to the existence of my child while not wanting to humiliate my friend for asking, all while knowing I’d have to pay the piper eventually and tell people that there wasn’t going to be a baby. Everything came out wrong like, “I’m not pregnant any m0re, I mean, I am, but the baby’s dead,” and then I laughed awkwardly to try to put her at ease, and also so I wouldn’t cry, but I’m sure it ended up sounding callous.
Of course she said something sympathetic, but I do not recall what it was. I just remember wishing I hadn’t had to put her in that position of having to offer condolences when she meant to offer congratulations. That was kind of where our friendship began and ended.