Letters

"Call it the sad, silent sorority." Readers respond to Heather Swain's essay about her miscarriage.


Salon Staff
March 13, 2003 2:40AM (UTC)

[Read "My Flesh and Blood," by Heather Swain.]

This article literally took my breath away. In late 2001, I discovered at the age of 40 that I was pregnant for the first time. I was amazed and overjoyed, especially since this was likely my first and last chance at motherhood. At six weeks' gestation, while I was 1,000 miles from home in a foreign country, I began bleeding and cramping. Heather Swain captured perfectly the fear I felt while waiting to see if my little one would survive. Thankfully, she did; she is now a beautiful seven-month-old, the light of my life.

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I can't begin to imagine the grief Swain had to bear, or the courage it took to write and publish such a personal story. But I do know that I will be forwarding this article to every woman I know who has suffered this loss. I think each of them will see herself in Swain's account and thank her for giving words to their unspeakable pain.

-- Jane Holden

I'm a man. So that makes me very hesitant to respond to Ms. Swain's well-written essay, "My Flesh and Blood." However, I find myself wanting to respond because our miscarriage was such a different experience that what she describes.

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It was our first pregnancy. My wife is from Spain, and we were visiting her parents at the beach. We were about to spend another day in the sun, lunch was packed, gear was gathered, and I happened to look down and see blood between my wife's legs. We rushed to a doctor.

Everything about the pregnancy had been normal up to that point. An ultrasound was administered and we were told (or rather, my wife and her mother were told ... I was told in brief spurts of translation, since I couldn't understand the rapid Spanish) that the fetus had probably been dead for a number of days. There was nothing that could be done. My wife was admitted into a hospital where she had a D&C. I spent the night with her there. We talked about having lost the baby.

Maybe it was because we were so displaced, being in another country. Maybe it's because it was our first pregnancy and we really didn't have a clue about what it would be like to have a child. Whatever it was, neither of us were upset. Of course, there were moments of fear, but for the most part, we took solace in being told "it happens all the time."

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I think the most upsetting thing was coming home and having to "feel bad" about the miscarriage all over again.

I have tried to be a husband who's sensitive to how my wife feels, and I've tried to always remember that she may feel differently (way differently) than I do about things. I repeatedly asked her, "Are you really OK?" That's when we both started feeling badly that we didn't feel worse than we did. It was so odd.

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We have three wonderful children. Two boys and girl. If there had been another miscarriage, I can see how we would have been thrown into a deep depression and deep sense of fear. But there were no other miscarriages.

Thinking about it again now, it seems like another lifetime ago, as if it were a dream. Not really a nightmare, but just a strange dream.

-- Doug

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Heather Swain's article on miscarriage brought back some strong memories, 12 years after the second of my two miscarriages. The truth is, most pregnancies are lost so early that only the mother truly grieves. My husband was supportive but didn't really feel the same sense of loss that I felt. The pain, though, is real and raw and harsh, partly because it is so difficult to share. The hormonal changes that accompany a sudden loss of pregnancy magnify grief so that it can be overwhelming. I hope the process helped her heal ... time will surely help as well.

-- Barbara Brumley

I'm wiping the tears from my eyes as I remember the loss of my second child at 10 weeks' gestation in August 2002, after a frustrating nine months of trying to conceive. Although I had a D&C to avoid what Heather Swain experienced, my grief and despair were just as overpowering as hers. As I was being wheeled into the O.R., I placed my hand on my belly and said goodbye to my baby.

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It all came back to me: ignoring the miscarriage section of the pregnancy books because it couldn't possibly happen to me, the feeling of failure, and the utter perplexity of being unable to carry a second child to term after conceiving our daughter easily and breezing through my first pregnancy.

Heather, my heart goes out to you and your husband for your loss. I respect and admire you for pouring out your grief on paper if it will help you cope. But I also want to remind you that although you will get through it, you'll never get over it. On Feb. 13, 2003, what should have been my due date, the grief hit me like a freight train all over again. Don't be surprised if your grief sneaks up on you too.

-- Soni Conville

Heather Swain's husband was correct.

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She did need to write about her miscarriage, if for no reason than what's out there in books is such psycho-religious drivel.

My two miscarriages mirror Swain's in many aspects: the joy of being pregnant, the deep abyss of sadness, and the anger at a body that deceived the mind.

Unlike Ms. Swain, I have four children now, my first arriving when I was 35. The miscarriages bookended my fourth child. In retrospect, since she was born when I was nearly 45, it is a miracle she arrived via midwife delivery without any drugs or special procedures.

And, unlike Ms. Swain, I had to deal with well-meaning friends who tried to console me by saying, "That's all right. You have three (and later four) kids. You don't really want another."

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But, like her, I did write about the losses. I have an annual holiday newsletter that gets read, ultimately, by thousands of people. I wrote about my anger and loss and solitary anguish -- and dozens and dozens of women wrote (or called or e-mailed) to say they had miscarried and were glad someone had finally ripped away the veil of shameful silence.

Not long after my fourth was born, I was in a pre- and postnatal exercise class. The teacher miscarried, and rather than face a classroom full of new mothers and preggies, she opted out for two weeks and a sub took over.

When she finally returned, she explained that she couldn't bear to look at us, that she felt like a failure. There were over 20 of us in the class. All of us gathered around her and, one by one, confided that each of us had had a miscarriage.

Call it the sad, silent sorority. There are more of us than any man or pre-pregnant woman can imagine.

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Thanks, Ms. Swain, for letting me mourn again.

-- Wendi Winters


Salon Staff

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