Surviving Miscarriage Through Rampant Self- Care: by Freya Latona
I didn’t tell many people I was pregnant during the first trimester of my recent pregnancy. My partner and I waited for the twelve week mark, as is often customary. It was our first pregnancy, we were both twenty-seven, and the prospect of having our unplanned baby was equal parts scary and exciting. Despite pressure from certain family members to share the happy news with the wider world, we maintained our stance as best we could. Perhaps it was intuition that something may indeed go wrong.
Everything was going smoothly, in that ‘oh no, we didn’t plan this, we live in a one bedroom terrace, we’re too young’ kind of way. Every day I’d look at my stomach and boobs in the mirror and ask my partner, ‘Do you think they’re bigger?’ I had strong nausea, and fell asleep early in the evenings. Pregnancy took over my body. I had changed my entire lifestyle: what I ate and when; how I exercised; and how I thought of myself, no longer an independent entity but a woman creating a new being. At the eight week scan, we heard a strong, fast heartbeat. I was amazed, and protective of this little bub already. I was proud of the magic of life, and the fact that I was chosen to foster it.
At eleven weeks, after I had booked in for a twelve week ultrasound, and was getting ready to be able to let the news slip to a few more essential people (no more ‘I’m the designated driver tonight’ excuses for not drinking), I felt slight cramping pain. The next day it got a bit worse, and I noticed some oddly colored spotting too. At the emergency ultrasound ordered by my doctor, I started bleeding on the bed. I knew what the news was before the technician told me: There’s no heartbeat. The baby has stopped growing.
The next week was physical agony. I bled profusely, not really understanding what was happening to my body, or what to expect. Internet forums told me conflicting advice, but all personal stories shared online were each as scary in their own way. I spent nights in the bath, breathing deeply, and emptied out red bath water. Had I miscarried the fetus? Was it all over? I was haunted by the idea that I had flushed this little baby down the plughole or toilet. I googled images of fetuses the same age as my bub, and was shocked by what I saw. Anti abortion websites had fabricated images of babies at nine, ten, eleven weeks, and given them well developed body parts, more equal to a baby far older.
I only had one instinct: That I had to throw self care at this situation. I had to get really real. It might sound obvious, but it’s far easier to self destruct and reach for booze and pizza. I spent a week in bed, and let myself cry. I did no work. I ignored calls, and didn’t visit my newborn nephew, knowing it would be too hard to meet him as I was losing my own baby. When I could manage, I walked to the shops, weeping in public, not caring who was watching me, and bought red raspberry leaf tea (a female tonic); a hot water bottle; painkillers; and several varieties of expensive, raw chocolate. I had a care package of organic, homemade bone broths home delivered. The lovely team brought them over that day and offered to carry them inside for me. I hired a local acupuncturist to come to my house and give me a treatment to help my body release the foetus and treat the emotional side as well. I called a therapist who offered Mayan fertility massage and told her my story. When I was ready, I organised to have a treatment to assist my womb in its miscarriage mission.
It’s crazy that even this felt indulgent – to enlist help in a personal crisis such as the loss of a baby. But as soon as I had made the decision to self care my way through the hormonal shitstorm – and get ready for TMI – my tiny baby slid out of me with ease, in a still moment in the afternoon. I’d drunk my tea, and sipped on broth. I had made the decision to put myself first. After a week of waiting and trying to avoid a D&C in hospital, I scooped the tiny little thing out of the toilet bowl knowing exactly what it was. I really looked at what my body had been doing these last few months. Instantly I stopped bleeding. Granted I was emotionally battered; puzzled at this new found part of life called human reproduction; but made aware that I was blessed nonetheless.
I wasn’t meant to see it this early, but I couldn’t help but contemplate the miracle of this finger-sized thing, with little, almost formed arms and legs, and a discernible head. I felt profound love for it, apologised to it, and told it that I was its mummy. I asked it to come back to me, and buried it in a pot in the backyard. I will plant the seeds of my favourite flower in the dirt when I’m ready.
I’m not suggesting that there’s any way to make miscarriage feel better, or a quicker way out of the pain. Miscarriage is heartbreaking, and physically demanding. But there’s no harm in self care, and following your own intuition through life’s most confusing, existential moments.
I’m Dr Freya Latona. I was raised in Byron Bay, NSW, and currently live and write from my little cottage in Sydney. My companions are my beautiful partner, Nelson, and my little rescue dog, Sadie. I have a PhD in writing for grief healing, and have published in various journals about the role of writing in healing. I’m represented as an author by Curtis Brown literary agency, and am about to finish my first novel.