The Miswording of Miscarriage

Shadow of woman on wall
Shadow of woman on wall

There are a lot of words we use in everyday conversation without thinking too much about their meaning. Miscarriage was one of those words for me -- that is, until I had one.

As a writer, I am often prone to linger on words, to get stuck on them, gently obsessing about their origins, implications, impact. Maybe because of this, I spent a good part of the week following an early miscarriage feeling incredibly wounded by the word.

I miscarried, I wrote to my family members. And then I stopped and thought about that. I miscarried. I did something wrong. Because isn't that what those three letters, m-i-s, mean? That I was in the wrong? If I misspell or misspeak, misplace my wallet -- misuse a phrase -- I am admitting to having made a mistake. And here I was, in the midst of saying goodbye to the possibility of a child, internalizing a guilt-laden word. Had I done something wrong? Had my body carried badly? Perhaps if I had carried better I would have avoided one of the saddest moments in my life.

Having gone through a previous pregnancy, one that brought my gorgeous daughter into this world, I know how out of one's control the process can feel.

During those 10 months I felt that my brain and body had come to occupy different astral planes. My thinking self had no knowledge of or sway over the many rapid and uproarious changes that were taking place within my body. Aside from eating well and getting rest, I felt I had no part in moving my pregnancy forward. Each ultrasound felt like a mystery; each scan revealed a creature I felt was blooming on of its own accord.

Biology took over and consciousness got bumped to the passenger seat.

And yet, I was constantly met with comments about how I was carrying. Carrying well, high, low, in front, in back were all observations outsiders made about my body's execution of the task of pregnancy. I was being congratulated on something I had no conscious hand in.

The same was true for birth. Giving birth was a wild ride, one that I completed by forfeiting a need to control and doing whatever I could to get through it. There wasn't time to consider painkillers. And so, I had a natural birth, a fact that garnered a world of praise from everyone from the hospital staff to my elderly neighbor. Here again I felt that I was being complimented for something that my body did without checking in too much with me.

With the miscarriage, my body had once again acted on its own. I very much wanted this pregnancy. I was ready to give up sushi, soft cheeses and skinny jeans and go headlong into the journey. But my body had other plans.

And so, I got stuck on miscarriage.

Why do we say this word? Why do we choose to assign blame to a woman during one of the most vulnerable moments that life has to offer? Why can't we find another word for this very common occurrence that doesn't kick a woman while she's down?