TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains information about stillbirth and infant loss, which may be triggering to some.
I was not well prepared for what it would be [like] to have a miscarriage. I figured there would be blood, but I didn’t realize how much. I assumed there would be cramping, but I didn’t know it would be so intense.
I had vague ideas of what it would be like to have a miscarriage, but there was one part I had given no thought to.
I had no idea there would come a point where I would have to decide what to do with the remains of my baby.
I had never imagined being in a situation where I would have to choose how to “take care” of the life that ended inside of me. It’s an impossible decision with no right answer.
What was I supposed to do with the baby my body rejected?
I am one of the ones who flushed. In fact, I’ve flushed twice. I’m saying this out loud because it’s one of the parts of miscarriages that is still heavily cloaked in shame and contempt. It’s the part of the story that you often skip over. When you do share the details, you worry that your listener will be disgusted with what you have done.
I am done worrying what others will think. All I can do is hope that those who turn away, never have to make the same decision I did.
The first time I flushed was in the bathroom of my old apartment.
Just three days before I had been standing on that same worn linoleum floor staring at two blue lines.
Now, I stood hand poised over the silver handle saying my silent goodbye and wondering if I should wake my husband. Was this something we should do together? Was this the kind of thing that couples share? I did it alone. Not because I wanted to, but because I had never done this before and I never wanted to do this again.
Six months later, I flushed again.
We were two hours into our road trip to Maine. We had stopped at the usual place so we could stretch our legs and buy junk food. The days before had been a steady stream of blood and cramps and worry.
But that morning it had all stopped. No more blood. No more cramps. No more worry. Optimism crept back in — my baby was okay. I didn’t know for sure, but I felt like I was carrying a boy and I felt like he would be fine.
He wasn’t fine.
My hands caught him before he hit the water.
In my hands was my baby — the size and shape of a small water balloon and the deepest shade of scarlet. Holding my bundle, carefully swaddled in toilet paper, I pushed open the door and leaned out. My eyes frantically searching for my husband because this time I didn’t want to be alone.
Our eyes met and he rushed back to the restroom door. He looked down at my hands and lifted his eyes to meet mine. There, reflected back at me, I saw my fear and my heartbreak and my last grasp at denial. Maybe this was something else.
I wanted it to be anything besides the end of another pregnancy.
We had already dreamed so many new dreams for this baby and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to those dreams. Not there.
But, we did. Again, I stood on an unremarkable tile floor and said goodbye. I watched as everything I ever wanted swirled around and around … and down.
I shuffled out of the convenience store, traumatized by what had just happened. At the time, thinking I was traumatized because I chose to flush. Now, knowing I was traumatized for a different reason.
I was traumatized because having a miscarriage is traumatic.
The trauma does not just lie in the horrors of watching dreams and children die; the trauma comes in the questions we face and the decisions we must make about the most difficult moments a person will endure.
I wish I had an eloquent answer for why I flushed. I don’t. I just flushed. And because I don’t have the answers and because those moments hurt so very much, I choose to tell my story.
Hoping that somewhere another woman will read this. Hoping it will be a person who can say “I flushed too.”
**This post was written by Rachel Whalen of An Unexpected Family Outing and reprinted with permission.