When something bad happens, time has a tendency to change. Everything is suddenly in slow-motion.
I notice it in my work as a physician in the ER. Someone is brought in with a leg hanging off and my thought processes suddenly crystallize into this Yoda-like Zen state.
I experienced this same deep intake of breath at work the other day. At 10 weeks pregnant with a deeply wanted baby, I went to the bathroom and there was blood in my panties. I froze—and for a brief moment, the colors in the room grew vividly bright.
Then they blurred, as tears filled my eyes.
It’s amazing how many women undergo the experience of pregnancy loss. They carry this grief silently, expressing it only when directly probed. When I told my friends about the miscarriage, the response was dramatic and beautiful.
One fellow doctor emailed me a pencil drawing of the 12-week baby she had miscarried and still mourned for. Another nurse wrote about her six devastating attempts to keep an embryo beyond 12 weeks.
Suddenly my experience became a shared one. An opportunity to open myself to the collective experience of the sisterhood.
I was not alone. And this helped me enormously.
I have looked after countless ladies in the past who were going through the same thing. For each one, I tried to show up with heart and presence—but before it happened to me, I never really understood. I never really got how much a miscarriage hurts both physically and emotionally. And I certainly didn’t attribute to it the same rite of passage status I had given to birthing.
For when the womb opens up, I believe every woman has a special opportunity to mingle in dimensions that she has perhaps never consciously traveled in before. I learned this through the birth experiences of my three sons but had written off miscarriage as somehow lesser in its significance and intensity.
Now I know.
This time around, the portal of life and death opened up again. It did not matter that she was only the size of a kumquat, the intensity of the opening was similar in magnitude.
For about a week, I was flung into the moment—into a sort of mini-enlightenment experience.
My senses got dialed up to the max—my vision more acute, aromas intensified, my sense of touch magnified, and sounds amplified. I glimpsed fleeting shadows in corners, a ghost dog in a pub, a slender ethereal being gliding out of a tree. Thoughts drifted in from other people’s minds as I spoke with them, and my dreams were vivid and prophetic.
The pain was intense, but in some vital way it heightened my sense of presence even more. I wept almost constantly, offloading layers of grief that had accumulated over decades. It was cleansing, awful, cathartic, harrowing and invigorating, leaving me washed up on the shore like a piece of flotsam after a colossal storm.
We are urged to Keep Calm and Carry On at all costs—something that is especially drummed into us as women.
But I counter that, for in overriding and suppressing our special experiences (such as miscarriage, birth, death or other loss) we fail to appreciate the lifting of the thin membrane between our more obvious “reality” and the other layers of existence that are no less real, but definitely more subtle. And we miss out.
It is more likely that we take time off after a birth, a Baby-moon, as it is sometimes termed. But I would urge any family to do the same after a miscarriage. Put the bat signal out: indulge your friends in their desire to cook for you, ferry the other kids to school, take time off sick if you can, and explore the experience through art and/or writing.
If you turn into the wind, face the storm with your hair flying, absorbed in the moment of terrible destruction, then chances are that when the tempest passes, you will be in better shape to rebuild your life again.
Author: Clare F. Halford
Apprentice Editor: Tammy Novak; Editor: Toby Israel