My first miscarriage was devastating. It made me question whether I could hold a baby inside me, whether I was even capable of growing a life. I can see now that those fears of the embryo or foetus falling out of me me were probably fantasies generated by my own suffering as a child, and not to do with my body as I actually experience it. This fear haunted me through my first miscarriage, my pregnancy and into the first year of his life: it was my own personal historical ghost. I worried that I would drop him, that he would slip out of my mind, that I didn’t have the capacity to hold him well enough. Although I thought of it in physical terms, my own wound was psychic in nature, and I think I wanted to spare him the vast Saharan loneliness I experienced as a child. Then came my second miscarriage, and its meaning is different. I know that I can carry a child to term and grow life inside me. I’m more than three years older and wiser and it turns out my capacity to pay attention- to him, to myself, to everyone I love- is vast. I am lavish with my attention. I revel in my capacity to take -in. It’s a superpower. It’s a gift. It’s a pleasure. And it’s the kindest start to his existence I could offer him. I know the pleasure of being held in mind by another, and I am moved by my capacity, bought through many years of lying on the psychoanalytic couch, to do this for him, for those I love. And the second miscarriage didn’t feel like I’d lost a baby through negligence, like before. I found, much to my surprise, a feeling of trust. That my body knew this pregnancy wasn’t to be. Amid the blood and the cramps, I cycled through the spirals of my frustration and disappointment and impatience, but I also registered a sense of pride. That this body I am in knew what to do. It wasn’t a viable pregnancy, I was sure, and it hadn’t stuck. I am lucky to be in this body, in this life, on this earth.
The other weird feeling, which I didn’t register immediately, was relief. Perhaps it’s still a little taboo to talk about maternal ambivalence, particularly after a loss. But in those short six weeks of pregnancy, I’d remembered what a big ask it is, giving your body over to share with another being, how it ushers you into vigil. I had cut out coffee and my beloved yin yoga practice: my hour of breath and backbends at 6am that keeps me sane. I’d started ordering soda water in pubs again instead of red wine or whiskey. The emotional labour of holding another in mind began in earnest as my attention turned inward. I began monitoring everything: potential toxins that might destroy the embryonic nervous system, toxoplasmosis lurking in uncooked meat, listeria glistening in my favourite mould ripened cheese. After I passed all the tissue and the pregnancy test came back negative, I took stock. Here is my body and my mind. I have only recently emerged from the deep, dark forests of early parenthood. I’m a year out from breast feeding and co sleeping. I’ve begun writing again regularly, seeing my friends, drinking, walking the city. Sometimes he even potters off to do his own thing while I cook now: I have remembered the immersive joys of preparing food. I find myself enjoying my own company, playing audience to precious trains of thought. I don’t turn on podcasts or the radio anymore. When the boys leave the house, perhaps on a Sunday afternoon, I sit in the green chair and tune into myself. It’s like hearing my own heartbeat or pulse. I listen to myself think, and I am astonished at the pleasure I get from this simple act. I have had a year of (almost) unbroken sleep. I have been out dancing a few times. Dancing! I love dancing. I’m a whole person again, just.
And here I was going to ‘go under’ again for another few years having only just come up for air. We decided baby number two could wait- maybe forever. We talk often as a society about women’s lost earnings after she becomes a mother, but there are other costs -to her body, her personhood-that are just as severe. This second miscarriage was a different revelation from the first- instead of facing my fears from childhood as the first pregnancy loss had forced me to do, I took a step into the body I have, the body I live from. Instead I found myself giving thanks for the body I am in now, the one that miscarried when I was six weeks pregnant.
Copyright Diana Smith 2017