As if the grief of miscarriage hasn’t been enough to tackle, I’ve also had to face some fierce body-image goblins on this journey.
That has been my over-arching view of my own body over the past year. It’s been an unfortunate theme that has proven a powerful adjunct to grief.
Oh, body, how have you failed me? Let me count the ways…
Failure to grow a small human. (Isn’t that what my body is built for?! … At least in part…) Failure to recognize a non-viable pregnancy & evict. (Twice!) Failure stop pretending I’m pregnant. (Waking to pee in the middle of the night isn’t fun… It’s even less fun when you’re not pregnant & end up an anxious insomniac…) Failure to return to normal. (I swear those jeans fit me last month!)
For me, the grief over my first pregnancy loss morphed into a strange & painful hatred of my own body. My body felt empty & yet it loomed large in my psyche. Every day my body reminded me that I wasn’t pregnant. Mostly, because I didn’t fit in my regular clothes anymore.
My belly popped right before my loss, which was fine when I was pregnant. But it didn’t seem to want to pop back in when that pregnancy was over.
Also, I had simply gained weight. When I’m pregnant, I get the brand of morning sickness that demands regular snacks. (Counterintuitively, when I’m hungry, I feel nauseous.) And, of course, I can’t forget all the comfort food & drink I consumed in my post-miscarriage depression.
And voilà, none of my pre-pregnancy/pre-miscarriage clothes fit. Every time I attempted to squeeze into a pair of jeans I was reminded of the multiple ways my body was disappointing me.
I felt I didn’t fit my body, both mentally & physically. My brain said my body should be doing one thing (building a small person) but it refused & rebelled, to boot.
In fact, I think I’ve experienced all five stages of grief, but directed at my body: denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance.
How to get to acceptance? That’s been my struggle. The denial, anger, bargaining & depression? … I’ve got those covered.
No matter what my body does or does not do, I’m stuck with it. This body that is repeatedly fucking up the whole baby-making thing. This body that has made me angry. This body that has seemed so inadequate lately.
So how do I return to homeostasis in terms of body acceptance after multiple miscarriages?
To be honest, I didn’t learn to love my body after my first miscarriage. And it’s still a work in progress, though I am getting there.
Once we were going to try again to get pregnant after that first miscarriage, I went through the motions. I took my prenatal vitamin & other “healthy” supplements. I ate a healthful diet. I exercised, though not often, and definitely not fast or hard enough to make a difference. I cut back on alcohol, caffeine & chocolate, all of which I indulged in heavily after miscarriage #1.
But I hated my body. We were not on speaking terms.
It had betrayed me & the only way it could make things right was to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
Then came the next pregnancy. I tried to be cautious but I was gleeful. Still, I didn’t feel I could completely trust my body. I kept my distance.
Heartbeat. No heartbeat. That was the end of that.
More frustration. More weight. More. That miscarriage was just more.
It was a serious physical recovery, that one. I felt helpless & weak & defeated.
But I was also more aware of my grief & what I needed. And I realized I needed to get my body & my mind back together.
I was meditating often. MFA Dad slowly encouraged me to return to yoga, which I was practicing regularly when I was pregnant but dropped like a hot potato when I miscarried.
The local yoga studio does not run a yoga for miscarriage class. (Though they totally should & I think I will suggest it. It would be amazing & beautiful!) So, naturally, I turned to the Internet. I found a lot of “yoga for fertility,” which was not what I needed at the moment, though I wanted nothing more. I needed to heal first. Me. Just me.
Then I discovered Erin McDonald. And she basically changed my life. Seriously, if you’re reading this & you’ve recently miscarried & you’re at all inclined to yoga, check out this woman’s sweet yoga sequence & loving voice.
With Erin’s help (I feel like I’m on a first-name basis with her because she helped me so much when I was recovering from miscarriage #2…) I sat quietly with my body for some weeks. It wasn’t a fast or magical cure-all, but I slowly reconnected with my body.
And I didn’t hate it nearly as much.
After all, my body had miscarried naturally twice, at home. I needed no interventions. I knew that was no small thing. My body carried on its grievous task with dignity. It knew what to do.
There’s also the fact that, if I’m brutally honest, my body saved me & my family future heartache. Something was wrong with those pregnancies & instead of sustaining a non-viable pregnancy, my body hit the eject button (albeit too slowly).
I was finally able to thank my body for all that.
Even if I had needed some intervention, the fact that our bodies recover at all is gratitude-worthy.
And the rest? Well, there’s something to be said for learning to live with our bodies no matter what they decide to do or not do.
They’re not really us after all. In the human body, microorganisms outnumber human cells by 10 to 1. Though microorganisms are smaller than most human cells, this means that the overwhelming majority of cells in our bodies are not us. Plus, all those cells are stardust.
I am more than just my body. Or maybe I am more with my body. Whatever it is, apparently we’re stuck together for this lifetime. Whether or not my body ever produces another human,
it is a miracle … I’ve got to learn to live with it … it is a miracle!
Besides, it’s not as if I sincerely believe that having babies is my bodies sole function. (Hello! I have a career. I have a full life. Heck! I was really happy with just one child for several years!) So, even if having another baby has been my sole obsession for almost two years, I have to try to remember all the other cool stuff my body is up to.
After miscarriage #2, I let my mom take me shopping. I resisted at first. I dislike shopping on a good day & these were not good days. But it was actually really important for my healing.
It was nothing special or exciting. Just a chain discount store. Just a few pieces.
Except these clothes fit. They were made of happy colors. I looked good.
And when I got home, I started clearing my closet & drawers, purging the clothes that no longer fit. I’m not the same person, so why pretend?
Well, I’m still me… Just not quite me!
P.S. What helped you reconnect with your body following miscarriage(s)? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or at momjdblog at gmail. And if you’ve been down this unfortunate road or are going through it right now, I’m so very sorry. I would like to hear more about how my posts on miscarriage can be supportive!