Illustration by Kate Towsey for Varsity

Content note: This article contains mention of miscarriage and unplanned pregnancy.

At this university, we are very lucky to see a lot of liberation groups and campaigns tackling taboo issues. They bring people together to talk about issues that, until recently, would never have been openly addressed in the public sphere. Despite this, there is one sensitive topic that I am yet to see discussed or even receive minimal education about. My first encounter of this unfortunate event was my own.

Two days before I left Cambridge after my first year, I had a miscarriage. I was 18, taking contraception and I hadn’t known I was pregnant. It’s been seven months now and I still struggle to accept the fact that I was, for a time, pregnant. Even now, I am still plagued with fear of what I will see every time I go to the bathroom. I spent my entire summer hysterically hypervigilant about every drop I saw and every pain I felt, yet I felt completely detached from my physiological experience. I was an outsider to my own body, just trying to keep calm and make sure I was going to be okay.

According to the GP, I was seven weeks along, but she couldn’t tell me when the pregnancy had stopped being viable. That thought sickens me to my stomach even now: the thought that this entity had sat dead in me for who knows how long made me feel so ill; I felt angry and betrayed by my body. Prior to my experience, I had always considered early pregnancies to be a bunch of cells and nothing more: certainly not life. But when you are the one who is sat there, alone, it is almost impossible to detach this “bunch of cells” that you see physically before you from a notion of a potential life. It becomes a potential mini you. Or 50% of you. Consider that things were made all the more difficult given that the other 50% of this creation had done a runner a week after I found out. As my counsellor likes to say, I experienced not one, but two losses, both seemingly out of nowhere. 

So, I was abandoned in this mess by someone I deeply cared about and left to undergo the anxiety and unexpected grief I was experiencing on my own. My friends provided me with the best support I could have ever dreamt of, but the case stood that there was one person whose support I needed through this, and he’d withdrawn it. The matter was complicated further by the fact my dad was picking me up less than 24 hours after the confirmatory appointment from the doctor - my family don’t even know I have sex. I couldn’t tell them. My biggest fear was that some further complication would arise, and they’d have their hearts broken hearing that their baby lost her baby.

The silver lining here, if any, is that I never had to make a decision that some people do. Ultimately, it would have been the same outcome, I know this for certain. But upon reflection, for some reason, I seemed to know a lot more about what to expect from an abortion than a miscarriage. The topic had never come up with my friends before what happened to me, and nobody knew what to say beyond “I’m so sorry” or “that’s terrible, you poor thing”. And while I craved the sympathy, what I would have much preferred was a bit of understanding about what to expect, it might have made me feel slightly less alone.

Miscarriage is thought of as this vaguely sad event that you may go through when you’re older and trying for children; being confronted with it head on was terrifying. When it actually happened, I didn’t even know what was happening. I spent the entire night awake, frantic. I waited to call the emergency GP at 7am to get an explanation of what my body had done completely independent of what felt like me.

Now, I understand that this all seems a bit contradictory. I’m asking for more education and more solidarity between those who have undergone similar experiences, yet I am keeping my identity private. This has been difficult for me to resolve, but I cannot risk my family ever knowing that this happened to me. That’s just the way my life is. However, if one person reads this article, hears about my experience and knows that they weren’t alone in what happened - that the emotional turmoil they underwent wasn’t excessive or even shameful -  that’s enough for me.

The whole business of miscarriage is shrouded in secrecy and shame, which does nothing to help individuals who undergo trauma and feel as though they have nowhere to turn. No young person deserves to feel shame and self-loathing for something they did their best to prevent. Once again, societal stigma leaves us feeling isolated and with no one to turn to. This is the ultimate tool used by society to minimise discourse centred on female experience (in a biological sense). It doesn’t just feel like being silenced, we are silenced. We are deterred from seeking solidarity in one another as a tool for healing and growth. And for what reason? It is time to stand up against this. 

Obviously, no one should feel pressured to disclose personal matters beyond whoever they feel comfortable. All I am trying to convey here, in perhaps a convoluted way, is an insight into the suffering of young women who find themselves lost in a trauma they never expected. Be supportive. Be respectful. Be mindful. And most importantly, to those who find some solace in my story, remember that you’re never as alone as you feel. You’ll move past this. You’ll grow, and you will heal.

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