Featured Storyteller

INDIA: The Miscarriage Mystique

Arpita Gaidhane
Posted December 15, 2021
Photo © Sweta Daga

After enduring a heartbreaking miscarriage, Arpita Gaidhane says it's time to break the culture of silence surrounding pregnancy loss.

“There is support and joy in pregnancy, an outpouring of gifts and love for a new generation. So, why not offer similar support for the flip side of the coin?

Editor's note: To listen to Arpita's audio recording of her story, click here.

One early spring morning, my life was turned upside down by two lines on a home pregnancy test. They indicated a reality that I had never previously considered. Like many others, I struggle with PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovary Syndrome) and pregnancy was improbable. Yet, somehow, I was going to be a mother.

Aside from the wonderment of such a miracle, I felt mind-numbing terror. Pregnancy was the last thing on my mind. All the inadequacy I had ever felt, coupled with the terror of living in an apocalyptic world, came thundering down on me. So, of course, when my partner asked me what I wanted, I said I wanted to go back to sleep.

Except this was like taking the red pill (or was it the blue one?) in “The Matrix” —  there was no sleeping away another person inside me. Instead, the panic subsided over a lovely morning walk at the local lakeside park. When reason returned, I wanted to quickly eliminate the possibility of a false positive and scheduled an appointment with a nearby OB-GYN.

Imagine my stupefaction at the doctor’s office a few hours later when she shoved a transvaginal ultrasound device into me and I could see a blip on the screen that showed my uterus! It was a tiny black dot, much smaller than the cyst in my nearby right ovary, and I already loved it. 

Suddenly, I kicked into Mama-mode and made plans. We would figure it out — this was, after all, the world’s oldest magic trick. I felt faith and optimism, and looked forward to becoming superhuman in the next nine months (which I soon figured out is not really an option). I could at least learn to apologize for my mistakes, have conversations, and usher in a new flavor of intergenerational trauma that would be all my own.

When I shared my news with friends and family, they treated me like a veritable goddess. There were gifts and hugs and toasts and validation; I felt completely invincible. I would work extra hard to transform my bad habits and eat, sleep, and think for the unborn appleseed. Of course, there was always the viability caveat that others told me to remove from my mind and instead maintain a blind optimism.

The glow, health, and magic lasted for two weeks. The doctor scanned me again at the next appointment when the appleseed would be eight weeks, according to medical calculations by LMP (Last Menstrual Period).

“It hasn’t grown in the past two weeks,” the doctor said in a cool tone. “It’s a blighted ovum. This happens 20 percent of the time by random chance. There is nothing we can do. Would you like to ensure a clean removal of blood and tissue by swallowing tablets or having minor surgery?”

While my two-week-old world shattered, my partner took care of the medication and bills. I came home feeling confused, ashamed, and guilty. While I knew it wasn’t my fault, the whispers of patriarchy slithered through my vulnerable mind telling me that I was somehow inadequate. 

At war with the patriarchy was the feminist activist in me, incredulous at this mental attack. When I informed friends and family again, many didn’t know what to say. Some tried to give me space. I interpreted every interaction or lack thereof as their judgment of me, of them seeing me as “less than” now that this was happening to me. 

This is not a moment that I am proud of, and sharing it feels like screaming naked in the middle of a park, but it’s important for me to vocalize something so rarely spoken about.

When I took the misoprostol as directed by the doctor, I experienced a pain I’d never felt before. As I sat on the pot, sweating and waiting for the moment to somehow pass, I involuntarily passed a clump of blood that I knew was appleseed. The blood and pain continued for hours, and when it passed, it felt like a small miracle.

My OB-GYN had said nothing to prepare me for this. When I shared with friends, they were incredulous — no one knew it hurt! Again and again, I kept asking, “Why does no one speak of this?” 

My mother and grandmother welcomed me to their lineage in their own sweet ways, telling me that they, too, had missed periods before conceiving children that eventually became periods. It is the way of the Gods and there was no point in dwelling on it.

With the advancement in technology that we as a society are so proud of, I didn’t just bleed out a “perhaps,” I bled out an appleseed-sized blip from my uterus that I had befriended and loved for weeks. It wasn’t just a period for me; it was misoprostol-induced labor that gave me blood clots instead of the baby I had imagined.

Others reassured me that I could try again — that the first time is too easy to get pregnant; that the miscarriage was a sign to become healthy and prepare for the next child. But I grieved for the one I had lost and had no context for how to process this.

I heard recently from a mother who had miscarried a few months into her pregnancy. All she spoke to me about was acceptance and surrender. 

While I understand that acceptance and surrender are inevitable and important –– the crucial ingredients to survive the recipe of life. But I ask again, why are we not talking about any of this?

When I asked my mother, she answered, “It’s so common. What is there to talk about?”

But that is exactly why we need to talk about it. Women miscarry regularly, and we are dismissed, our pain minimized and our grief invalidated. 

There is support and joy in pregnancy, an outpouring of gifts and love for a new generation. So, why not offer similar support for the flip side of the coin?

Now you may call me a cynic on an angry rant (it wouldn’t be the first time), so here’s what I have to offer for the inevitable question of, “What do you expect from us?”

Friends and family:

Offer unconditional support. Instead of asking yourself what you would want, ask the woman what she wants. I had some wonderful people reach out and check on me, giving me the choice of whether I wanted to talk or not. It made me feel loved. Let your person know that she is loved.

If you have been through this:

You are not alone. All your feelings are entirely normal and there is nothing wrong with you. You are so strong to go through this, and I hope you have the support you need to move forward, whatever that means for you.

Take the time and space to let yourself grieve. I know I struggled with this, especially after being told how common it is. But not everyone falls in love with an ultrasound image before a miscarriage. I know I won’t head to the doctor until a few more weeks have passed if there is a next time. Do what you need to do.

Talk about this if and when you can. Change takes place one person at a time, and I believe it is high time that the “ugly underbellies” of women’s experiences be made public. It is a conversation that can invite compassion and understanding. I understand if it’s scary. This is scary for me. But I say again, you are not alone, and neither am I.

Let’s shed the mystique around motherhood that deifies the healthy pregnancy and dismisses the common miscarriage. All experiences are valid and deserve to be acknowledged. If it’s so common, let’s learn to communicate with a sense of compassion that makes grieving almost-mothers feel loved, empowered, and ready to face their lives after a major heartbreak. 

After all, loved, nurtured, and empowered individuals together make a loved, nurtured, and empowered culture, and this is something we desperately need today.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of World Pulse's Story Awards program. We believe every woman has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could receive added visibility, or even be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

Comments 14

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Tamarack Verrall
Dec 16, 2021
Dec 16, 2021

Dear Arpita,
I am so sorry to read about all you have been through. What a beautiful and loving message to the women who have experienced the loss of a baby, and to all of us, lifting our awareness, strengthening our commitment to make sure that no woman who goes through this painful journey is alone or not surrounded with love and support.
Love to you, dear Sister.

Arpita Gaidhane
Dec 16, 2021
Dec 16, 2021

Thank you Tam :) lots of love

Annick BG
Dec 17, 2021
Dec 17, 2021

You are such a strong woman. Thank you for lifting our awareness and showing myself and all of us, the way to better offer our support.
Take good care of yourself,

Arpita Gaidhane
Dec 18, 2021
Dec 18, 2021

Thank you Annick :) glad to be of service.

Jill Langhus
Dec 17, 2021
Dec 17, 2021

Hello Arpita,

How are you? I'm also sorry to hear about your experience, and can totally empathize as I went through the same thing. I felt somewhat apathetic to women who miscarried before it happened to me, and afterwards I felt everything that you're writing about. There does need to be more awareness, more empathy and an ease with which people can talk about this as a natural process rather than continuing to stigmatize it. Thanks so much for sharing your vulnerable story with us and congrats on receiving the story award, especially on such a difficult subject. XX

Arpita Gaidhane
Dec 17, 2021
Dec 17, 2021

Thank you Jill :) I'm really appreciating all the voices rising in response to this story, including yours. May future generations find the support the need.

Jill Langhus
Dec 17, 2021
Dec 17, 2021

You're welcome. Glad to hear it. Yes!!!

Wusufor
Dec 17, 2021
Dec 17, 2021

Dearest Arpita,
Sorry about your ordeals. And congratulations on your story award. It's not easy with child stigmatism, I relate with your story. However, keep you head up and look straight forward.
Hope you are doing well?
Kind regards

Arpita Gaidhane
Dec 18, 2021
Dec 18, 2021

Thank you yes, I am grateful to be holding myself up in loving community and looking forward with a sense of purpose to speak compassionate truth.

COM KIDS
Dec 19, 2021
Dec 19, 2021

Really touching experience Arpita. I could relate to your story as I know someone who experienced the same. Much courage and thanks for sharing this.

Elizabeth Francis
Dec 29, 2021
Dec 29, 2021

My Dear Arpita
Congrats on your story award ,So sorry you experienced this , but I am so glad yôu found the strenght to share your experience, because my niece lost her baby last month at almost 6 months and its a very difficult journey for her,its only as you shared that somethings that we took for granted became apparent,not that we werent spportive and sensitive.
But those pérsonal moments that she will have handle alone ,I will definitely pay attention to your suggestions. Thank you for raising awareness to this issue, love and light my sister, I wish you continued healing✨✨✨

Arpita Gaidhane
Dec 30, 2021
Dec 30, 2021

Thank you, Elizabeth! It heartens me to know that my words are making a difference. Wishing so much love and healing for your niece

Elizabeth Francis
Dec 30, 2021
Dec 30, 2021

definitely s0, thks much

Gracias por compartir esta enseñanza con todas las mujeres que en algún momento deseamos ser mamás pero que también podemos pasar por esta situación.