WARNING: The start of this post is a bit graphic. Because I am sick of people thinking that early miscarriages are just like heavy periods. I, for one, can say that mine sodding well wasn’t.
When I had a miscarriage, most of it – whatever “it” was – went down the toilet in our flat. Some of it went on the bathroom floor and my partner cleaned that up. I don’t know precisely what it looked like. I didn’t look down. I could feel it leaving my body, not like a period, nor like giving birth. A mass of blood and clots dropping out of me. The most surprising thing was how much of it there was. I spent a whole night curled up on the living room sofa, watching, of all things, slasher movies. Every time I stood up to go to the bathroom, a new pool of deadness seemed to have collected, ready to fall to the floor. The whole thing was horrendous. The next day I went for a scan. The sonographer asked me how pregnant I was. I said “I don’t think I’m pregnant any more”. She looked at the screen and said “no, you’re not”.
A few months later my partner got into one of those typically pointless online abortion debates. At one point he told the anti-choicers that none of their stupid photos freaked him out, not after clearing up a miscarriage with his own hands. That surprised me. That thing I hadn’t dared to see – I hadn’t thought it could be that bad. I was only 10 weeks. But perhaps part of the horror came from how much we wanted the pregnancy, and how much it meant to us.
Thinking of the miscarriage makes me feel sad because it was a sad thing. I don’t now wish it hadn’t happened. The first pregnancy would have overlapped with what was to be me getting pregnant with our first son. I can’t possibly regret anything that led to him being here. I can’t imagine loving what would have been the other baby so much. I know, logically, that I probably would have, but that’s not how I feel. My partner and I talk about the pregnancy we lost as “the rubbish toilet baby”, the fetus so useless it couldn’t be bothered to live, so we flushed it away. That’s not a broad recommendation for how one should come to terms with a miscarriage; it’s just what we chose to do.
And it was our loss, and our right to respond in this way. One of the things that outrages me so much about the Michigan anti-choice law (as bravely challenged by vagina-mentioning Lisa Brown) is that, to quote Brown in the Guardian, it “would require doctors to make the equivalent of funeral arrangements for foetal remains, both in cases of abortion and of miscarriage”. I don’t know how this works in the case of toilet babies, wanted or unwanted. I’d like to think you’d get a free pass there, but who knows. I suppose you’d be more inclined not to tell anyone. But then, if you’re like me, without a scan, you’d still hope, despite the blood and gore, that the fetus was still there.
What the lawmakers are doing here is not just impinging on a woman’s right to choose. They’re impinging on her right to feel and manage her emotions in her own way. This seems to me an outrageous intrusion. The thought of some kind of formal recognition of what, to me, is a person whom I wanted but who never was, fills me with horror. I know people who’ve lost pregnancies and did choose some form of remembrance ceremony, but that was something highly personal to them. It is not for any state or law to decide.
The focus on doctors making arrangements suggests these “funeral arrangements” can, if appropriate, take place without the involvement of the person who once carried the remains. But you would know. You would know that other people were creating a person out of something which they’d never had within them, about which they’d never had to make choices, and which they’d never truly lost, regardless of whether the loss was intentional or not. You would know this and this is not right. No one has the right to regulate your loss in this way.
The sheer callousness of this astounds me. There are people who are so keen to make a lost fetus into a person that they don’t give a damn about the feelings of those who understood, more than anyone else, that this fetus could have become a person. A person who could have been too demanding, too draining, too terrifying to cope with. Or a person who would have been loved, but who never came into being at all. I really, really hate these people. Far more than I hate the rubbish toilet baby. Who would, of course, have been loved, but who could never have come close to being as wonderful as my son.