When our bodies betray us.

Friday, 28 July 2017

What do you do when your body betrays you? Or at least, when it feels like it has betrayed you? (Because it isn't capable of being spiteful, even if feels that way.)

The effects of a miscarriage and of a stillbirth last for years after the initial loss of your baby. It can manifest itself in a thousand different ways, and one I've found quite prevalent is the idea that your body has betrayed you, that you no longer have control over what it does or what it doesn't. It's feels like you're not in control when you're pregnant, your body does its own thing independent of your brain and this is why many people don't announce a pregnancy until 12 weeks – because no matter how much they want everything to work out well, no matter how positive your mind is, or how you may be living in a naive optimism (we have all been there, thinking it won't happen to me) it may not end that way. It works to its own beat (but still isn't sentient).

Your brain does not control your body in that way, pregnancy is as physiological as digestion. You don't actively digest, it just happens. So how can you ever trust it again if you can't control it? How do we deal with it?



No matter if your next pregnancy is perfect, smooth, ending in a live baby you get to take home and keep, there is always the thought of what if the next one... Your mind wanders constantly, as it does with any kind of loss to the What Ifs. Horrible thoughts, damaging to say the least, because looking back on things and wondering what, if anything (and in the majority of cases there isn't anything), we could have done differently doesn't change what happened. It's a simple and yet effective way to torture yourself. If that's your goal, then sure, full speed ahead. If it's not. Try to stop. It's hard, I know, I spent months (and still do) wondering what if. Doing it doesn't achieve anything good.

TTC after a loss requires a huge amount of strength because it is so unpredictable and pregnancy is the same. I don't think there exists a woman in the world who has miscarried, or had a stillbirth, or premature birth, who does not look at their body as something they are now fighting with. The body becomes another entity to be tamed and to be blamed. We think (to our bodies), so many women have babies every single day, why couldn't you?

We look at our post-miscarriage or post-baby bodies with this horrible anger and loathing. We look at the stretch marks, I've seen some people talk about them as having been a waste, a "ruined"* body and with nothing to show for it, no baby to show for it. We imagine people look at our bodies and think we're lazy or whatever else because we're chubbier, we have stretch marks, but no visible reason why, but truth is that people don't do that. Most people are too busy thinking about themselves anyway.

*for the record, I don't think there is such thing as a ruined body, especially not with something as minor as stretch marks.


Frankly, I don't think that you do ever "deal with it". There is no rule book for it, no set steps that everybody should follow, because there's no one thing that works. So when we are told to "deal with it" – in whatever way we are told this as it can come in a huge variety of ways, many of them starting with "At least..." – we don't know what to do. And we shouldn't have to know. There isn't a thing to know.

Sorry. I wanted so much to be able to give an answer to all of this, to be able to say "yep here's what we do, here's a list of things" but I haven't been able to come up with anything.

There's nothing to be done about these thoughts and once again it comes under the umbrella of "the new normal", it is just the way that we think and we are now. Strength comes in overcoming these thoughts, in making sure that they do not debilitate us, and instead give us (if we have to have something) no more than a wary suspicion. Ignoring them, I have come to realise, doesn't work. I want to say that you don't get angry at your body for catching a bug, or a cold, but it's not right to compare those illnesses to a miscarriage or stillbirth (as I've already covered). It is, however, I think the same principle, it's something you can't control. Would you look at yourself in the mirror after a 24 hour bug and hate it for not being able to fight back immediately?

We need to let go of the blame. It's so nice to blame something. My mother said to me before the funeral that she was glad that I was there when all of this has happened, else I'd have blamed her, and she's right. I would have blamed her, and sometimes I wish that was something I could do because I had nothing to blame but myself, and eventually not really even that.

Personally, I have not yet come to a place where I am able to trust my body, or myself in general. It feels to me (and maybe to you too) that when I miscarried my body failed in doing the one thing that makes it, and I am not quite past that. I continue to worry and fret, at 33 weeks pregnant, simply because I know what can go wrong.

Betrayal is not something easily overcome.

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