Jessica Bates

writer | reader | mother | lover

March 19, 2018

I Had A Miscarriage

miscarriage pain grief

Self portrait (roughly) a week after my miscarriage.

I Had A Miscarriage

I had a miscarriage three days before my thirty-third birthday. It was a gray Wednesday morning.

Tuesday I was bleeding, like a light period. I went to the high school where my sister teaches for our after-school writing club. I held my son’s hand walking up the stairs, and he led the way to his aunt’s room. I pulled out a snack for him from my backpack. I noticed a black banana, rotted, forgotten, and with it a molded bag of blueberries. I threw them out. I was bleeding into my underwear and breathing and writing and telling myself it would be okay.

That night the cramping got worse, and I made tea and drank water and held my womb. I went to pee and saw more blood, a dark stain, red-brown, in my underwear. I changed them, put on a pad. My son saw it and said I had a dirty diaper. He said, Lay down, mom, change your diaper.

I slept fitfully, feeling slow blood leak from me while my stomach cramped and ached. I had a feeling my body was kicking the baby out.

The next morning, Wednesday, I got up to let the dog out and I had to pee, too. I sat on the toilet and pissed blood. And then it slipped out. The baby. My baby. Dark purple in its sack like a bloodchild. It was about 2 inches long. There was a head, there was a face. It looked like a wet purple blanket draped over it. The tiny doll-like indentions, the eyes, the mouth, the nose, tiny, poking out. It was like how you cover up the dead with a blanket. I could have held it in the palm of one hand, could have closed my fingers around it.

I stared at it before I could bring myself to flush. I stared at it. I told it sorry. I didn’t know if it was a boy or girl. It didn’t have a name. We hadn’t gotten too attached, almost like I knew this one couldn’t stay, or would be back later in another body. It still doesn’t feel real, feels more like a dream or a story that someone else told me.

Soon after the dead one fell from me like a piece of shriveled fruit, I crawled into bed with my husband and child. I thought of plucking her up from the bloodied water, I thought of burying, or burning, or setting free on a raft in the river. I thought of a ceremony. I thought of a shovel. Of dirt. I thought of my compost pile, of my dogs nosing through it. I thought of the sewers, the pipes that carried her away, the water and blood and urine and feces. I thought of the wide open sea.

Later that afternoon I started a load of laundry, and I found a plastic bag tied tight, and inside, a pair of clothes my son had puked on a week earlier. They were covered in bands of mold, eaten by it. I threw them out, along with the blackened underwear I wore when my child-who-couldn’t-be slipped out, head first, like I had pushed a tiny doll up my vagina and played out its birth.

My son reminded me to drink water. He chanted om, om, om, om for several minutes and asked me to join.

I felt empty, a shell. I felt like a held breath. I felt like a slashed balloon. I felt like a quiet open mouth. Minutes moved by and I ate and drank water and played trains with my son. He lined up all the people, five in all, and he placed their wooden bodies in a circle. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down. I wonder if my baby in the pipes will ever be ashes or if she will be food for some animal, or if she’ll be sucked up and squeezed and tumbled and processed and flattened or scattered by however we treat our water.

The face bubbles to the surface, purple, wet, dark, a soaked blanket crept over it. The face. I tell it I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It was nothing you did, nothing you could have done, the midwife tells me. Friends tell me. Still. I think of what I could have done better and did not do. It doesn’t matter.

I’m scared to go to sleep because of the little face. I pull out a cool slim wand, a crystal for good dreams. I think of my husband telling my son weeks ago, Your mom believes crystals have powers. And I smile. Believing is a hard battle. Some call it faith. And so I slide the white wand beneath the bed, right under my skull. I do not dream, and that is a gift.

When I wake, I can’t help but think of the face. The face. The tiny body, the empty palm of my hand. If I had held it, would it have been warm or cold? Did it feel pain? Does it know that however briefly it lived, it was loved? Did it know its big brother kissed it from the outside? Does it know that I could never forget its face?




**Since I shared this, I’ve received so many comments from women who have also miscarried. It helps me heal to hear from you, and I hope it has helped you heal some if you’re reading this and understand the pain, loss, blame, & grief that come with a miscarriage. It absolutely floored me when I shared a portion of this piece on the @nobullshitmotherhood Instagram account to hear from women who went through something similar 10, 15 years ago and remember it as if it were last week. Miscarriages are so common, but they are not widely talked about. To all those who have shared their own miscarriage stories of pain & healing through texts, phone calls, emails, IG comments, and life face-to-face chats, thank you. I see you. We’re all in this together.**


I will likely release this piece in my second collection of poetry & prose. My first collection, Birth & What Came After: poems on motherhood is available on Amazon. If you’d like updates on future books, book recommendations, writing prompts, & inspiration, please sign up for my newsletter below. I don’t email often & I take privacy very seriously. (So seriously I’m writing a novel about it.)

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female authors, motherhood - Jessica Bates