"When you have a miscarriage during a pandemic, you have no time to grieve"
One woman shares her story of being unable to process her loss
“We’ve been married for three years, but my husband and I had no plans of getting pregnant. We decided to focus on our careers for five years, then think about children. I conceived accidentally, but it filled me with an unexpected joy. I was scared — it was my first pregnancy and there was a lot I didn’t know — but a part of me still felt ready. This was five months into the lockdown. People in my family worried about me being pregnant at this stressful time. None of us even considered what it would be like to have a miscarriage during a pandemic.
Halfway through the second trimester, I had sore breasts, random hair growth, morning sickness and my ankles had started to swell. Then I was jolted out of this bubble with terrible cramping and spotting. At this point, everything was shut, except for essentials. Hospitals were full up beyond capacity with COVID-19 patients and doctors were working overtime to battle a disease we still don’t fully understand.
Having a miscarriage is painful and lonely enough. Most people are unable to understand and fully empathise with what the woman is going through. But a miscarriage during a pandemic comes with a different kind of isolation and guilt.
Women usually have three options – let the body pass the tissue on its own, have medicine that forces the body to expel the tissue or undergo a procedure called dilation and curettage, (D and C), where your cervix is opened and all the tissue is scraped from the uterus. The last being the swiftest and least traumatic for the body and mind.
I miscarried at home. Sleeping with adult diapers and clutched a heating pad during the day, I also had to look after my in-laws and husband who had tested positive for COVID-19. I was the only one who could run the household, cook, clean and sanitise. My brain switched to auto-pilot.
I would travel to see the doctor alone. Clad in masks, PPE and face shields, it was probably the first time I didn’t react to the cold gel of the ultrasound machine. “It happens. About 15–25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but you can try again,” she said.
Grief hadn’t hit me yet. I was too busy. I knew what had happened, but between work and taking care of my family, I was too tired to even cry.
By God’s grace and thanks to incredible doctors, my family recovered. But I was shaken seeing so much loss due to Covid-19, family friends passing away, colleagues in the ICU gasping for breath and constant Whatsapp messages searching for beds and oxygen cylinders.
When it happened, my mother cried over the phone, my husband and I spoke to each other from different rooms and my brother would constantly check in with messages asking how I’m doing, but I would keep shifting the focus to caring for my in-laws and husband.
They say when you’re under a lot of stress, your brain sometimes switches off and you dissociate. Your body goes through the motions and does what you need to do but your emotions are turned off.
Only when my husband was finally out of quarantine and we were back to sharing a bedroom, we spoke about it in detail. He wanted to know everything that I had been through.
This entire time, I had something to distract me. But when I got my first period after the miscarriage, a rush of emotions hit me.
I felt guilty. I wanted to grieve, to talk to my friends, to hug my parents, both of whom were far away from me.
My husband’s parents are very old and to keep their spirits up, we had to put on a happy face. There’s nowhere for us to go. No movie to watch, no restaurant to have drinks with friends and cheer up. My husband grieved in silence, and got involved in being a volunteer, helping people find beds, vaccination centres and more. I dove into work to pretend nothing had happened.
There were friends I opened up to who told me to see the ‘silver lining’. “You can always try again. You hadn’t planned this pregnancy, anyway. Right now I think we should all be happy to be healthy,” said one. While well-intentioned, it was a punch in the gut that was already sore and cramping.
I don’t think I can still put into words why the grief of miscarriage during a pandemic hits so differently.
We haven’t spoken about trying for another baby, we still need time. The best thing I can do for myself is to take leave from work and start seeing a therapist to process my emotions.
This experience has changed me. I used to believe that everything happened for a reason, but I can’t imagine what the reason could be for this. Sometimes things just happen and there’s no explanation.
I think we’ve all been taught to bottle up our feelings, not get too emotional and be composed in front of others. Because of that, I bottled up all my feelings about the miscarriage.
I can’t help but feel like there’s this big missing piece from my life. I think about what I would have been doing right now had the miscarriage not happened. But instead of fighting away these thoughts, I need to let them wash over me, even if it gets too much sometimes, and seek professional help when I am unable to cope. Denial can only get us so far.”
As told to Sara Hussain