Rosalie Norris Gutman (39) and Beatrix (5)
Rosalie shares -
“I have had two missed miscarriages in the last year. One would have been due December 2017, and the other October 2018. With each, development stopped at about seven weeks and we found out during ultrasounds in week ten. The first time was not a huge surprise, as I'd had more spotting than I should have. The second time the pregnancy had seemed healthy, and we only had an ultrasound because I asked for one to help calm my (evidently warranted) anxiety.
Because of allergy concerns inherent to intervention, I chose to wait and miscarry naturally each time.
Having to continually justify my decision to wait it out came with unexpected guilt. I was healthy, I continued to receive care from my midwives, yet I felt so bad that everyone was expectantly waiting for my body to do something I had no control over. The well meaning pressure to accept medical intervention weighed on me heavily.
I tried to help things along with herbs, acupuncture, etc. with little success. I found comfort in the saying “you can’t push the river,” and did my best to trust my body. I longed for detailed information about others experiences with natural miscarriage, but finding it was surprisingly difficult, and it was only through an image search that I finally found some very informative blogs.
The wait was long and continuing to look somewhat pregnant was challenging, particularly as I often didn’t have the emotional energy to correct acquaintances and strangers. My daughter, however, (who we have always been very open and honest with about everything involving our bodies) had no problem explaining to anyone how the baby had stopped growing and how the birth center was doing ultrasounds to check mom’s uterus. It forced me to confront any shame I might have felt, and accept this as yet another normal, and common, human experience.
I finally passed the embryo approximately one cycle before I fully miscarried and it felt like I was holding my breath the whole month that followed. I eventually miscarried at 21 weeks, and I experienced around three hours of something similar to labor. I was proud of my body for ultimately knowing what to do, and oddly joyful that where it had failed at sustaining the pregnancy, it had succeeded at this.
The second time I expected a similar event that never came. A negative pregnancy test at 22 weeks confirmed my body had completed the miscarriage, likely before 16 weeks. I had more issues with depression this second time, which I didn’t fully recognize to begin with. I found that lacking a definitive point of miscarriage left me struggling to find closure, and grieving the loss of that closure along with the pregnancy.
I whole heartedly believe that talking about miscarriage is vital—helping all of us who have experienced it to feel less alone, to grieve, and to help our children grow up with a realistic view of their fertility.
I played roller derby prior to becoming a parent, so was in the best shape of my life at that point and felt very confident about my body. While my husband and I had planned to get pregnant in a year or so, it was a surprise when I realized I was pregnant. I spent much of my early pregnancy feeling ashamed and depressed though I wasn’t able to articulate it until much later. To spend years working not to become pregnant, and then to do an about face felt disorienting. I hope to have another chance to experience pregnancy and birth where I can appreciate it more fully.
I measured so far ahead near the end of pregnancy that my midwife couldn’t help but laugh with me when taking measurements. More than two days of labor ended with a large sunny side up baby and forceps assist, and the resulting changes to my body took a long time to adjust to.
Holding on to weight in my stomach has been the thing I am hardest on myself about. More so when wearing clothes than when not honestly. When Bea night weaned at 2.5 I gained a number of sizes, and struggled with that considerably. The weight gained with the two more recent pregnancies has made me self conscious again, but I know that I am healthy and active and that my body has been doing amazing things—supporting life and continuing to breastfeed my daughter through everything. I have loved breastfeeding, and feel so grateful that my body continues to be capable of it. I am curious to see if and how my body changes again when I am done with breastfeeding.
We had a lot of changes in the last month of pregnancy as my daughter was expected to be large and the birth center we had been working with wouldn’t deliver babies they anticipated being over nine pounds. We switched to another birth center, then a home birth with their midwives as I went past 42 weeks (my dates had been set based on ultrasound despite knowing the date of ovulation to be over a week later). Our doula was out of town when I finally went into labor but our backup doula was wonderful. I used hypnobirthing with great success, and was really inspired by the abilities of my mind and body to let me feel intensity but not pain.
After a day and a half of active labor we transferred to a hospital when my midwives were unprepared to properly support me. We drove about 45 minutes to go to the hospital where I was least likely to be forced to deliver via cesarean, something that would pose significant allergic complications for me. After another twelve hours of back labor at the hospital and the presence of meconium in my fluid the decision was made to deliver with forceps. While the course of events was frustrating and forceps wouldn’t have been my preference, I was grateful to have birthed my 9lb 4oz daughter vaginally and without any issues with my allergies.
I tore during delivery and required stitches. The changes to my vulva from the birth and the tear were something I was unprepared for, and that hadn’t really been talked about during any of my prenatal classes. I knew my body would be different and expected that, but I didn’t think about giving birth as something that would require relearning how to be intimate. I still struggle with the changes in sensation, and find it difficult to let go of fear and relax in many situations that were pleasurable before giving birth. I accept that I had thirty some years to get to know my body the first time, and have only had five years to get to know it in it’s new form—and those with far less time to devote to doing so.
I think knowing that everyone has a different experience, and that everyone’s bodies change in different ways is so important and isn’t talked about enough, particularly in the prenatal period. I wish our medical system was more involved in postpartum, from not letting women think long term incontinence issues after giving birth are normal, to more support around postpartum anxiety and depression. Finding out that my ob had given me poor instruction about how to do kegels prior to pregnancy was invaluable. Relearning how to properly engage my core muscles and pelvic floor again (three years after giving birth!) was essential to healing.
I did struggle some with postpartum anxiety but, having experienced anxiety in college, was able to identify it quickly. I had my placenta encapsulated and found it to be helpful in mitigating the anxiety when it flared.
Adjusting to always being needed and staying home with my daughter was harder than I expected. Feeling touched out, but also feeling like I didn’t know my own body any more, like it didn’t belong to me, and like I wasn’t meeting expectations was overwhelming.
Breastfeeding was the one thing I was determined to do for my daughter above all else. For the possibility of helping protect her from the food allergies I deal with among so many other important reasons. I committed to nursing her as long as she wanted to, figuring it would be two or three years at most. Luckily it came easily for both of us, and we have enjoyed a mostly smooth nursing relationship for five years. As she has gotten older we have begun to get some pressure from relatives to stop nursing, but I trust that she will be done when the time is right and know that these years will have seemed so short in the long run and will be something I look back on fondly.
There is so much that is socially taboo regarding women’s bodies and their workings and I firmly believe this is something that must change for our society to continue moving forwards. Having the courage to talk to each other, our partners, our children, and our doctors about our experiences moves us forward. When my menstrual cycle arrived at age ten, I had no idea what was happening. When I had pain with ovulation for the first time I ended up at the doctor trying to find out what I was feeling. Learning about fertility awareness (FAM) a number of years ago really helped to improve my relationship with my body and let me release the shame we are taught to have surrounding our cycles and normal functions of our bodies. Growing up, my cycles were irregular and I wish I'd had access to that information then. Understanding my cycles in a detailed way shifted my perspective and let me appreciate and trust my body on a much deeper level. It’s something I will be teaching my daughter about as we go, hopefully sparing her the kind of experiences I had and giving her more insight to her fertility should she want to have children. I think all women and girls (and all humans, really) can benefit from learning more about their bodies, cycles and fertility and hope that someday it becomes standard
Parenthood is a tricky place to feel confident, so much is constantly changing and there’s always something new to learn. Feeling self conscious about my body was just one. more. thing. Especially when I didn’t have a lot of focus outside of parenthood. That self-consciousness is something I'd really like to let go of.
I generally find myself thinking others are beautiful, and having compassion and admiration for their bodies. It’s something I am continuing to cultivate for my own body. I am also trying to appreciate that the pregnancy weight from my losses is part of the physical manifestation of their existence and to give my body the same kindness and patience I did when my daughter was born. I'm not sure I would have participated prior to my experience with miscarriage, but it brought me an entirely different experience of and appreciation for my body, despite the disappointment involved.
Before pregnancy I never thought about the culture of body intolerance I grew up in, but now I see it clearly and want to make sure it doesn’t get passed on. Basing self worth on physical appearance isn’t sustainable, no matter who you are. And while I'd been moving away from it for years, I won’t be sold it anymore in any capacity. I dwell on comments made by my family, yet look back at photos from even just a year or two ago and think I look so much better than I felt I did at the time. I'm sure I will feel the same way about these images, and will cherish them as I age.
On October 31, one week after my due date, I passed the embryo that was not supposed to be there. Having charted four months of normal cycles since being told my miscarriage was complete, and this final part of the miscarriage coinciding with another regular start of menstruation, it was wholly unexpected. While I was shocked, I suppose I was also relieved. Wasn’t this the closure I had wanted? I am thankful that I remained healthy even under such unusual circumstances. Our bodies are incredible.”