One thing that always bothers me about miscarriages is that millions of babies are being aborted every day, and yet millions of mothers are crying in corners and dark bathrooms after having lost their babies. Tonight, it occurred to me, that maybe we shouldn’t be crying in corners and dark bathrooms. If women were to wail over the loss of the children, like they did in ancient cultures, maybe we wouldn’t have to tell people over and over again that a baby’s life is valuable, maybe we would see it.
When I had my miscarriage, I was shocked. It was this mysterious thing I had barely heard about, that it never occurred to me could happen to me. What was worse was how painful it was compared to what I had seen in the movies. I had always seen tv shows and movies where a tiny spot of blood showed up on the bed, and then the baby was gone. It was tragic, but also kind of whatever. The closest to a genuine portrayal of a miscarriage I had seen was Gone With the Wind, but I vaguely remember not understanding why it took Scarlett so long to heal.
The natural reaction of a woman to the loss of a child is a soul crushing half-shriek/half-scream that withers your soul on hearing it. The Bible talks about this scream, “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” During the mourning period, people used to hire “keeners” which were people whose job it was to continue the wailing when the loved ones could not wail anymore. Irish women had a specific tattoo that they would get if they had had a miscarriage. In Grey’s Anatomy earlier this season, Amelia fears she is losing her child and even she crumbles into racking sobs.
The way Amelia handles those tears, though, illuminates the difference between now, and historical grief. After only seconds, she feels she has to pull herself together, and she apologizes profusely. I have the utmost respect for Grey’s Anatomy, but this moment is what I think is wrong with our culture now.
In our culture, and I honestly don’t know when this started, emotions are a flaw. They are this nuisance that must be dealt with and then one should move on from them. They should never interfere with your life, and if they do, you are labeled with some form of disease. You are given some sort of drug or medicine to make you clam up about it, and if you are still feeling down, you had better up your meds.
Now, I am not saying that mental illness doesn’t exist, or that there are no other problems, but I am saying that this effort to stifle emotions is dangerous and it may be causing other issues.
To get back to the original thought that initiated this post, I know that not everyone agrees that abortion is a bad thing, but I think everyone can agree that it happens more often than it should, and that it is not a happy thing when it does. In our culture, where the stress of children is one of the most common jokes being told, and children are being forced to do a thousand things they don’t want to do, what would happen if women were to be allowed to mourn their lost babies. What if when I had my miscarriage, I hadn’t covered my mouth when I was screaming in the bathroom. What if people had been there to see. (Not literally in the bathroom, obviously, but in my life.) What if we didn’t feel this need to cover up frightening emotions, but instead we held space for each other through them. What if children could see that the loss of even an unborn baby is the most excruciating loss that you can experience.
I am haunted by the loss of my 3 week miscarriage, that we do not even fully count as a miscarriage when we tell the stories because his pregnancy test didn’t come up positive. But I felt him. There were others, the same thing, we didn’t name them though.
The worst was Emma, she was 9 weeks. She died at 6. I knew her, deeply and profoundly. I know who she was. I never got to know who she would become, but I knew her when she was alive.
If a mom were thinking about having an abortion at 6 weeks, and she had seen what I went through, and how well I knew that little girl, she would understand what that abortion meant more than she would the way things are right now. If she had seen me wailing like I did in the backyard, if I had cried out, she would know how much it mattered.
This is not the only issue where this is a problem either. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were bullied for years before they exploded and shot other students at Columbine. What if they had felt like they could cry and express how much it hurt? What if they could have communicated to someone what was happening to them? Would they have been able to work through whatever was hurting them so much that they would kill themselves and other people? How much pain must they have been in?
In my own experience with Post Partum Depression, I have noticed that many of the ways to take care of it naturally used to just be a part of the culture. Women used to have much longer to rest and recover with the baby. They used to have much more support. They used to gather around each other to take care of each other when babies were born. Now, we are expected to get back to work even if the baby is still in the hospital. We are expected to have stable emotions when our bodies are processing one of the biggest changes it is even possible to undergo. We are expected to pretend everything is ok when our entire bodies are falling apart and a complete mess. We are expected to be happy about it.
In a lot of ways, it comes down to a sexist issue. Men tend to believe in sweeping your feelings under the rug and rubbing some dirt one, while women are generally more able to discuss their feelings and work through them in a way that uses the feeling to reach a new method of doing something. That’s not to say that men don’t have anything to offer, or that these roles are never reversed. However, in a world when women have been told over and over and over again that they do not matter, and their emotions are a disease(hysteria) and whatever number of other things, this ability of women to feel so deeply has been lost.
I would even say that it is a religious issue in a way. Christians and Catholics have been told that they are to live joyfully, and that they should live in their hope in the Lord. This is all well and good, but Jesus never said it wasn’t okay to GRIEVE. In fact, He wept with Martha and Mary when Lazarus died, even though He knew He was going to raise Him up in, like, 5 minutes. He was getting crucified and He told a group of weeping women to cry for themselves and for their children. On the cross, He said “Father, why have you abandoned me?” This is not the sign of someone who thinks we must always be positive. I think maybe that subconsciously Christians and Catholics feel like they have to pretend everything is always wonderful so that atheists and pagans will want to convert, but nothing ever made me hate the Church so much as feeling like I couldn’t cry over my lost babies.
In other ways, it is an issue of the value of the arts. Our society does not value the arts like it used to, although fortunately some areas are starting to build support for them back up. The Catholic Church used to commission artists to inspire others, Art used to be everywhere, even architecture used to be beautiful. These things are not non-existent now, but they have in past years, been uncommon. I know that in recent years many artistic pieces have come out that have revolutionized how I see certain topics. Over and over again, I see in these pieces how much emotions are being neglected, and I see what happens when someone treats other peoples feelings like they matter, or what happens when they don’t.
There are films as generic as Batman vs. Superman where the viewer gets a real look into how feelings about loss and evil and fear impact the heroes and villains of the stories. Grey’s Anatomy’s famous sexual assault episode teaches us to treat survivors feelings like they matter even if we don’t understand them. The Conjuring and American Horror Story, and pretty much every other horror movie with a couple as the focus, teach us what happens when we ignore the woman’s feelings.
There is a saying I love, “Emotions are indicators, not dictators,” which is true, and it is important to realize that emotions should not rule everything. However, the first part is true too, EMOTIONS ARE INDICATORS. They tell us something we need to know. If you silence your emotions, it is like ignoring the check engine light on your car, if you do that long enough, the car will break down.
What if we were to take a second out of the craziness of our lives to care about our own emotions, and those of our loved ones, and even our enemies?
What if when we were fighting with someone we took a second to realize we were both just fighting because we wanted to spend more time with each other?
What if we realized that the IRS employees are people with families to feed and they are afraid they will lose their jobs, and they are working really hard with a really bad setup?
What if we realized that our coworker who is not Catholic in a Catholic workplace, who lost her mom, might really be having a hard time?
What if everyone knew that my 6 week old baby was a real person with real feelings, and she was not just a part of my body? What if everyone stopped rolling their eyes when I say that because being a woman in tune with your body is absurd?
What if we could be present with all that we feel and are, so that we could be present to all everyone else feels and is?
So next time you are sad, go ahead and cry. Maybe it will change someone else’s life forever.