After a miscarriage, there’s a sense of betrayal between a woman and her body. After all, we only trusted it with one simple task—to successfully conceive and grow a human being until delivery. The situation can become even worse when this body that already betrayed our trust is now being stubborn enough not to admit the child has passed away.
So there you sit, with the news that the baby growing inside of you is no longer alive, and you must continue to carry it’s little body around until your D&C, the process of dilating the cervix so the uterine lining can be scraped out, which is required when your body refuses to naturally pass the fetus. According to Women’s Health, nearly 50 percent of women who miscarry will need a D&C. I was among that 50 percent. Once you complete this difficult process, the question still remains, “what happens to my baby?” For me, I decided to take it with me.
It’s not strange, it’s grieving
After my D&C, I sat on the phone with my mother who begged me not to bring home the remains of what was once my growing baby. “Please,” she pleaded, “don’t do it, it will just make you sad. You’ll think about it every time you see it.” What she didn’t realize was that, for me, and the majority of women that suffer a miscarriage, I’d continue to think about the loss daily with or without the remains.
According to the American Psychological Association, women who miscarry are at a higher risk for depression and anxiety in the following years. You read that right—years. This means it isn’t a depressing blip in our week the way so many believe it is, it’s a loss that, for many, requires an extended grieving process like any death would.
Still, with miscarriage, there’s a taboo nature that requires grieving to be a secret process. You will rarely see a sad Facebook status dedicated to the passing of an unborn child, the way you would if someone’s uncle or neighbor passed. Grieving takes on different forms for different people. For me, it meant bringing home a plastic cup marked “toxic waste” and finding a good place to bury it.
Jizo, jewelry, and just getting it over with
I kept my half-baked fetus in the freezer, not far from my pint of hazelnut cashew ice cream. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. The only thing I did know was that I wasn’t willing for it to be tossed in the trash with any other “almost babies” they had collected that day. Sounds harsh, but at times like these, it’s how my mind works. So I did the only logical thing any woman in such a position would do, I asked a Facebook group filled with women I had never met before.
The response was overwhelming, but most importantly I suddenly didn’t feel so alone in my efforts to commemorate my child. A multitude of suggestions came in, including links to several businesses that would turn my child’s remains into jewelry. As impressed as I was about this idea, I couldn’t stomach the idea of how I would respond when people asked me where I got such a piece. For some reason “It’s my dead fetus’ remains” doesn’t have the same ring as “I bought it on Etsy.”
Then, another comment caught my eye. A woman had shared with me the concept of Jizo. Jizo is a Japanese ceremony involving a small, childlike statue whose purpose is to smuggle your baby’s soul into heaven since it didn’t have any time to “accumulate Karma.” Chozen Bay and American Mizuko kuyos told NPR “Jizo statues in Japan often look childlike. So that as you make an offering to the statue, you’re also making an offering to the child that the statue is in a way conflated with. Because you don’t have that child to hold or care for anymore.”
Even without a drop of Japanese blood in me, this made sense. However, the ceremony seemed more suited for women who were unable to hold on to their remains. I still had to do something about the plastic cup in my freezer. Finally, I decided to just get it over with.
A piece of me, a piece of you
The March of Dimes website states that among the women who know they are pregnant, about 10–15 percent of those pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Like most women, I never thought my life would be touched by a statistical tragedy, yet there I was, somewhere between that 10 and 15 percent.
I took my baby down to the beach, at the bottom of a mountain that I love here in Mexico. I love this mountain because every morning, a man dressed in traditional Aztec attire climbs the mountain and plays the drums, in an effort to make the sun rise. I took comfort in the fact that the Aztec sun guy had a 100 percent success rate, even if I did not. I also felt a little better knowing what was in that plastic cup wasn’t just pieces of my baby, it also contained pieces of me. So when all of that blood stained the earth forever, we would always be together.
I would like to say I walked away from that ceremony with some form of “closure,” unfortunately, this isn’t the case. I can, however, say it helped—and that’s a start.