I am not just saying this because there is so much more to a miscarriage beyond the bleeding--it is a holistic experience encompassing emotions, intent, desires, pain, bleeding (amongst many other things). I am saying this as a statement to the basic biology lesson Ms. Shvarts slept through at her university: you can't have pregnancy loss without a pregnancy and you can't have a pregnancy without implantation. It is highly unlikely implantation ever occurred but without a beta hCG, a positive pee stick, or even 18 consecutive post-ovulation high temperatures, using the term "miscarriage" or "abortion" is only to press buttons. After all, how many women who are having unprotected sex around ovulation refer to their period as a miscarriage or their monthly abortion? Those who would demean the actual event.
Yet saying that she collected the blood of 9 periods doesn't have the same ring to it. Nothing shuts off discourse faster than mental images of full tampons and nothing pushes more buttons than using terminology tied to emotionally-charged events such as miscarriage or abortion.
The infertility community was buzzing with reaction to the event, from Square Peg, Round Whole's passionate post stating: "But this.... THIS. This makes me want to wretch, and scream, and yell. This is an abuse of - so many things. It is an abuse of a woman's right to do to her body what she chooses. It is an abuse of fertility. It is an abuse of technology. It is an abuse of common sense" to Vacant Uterus's explanation, "Hoax or not, it doesn't really matter to me. The damage is done. Whether her display is fiction or fact, the very idea of it still spits upon all that I hold sacred and painful and private. She's taken my very most deeply painful experiences and made a mockery of them. For that, I have no forgiveness."
Yet after the initial gut reaction, I keep returning to the idea of the terminology used and how words hold more than their definition.
Julia at I Won't Fear Love had a post this week about the imaginary line existing at week 20, the time period when a loss switches from being called a miscarriage to a stillbirth. She writes:
A somewhat significant chunk of the obsessing has been about whether if things were to go to shit now I could hold off delivering until Monday, when we would officially be over 20 weeks. Apparently I am way too attached to let anyone call my son a miscarriage. Veterans of subsequent pregnancies, tell me please, is this normal or am I bringing the crazy extra hard this week?Jeanette at Keep Me In Stitches had a similar, powerful thought from the other side of the 20 week fence:
I hate that I don't have a picture, either mental or real of what she looked like. I hate that I let the hospital *dispose* of her. I hate that they never told me I had the option of burying her. I hate the word dispose. I hate the term "Late term miscarriage." I hate the term "Gross genetic defect." I hate that my only daughter is in heaven and not here with me. I hate that people don't really consider her a loss because she never really lived. I hate that I get so sad whenever I think of her. I hate that I seem to be the only one on earth who mourns her loss. I hate that I have no grave to visit.Beyond the switch from miscarriage to stillbirth, there are the terms associated with loss that make us cringe. Spontaneous abortion. Though it is the body doing the aborting, the term has such loaded connotations in this day and age that it feels emotionally irresponsible to continue to use this term in reference to a pregnancy loss. Blighted ovum. Chemical pregnancy.
It's not just pregnancy loss that comes with hot-button words. I cringe every time I read an article that uses the term "implant" with IVF. Embryos are transferred; they're not implanted. We only wish we could implant embryos. Adoption language is continuously changing, trying to respect all members of the triad rather than presenting a particular view through word choice. Even common words such as "ours" and "own" become emotionally-charged when coupled with nouns such as "child."
Yes, they are all just words and they are merely representative of the ideas they define. But words can be a powerful medium and their misuse is what rankles and raises the emotional response in those who feel the weight of trespass.
Which words push your buttons?