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Flushing A Pregnancy Loss: How To Cope With Feelings of Shame

The bathroom is the first place most mothers go when they feel fluid release between their legs. When you are pregnant, it is a practical thought in a moment of panic. There is often pressure and cramping within the body, and blood loss, so it is instinctive to head to the toilet where there is usually a tiled floor, a toilet to hold further fluid that you suspect may follow. But what happens when the fluid becomes a pregnancy loss?

I spoke with one mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, about her experience of uncertainty when faced with the reality of seeing her tiny baby in the water of her toilet:

 “As I had miscarried before, I instinctively knew that what I was going through was the same experience. My first miscarriage happened while I was in the hospital, so it was quite controlled. At almost three months pregnant, I had a scheduled scan and already felt as though something was not right. It was confirmed at the scan that my baby had died a few weeks earlier. I had a D&C that day, so deciding what to do with my baby was a discussion and then a procedure. 

“When I miscarried at home, I was alone. I couldn’t reach my husband on the phone, and I felt there was nobody to ask for advice on what I should do. I knew something was very wrong; I had sharp pains and blood spotting in my knickers, the same signs as when I lost my first pregnancy. I sat on the toilet and, with a small push, felt my baby leave me. I was in shock, there was blood everywhere, and I was doubled over in pain. I could see the shape of my baby in the water but didn’t think I had any other option at the time but to flush. 

“I deeply regret that decision and felt so guilty for months after. I still feel guilty, thinking of the last place I saw my baby. I was distraught at losing another baby: I  was alone in my home. I did the only thing I could think of at that time.”

Unless you have a pre-planned medical procedure, such as a D&C (dilation and curettage), there is little control over when your baby, or fetus, may leave your body while experiencing a miscarriage. 

Pregnancy loss happens in so many situations; at home, at work, and while out with friends. It’s often the case that the mother won’t call someone else to the bathroom, not even their partner. The guilt, shock and shame mothers feel may not be justified, but can be a huge weight on top of an already traumatic experience. Internal questions are asked of whether this should be a shared experience or something to do silently and alone. And many mothers do go through this alone.

Through conversations with women who kindly spoke to me for my book, some had lived through the experience of flushing when they had miscarried on the toilet. In every conversation, each woman had the same reaction – they were deeply traumatised at having just lost a pregnancy and, at the time, did the best they could to survive the experience both mentally and physically. 

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