Representations of Miscarriage in the Arts

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I Can Make Life: Poems About Infertility and Miscarriage, Pregnancy and Birth

I Can Make Life addresses the impact of fertility treatments, pregnancy, miscarriage and birth as it re-traces the poet's long journey to her son -- and finally, to peace.
I Can Make Life addresses the impact of fertility treatments, pregnancy, miscarriage and birth as it re-traces the poet's long journey to her son -- and finally, to peace. | Source

Art: A Validation of Personal Experience

When a woman has suffered a miscarriage, the grieving process can be long, lonely and arduous. While we may never be at peace with the loss, our grieving process may follow the common stages of grief. After a time, feelings of shock and denial may pass. But in order to heal we must face the loss, grapple with it, and somehow eventually find acceptance.

The importance of support from family and friends as we grieve our loss cannot be overstated; hearing from other women who have been there can be very healing and help with the times when we feel alone in our grief. In quiet moments, we might feel moved to write our thoughts and feelings in a journal, or create objects that serve as memorials to our lost babies. These efforts to work through our thoughts and feelings creatively can be very important to our healing process (some ideas on how to memorialize your baby can be found here).

Likewise, we can move forward to acceptance by observing other people's artistic representations of miscarriage. Discovering how others have responded to a pregnancy loss can offer insight and healing, particularly with miscarriage in which symbol becomes a powerful tool in the grieving process.

Artistic representations of this particularly painful (and often invisible) loss offer us something to look at when we will never see our baby's face, something to listen to when we are unable to hear our baby's voice, and words that can convey a mood, sentiment or feeling when we are unable to find the words ourselves.

When I was devastated by the loss of a much hoped for pregnancy, I desperately searched for references to miscarriage that lay outside the realm of the medical. I wanted to experience a kind of emotional saturation - to vicariously experience what other women had felt at the loss of a baby - in an attempt to fully purge myself of the heavy, clinging grief. I wanted to understand the experience from an emotional and spiritual viewpoint, which was lacking in most of the articles I tended to find on the subject.

Tori Amos: From the Choirgirl Hotel

Tori Amos: From the Choirgirl Hotel

I was aware that one of my favourite songwriters, Tori Amos, had written an album after suffering several miscarriages. From the Choirgirl Hotel was, I thought, one of her best albums, but it became more meaningful to me following my miscarriage.

Although it took some courage to play the album (though certainly less courage than it must have taken to create it), hearing it all the way through felt like a necessary part of my grieving process. I wanted to deepen my knowledge of Amos' experience and sought out interviews in which she discussed those particular songs, and spoke about her miscarriages.

I was able to find an interview from 2002 where Tori Amos discusses her miscarriages on a British television program. A written interview about her miscarriage can be read here. Her articulation of her experiences in these interviews is moving, but I was most touched by some of the darker feelings she shared (for example, feelings of anger toward the spirit of the baby who refused to be born)

As I watched the interview I remembered that I felt angry and rejected by my baby for "choosing" not to stay with me and be a part of my life. But I almost didn’t recognize those feelings in myself – they were very difficult to acknowledge or talk about with others. Having heard another woman candidly share those feelings and that particular sorrow helped bring more of my own grief to the surface, and ultimately helped me heal.

Yoko Ono and John Lennon: Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With the Lions

In my search for other artists who drew upon pregnancy loss as artistic inspiration, I discovered Yoko Ono and John Lennon's album, Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With The Lions .

The album was released in 1969, and is an avante garde recording of "noise music". Aside from the opening song, the entire album was recorded in the hospital where Ono was staying as she suffered a pregnancy loss. The cover photo is of a bedridden Ono accompanied by Lennon, sitting on the floor at her side.

Ono's song “No Bed for Beatle John” is about London's Queen Charlotte's Hospital refusing her husband a bed during her hospitalization. The heartwrenching "Baby's Heartbeat" is a recording of the last palpitations of their baby's heart, and is followed by "Two Minutes Silence" to honour their lost son.

Other Representations of Miscarriage in the Arts

In writing this article, my hope is that women who have suffered a miscarriage will be able to access the kinds of information that is personally meaningful to them - particularly if they feel a need to move through their experience of loss via representations in art, literature or music.

Below is a brief list of some of the resources I found, which I hope will help those who would like to feel less alone in their grief following a miscarriage. As an introduction, I would like to recommend Laura Seftel's thoughtful and groundbreaking book, Unseen Grief: Healing Pregnancy Loss Through the Arts.

Anthologies, Poetry and Novels
A Labour of Love: An Anthology of Poetry on Pregnancy and Childbirth - Edited by Mona Fertig (the section called "Dark Side of the Moon" is a collection of 14 poems which specifically relate to pregnancy loss)

About What Was Lost: Twenty Writers on Miscarriage, Healing and Hope- Edited by Jessica Berger Gross

babyfruit: the miscarriage poems - by Aliza Sherman Risdahl

Baby Dust: A Novel On Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss - by Deanna Roy

I Can Make Life - by Nicole Breit

Miscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart
- by Marie Allen and Shelly Marks

Our Stories of Miscarriage: Healing with Words - by Rachel Faldet and Karen Fitton

Through - Rachel Barenblat (she offers a free download here)

Music

  • From the Choirgirl Hotel - Tori Amos
    * specifically "Spark", "Playboy Mommy" and "Black-Dove (January)"
  • Unfinished Music No.2: Life With The Lions
    * specifically "No Bed for Beatle John", "Baby's Heartbeat" and "Two Minutes Silence"
  • "This Woman's Work" - Kate Bush

Paintings
Miscarriage in Detroit - Frida Kahlo
Miscarriage #1 - Ronald Ophuis
The Endless Throb - Ethan Harris

Photography

I'm Still Here - Jade Douglas
Shattered - Jade Douglas

Poems

Miscarriage - Jennifer Reeser
Blue Moon Child - Glen Downie
Childless - Miriam Waddington
Stillborn - Lorna Crozier
Parliament Hill Fields - Sylvia Plath
Tulips - Sylvia Plath

Closing Thoughts

I would like to acknowledge that what touches or moves each of us personally may not be equally meaningful to someone else. The above list of artists or their works may not be representative of what each and every woman grieving a miscarriage might find comforting or helpful.

If there is a particular piece of artwork, literature or music that specifically addresses miscarriage or brought you comfort as you grieved a miscarriage, I would love to know about it. Your suggestions may help me compile a future list of resources for women grieving a pregnancy loss.

About Nicole Breit

Nicole Breit is a published author and poet. Her debut poetry collection, I Can Make Life, explores the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual impact of fertility treatments, pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and birth. I Can Make Life was a finalist for the 2012 Mary Ballard Poetry competition. Her essay, “For Tristan: A Meditation on Loss, Grief and Healing” was published in The Sound of Silence: Journeys Through Miscarriage (Wombat Books, 2011). She is also the author of a number of online pregnancy loss resources. Follow her writing journey on her blog, Writing for my Life, or on twitter @NicoleBreit.

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Comments 2 comments

Monisajda profile image

Monisajda 5 years ago from my heart

Interesting subject and gives me food for thought.


Nicole Breit profile image

Nicole Breit 5 years ago from The Pacific Northwest Author

Thank you for the comment, Monisajda, and for reading -

Nicole

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