Don’t beat yourself up, my doctor said sitting across from me with a look of concern. You didn’t do anything to cause this miscarriage. I felt numb and nodded as if programmed. Women are so hard on themselves, he added. You’re not being punished or anything. Miscarriages are caused internally. There is absolutely nothing you could’ve done to prevent it.
As soon as I left his office, my mind started to wander dangerously into the dark side. Maybe, I shouldn’t have run up the stairs last week to catch that damn train… Maybe this is nature’s way of saying I missed the boat, that I’m too old, I was too reckless when I was young, took things for granted for way too long, valued my career more than having a family… Maybe I made too many bad choices during those years when I was in my maternal prime… Maybe this is a sign that I should just be happy with what I have and stop asking for more… Maybe, I didn’t pray enough… Maybe, maybe… I’d worked myself up into such a frenzy on the ride home that I could barely breathe.
There is nothing a good cry or a good laugh won’t cure. That night I ordered Indian takeout and resigned myself to the inevitable. Make sure you’re comfortable tonight, the nurse had cautioned. You might bleed a lot. But, I was not ready for what came after… and I won’t burden you with the bloody details, pun intended. Everyone’s experience is different and there is absolutely nothing pleasant about it. As my body continued to purge the remains of what would’ve been a joyful presence in our lives, I felt more alone than ever before. Sure, my doting boyfriend was by my side, tending to my every need, reassuring me that everything would be okay, but still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps I had failed at the single most important job as a female.
When the two pink lines showed up on the home pregnancy test a couple of weeks earlier, the immediate reaction from the two most important people in my life- my boyfriend and sister- was, don’t tell anyone until the first trimester is over. But, that advice instantly felt wrong on so many levels… This was supposed to be the happiest time of our lives. I wasn’t planning to post on Facebook or anything, just a few close friends and family… But no, the fear of the first trimester had been invoked and going against it felt like tempting fate. And, in my case, sadly, that fear had manifested into reality by the 6th week. When I called my dad to tell him what was happening, he calmly said. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. You’re following in your mom’s footsteps. She had a miscarriage before we had you. The words hit me like a brick. It was the first time in my life that I’d heard that news. And, the days following my miscarriage, I wondered how many of my friends and family had actually gone through this ordeal but felt compelled to grieve quietly?
Why is talking about miscarriage still taboo?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, 10-25% of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. That’s conservatively 1 in every 10 pregnancies! Most experts believe that number is even higher. What?! All around me, people were getting pregnant and having babies with little to no effort, could this fact be true? Turns out, I wasn’t alone in my ignorance… A recent survey of more than 1,000 men and women showed people massively underestimate the frequency of miscarriage. Fifty-five percent of participants believed that it impacted fewer than 6 percent of pregnancies.
Almost all miscarriages happen during the first 13 weeks typically due to chromosomal abnormalities. And, as you get older the number of eggs you have decrease, thereby increasing the odds of having a bad egg. So, my doctor was right after all. There was nothing I could’ve done to prevent the miscarriage. And, many women go on to have perfectly healthy pregnancies after a miscarriage. That’s something I’m hoping for… But, it is when I finally found the courage to tell my close friends, that something incredible happened. They all shared their own stories with me… about a sister, or a coworker or a family member or even themselves who had gone through this ugly ordeal. And, in each of their stories, I found a common thread of lonliness, shame and grief from losing something intangible… a piece of your heart maybe?! But, in their courage, I was able to find strength and a teeny bit of reassurance that this was not some sort of punishment for my choices. Miscarriages happen!
Here’s a thought, what if we abandoned all the shoulds when it comes to pregnancy? We, as a society, have built such a convenient box where we only share the good about this life changing experience. What if we allowed the good, the bad and the ugly to co exist without judgment? I’m not advocating for casually announcing your first trimester experiences on social media. There are a hundred reasons why you shouldn’t, starting with your job and privacy. But, what if we shared the news of a pregnancy immediately with those close to us, the ones who can support us if, God forbid, something goes wrong? Making a human is incredibly hard work, our bodies go through so much from the very beginning. What if we overcame the fear of the first trimester by creating a support group of loved ones around us?
My hope is for someone reading this to find the courage to pick up the phone and call their mom or sister or a friend to share their news, whatever it may be. There is no need to wait 12 weeks to tell your close friends and family. These are the folks who will take care of you in your need. Talking about miscarriage doesn’t have to be a conversation downer either, though it can be a very painful and emotional experience. Instead, let us allow it to be an acknowledgement of loss for a much wanted life; an understanding that it happens more often than we think, and most importantly, an acceptance that it is not anyone’s fault!