In December 2014, Chris and I found out I was pregnant. A baby! Due in the dog days of summer on August 28, 2015. We planned and plotted and imagined our new future. We met with our midwife. We were elated. In late January, I miscarried.
It was scary. It was confusing. It was surreal. Miscarriage didn't seem like something that we would ever face. We had already told our immediate family and many of our close friends that we were pregnant, and telling them about the loss was hard. I wanted to wrap myself in a bubble with Chris and stay there until the pain left.
If, as a culture, we don’t bear witness to grief, the burden of loss is placed entirely upon the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad, to let go, to move on, to cheer up.
I've privately written pages and pages about losing that pregnancy, and the ways in which the experience has surprised me. I've written about how the miscarriage was much harder on my body than I thought it would be. I've written about how my love for Chris grew with each day of grieving. I wrote about that terrible morning, our short drive to the emergency room, the waiting, the tests, the blood and the shock as we realized it was really over. I've describe how trapped I felt in my slightly-chubby-but-no-longer-pregnant body and I've written about the guilt I felt for carrying on at work and in public as though nothing had happened when I was so heartbroken. I've wrestled with feeling like the miscarriage wasn't "bad enough" to grieve, with knowing that so many women have faced pregnancy loss and that, relatively speaking, we were lucky because at least I was still in the first trimester. I've written about my unwavering conviction in reproductive rights and the right of women to control their own bodies, because it is all comes down to choice. That's what we all want. When we choose to be pregnant, we want to get and stay pregnant. When we choose not to be pregnant, we want to have access to the knowledge and decisions to make that possible.
I've scribbled lists of what was helpful to hear or read or think about and lists of what sucked to hear, in hopes that I can be a better witness for those who will inevitably suffer after me. (Hint, a great place to start is with this line of miscarriage empathy cards, which includes one for Mother's Day.)
But in those moments when disappointment is washing over us and we're desperately trying to get our heads and hearts around what is or is not going to be, the death of our expectations can be painful beyond measure.
-Brené Brown, Rising Strong
The questions and comments that people fling at every woman of childbearing age struck me as even more inappropriate and hurtful after my miscarriage. So, no kids yet? Better get started! Are you two planning to have kids anytime soon? I don't know what we even thought about before we had kids, everything else seems so trivial. Trust me, you haven't really known love until you've had kids. Hey! You guys should have a baby! Just a seltzer? Are you pregnant? The woman you are saying these things to may be: pregnant but not sharing the news yet, grieving a miscarriage or neonatal loss, struggling with infertility, not interested in getting pregnant now... or ever, or simply not interested in sharing the private details of her reproductive choices with you.
I've written about it all, but what I can share now is this:
You are not alone. You are not damaged. The miscarriage was not your fault. It didn't happen because your job is stressful or you went for a run or you snuck a cup of regular coffee in one morning. You didn't miscarry because you have complicated feelings about motherhood and identity. You didn't lose your pregnancy because the universe lost its faith in you as a mother. Miscarriages are common. Sometimes the knowledge that you are not alone will help you to heal but other times you will rightfully shout that your experience is unique and you will know in your heart that this is your pain to bear. This experience will make you stronger and more compassionate. Please don't be ashamed or embarrassed. Speak out. Remove the stigma. End the silence. (If you want to, that is. You don't have to do anything.) You don't have to bury your grief just because you know things could be worse.
You don't have to feel guilty if you aren't as sad as you think you should be. You don't have to feel guilty if you aren't as okay as you think you should be, even after many months have passed. You can and you will recover. You will rise stronger than before. Chances are you are already mothering someone or something even if it's not the baby of your dreams.
I made the decision to share publicly about this heartbreak because I hope it can help. I always knew I would share my story, our story, but I also knew that I need some time and distance in order to really process my feelings and the impact the miscarriage had on me. In fact, that's how I'm most comfortable sharing many personal things: after I've processed and reflected on them privately. I hope it can shine light on an experience so many women and couples share, but are rarely given permission to discuss. I hope my story and the thousands others like it serve as a reminder that pregnancy is a wild unknown. I hope maybe, just maybe, people grieving a pregnancy loss, infertility or even just the lonely first-trimester blues can find comfort in the shared experience. I hope our openness to be vulnerable helps you do the same, so we can dare greatly together. Hugs to those of you suffering today, and any day.
A few resources that I found helpful (though they may not be helpful for everyone)
5 ways to reframe pregnancy loss from Modern Loss (a great resource for anyone grieving)
The postpartum body without baby: miscarriage and body image
About What Was Lost: Twenty Writers on Miscarriage, Healing, and Hope by Jessica Berger Gross
This new line of fantastic miscarriage empathy cards
My Happy, Hopeful News by Emma Straub