I've never had a miscarriage. In fact, I got pregnant on our first try. This never really comes up unless someone trying to get pregnant asks. So I always feel uncomfortable telling them, like they'll think I'm bragging about the quality of my uterus or our superb baby-making powers as a couple. Our story wasn't easy or lacking sadness, and in my probably twisted logic I always feel obligated to buffer my quick path to pregnancy with why we decided to go ahead and try. We were in Pittsburgh, staying in the equivalent of Ronald McDonald housing, when my daughter was conceived. The woman in the room next to us was waiting for a lung transplant and we heard her cough all night. Everyone there was either very sick or supporting someone who was. Everything felt unbearably sad and strange. We were there for weeks with my mother-in-law and her time in the hospital was brutal; then she moved to hospice. I guess our logic was that there's never the right time for anyone to die or to be born, so we tried. I took a test and found out I was pregnant one morning; my husband's mother died that night. It was amazing but shocking that it happened so fast. It was complex and heavy for my husband and sister-in-law who had now lost both of their parents.
I tip-toed through my pregnancy, fearing if it didn't work out that I would crush this glimmer of light at a dark time. If anything happened I'm sure I would've blamed myself and retraced every wrong step I thought I made. But if I had miscarried it almost certainly would've been out of my control. I feel strange writing about a hypothetical miscarriage, but I'm considering my perspective when it was an actual possibility for us. At that time I was unaware how common they are (roughly 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies). I knew a few women who had miscarriages, but only because someone else told me. So it always seemed like their own private tragedy. I'd never thought to approach them and say, "I'm thinking of you, I'm here for you." So as they hid their grief, I pretended it didn't exist. Most miscarriages happen in the early stages of pregnancy, when we're encouraged not to make any announcement for this exact reason. So as a society we've set up a fairly common, albeit potentially devastating experience, as one we quietly face on our own.
I'm sure we would've kept a miscarriage to ourselves. Looking back, I can't imagine the two of us trying to make sense of a pregnancy loss in a tiny bubble. Disconnecting ourselves from meaningful perspective, isolating ourselves from the support of friends and family, many with their own stories, would have been extremely unhealthy. But my understanding was that miscarriages are your own secret story. How was I, a grown woman of child-bearing age, so disconnected from reality?
Why is it normal to ask for support after losing a parent but not a pregnancy? Is waiting to share the news until the 12 week mark a big part of the problem? Does this make it feel shameful? If no one knew you were pregnant does it make sense to announce that you were and then make them sad? Are we worried people won't know what to say? Does it make what happened less tangible and real? Regardless of circumstance do women feel guilty because it's our body? Are we afraid we'll be judged for doing something wrong? Do we question the legitimacy of our own response since we're in the dark? Are there just too many questions surrounding it?
There are so many questions and of course there is no right or wrong way to cope. Knowing that other people struggle doesn't make anyone feel better. But pregnancy loss can be so complex, and understanding you aren't alone can help. When celebrities like Beyoncé share their stories, the outpouring of support and appreciation for such openness shines light on the overwhelming desire to shift the narrative.
Again, as someone who has never experienced a miscarriage, my view is limited to the conversations I have with other women. But I know if it's something I ever face in the future, I feel more informed after hearing their stories, and I can certainly say I would not hide my own.
Please check out the first of many interviews here-> Fertility, Loss and Resilience.