A few months ago, I wrote about my experience with miscarriage. It was a hard post to write, as I felt like I was reliving each one of my three miscarriages all over again. I cried. I was mad. I doubted. I felt hope. And then, healing begin to happen. I received text messages, phone calls, messages on Facebook, comments on my post and notes from both friends and people I’ve never actually met in real life. It was truly amazing how sharing something so personal and vulnerable made me feel so much love. Since my most recent miscarriage in January of this year, I’ve talked to a lot of women about it. Some expressed their sympathy but couldn’t relate having never gone through it. Others opened up to me about their own experience. We’ve hugged, cried and bonded over our losses. And almost everyone I talked to about it asked me the same question: Why didn’t you say something?
Ever since writing that post, this one question has been echoing in my mind. Knowing there were other women who had experienced the same thing as me, why didn’t I reach out to them? I was hurting, confused, frustrated and full of pain and sadness, as I’m sure they were. So why didn’t I say something?
As I’ve thought about it (and I’ve thought a lot about it) and talked to others about it, I’ve had some insights come to my mind. I feel fairly safe saying that I think many women who have experienced a miscarriage have felt these feelings and had these thoughts and each one or a combination of them is why they don’t say something: shame, disappointment, rationalization, pressure and confusion.
I can say that I definitely felt shame and embarrassment when I went through my miscarriages. These are some of the thoughts that went through my mind:
- I have two healthy kids and had no major problems getting pregnant or during pregnancy, so what in the world was the problem?
- A woman’s body is supposed to know how to do this, right?
- I don’t want people to think that there is something wrong with me.
If you’ve had a miscarriage, you know that this thinking is irrational, but in the moment, it is your reality. You are trying to come up with some reason why things didn’t work out the way you hoped or wanted and as a result, you feel shame. If you haven’t had a miscarriage, please don’t discount how women could be feeling this way. We know it doesn’t make sense and we don’t want to feel this way, but we do and all we really need is a hug.
In my case, and in so many cases, a baby is what we had been hoping and praying for. Getting that positive pregnancy test is a moment of wonder and awe and excitement. When you get that positive test, you start to hope and plan for your unborn child’s future. You wonder if it’s a boy or a girl and what they’ll look like. Going to the doctor and not hearing a heartbeat or starting to bleed unexpectedly is one of the absolute worst feelings in the world. Having those hopes and dreams crushed can cause a disappointment so deep that it’s hard to share with others, even if they know how it feels. For me, I felt a little like if I could keep it inside and not say anything, that maybe it wouldn’t feel so real and heartbreaking.
My husband and I have two beautiful kids. They bring us happiness and joy and make life worth living. When I went through each of my miscarriages, I tried to rationalize my feelings by telling myself things like:
- Well, at least I have two kids.
- Other people have suffered worse than me.
- I should be happy that I wasn’t farther along than I was.
I thought that by trying to convince myself that I shouldn’t be feeling the things I was feeling, that somehow that would make me feel better. But I have to tell you something: when you are going through a miscarriage, you’re not thinking rationally. You are trying to think of something, anything, to help you cope. To try and work through the pain. You might decide that saying something to someone will cause them to think poorly of you, so it’s better not to say anything at all and just try to work through it yourself.
Choosing when to start a family or add to it is a hugely personal decision. But for some reason, many people think it’s a question that is free game. Parents, grandparents, siblings, extended family, friends, co-workers and random acquaintances think they should be able to ask this question and you shouldn’t feel intruded upon. As though it’s a question that maybe you’ve never considered before (insert sarcasm here). For me, I am the oldest child and grandchild. I was the first to get married, the first to have a baby and the first to get pregnant with our second child. I knew people were wondering when we were going to be adding to our family. Even if they weren’t saying something, I knew they were thinking it. Whether the pressure you feel is real or perceived, it definitely has an effect on if you feel safe saying something to people when you experience a miscarriage.
I had my first miscarriage in November 2015, another in February 2016 and another in January 2017. While I don’t claim to have all my feelings sorted out, I do know that it’s taken some time to try and work through everything. I am someone who likes to have all, or as many of, the answers as possible when explaining or sharing something. Because I had so much going on inside my mind, I didn’t feel like anything I said to anyone was going to make any sense. I didn’t know how to process everything because I had no frame of reference. So I kept it to myself and didn’t say anything.
What changed my mind?
Ultimately, I found that sharing my experience was like a breath of fresh air. Keeping everything inside was hurting me and those around me. I truly felt like I’d been holding my breath, trying to convince myself that I was fine, all the while I was drowning. Until I said something to one person. And then another. And another. And then I started typing the words into my computer. Letting go of everything inside me and sharing the burden with others started the healing process. Telling people about my miscarriages has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. One friend said to me, “We are part of a club of women we never wanted to be a part of.” But thank goodness we can be there for each other. To hope and pray for each other. To hold and cry with each other. To be a source of strength and hope to each other.
To you who have gone through a miscarriage, I’m so sorry. I know how it feels. I am here for you. The pain will probably never go away completely but the ability to bear it will increase. You are strong. You are brave. And if you don’t feel like there’s anyone you can talk to about it, please contact me, whether we know each other in person or not. Everyone needs someone to talk to. Hard things become so much easier to go through when you know there’s someone in your court, cheering you on or holding your hand when things don’t go as planned.
To you who haven’t experienced this, please know that I’m not bitter or upset at you. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt sometimes when I see you with your newborn baby or pregnant belly, or when you unknowingly make a comment about “being lucky”. All I ask is that when you come across someone who’s had a miscarriage, that you don’t try to brush over it with trite phrases or meaningless words. We know you’re trying to help, but most often, all we really need is for you to say “This sucks and I’m here for you.” Often, hearing “I’m sorry” is enough.
To everyone reading this, I hope–really, really, hope–that we can start today in our efforts to stop the stigma surrounding miscarriage. I don’t understand why, but it’s become a taboo. No one should be made to feel ashamed or embarrassed because of a miscarriage. It’s not an easy or comfortable subject to talk about. I get it. But I think recognizing that is a good first step. Awareness and resources for how to talk about it is the next.
I know this was a long post, so thank you for sticking with me to the end. Obviously, I feel very strongly about this topic and I hope that something I said helped you see things in a different light, no matter which side you find yourself on. Because as cheesy as it sounds, we’re all in this together. We women have a voice and we can use it to uplift and strengthen each other throughout all facets of life.