Among women, there are many topics that are overshared, but there are a few that are not shared enough. I call these “lonely topics.” One of these lonely topics is miscarriage. Statistics tell us that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, though you never really hear the stories unless, sadly, it happens to you.
When you tell someone you’ve had a miscarriage, in my experience, the conversation almost always goes like this: there’s a furrowing of the brow, a turned-down frown, some gentle head-bobbing, eyes turned to the lap, sometimes a gentle pat on the back. That is all followed by a comforting story about someone the person knows who has also been through it, maybe even that person herself, and some comforting statistics like the one I just mentioned. This all typically lasts about 2-4 minutes, until everyone involved is more than happy to change the subject immediately.
I’ve had five miscarriages. Five. One before my perfectly uneventful pregnancy that resulted in a totally normal birth of an extraordinarily awesome daughter who is now ten years old. Then four miscarriages since her birth right up to my fortieth birthday when my husband and I decided to call it quits and stop putting ourselves through the madness. He got a vasectomy and we got off the pregnancy roller coaster for good. We’ve got one great kid and, for that, we’ll always be grateful. That said, she must have really trashed my uterus on her way out, because ain’t no other babies have ever been able to survive it since her stay there. (I like to picture her lighting a match and throwing it over her shoulder as she was exiting my womb.)
Having five failed pregnancies pretty much automatically makes you the winner of all the sad miscarriage conversations. Unfortunately, being the most pitiful person in the room has never been my thing. Therefore, I humbly offer my advice in a few forms:
To the newly pregnant folks: Keep it to yourself until after the twelve week ultrasound. It’s a hell of a lot easier to deal with a miscarriage if you don’t have to announce it on Facebook or make fifty-seven calls or texts to all the close friends and family you told ten minutes after you peed on the stick. And, trust me, you really don’t want to be sharing that news at work. Sad, pitiful faces for days or weeks do not assist in the healing process.
To those who have suffered a miscarriage: There is no easy answer here, my friends. Some people get memorial tattoos. Some people have funerals. Some people make decorative wall art about it. Me? My coping mechanism has always been my dark sense of humor. It’s saved me from complete breakdowns thousands of times since childhood and, without this particular personality trait, I’m sure my life would already be over. Whenever I look at my perfect daughter and start to feel weepy that I could have had six adorable versions of her, I snap out of it by forcing myself to picture every little sour-faced, snot-nosed crumb-grabber I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting and imagine that the babies I lost were going to be more like them than like her. For me, it works. (Of course, sometimes I just feel really sad, plain and simple. I imagine memorial tattoos I’d get or symbolic trees I’d plant but, truth is, I don’t need a physical reminder because I’ll never forget.)
Whatever you do to deal with your miscarriage(s), remember: deal with it or it will ruin you. If you have a romantic partner in this experience, make sure you grieve together. They’re going to do so in a very different way than you, most likely, because losing a baby feels differently when you weren’t the one carrying it, but it’s still a big loss. If grieving alone is your style, then do it alone. But check in with your partner every day and make time to grieve together. Because it is sad. And disappointing. And confusing. And it hurts. And it changes you and your relationship, hopefully making you stronger, but often tearing you apart. You don’t have to freak the hell out about it, but you can certainly cancel some dinner dates or skip a family holiday if you just want to watch TV or do a puzzle for a while. Personally, I recommend diving into some dystopian literature: I credit The Hunger Games trilogy for helping me get through #4.
Finally, I leave you with this: Don’t keep trying forever, spending all of your retirement money on frozen Barbie embryos or giving yourself forty shots a day. Use common sense about how far is too far to push your body and your soul. As easy as it may seem when you read scary teen pregnancy literature, creating a human child inside your body is a pretty complicated process that often goes awry. The best case scenario is that it happens early enough that you haven’t bought any tiny outfits or painted a room yet. But it hurts, no matter when it happens, and you are allowed to feel that hurt…for as long as you need to…and, take it from me, it never goes completely away. Or, at least, it hasn’t for me yet. It just becomes a part of you that, if you’re able, you share with others so that maybe they will take their loss and turn it into an opportunity to connect with others.
Being human is rough….but we’re all in it together.
Go easy on yourself.