Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Why is this important to me? Over the summer, I had a miscarriage.
Only 2 people knew I was pregnant – we hadn’t even told my family or hubby’s family. I was scared to tell anyone because we weren’t feeling all that confident about our decision to try for another baby. I figured there was time enough to tell everyone as I slowly got used to the idea of growing our family.
But then I started to bleed, and I knew even before I called the doctor or had the ultrasound that confirmed it that our baby was leaving us.
I felt broken and useless. I felt like a failure. I was ashamed and angry and sad. I felt like it was my fault. I know I have abnormal chromosomes – what gives me the right to try to conceive again knowing I have such a high probability of loss?
It was a horror to feel my baby leave my body. I did it alone while hubby did his best to care for Rowenna as we both crumbled. I cried until I was out of tears, then screamed into my pillow. I quickly reached the point of feeling numb – and in a lot of ways I feel like I spent so much time grieving Rowenna’s diagnosis that I am now simply out of grief.
Since it happened over a weekend, I was instructed to go to the ER where the doctor explained that sometimes babies are just made wrong and don’t survive. On a better day, a clearer day I would have let that doctor know just how much those words hurt when you have a baby “made wrong” waiting for you back home, a child you adore and wouldn’t trade for anything. (I should clarify that I don’t feel Rowenna is made wrong.) When you yourself have an abnormal karyotype and know that babies “made wrong” aren’t a fluke, but the result of your own chromosomes. I just sort of stared blankly at him and shrugged, asked when I could go home and let the whole thing be done.
And now I’m a momma with one sweet girl in my arms and one who decided not to stay.
But what made the whole thing so hard was the overwhelming feeling that I had to keep this miscarriage a secret for some reason. Why is that? Where did that come from?
We routinely advise women not to tell anyone they are pregnant until the second trimester. They might lose the baby, so it’s best not to let anyone know. “Lose the baby” is always uttered in hushed tones, almost as if speaking it aloud might cause it to be. But the consequence of that is if you do lose the baby, now you’re completely alone. Either that, or you’re stuck with the unpleasant conversation starter “well, I was pregnant and now I’m not.”
To grieve, to feel so broken while also having to pretend nothing has happened is nearly impossible, and it feels like an injustice. Very few people celebrated this baby with us, and now the baby is gone without a single glimmer of the hope she once promised. It’s an injustice not to celebrate a life, and an injustice that a mom and a dad must grieve alone because no one knew in the first place.
Even worse is the sense that you should hurry up and get over it because grief makes other people uncomfortable. We grieve very poorly in our society, I think. Everything is buck up, move on, put it behind you – and when people can’t do it so easily, then there is something wrong with them when really they are just doing the most natural thing in the world: being sad that their babies are gone.
I don’t have a solution for that, and I don’t advocate for everyone to announce a pregnancy with every positive test. It’s a personal decision for each family. In some ways it was a blessing no one knew I was pregnant because then I didn’t have to tell a lot of people about the loss.
I just wish that pregnancy loss wasn’t such a taboo. I wish I could share that I had a miscarriage without people advising me to just try again, to just move on. Without saying it was early days and hardly a baby. I wish for the women who do want to talk about it that the right words were out there, and that we were all comfortable enough with loss to know how to support each other. To say (for early pregnancy loss anyway), simply, “I am sorry you will never hold your baby.”
So to those families out there who have experienced this kind of loss, know you are not alone.