I would like to extend a huge thank you to a dear friend, who agreed to share her experience with miscarriage on my blog. Although not something I have personally experienced, this falls into my self-imposed mandate to discuss women’s mental health issues openly, frankly and with dignity. -Lindsay
We Need to Talk
In a lot of ways, I was lucky. I knew the statistics on miscarriage. I knew how common it really was. I’d heard friends speak of their miscarriages and my own family doctor had told me, almost as soon as I informed her I was pregnant, that miscarriages happen almost always because of issues that are beyond a woman’s control.
That doesn’t mean I was ready for the miscarriage. I don’t think anyone ever is. I had started to make plans. I’d bought books about pregnancy. I’d subscribed to an app that compared the size of the fetus to a food product each week. My husband and I were arguing over the best ways to reorganise our apartment to make way for a new family member. I had even started worrying about how my cats would respond to a new tenant in their space. (Given their regular skirmishes over territory, I suspected things would not go so smoothly when something loud and stinky tried to take up residence.)
Getting pregnant hadn’t been easy for us. In fact, we had started fertility testing just a few weeks before we found out I was pregnant. A year of negative pregnancy tests meant I didn’t really believe the pee stick at first. I made my husband confirm multiple times that there really was a pink plus sign on the stick. I even took a picture as proof and kept checking the photo throughout the day to make sure I wasn’t delusional. I also insisted on more than one test. When I finally accepted that I was pregnant, I still kept saying things like, “I know it’s early on and things can happen” or “Even if something happens, at least we know now that we can get pregnant.” (At the time it felt like I was guarding against potential heartache. Later, though, the irrational, superstitious part of me felt like this talk had somehow cursed us. Neither thing is true, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t felt true at times.)
When you’re having trouble getting pregnant, you realise just how pervasive the Baby Industrial Complex is. Babies are everywhere! Diaper commercials are almost as common as car commercials. There are products to make your baby happier, healthier, smarter. And when you can’t seem to get pregnant, those smiling babies start to feel like they’re taunting you. It’s even worse when you miscarry (or at least it was for me, every woman’s experience is different). A trip to Ikea for a new dining room table became a form of torture when I was forced to walk through the children’s section to get to the checkout area. Even the pharmacy, with its aisles of baby products, was off-limits. Everywhere I looked, there were babies!
Worse than the anguish brought on by the Baby Industrial Complex were the feelings of personal jealousy that I couldn’t seem to control. A good friend was expecting a baby and I felt how terribly unfair it was that she was four months pregnant and that she had gotten pregnant on her first try. Of course I knew this made no rational sense, but feeling guilty over my jealousy only made me feel worse so I eventually had to accept this was part of my spectrum of feelings.
I tried avoiding social media as well as regular media in an attempt to steer clear of any triggers. But babies are everywhere. When you’re in your thirties, much of your news feed will be taken up with photos of friends’ babies and small children. Even as we struggled with possible fertility issues, I tried to be happy for my friends. Most of the time, I managed. Most of the time, I was genuinely pleased to see my friends making memories with their families. I’m hoping to get back to that place soon. Every day that passes, the miscarriage gets easier to accept. I feel more sure today than I did yesterday that I can be happy again.
As a society, we love to share good news, like a marriage or a pregnancy, but we are uncomfortable with bad news. People who are having trouble getting pregnant or who have lost a pregnancy can feel like they are carrying a shameful secret around with them. I know I did at times. But we are making progress. I knew I could tell a number of my friends first about my troubles conceiving and then about my miscarriage because others had shared their stories with me. And it wasn’t just my friends with fertility issues or women who’d experienced miscarriages who were there for me. As our society becomes more open, we feel more comfortable talking about these hard things. Because others had spoken to me of their pain and struggle, I knew I could speak to those close to me about what I was going through. I felt less alone when I could speak to others about the sometimes surreal experiences of trying to get pregnant and then losing the pregnancy. (When my husband was asked for a sperm sample, the attending doc told him he had to keep the sample warm if he was bringing it from home. The best way to do so? Keep it under his armpit. The doctor even mimed the action of placing a round container under his armpit! This was too funny not to share with people.)
We need to talk. Because we aren’t alone. I’m not alone and neither are you.
Reach out if you are having trouble getting pregnant or if you’ve lost a pregnancy or if you’re scared because you are pregnant or if you feel judged for choosing to be childless. You’ll be surprised how many people will be there for you if you just let them be. And you may help someone else feel empowered to talk about what is happening to them.