My first baby came so easily to me, like I assumed most babies came for most women. When I was losing it, the word miscarriage loomed over my head like a dirty curse. That couldn't be happening to me -- I was healthy and young. No one in my family had ever had a miscarriage.
When the baby was good and lost, the doctors kept saying the word over and over again. Miscarriage. Miscarriage. Is this your first miscarriage? Have you ever had a miscarriage? Don't worry, it's just an early miscarriage. Each time they hurled that word at me, it felt like an accusation, a sentence. The needles they were sticking in me hurt much less than that word that punctured me over and over again.
After my D&C, I didn't hear that word anymore. No one wanted to say that dirty word to me. I got many looks of sympathy and quickly administered hugs, and my mother-in-law brought me flowers. No one said it outright, but the message was clear -- it was time to suck it up and put "this business" behind us.
The problem, if we want to call it that, is that I'm not a shut-up-and-suffer kind of person. When someone asked me why I wasn't feeling well, I told them I'd lost our first child. When an old friend asked me about the pregnancy that I'd announced so early, I told her it ended in miscarriage. And the most amazing thing happened -- the world didn't end.
No one exploded into apoplectic shock and melted at my feet. Some people looked away and assumed an awkward look. Not everyone was ready to deal with such a difficult topic. The conversations with those people were over quickly and politely. What did happen was a bit of a shock to me at first, and it didn't take long for it to become the norm.
When I would share my story of loss, other people would start to share theirs. They'd give me a shy look, like they were giving away this big secret, and tell me that they, too, had lost their first baby. Or maybe their sister had lost their niece. Sometimes it was a partner who was suffering from a miscarriage right now, and they didn't know how they should act. Almost everyone had their own story of losing a baby, and they looked over their shoulder to make sure no one was listening before they told it. The feeling of shame was clear and pronounced.
What's the common tie between these people? Almost all of them seemed relieved to talk about it. They gave the impression of releasing a burden, and we usually related to each other in an honest and understanding way. The woman whose friend had miscarried asked for advice on how to comfort her. She wanted to be there for her friend, but didn't know how, and talking to me helped her figure out what to say. The man whose girlfriend had lost a baby didn't realize how common miscarriage was. He'd wondered if she'd done something to cause it, and after our conversation he realized that likely wasn't the case. You'd be surprised by how many people think the mother is responsible for her lost pregnancy.
These people were so afraid of broaching the terrifying monster of miscarriage that they were ignoring it completely. It was only by being brave enough to talk about it openly that they broadened their understanding and took that monster down a size.
Talking about loss is how I turned my miscarriage into something positive. It's how I choose to honor my first child. I can only hope that more men and women start to share their stories, and start changing the conversation about pregnancy loss.
These days, I talk about my miscarriage. It doesn't always have to be a big downer in a conversation, but I'm honest and frank about my experiences. My friends and family know that I'm someone they can talk to if they lose a baby or know someone who does. Because of my willingness to start these conversations, pregnancy loss is no longer a taboo in my circle.
Imagine what it would be like if that circle widened. If other people started their own circles of sharing and understanding. If women knew that they didn't have to feel ashamed when they had a miscarriage. Imagine if those circles converged, and we started building a society where a woman could openly grieve for her lost child instead of hiding in embarrassment.