This week a friend rang my doorbell with a box of maternity clothes I'd lent her and burst into tears. Somehow she got out the words that she wouldn't be needing them anymore. She'd lost her baby.
I'm not a crier, but I cried with her that day. My own miscarriages had been years ago, but those emotions came rushing back with a ferocity that surprised even me.
I guess you never forget.
My first miscarriage blindsided me in 2007, after the perfectly normal births of my first two children. We hadn't yet announced the pregnancy; we'd decided to wait until 12 weeks "just in case."
And even though I'd felt deep in my gut that something wasn't quite right with this pregnancy, I still hadn't given any real thought to the fact that "just in case" might actually happen.
It never dawned on me until I started bleeding that getting pregnant didn't automatically make you the mother of a healthy baby in nine months.
I made a frantic call to my doctor's office. Surely they'd tell me what to do, how to stop this. I was told to stay hydrated and put my feet up. In other words, there was nothing anyone could do.
Honestly, I was shocked. I'd always believed that Phillip and I were in charge of our family planning, but here I was, losing a baby. This was completely in God's hands, and completely out of mine.
Nobody talks about pregnancy loss. I didn't know it would be so hard on me physically, or that it would be such a long process. At its height the cramping was as painful and intense as labor, and I was sore and exhausted for days. The bleeding goes on for a week or more.
I walked through the next several weeks in a fog, feeling alone. Every woman, I think, goes through it alone no matter how much support she has.
No one else has experienced the raw physical and emotional connection with this pregnancy, or felt the equal devastation when it's lost. No one else is in the bathroom with you for those terrible minutes and hours and days, watching clots of blood and tissue pass.
After a while, life has to start again. Someone has to go back to work. Kids still need to be bathed and fed. Somebody has to go grocery shopping. You begin interacting with people again.
Maybe you hadn't announced the pregnancy yet, in which case you feel like a big fat liar, walking around pretending that the worst thing imaginable didn't just happen to you. Or maybe you'd already told everyone, and now you face the task of re-opening the wound again and again every time someone asks about the pregnancy.
Telling another person about your miscarriage for the first time is awful. I don't know what it is about simply forming the words and saying them out loud, but somehow it makes everything crash down on you again. It gets better but never goes away.
Before I had my first miscarriage, I didn't know anyone who'd experienced a pregnancy loss. After I began talking about it, people who'd had one or two or more came out of the woodwork. I found myself a member of a very large club that nobody ever wants to be in.
Knowing what I know now, here's what I would say to someone experiencing a miscarriage: Find other women who belong to this club. If you can't find them in person then find them online. Talking to them will help, I promise. Sharing your story with someone who's been there before will help.
My second piece of advice would be to prepare for the insensitive comments. Truthfully, there's no way to prepare for them. But know that they happen.
Anything that follows the words "at least" is the worst possible thing to say to a grieving person, but someone will say it to you anyway.
Some well-meaning soul will point out that you were 'only' X number of weeks along, as if that will make you feel better.
And some people won't even count it as a real loss. They'll say things to you they wouldn't dream of saying to a bereaved parent of a baby who was one year old, or even one day old. They'll say "aww, that stinks," and then they'll ask if/when you're going to try to get pregnant again. They'll imply that if you just have another baby you won't be sad anymore.
Many people won't understand that you're not just disappointed because some theoretical baby will not appear to you in the future as you expected. You already had a baby, it was so close it was a part of you, and now it's gone. People will not understand that.
It takes a long time to heal emotionally from a miscarriage. People expect it to be easier than other losses. Even I expected myself to "get over it" faster. I'd be fine and then some reminder -- putting away a box of baby things, seeing a bottle of prenatal vitamins in the cupboard -- would just break me.
Years later, those emotions still bubble up from time to time. I think I never fully dealt with them all. My miscarriages happened before anyone other than Phillip knew I was even pregnant, so not many people know about my miscarriages. Sometimes it feels like I'm the keeper of some horrible secret.
That, and the lack of closure, is what kills me. There's no memorial service, no decent burial. No mother feels good about the final resting place of her miscarried child. It feels wrong not to have any momentos, aside from maybe an ultrasound picture if you were able to get one, of this little person who affected your life.
I read somewhere the suggestion of planting a tree or bush in memory of your baby. I think I might do that someday. I have a hard time thinking about my miscarriages with anything other than sadness, but maybe seeing three thriving bushes in my yard would make me happier when I think about those little souls.
My heart goes out to my friend, and to all the other women in our terrible club. I hope that however we do it, we can heal and find peace. That someday, we might be able to think about those angel babies and smile.
Jenny Evans is a writer, a perfectionist, a night owl and a Mormon mom of six who makes jokes at her own expense and blogs about her messy life with a houseful of kids at Unremarkable Files.
You can also visit her on Facebook.