The day I found out I was pregnant was the happiest day of my life. I had wanted to be a mom for a long time, and at 36 it was finally happening. When my fiancé, Patrick, and I first saw and heard our little peanut's heartbeat, a wave of love washed over me that I had not known was possible. Patrick and I loved each other so much that we created a person together, and that person was living inside my body. I felt like I was experiencing a miracle. I went home after our doctor's appointment with the sweet rhythm of that heartbeat on a magical loop in my mind.
Sorry, but this is where it gets sad.
Thirty minutes after our appointment I started cramping and bleeding. I lay in bed all day and night praying that this was just breakthrough bleeding, or implantation bleeding, or some type of bleeding that didn't mean what I thought it meant.
I searched countless pregnancy blogs and read stories of women who had bled during their pregnancy and gone on to have beautiful, healthy babies. I clung to that hope all night long. It was the longest 18 hours of my life.
The next morning we went back to the doctor.
No more heartbeat.
Our miracle was over.
Now, there is no need to get into the details of the next 48 hours. The point of this article is not to torture you, or make you feel bad for me, or instill fear into the hearts of women and girls everywhere. The point of the article is this...
Why do we not talk about this more?
After this happened to me, I spoke with women I felt relatively close to, who had experienced the same thing, and I had never even known. The most common response I was given after telling someone I had just experienced the big M was, "This is SO common. This happens to SO many women."
Well, if this is so common, then why do we only speak about it in whispers, if we speak about it at all?
If this is so common, why does it feel like the Voldemort of women's issues?
The "M" that must not be named.
If one says the word "miscarriage" out loud, does that feed its evil powers? Do we fear that communing over this type of loss only makes it grow stronger?
Why, if my neighbor sees me looking sad and asks me if I am okay, is it perfectly acceptable to tell her my aunt passed away, or I lost my job, or I had to put my dog down -- but if I tell her I experienced a miscarriage, I am somehow inappropriately oversharing?
Even the prescribed notion that one should refrain from revealing a pregnancy until they "get through" the first trimester is something I intellectually understand, but I have some questions about. I get that one might not want to announce something so fragile and tenuous to the world. I grasp not wanting every single person you know to be intimately involved in your private business. But at the same time, who is this protection for? Is this customary recommendation to wait 12-14 weeks before telling people designed to protect the mother, or those who might be made to feel uncomfortable if they knew a loss occurred?
These were the questions I began to ask myself.
As an actress, I was in a position where I had to tell my employers I was pregnant much sooner than is customary. There were dates that needed to be tended to, and I didn't have the option to wait until the 12th or 14th week to let them know. But now that I have miscarried, I am grateful that I told them early. I'm relieved that they know why I'm not completely myself right now. I cannot imagine the added stress that many women must endure, of pretending to be fine while also dealing with the pressures of their actual job.
Don't get me wrong -- if keeping your own counsel and acting as if you are okay helps you get through, then more power to you. Everyone handles grief differently, and I am certainly not suggesting that all women run around telling people they had a miscarriage if that isn't healing for them. What I am suggesting is that, if this is something that truly affects so many women and their partners (some statistics say 1 in 3 pregnancies, some say 1 in 5), then perhaps we need to encourage a cultural environment more conducive to empathetic understanding.
I recognize that this is a bummer of a thing to be writing about (and reading about). Believe me, I would much rather be writing about how much I love pizza and fanny packs. But the loneliness and isolation I've experienced in dealing with my miscarriage have given me a deep empathy and gratitude for the women who have opened up to me about their own painful stories.
Beyoncé wrote a beautiful song about her miscarriage called "Heartbeat," and I have to admit, knowing that Queen Bey experienced something so painful and of this world makes me feel a little less alone. Seeing the glorious example of a woman she is for all people inspires me to put on pants with a zipper and leave my house.
I am not Beyoncé (my apologies to everyone, especially myself), but I am a human woman who has experienced the deep sadness of not being able to bring my child into the world.
My purpose in writing this is simply to say, if you are part of this sisterhood, you are not alone.
This is not your fault.
You did nothing to deserve this, or make it happen.
You can grieve for as long (or as short) a time as you need.
You are allowed to talk about this (or not talk about this) with whomever you want.
You, and only you, will know when the clouds have passed.
It seems to me that we, as a culture, haven't quite learned how to broach this painful subject. My hope is that talking about it in an open forum can be healing in some small way. Sometimes it can be helpful to know that someone out there has felt the same pain as you, and that they are holding you in their heart.
I am holding you in mine.
Follow Laura on Twitter at @laurabenanti.