Conventional wisdom tells women that they should wait at least twelve weeks before announcing a new pregnancy. This is meant to protect you from having to tell everyone, over and over again, that you’ve miscarried.
I’ve never been one for convention. In the end, I told more people about my miscarriage than I had even informed that we were expecting another child. When the horrific reality of having lost my pregnancy set in, all I wanted to do was talk about it. Those poor friends who called during the near aftermath probably learned more gory details than they had ever bargained for. I couldn’t stop replaying the events in my mind — from seeing that first blood drop to sitting in the waiting room of my clinic, surrounded by glowing pregnant women and their boisterously rotund bellies, knowing that our baby was pronounced dead just minutes ago.
I call it a baby but I’m not really sure whether that term applies. This was one of the main things I struggled with while recalling the tale: what to call what we had just lost. A fetus? An embryo? A baby?
I poured my heart out to my friends and family members, hungry and eager for comfort and solidarity. And that I received in huge amounts. I could not believe how many women had experienced this loss as well — how many of my friends and acquaintances could commiserate with stories of their own. I had already known a few friends who had miscarried, which had made me feel much less alone in my experience when it happened to me. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer number of stories added to those I already had heard.
There is still an aura of silence around losing a pregnancy. It wasn’t until I opened up about my own loss that I gained admittance to this club of sorts; a space shared by the many women (and their partners) who’d mourned and lost their own pregnancies.
While some miscarriages can be attributed to specific and harmful actions, most miscarriages are simply the body’s way of getting rid of an unfeasible pregnancy. The mother is not to blame. But no matter how clear-cut that information, it is difficult to not second-guess one’s actions leading up to the loss. And it’s possibly for that reason that sharing one’s pain — a pain that is complex and riddled with questions of “what if” — is a difficult thing to do. Additionally, in some religious societies, the loss of a pregnancy is seen as a direct punishment for immoral behavior, yet another reason why families might not want to announce their grief for the world to judge.
In the weeks following my miscarriage, several friends asked whether this affected how soon I would share the news of a pregnancy the next time around. If I had just waited the obligatory twelve weeks, I could have skipped many of those painful phone calls to tell family and friends of our loss. Surely that sounded appealing.
Appealing? Perhaps. I certainly hope to never have to repeat those hours spent on the couch writing emails and making phone calls telling everyone that I had lost the baby. But as difficult as those hours were, they were also therapeutic. They allowed me to repeat a narrative that cemented what had happened and weaved the story of our loss into the story of our lives. There was no undoing our sadness and no pretending that it wasn’t happening. By talking about it, by opening up to our friends, and by allowing for others to share their stories of loss with us, we came out of the experience feeling much closer and more connected to our community than ever before.
Everyone deals with grief in his or her own way. Talking about a painful event may not have the same cathartic effect on someone else. But there’s a reason we humans come together and form groups and families and communities: we enjoy the feeling of belonging and of solidarity. We seek out friendships and companionship. We do not like to feel alone.
And I did not like feeling alone in my grief. I wanted, needed, to talk about my miscarriage and to find comfort in words of other women, who had endured and moved on just as I now will too. In the end, time has helped erase that initial pain and the sadness that seemed to linger just between my stomach and my heart. But even more helpful than the passing of time has been the passing of stories, the narratives shared, and the grief lessened by the cathartic exercise of talking about my miscarriage.