There are some words that you don’t repeat in public and others not even to yourself. Words that are so horrible they make you go numb and leave you feeling hollow inside. Say this one word to a group of women and you may get one person to raise an eyebrow or a finger because this word is too dirty to acknowledge in the presence of others. Miscarriage.
The word no woman wants to hear, but between 15 percent and 20 percent of most pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. Doctors classify a miscarriage as a natural or unprompted loss of a fetus during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. I experienced my first miscarriage in my early 20s. I had just gotten married and was living the newlywed life when the unexpected joy of having a baby greeted us. At first, I kept the baby news between relatives and close friends in an effort to abide by the three-month rule. But what first-time mother can really keep the excitement of having a baby a secret?
As we prepared for our new child, my 10th week appointment approached, changing everything. This was my first time getting to see the baby and hear the heartbeat. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was hoping those motherhood television shows prepared me enough. After throwing back a dozen cups of water to enhance the sonogram pictures, I found myself in a dark room with a nervous nurse barely saying anything to me as she went through the standard sonogram procedures. She ended the session by telling me to wait in the lobby for my doctor and gave me a picture of the baby with a pink card.
Thinking back, the nurse didn’t even know how to deal with this word, let alone break the news to a patient. My doctor was much better, but I was struggling to understand what he was actually telling me. Was he really saying that I was no longer a mother? How could there be no answers about why this happened? What did I do wrong? I have a picture of the baby right here! Then the tears broke loose and I began my trudge through the fog as a miscarriage survivor.
But I didn’t feel like a survivor. Survivors get parades, cute hats, and tote bags. They have a sense of triumph and supporters rallying behind them. I had my pillow, unanswered phone calls, and a confused husband trying to find the right words to erase our pain. I went to counseling at department stores, shopping to cover up my inner blemish. I felt alone.
I was falling into the stigma that miscarriages were personal burdens women carried independently. Though people were around me, nobody was talking to me, and I didn’t fault them. There isn’t a manual or a Hallmark card to soften the pain. But when a person is experiencing a loss, comfort and daily support are needed. Hugs, check-in text messages, or notes to express that you are there for her works wonders. And sometimes, just showing up with a bag of goodies and a box of tissues for a venting session can uplift the person.
Eventually, I began to find peace by searching online support groups and websites about miscarriages. I just allowed myself to go through the grieving stages and let time undress my wound. Though milestones, like my proposed delivery date or when I became pregnant again, brought back memories of the miscarriage, I was able to handle the thoughts and remain focused in the present. I was starting to feel like a survivor, knowing that one day I would raise my fist in triumph and give that dirty word a good cleansing.