Bust an Infertility Myth: Miscarriages Are Real Losses…
… and they aren’t “just for the best”.
I’ve been thinking of what infertility myth I want to bust, there are so many of them it’s been hard to choose. In the end I decided to pick one I know well, one that is close to my heart (though “just relax” came a close second because I’m pretty sure if I have amenorrhea and I’m not ovulating then I won’t get pregnant, no matter how un-stressed about it I am – but that is for another post).
Anyway, I decided that I want to talk about the refusal of society to validate miscarriages as legitimate losses that deserve to be recognized because that attitude caused me a lot of pain and suffering after my loss. (Maybe this isn’t an actual “myth” but I felt it should be addressed). I can’t tell you how many people said things to me that not only belittled or devalued my loss as insignificant but also urged me to see the bright side and move on. I would list these things people said but we already know what they are.
Everyone tells me to think positive thoughts and don’t worry, you’ll get pregnant. I feel like every time they say that I die a little inside.*
Everyone deals with the tragedy of miscarriage in different ways. For many women it is a deeply personal pain that they share only with very close friends and family, if anyone at all. Others are forced to acknowledge their loss because they had announced their pregnancy and now need to “un-announce” it. Then there are those like me, who need desperately to talk about it, and are devastated when no one is willing to do so.
I had a conversation with a close friend today. I’m still not sure if they all don’t think I’m crazy. I know none of them can relate…. They all think this is too much. The grief. So where does that leave me? The crazy person? The one who doesn’t know how to let go?
I recognize that part of the problem is a general avoidance by society of sickness and death. We, as a culture, hide sickness and death away in hospitals and nursing homes and we rarely mention it, let alone face it openly and honestly. When tragedy does strike we grasp at euphemisms in an attempt to express our condolences without actually speaking of the loss directly. We do this for a lot of reasons: because we’re scared of death; because we don’t have the words; because we want to say the right thing but aren’t sure what that is.
I’ve done so much crying in public, it doesn’t even make me feel ashamed any more.
I also understand that a pregnancy, especially one that ends early enough to be called a miscarriage, is intangible to everyone except the actual person who experienced it. And I’m not saying that expectant fathers don’t grieve the losses of their unborn children, but I believe even they would admit the pain is different for them than it is for the woman who is physically experiencing it.
… but scars remain. I don’t think our relationship will ever be the same after this and I refuse to take responsibility for all the bad that is happening. I understand that he has come to terms with our lost baby but he certainly has not come to terms with me. With my grief and my suffering.
For a woman miscarrying the pain is corporeal and emotional and visceral and very, very real. It is mixed with guilt and helplessness and confusion and a complete obliteration of hope. The added isolation that women can feel when they realize that their loss is not validated by others renders their pain that much more unbearable. When their loss is not recognized they endure yet another loss. It seems an unnecessary burden for someone who is already suffering so much.
I feel hopeless. I feel empty and mostly I feel alone. I feel like no one understands me. I feel like I’m lost and I will never be found. I feel meaningless. I feel unable, or maybe even unwilling, to see the good in the world. I am suffering and yet I cannot let go. I worry that this will break me and I’ll sink away, pieces of myself falling into the darkness, the depths. Into nothing.
The loss of a pregnancy is a hard thing to understand for people who have never experienced it. When a child or adult passes away we have memories of them – photographs and videos, tangible evidence that they existed. We mourn their lives as well as their possible futures. With a pregnancy there is no memory of what was lost, only the incredible love parents felt for their unborn child and the promises and dreams of a now defunct future. When a pregnancy is lost, innocence and hope are lost with it.
It was my birthday yesterday… I felt so sad. I kept thinking of how amazing it would be if I were still pregnant. How different this birthday would have been, how different every birthday would have been. I thought about how we’d be hearing the heartbeat on Mi.Vida’s birthday. Instead I just feel a sad emptiness where all of that joy was supposed to be. Instead I feel like I will never have that, that it will never be mine. Sometimes I feel like I’m mourning lost hope as much as I’m mourning my lost child.
Perhaps it is because the loss of a pregnancy is so difficult for others to comprehend that they expect would-be parents to move quickly through their grief. There is an expectation that they will dust themselves off and try again. There is an assumption that they will get pregnant quickly and carry a child to term, giving birth to a beautiful healthy baby. It is believed that this will make everything alright.
But I’m still scared. Still scared and uncertain. I feel overwhelmed by the quantity of information and its contradictory nature. I feel overwhelmed by all that can go wrong… What makes me think things will be better next time? So many stories of sorrow and so many of joy. No one knows what my story will be.
Most people don’t know how long a couple tried before getting pregnant. Nobody can know how quickly, if at all, they will get pregnant again. Nobody knows if they will suffer more losses. Nobody knows any of this and their uncertainty should be reflected in what they say. While they might hope that a successful pregnancy follows quickly, they should not assume it will and declare that assumption as if it were truth.
I just start to cry, like I am right now, because my dream feels farther away than ever. I want to crawl in a dark hole somewhere and lay dormant until there is a reason to live again. Right now I’m not sure there will ever be one.
I feel like I have lost my mind. I really do. I feel like I will never be able to undo the damage that the sadness is doing. Like I will be so lost from it that I’ll never find my way back. I feel lost and alone and devastated.
If someone you know suffers a miscarriage don’t ignore their grief. Recognize it, validate it. Tell them how sorry you are for their loss and assure them that you will be there for them whenever they need you. Tell them that, even if you can’t comprehend what they’re going through, you accept it and everything that comes with it; that you acknowledge their loss as significant and real.
Because it is.