I haven’t talked about my miscarriage very often, or with very many people. There’s a perception that these things need to be kept hidden, that they are private. Maybe we join a pregnancy loss forum where we discuss it with other women going through the same thing, maybe we talk it over with our partners or therapists, but we don’t talk about it publicly.
This needs to stop. There is no shame in losing a child. There is no need to be alone with that kind of sadness.
In the USA, October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness month. I’m Canadian, but I think this is really important. So I’m talking.
And I’m starting with a suggestion to anyone who is supporting someone going through a loss: the age of the baby lost is irrelevant.
When I’ve told people about my miscarriage, the very first question I get is, ‘How far along were you?’
It’s seems to be some kind of unwritten sadness gauge. The number of weeks you are along defines the amount of grief you are allowed to feel. If you lost your baby early, you aren’t allowed to feel as sad as someone who lost a baby after it had already started kicking or after it was born. If you, like me, lost a baby before the heart started to beat, well that’s the end of the conversation, and it’s time for you to move on already, because clearly it wasn’t alive.
But here’s the thing: I know I don’t speak for all women but I’m sure I speak for some, and for those mamas like me, from the moment we learn that we are pregnant, that baby is part of our life. We start to imagine it, to plan our lives around it, to think about what next Christmas will be like when it is here. We don’t wait for a heartbeat for our hearts to fill with new love. We imagine telling our parents and making birth announcements, and we start to go over that list of names we’ve always had in our head and wonder if this name will be perfect this time. We’re already that baby’s mama.
Maybe we’re scared, because babies are hard, and we know it will change the delicate balance in the life we’ve carefully constructed. Maybe there are people we can’t tell yet because we simply don’t want to face their judgement, or answer their questions. Maybe we’re even a bit sad, because we know it marks the end of some things, like date nights and sleeping in on Saturdays (at least for a while). But we’re still that baby’s mama.
We plan, for the good things like birthdays and the hard things like telling the in-laws, and the practical things like how will we fit the carseat in that stupid car. We change what we eat, and we cut down on coffee (though we’ve read the research that tells us coffee is actually safe, we just can’t risk it). We buy vitamins and we eat more protein even when we can barely choke it down and often bring it right back up. Because we’re that baby’s mama, and we are going to do it right.
And then one day it’s gone.
There will be no baby with you next Christmas and your stupid car, you can keep driving it and you might as well buy stock in coffee because you are going to need it over the coming weeks as the heavens crack open and pour an oceanfull of tears through your soul.
And life around you goes on. Your friends still get excited about things like new shoes and concert tickets, your older kids still need you to paint a smile on your face at the dinner table, and there is nothing in your work contract that covers bereavement leave for a miscarriage so you have to show up there too.
The medical field treats you like you are fine, because miscarriages are rarely emergencies and in their minds that baby wasn’t viable yet anyways (but please, can we just stop with the whole ‘viable pregnancy’ term entirely … it’s awful). Go home and call us if you bleed for too long or too heavily, otherwise have a nice life.
You feel like you’re in some kind of bizarre television show where the other actors are following a different script than you, because in the one they are following, the world didn’t just take a double head over heels flip and end up in the ditch. But the the world you are in did.
You lost a baby, but you also lost a dream. And it leaves a big gaping hole. The kind of hole that’s all crinkly and rough around the edges, like paper with a piece ripped out of the center.
And you will never be the same.
So please, for the mamas like me, for the mamas who lost their dream, remind yourself that ‘how far along was the pregnancy?’ is not part of the equation. A loss is a loss, a giant mind-numbing cry until forever kind of loss that we’re only coping with because we have to.