“Tell me about your periods. Are they regular?”
Unless she is trying to determine how pregnant I am, I do not know why that is relevant at this point, but she is the professional and I am not.
“I am always on time,” I answer. “A few times I have been early, but I am never, ever late.”
She nods her head and jots something down on the makeshift chart they have established for me. “And what about birth control? What type or types are you using?”
I look at my husband. It seems we are both wearing the same confusion on our faces.
“Well, I’m not on birth control. I’m pregnant.” She straightens in her chair when I say it, and when my eyes meet hers, I realize there is a little fear in them. “That is the reason I am here. I am concerned I’m having miscarriage.”
It is the third time since arriving in the emergency room I have had to say that word: miscarriage. Every time I say it, my head hangs in shame a little bit, but why?
It’s because miscarriage is not something that is openly talked about.
When we first found out we were pregnant, my husband and I were ecstatic. We had secretly been trying since long before our wedding day, and I was beginning to become discouraged and a little bit scared. This pregnancy meant everything. In our excitement, we couldn’t help but tell a few people: my three best girlfriends, his best friend, and a few people at work out of necessity. My husband’s friend cautioned us to be careful who we tell at work because “You know, things can happen…” What he meant by “things” was a loss of pregnancy and that, if that were to happen, everyone who had known I was pregnant would then eventually know that I was not anymore. Of course, he is not alone in his thinking. For generations our mothers and our pregnancy books have taught us the exact same thing: hide your pregnancy until it is “safe.” Safe meaning past the window of risk for miscarriage—the first 10 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
I was in the danger zone when my world came crashing down. I was 6.5 weeks pregnant. The ultrasound technician would not allow my husband in the room with me, so I was given the news alone, and it feels like I have been alone ever since. We tell women to #ShoutYourAbortion (and for the record, I am fervently pro-choice, so I support that too) but no one tells you to #ShoutYourMiscarriage.
We do tell women, “It’s really common.” I have heard it from friends, medical professionals, and several unsolicited coworkers, but it offered no solace. Has anyone tried to tell a cancer patient that cancer is really common to see if it makes them feel any better? When it inevitably doesn’t work, we tell them, “You can have other babies!” Most women, hopefully myself included, will be able to have other babies, but I promise you I wanted this baby. Other women in my situation will tell you the same thing.
We tell women to hide their pregnancies so they are able to hide their subsequent miscarriages. While it may be a beneficial option for those who prefer to mourn privately, no woman should feel socially or culturally obligated to hide her tragedy, and that is what we have unintentionally created.
How do we change that?
The women who has suffered miscarriage know it’s common and know that they can try again, but that is not what we need to hear right now.
We need you to listen more than we need you to speak. You can speak with your actions by making us feel loved and feel seen. (I have never felt more invisible than I did after losing a pregnancy.)
If you must speak with your words, say simply this: I’m sorry.