I’ve written about my miscarriages before, but it’s still a difficult thing for me to talk about. I don’t like to admit it, but I feel a sense of shame about my body. When I was pregnant with my first child, I felt so strong. For the first time in my life, my body felt capable of amazing things. Despite the morning sickness that lasted five months, the weight loss, and the exhaustion, I felt powerful and amazing. Even through feeling bloated and nauseated, I learned to love my body. Then, when I had my first miscarriage, the way that I had felt during my successful pregnancy vanished.
Every miscarriage sucks in its own special way. This one sucked because every sensation had a counterpoint to my previous successful pregnancy. The power I had felt before was replaced by powerlessness, and the pride, replaced with shame. This is why it’s hard for me to verbalize. It’s not that I think a miscarriage is shameful — it isn’t. It’s that I personally felt so weak and incapable because of it, and talking about it usually conjures up all of those old emotions.
Despite this, I believe it’s important to talk about — out loud, in public, and in online spaces.
Right before Christmas, I was talking to a co-worker about life and family. I was pregnant again, for the fifth time in my life. This was only the second time that the pregnancy had been viable. I was talking to this woman about timing. We were joking about how best to space out children. It was almost a joke, because it felt so completely uncontrollable in light of my three failed pregnancies. But she didn’t know that, and I felt a pang in my gut. I wanted to scream that there was no such thing as planning this out. Instead, I laughed about how I would manage life with two kids, when in fact, this was the thing I had wanted so badly for the past two years. And then it happened — she verbalized what I had never been able to. “I stopped at two because I had a miscarriage. After that, I didn’t want to try again.”
My heart felt like it was in my throat. What I wanted to tell her was that my miscarriage had the opposite effect on me — it made me go baby crazy. All I could think about was trying again. It consumed my every thought. The urgency I felt in my womb compelled me to try again too soon. It amplified my pain. Each successive loss made me feel smaller and more alone. I wanted to say all of this, but I couldn’t say anything. I stood there in silence, in front of the very proof that I was never alone in this pain.
Later, I hated myself for not at least expressing empathy to this woman. Even if I couldn’t bring myself to commiserate with her, couldn’t I at least acknowledge her pain? Express condolences? It didn’t matter that it had been decades past, because it was still real enough for her to remember, to pause at the thought of it. I promised myself I would never do that again. I pledged to share this part of me whenever someone else felt brave enough to do it, too. I never wanted anyone to feel alone in it again.
On Easter, I found myself in a very similar conversation with a family member. Again, we were talking about timing. This time, with my son in my arms as my daughter played in the living room.
“My kids are five years apart,” she said, “I had a miscarriage in between them.”
I breathed in.
“Me too,” I said. “But I think about how things could have worked out — how I thought they should have — and I’m happy with the way that they are. I’m lucky.”
I don’t know if she ever felt alone in her pain like I did — decades separated us and our experiences — but in that moment, I stopped feeling alone. What’s more is that I stopped feeling shame.
There’s something about the act of sharing that removes the stigma. Being open about my miscarriages has allowed me to cut through the pity and the pain. Now, every time I hear a woman talking about her own similar experience, I share. We connect through what was one of the most isolating experiences of our lives. We remove the platitudes and realize the truth of the matter — this is common; we are not a minority. There’s nothing about this female body that dictates we must suffer in silence. So I don’t. When I share my story I no longer feel weak or shameful. I feel strong again. There is a strength in taking control of the story of my body — one that silence cannot rival.