Recently, a few friends at work were sharing experiences of morning sickness from their pregnancies. Multiple women at my workplace had recently given birth, joining the club of women that seemed to simultaneously be the happiest and most stressed out. One coworker, whose daughter is approaching her first birthday, laughed about the constant vomiting she experienced for nearly four months. “It was terrible, but it’s all worth it in the end.” The other mothers in the group nodded in agreement when she listed the once-favorite foods that had made her nauseous.
I suppose the problems started when, instead of staying silent, I commiserated-the second month of my first pregnancy had been a living hell. Whilst in the middle of joking about how difficult it had been to hide my pregnancy from my mother when I was spending both morning and night in the bathroom, I glanced around at the strained looks on my friends’ faces. One nodded silently with a grim face, one looked away. Another played with her phone, casually avoiding eye contact.
Apparently, it’s uncomfortable for people to hear about a pregnancy when there’s no triumphant birth story at the end, or baby pictures to point to and exclaim, “It was all worth it.” The looks on my coworker’s faces said it all. “She’s not a mother,” seemed to hang in the air without even being said.
They’re right, to a point. I’m not a mother. My two pregnancies, one thirteen weeks and the other only nine, obviously didn’t make it to term. We were close enough coworkers for them to know my story-a 22 year old young woman, not a mother, that had miscarried. But we weren’t close enough to talk about it. The pregnancy stories I carried in my heart had obviously been ruled invalid by some unspoken rule. “Don’t talk about lost babies.” Women that have miscarried, which is actually a large majority of women, are meant to be sad by themselves, accept condolences when offered-if they’ve even told anyone about the pregnancy at all-and to never broach the subject in light-hearted conversations.
Losing a child makes people understandably uncomfortable. Many women can sympathize with you, but many women won’t admit that. Even in 2017, the 3 month rule, where women aren’t even supposed to announce their pregnancies until the second trimester for fear of having to explain a miscarriage to the world, seems to be as much of a law as the second amendment. Even the women in my workplace had announced their pregnancies once they’d reached the comfort zone of the fourth month.
Talking about miscarriage alone seems to be taboo. In some circles, it’s an open conversation, as many women have begun to realize that there are so many that share their story. But for most of the world, miscarriages are meant to be dealt with privately, secretly, almost shamefully. So the fact that I had been open about my miscarriages in the first place was enough of a discomfort to the ladies in the office that day. But to talk about the pregnancy leading up to them? You’re not even a mother, what would you know?
My baby, my motherhood, my sense of security in my body to do what it was, by evolution’s standards, made to do, all of those were stolen from me. Twice. But on top of that, my pregnancies and the experiences with them were taken as well. It’s difficult to speak about your pregnancy cravings or how much your back hurt, even in those first few months, when you can’t open your phone and say, “Look how big she is now.”
Thankfully, women are realizing that there is strength in numbers. There is a solidarity in the thousands of women that have suffered child loss, many multiple times throughout their lives. Women are becoming more comfortable in sharing their experiences, hoping to take miscarriage from a taboo subject to one that women can seek support for. Recently, when a friend shared with me that she was six weeks pregnant, we celebrated together, and she tearfully asked me if this was what it felt like when I found out I was pregnant. It was, from the tears to the celebratory screaming to the countless phone calls. Recalling the few good memories of such a tough time in my life gave me not only a sense of peace, but a sense of validity.
Erasing miscarriage isn’t going to make it hurt any less. Of course, every woman has a different way to cope, from telling nobody to telling anyone that will offer an ear and a hug. It may be “socially unacceptable” to speak of such a private matter but, for so many women, talking about the beautiful moments before the painful ones can be the best way to make peace with the situation.
Nobody wants to hear about your miscarriage. Nobody wants pregnancy advice from a woman that quite obviously has no living children. But nobody wants to hear about racism, or assault, or any other difficult topic either. Just like the other tragedies in this life, miscarriage cannot be pushed aside in favor of keeping people comfortable. When miscarriage is a part of your story, do not let the stress of secrecy hold you. Do not let it control you. Do what you need to cope, no matter what you have to say.