After my husband and I experienced our first miscarriage in October 2010, we hoped that, as one nurse put it later, we had “done our duty” to statistics and now wouldn’t have to worry. It was devastating to enter a club that we would come to find out has more couples than we realized. We found fellowship in shared sorrow with many couples as we talked about our loss. As many as one in five – twenty percent – of couples will experience a miscarriage. We didn’t know, because it isn’t talked about.
And then we entered the one in 50 club–the club of recurrent losses. And this time there was only one other couple we knew who understood. Well-meant words would often sting. Friends telling us how they had experienced a miscarriage, and then gotten pregnant again three or four months later, and gone on to have a healthy baby. Maybe that would happen to us. This was supposed to be our healthy baby, I would think. And it took us a year and a half to get pregnant again. But I didn’t know what to say.
It was hard to know how to grieve since we didn’t have a body to bury. We didn’t have a funeral, and, truthfully, we didn’t know very much about our babies. All it takes is the sight of a positive test to dream up a lifetime of dreams for that child. And the grief, in great measure, is because of a life never lived.
Simple questions became complicated.
Questions such as, “When are you going to have children?”
When I became pregnant for the third time, a rather brusque young nurse asked me how many times I had been pregnant. “Three,” I said.
“And how many children do you have at home?” She demanded.
“I – I miscarried the other two,” I stammered. It was a very awkward and painful moment.
Being in both these clubs is very hard – especially because miscarried babies are rarely spoken of. It’s as though they didn’t exist – don’t have value. Why? Is it because their lives were so short? Often we don’t even know their gender – it is easy to lose their personhood, too. But carrying a baby – and losing a baby – changes you. It alters you in ways you don’t expect or control. Those babies, in spite of the brevity of their lives, were humans with value and dignity and worth.
Now usually when people ask me about the number of my children, I will tell them about my four-year-old at home, and also add, “We lost two before him.” I don’t want to leave them out, but I’m also not sure the best way to include them. I want to break the stigma of silence. Will you join me?