The Miscarriage Secret
I've been carrying a secret. It is a heavy, invisible secret that moves drunkenly around my mind. It's a secret that is hard to talk about with anybody but my husband. It's a secret that has become the conversation of my prayers.
It's the miscarriage secret.
And as soon as somebody finds out about my secret, they tell me theirs. Never have I traded secrets with so many near-strangers. "I had two of my own," the older nurse putting an IV in my arm tells me. Then she gently moves the hair from my forehead like I'm her daughter.
When my husband leaves work for a doctor's appointment and doesn't come back that afternoon, he has to explain to one of his colleagues. His colleague understands the miscarriage secret. He tells my husband his own and says to treat me kindly because this secret is something I will never completely forget.
I was 11 weeks along when my husband and I saw the ultrasound tech's face tense up. I read the news in her body language before I could comprehend the silence that reverberated throughout the room in the absence of a heartbeat. The sadness met us forcefully. We wondered at the pain we felt for the loss of someone we never knew.
As I experience the grief of miscarriage, I am struck by the hush-hush method with which our culture treats an extremely widespread women's issue. In some ways, I'm grateful for the privacy granted me. In the first few months, it was an extraordinarily painful thing to talk about–even with my closest friends.
Paradoxically, the quietness associated with miscarriage has opened up an unforeseen community of support and love as people gently step forward to share their experiences with me. There's dignity in the confidentiality, and there's the freedom to mourn in this newly found private community.
As I see it, however, a few problems arise when we keep miscarriage private, away from the larger community. When statistics stop matching experience, our concept of reality becomes disjointed at best. I'm a 28-year-old, educated woman, and I knew the statistical chances of having a miscarriage were significant—one in five known pregnancies for my age group end in miscarriage, and a far higher percentage exists for women in their 30s and 40s. But the truth of cold numbers often fails to dislodge long-held beliefs based on personal experience. Because I knew of only two women who had miscarriages, I still thought of miscarriage as a rather exceptional case, like the chances you have of breaking your femur if you decide to go skiing. They exist –but you only know a few people in your lifetime to whom it happens, and it certainly would never make you think twice about getting on the chairlift.
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