What Could Have Been
I offer this highly personal account of my own experience with miscarriage in observance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. My intention in doing so is to continue the conversation around these devastating events with honesty and candor, in hopes that my experience may make someone else's easier to bear.
A lot has happened since my miscarriage. I've started a company while raising three small children, including twin boys. The pace of my life has not allowed for much inner reflection. Until this year, I didn't even know Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month was a nationally recognized event. I must have skated over it in years' past, subconsciously blocking it from my social media scroll. It just didn't register. But it does now.
Chrissy Teigen’s brave and very public miscarriage announcement a few weeks ago woke me up. It opened a wound I didn’t want opened. But like so much to do with pregnancy, labor and motherhood, it wasn’t in my control to block those feelings anymore.
After our beautiful daughter Elizabeth was born in 2017, we tried to create a little brother or sister for her almost immediately. My older brother and I are only 18 months apart; it seemed a magical age gap as we have always been thick as thieves. Nature had other ideas. When I finally conceived, it felt different. Squidgy somehow. But I was so relieved, I tried to ignore my intuition.
It wasn’t meant to be. I miscarried quite early on—and I think in some sense this early stage loss has always made me feel it wasn’t a “real miscarriage” or as tragic as many others’ losses. But a loss is a loss, and that seed of doubt plants itself inside of your psyche regardless of whether or not you give it permission. Why did my body betray me? What did I do wrong?
After the D&C, life continued in its normal rhythm; I tried to forget about that little bundle of cells and what might have been. I tried to focus on the positives. I had one healthy, happy little girl. Don’t be greedy. Refrains of “it wasn’t meant to be,” or “these things happen” rang through my head as I tried to press on. It was only when my mother-in-law offered a genuine “I am so very sorry for your loss” that I felt seen and my pain was recognized for what it was—mourning.
Elizabeth often asked my why I looked so sad, in her two year old way. How does one answer that? Friends (seemingly easily) conceived their first or second babies and I tried really hard to be genuinely happy for them.
But then, after months of acupuncture treatments, the most amazing—and shocking—thing happened. I peed on a stick and got a positive pregnancy test. I almost didn’t believe it. I made my husband turn around from his morning commute to confirm it was indeed positive. Then a few short weeks later we found out it was twins. Another shock.
The excavation of this period in my life reminds me of the resiliency we women possess. The strength, the courage and the sheer power our bodies (and minds) hold. We can literally create humans. Sure, another party has something to do with it, but it’s mostly us. Despite that power, and the intense joy it can bring, there is also inexplicable cruelty when it goes off course.
Now having delivered three healthy happy little people, the enormity of that simple truth astounds me. This body grew three humans and lost one. It even grew two at once. When I wrestle to close the button fly on my high-waisted jeans and curse my “mom pooch” I try to remember what that pooch has brought into this world. Not just those three humans, but a grace and power I never knew I was capable of.
One in four recognized pregnancies results in miscarriage. I didn’t know that until I had one and my OB thought it would be helpful information to share. It was actually comforting to know I was not alone in my grief. Why did it take me suffering that loss to know miscarriages are so commonplace? Why don’t we talk about this more openly?
I commend Michelle Obama who opened up about her experience in her autobiography and other celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Hilaria Baldwin who have shared such tragedies publicly. Miscarriage is a like a club you never wanted to be a part of, but it’s one with an incredibly large and diverse membership.
If you know someone mourning what could have been—reach out to her. Acknowledge what she’s lost. Make sure she feels your love and care. Grief is lonely but we can lighten the load our friends and loved ones are carrying. We can be there for one another—and that is another amazing thing women can accomplish.