Hanging on the wall in my midwife’s office is a colorful poster: The Female Merit Badges by Mary Yeager. It always made my day to get to sit and peruse the different badges of honor during my prenatal appointments. One for shaving, one for ovulation, one for tampons, one for pubic hair – the list goes on.
It was a little game for me to mentally gather all the badges I had acquired during my journey through womanhood. During my first two pregnancies I maxed out on the number of badges I could collect, and I stopped playing the game.
However, the last time I saw this poster – during my third pregnancy – all I could do was sit there staring at the glaring absence of the new badge I would now wear for the rest of my life: miscarriage.
We shared the news of our pregnancy with the world from the time we saw two little lines appear on the test. I’ve always been way too excited to keep it in. It was Mother’s Day and, by our math, our kids were going to be evenly spaced out almost to the day. It. Was. Perfect.
But perfection doesn’t stop a miscarriage.
The morning we took our two kiddos to the local hot air balloon launch and parade, I began to bleed. Three hours later my husband was rushing me to the emergency room where an ultrasound confirmed there was no longer a heartbeat.
We chose to go home to let things happen naturally.
Miscarriage is not something I ever even gave a thought to. It’s just not something that was discussed. Of course I had heard the statistic that 1 in 4 women experience a miscarriage. But nothing prepares you to become that statistic. Suddenly that mysterious, over simplified “1” becomes you. A person with emotions and feelings and pain, not just a cold, hard number.
But how in the hot hades are we supposed to be prepared for the possibility when we don’t ever talk about it?!
It happened to me. And chances are it either happened to you or you know someone who it happened to.
So why don’t we talk about it? Why do we encourage women to wait to share the new of their pregnancies until they are in the safe zone of the second trimester?
Well I’m done with that shame game. Talk about it. Share the news. Grieve openly.
When we start speaking truth into the shadow of shame we can begin to heal. It’s the only thing that got me through our miscarriage earlier this year.
We chose to share the news of our pregnancy from the moment we got a positive pregnancy test. I have always been way too excited to keep pregnancy news on the hush hush.
But that also means that when our daughter’s heart stopped beating, we had to share that news with the world as well.
Typing out a message to post to social media was one of the hardest parts of this story. It made it final and real, and no words would have ever done the situation justice.
Speaking my truth.
But then something amazing happened when I opened up and spoke my truth to the world.
Suddenly, this new badge that I wore was the key to a secret society of women who had been there before me. Family members I never knew had gone through this were suddenly reaching out. Friends were showing up with care packages. I had complete strangers showing up at my door with casseroles.
I was now part of a new community of women whose empathy gave me room to breathe.
My kids had friends to play and laugh with. My husband had people he could lean on. I was given the space to crawl into my cloud of covers and feel the depth of my pain. All because of the people around me and all because I chose to open my mouth and talk about it.
Vulnerability is hard. It’s downright terrifying, especially when you’re working through the grief process yourself. But by leaning into the pain and the suck of it all, I discovered that I had people on the other side ready to catch me.
These people, these wonderful, amazing, open-hearted people, saved me. They gave me something to grasp onto when my head was slipping below the water.
Honoring our journey.
I don’t regret a single moment of our journey. Because we chose to announce our pregnancy early, and then again to announce that we would no longer bring home a little squish in a few months, Tiny Three was celebrated and loved for the entirety of her life.
Now when I look at my miscarriage badge, I smile. I choose to smile because it reminds me of a time of immense love and great warmth and complete celebration.
I owe so much to the people in my life who decided to show up. And while I pray that this never ever happens to someone I know and love, it would be an honor to catch them, too.
Miscarriage is not your fault.
It happens. It happens more often than we know because it’s been silenced for so long. And shame began to fill that silence. It’s time we start talking about it openly and judgment free so that we can help each other and we the women who will inevitably be inducted into this society.
Let’s start giving each other resources and space to share our stories so that our hearts, and our families, and our society, can leave the shame game behind and HEAL.
Everyone needs a starting place. Each of these resources are for miscarriage support. There is no timeline to grief, so it doesn’t matter where you are in the process; if you want or need support, these local groups will help.
[Editor’s Note: October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. In conjunction with this day, NCMB created a place to honor and recognize those precious lives lost. We encourage you to visit our Forever Loved Memory Board in remembrance of your child and to support the many families in our community who have suffered loss.]