What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by Emily.
If there is one thing I have learned over the past 10 years of life and marriage, it is that the road to building a family is rarely straight, predictable, or what you anticipated. Mine certainly wasn't. I started our marriage working in the adoption field so I never had illusions that building a family was smooth or easy. A lot of people adopt simply because they have a heart to do so, but a lot of people also start or build a family through adoption because the biological route isn't working, or is too heart-wrenching.
Despite the fact that I worked with and for adoptive families, who had often traveled a broken road toward the adopted-loves-of-their-lives, I did still have illusions that the road would be straight for ME. But it wasn't. I have been pregnant 5 times, and I have 2 children at home. My story is in the math.
My first two miscarriages were ""standard"" early miscarriages at 6 or 7 weeks. I went through the normal range of emotions and thoughts. Surprise. Sadness. Fear. Shame. What is wrong with me? Was this my fault somehow? Will I be able to get pregnant again? Will I miscarry again? I felt the weight of my own disappointment, but I also felt like I was carrying the weight of so many other people's dreams and hopes (loving husband, parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews etc.).
The term miscarriage is one simple word that represents SO MANY different experiences. Different physical experiences. Different emotional experiences. Whether a miscarriage occurs before a first child, after a first child, or after a third...it doesn't matter...loss is loss and it hurts at any stage of family-building. Miscarriage is also a very generic medical term that is used for radically different medical and personal situations and experiences (3rd loss in a row, miscarriage after IVF, miscarriage after stillbirth, pregnancy loss at home, D&C etc. etc. etc.).
Twenty months after the birth of my first daughter I experienced a loss that the medical world calls a miscarriage, but I call a stillbirth. I lost a baby boy at 18 weeks. While he had no chance of survival outside of my womb at 18 weeks, he was a perfect and healthy baby. 18 weeks into a smooth and uneventful pregnancy I suddenly and unexpectedly went into labor due to an infection no one knew I had. After a rapid and terrible sequence of events, that will always be both a blur and crystal clear to me, I was in the ER, and I was handed the tiny perfect baby I had just delivered. It was a boy. He was wrapped in a blanket, and he never moved or breathed in my arms. I got to hold him for two hours until my husband and I were ready to say good-bye. 10 fingers, 10 toes. Flawlessly formed. We named him Benjamin. He was my son.
What is the point of sharing this story?
I'll tell you. There are a few things I want you to know about miscarriage based on my personal experiences, the experiences of people I love, and all the times I have said or done the wrong thing.
- Speak with sensitivity about the number of kids people have, or the spacing of their children. There is often a story behind how a family came to be. And that story often includes a miscarriage, or another form of loss. Don't assume. Be careful of flippant comments about how easy it was for you to get pregnant, or how the spacing of your kids is exactly how you planned.
- If you have had a miscarriage, talk about it. Find someone else who has been down a similar broken road and support each other. When I had my third miscarriage I received tears and support from women who lost babies 10 and 20 years ago, some women I barely knew. Miscarriages sting no matter how long it has been, and women who have experienced miscarriage often have empathy and comfort to give. No one understands your exact experience, but some understand it more than others - find those people. Don't bare the weight on your own. Husbands are great, but they experience miscarriage in a very different way and they are often too emotionally close to the situation. Find another woman and lean.
- Infertility and miscarriage are different. There is loss involved with both experiences, but they are not the same. And no two experiences of miscarriage or infertility are the same as either. While women who have experienced miscarriage and infertility can support each other, there are always major differences in individual experiences that should be respected.
- Go there. No one will ever have the perfect thing to say, but in my experience, saying something wrong with love and good intent is WAY better than saying nothing at all. Give a hug. Send a card. Say a prayer. And follow up. Don't be afraid of making someone cry by asking how she is doing. Walk with your friends, family, and loved ones when they experience a loss.
- Broken roads are common. And broken roads can lead to blessings and good things...eventually. Sometimes broken roads lead to other children. My broken road led to two little girls that otherwise would never have been in my life. Sometimes broken roads lead to children, but sometimes they lead to other things... a move, a job, a closer marriage, greater empathy, intimacy with God, opportunities to reach out to others.
What I want you to know is that miscarriages happen...all the time. Miscarriages happen and it shouldn't be a secret. Miscarriages happen and often create a broken road. Our broken roads are our stories. Our broken roads can lead to someone, or something great if we just keep walking.