Today, October 15, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. On the one hand, I think it's a bit corney that they make official remembrance days for just about everything...on the other hand, it's a good opportunity to talk about something I feel passionate about.
I believe that miscarriage is a largely unnoticed tragedy. Most miscarriages happen in the earlier parts of pregnancy--before the woman 'shows' and before many people know that she was even expecting. When the baby is lost, there is rarely a body to hold or bid farewell. Even if the mother sees her fetus, those beyond the family do not, and so, the baby is not real to them. As outsiders have no object for grief, they do not grieve...leaving the parents (especially the mother) very very alone. For some reason, our culture does not recognize a miscarriage as a valid loss (as they would with a stillbirth or especially an older child). Even the medical term "spontaneous abortion" is heartless. Our culture does not accept our grief, and so we are left to grieve alone. In silence.
That is wrong.
Statistically, one in four pregnancies results in miscarriage. With earlier and earlier pregnancy detection, that ratio is decreasing. If we could detect pregnancy at the moment of conception, I suspect that actually only about one in four pregnancies makes it past the first 5 weeks of gestation (3 weeks past ovulation). But let us just go with the "one in four" ratio. That means that 1 in 4 women that you pass on the street has suffered a miscarriage. If you have 3 sisters, then one of you probably has (or will) miscarry. If you have 4 members in your book club, playgroup, or carpool, one of you has (or will) miscarry. If you have more than three children, you will probably have a miscarriage. If you have 7 children, you will probably miscarry twice.
I have miscarried at least three times. Three times I reached at least 12 weeks gestation, only to lose my baby. The first time I had a spontaneous micarriage, at home, and held my tiny son's body in my hand. He was only a few inches long, and his tiny hands and perfect little feet could all four fit on my thumbnail together. My husband's wedding ring could have fit around his head like a crown.
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So tiny, so perfect...and not ours to keep. My subsequent miscarriages, unfortunately, involved D&Cs, so there was no baby to hold, no one to bid adieu, and no closure. Holding my tiny baby was the hardest thing I had ever done...until I had to say goodbye to babies I couldn't even hold.
Miscarriage is overlooked the vast majority of the time, yet it is so common. Following my miscarriage(s), women 'came out of the woodwork' and shared their own miscarriage stories with me. My mother said that the same thing happened to her after she miscarried. Why is it that we do not tell our stories except to other women who miscarry? By doing so, we are promulgating the cycle of silence. Mothers, you who have suffered with empty bellies and empty arms, be silent no longer! Speak up! There is no shame in having miscarried, only in refusing to acknowledge how it changes us.