17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Friday, May 05, 2006

A Taboo Topic?

I am inspired to write this after witnessing a very brave friend of mine suffer a miscarriage. I’ll call her Carla. Carla really impressed me. I knew she was a nice woman and a good mother to her one year-old son. I serve in the Young Women’s presidency with her in our ward. She is a hard worker. But I never knew how open and brave she was until she confided that she was having a miscarriage.. First off, she wasn’t ashamed. She wasn’t afraid to confide in her friends what was going on with her and her body. Not to say that she didn’t have nights where she was scared and cried and mourned the loss of the child, but she was open and honest (with those she could trust) and I came away from those difficult weeks she had feeling impressed with her for sharing what she was going through. She had a support system around her that she created by being honest with her friends and family. She was brave at a very vulnerable time. That inspired me.

I write this because my first pregnancy was a miscarriage and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alone than at that time. Granted, my DH and I had just moved across the country and I didn’t have a lot of close friends to lean on. The gyno reassured me that 1 in 3 pregnancies end in miscarriage. I thought about that and said to myself, “then why do I feel like there is NO ONE for me to talk to”. This was my first pregnancy and I was terrified (“what if something is wrong with me” “I’m a woman…my body should be able to do this”), and I don’t know why, but I was embarrassed and scared and didn’t want to let anyone know. I felt like a failure. I lived near my mother-in-law at the time and she had had 3 miscarriages, but then went on to have 7 children. This was little comfort at the time because I was afraid I would never even have ONE child. I desperately wanted to know that other women my age were dealing with this…that I was not alone. I realized that I had so many friends that were mothers, or were my own age, and I thought about that 1 in 3 statistic and wondered… “Did any of my friends suffer a miscarriage and feel alone as well?” Times have changed in our country and yet I still felt like this was a topic that felt secretive… like I wasn’t supposed to talk about it. “Don’t tell people you are pregnant until you’re 12 weeks along just in case you have a miscarriage?” Why? Because you would have to acknowledge that it happened. I look at Carla and the support system she created around her, and think back to how alone I felt and wish that I had had a friend like her at the time, or that I would've been as brave to open myself up as she has been.

Anyway, time passed and I endured my miscarriage. I did make a conscious decision to tell my sisters and close girlfriends about my miscarriage. Mostly because if they had a miscarriage I wanted them to know they could pick up the phone and know that someone out there knew how they felt, and that they weren’t alone. I think it’s important that women stick together like this. Now I’m in no way trying to tell women to be open about something so personal if they feel like it’s a private matter. I just hope women don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed, or like a failure, because of miscarriage. I hope they don’t feel alone if what they are looking for is someone to connect to. And I hope that in this day and age miscarriage isn’t a “taboo topic”.


  • When I miscarried our first baby I felt the same thing. The sad thing is, most, if not all people do not understand what a miscarriage is like, emotionally, unless they have had it. The comments can be very crass and cruel "It is probably better that this happened" or "You will have another baby", " It's a good thing you weren't very far along" etc etc. No it is NOT better that this happened, no it is NOT a good thing you weren't very far along, and no, RIGHT NOW you are not thinking about having another baby, you want THIS baby. No other. It doesn't mean you don't want more babies in the future, but you are mourning THIS BABY AT THIS TIME. And you won't forget this baby who was supposed to come. The pain will get easier, but you will always remember that child.

    I learned more understanding, compassion and love when I miscarried. That is the only good that came out of it, because I still wish he had been born and was here today. He would be 9.5 years old right now, my little boy.

    I am sorry for your loss and your friend's loss. I wish people were more open about their experiences and that others would have more sympathy for the need to not only acknowledge, but accept the loss and mourning. I really do. There is no good time to lose a baby. Ever. It is always painful.
    posted by Blogger Mary Siever at 5/05/2006 01:35:00 PM  

  • Beth, I'm so sorry to hear that you went through this, and especially that you were so alone in it. I've had discussions about miscarriage with two friends (both of whom have had 3) and their strength amazed me and their honesty impressed me. I feel sad that women feel reluctant to talk about miscarriage. At the time that it is happening, I totally understand wanting to mourn privately, it is a loss and we all face that in different ways. But, like you have done by talking with your family and friends and writing this post, the more we share with each other, the more we can help each other. Like you said, you want those you love to know that they can call on you and you will understand.

    When I was still under the 12 week "spread the word" date, the word got out at church that I was expecting. At first I was upset, because I didn't think I was ready to tell people. But then I realized that if something went wrong and I did lose the baby, I'd want my support network to know, and that network was our branch.
    posted by Blogger marian at 5/05/2006 04:27:00 PM  

  • Marian, I felt the same way as you did. When I decided to tell people that I was pregnant early on, I rationalized it in that way. I would have wanted and needed that support.

    Beth, I am so sorry. I for one didn't know you miscarried, and that makes me sad. Not that it should be everyone's business but I would have liked to have been able to lend an ear or shoulder, or something!! I didn't realize it was as taboo as it is, you brought up a good point. I think for me, I knew it was very common and I sort of expected and still do, that I will experience this. I have not yet. And for that I am grateful. But, if I do, I would want to talk to the women that have been through it. It would help.

    MS, you are right, people can be very insensitive when they haven't actually experienced something for themselves. It is like that with most events. I think people need to be more aware and should try to sensor the things they say.
    posted by Blogger Zinone at 5/05/2006 08:43:00 PM  

  • Because people are insensitive, I was relieved very few people knew about my miscarriage (which happened 4 weeks ago).

    The more people kept asking me "How are you?" the longer it took for me to mourn. When they stopped asking, I was able to heal more quickly.

    That's not to say I didn't appreciate their concern, their love, or their empathy. I just wished they wouldn't have drawn it out for as long as they did. I wanted to let my body heal, let my soul heal, and then move on and try again.

    And I honestly think that having a miscarriage with your first is WAY harder than miscarrying with your fourth. Well, that's how I felt. For some reason, having my 3 beautiful children around me while I was experiencing this comforted me in many ways. I'm not saying it wasn't still hard --just a little easier.

    Of course, any other woman might totally disagree with that --and that's fine.

    Beth--I'm sorry you had to go it alone. That would have been really hard...
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 5/05/2006 09:07:00 PM  

  • Having never experienced miscarriage, I have no idea how I would react. For me I bet it would have a lot to do with whatever hormones I was experiencing at the time.

    I am sure that a first miscarriage would be harder then if I had one now with what would be my third child. I think like Cheryl, I would feel comfort from the 2 kids I already had.

    I for sure would be pissed off b/c if I was as sick as I was with the first two, I would have been like: "Man, I was just sick as a dog for 3 months and for nothing". It might take me a few years to try again....that morning sickness really takes it out of ya.

    And I think talking about this is (unfortunately) TOTALLY taboo, it is even more taboo to tell you are pg before 3 months (like what Marian was talking about). With my first I waited 13 weeks, second, about 6 with family, later for "the world" but I was trying to hide it from work, I think I waited until about 17 weeks for work.

    But waiting to tell sort of makes it seem shorter. I have known about my sis's pregnancy since week 2, and it seems like that baby will NEVER come....
    posted by Blogger Kage at 5/06/2006 05:22:00 AM  

  • As Mary and others have already said, the biggest reason not to share is that people are rude and insensitive. It's not because you don't want to share--you're dying inside and you'd like to be able to talk about it! But you're already totally devastated and hormonally imbalanced and a crying mess...you don't need even one more thing to tip the scale that much more toward the "admit me to a psychiatric hospital NOW" or "I'm going to physically attack the next person who says ANYTHING" frame of mind. And if you think I'm kidding about either of those states of mind...I'M NOT!

    Even people who are close to you or are members of your family can still be incredibly rude. I still remember the first person I ever told I had miscarried--one of my best friends--and her response was "OH that is SO GREAT! At least we know that you're plumbing works correctly!" (Meaning that at least I got pregnant at all in the first place.)

    And if you can't count on sensitivity even from your own family members and friends, why would you even take any risk at all in telling others...people in the ward, co-workers, people you have no real foundation of trust with, etc.? You're just setting yourself for more hurt and more pain. And you have enough of that already.

    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 5/06/2006 10:47:00 AM  

  • I have 3 beautiful children. Just this week I experienced the pain of a miscarriage. We were so excited and happy that we were having another baby. I woke up with some spotting and called my Dr. and was sent to have some blood work, to see what my hormone levels were. I was to call the Dr. office an hour later, that was one of the longest hours of my life. I called my husband, a good friend, and then my mom. Nothing seemed to help. I knew the baby was gone and I was really suffering from the loss. I was shocked when I got my lab results, I wasn't pregnant! My HCG level was a little high which caused a false positive pregnancy test and my cycle was 2 weeks late.
    It was comforting to know that I wasn't actually miscarrying but I was still mourning what I thought was a pregnancy. It took several days for me to get over those feelings.
    Through this experience I hope I am able to be empathetic to women who have experienced miscarriage. I felt the devastation and the pain of loss.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 5/06/2006 02:30:00 PM  

  • I think miscarriage is not any more taboo than any other kind of tragedy. People don't like to talk about things that they haven't experienced, or events that make them secretly grateful that's not happening to them, and things that put them in a position where they might say inappropriate and insensitive things (which they usually do.) Bottom line--we don't talk about it because most people don't know what to say. And that's the main reason I don't tell people other than my family when I'm pregnant, because I have a high rate of miscarriage. I don't want to deal with the awkwardness, and I don't want to have to say, "Oh, yeah, no, we're not pregnant, but it's, um, ok, you know, we're ok!" when really, all I want to do is crawl under the covers and cry all day.

    But most women I know who have experienced miscarriages always want to talk about it, even years later, just because it was so traumatic (i.e., Mary knows how old her boy would be today. My boy would be 2 and a half. See? Mothers don't forget). So if you can find the right women, you can have the discussion you need.

    Family is also great, but I'm wondering if you have heard of the SHARE program. It is a national program that helps women with pregnancy loss. There is not a chapter where I live, and after my 3rd miscarriage, I seriously considered starting one. There is nothing like having somebody say, "Hey, I've been there. It totally sucks."

    And hey, I've been there. It totally sucks.
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 5/06/2006 06:32:00 PM  

  • Oh, and Kage, there is definitely the whole pissed off because I was so ^%$&* sick the whole time. Also, with 2 of the miscarriages, I continued to be sick even after I knew the babies no longer had heartbeats, but before I had the D&Cs, just because the hormones were still in full gear. I sat down and wept for quite a while after I puked the day I found out the baby was dead, because I felt like that was just beyond unfair.
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 5/06/2006 06:36:00 PM  

  • heather o, that would have TOTALLY put me over the edge....I would have had thoughts of suicide by toilet water for sure...you poor puking thing.....yes I feel your pain
    posted by Blogger Kage at 5/06/2006 06:49:00 PM  

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    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 5/06/2006 07:32:00 PM  

  • I totally understand . My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 17 weeks. I was devastated. I am someone who really can't keep a secret so everyone I knew also knew that I was pregnant, family, friends, co-workers, everyone. Since my miscarriage happend later than most, I was absolutely horrified to have to tell people who really I didn't talk to regularly what happened after they asked how things were going.

    I DID, however, NOT regret having told the people around me because, well, I guess I liked the caring attentions everyone gave me after they found out. I was so sad, and I have no idea how I would have made it through had I tried to "keep it to myself" and be mourning alone. I NEEDED support and I wanted it. I appreciated every card, and word of sympathy and encouragement. What is the point of being there for eachother if we can't open up enough to allow others the opportunity to serve when a real family crisis hits?
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 5/06/2006 07:32:00 PM  

  • My SIL and I found out we were both pregnant at about the same time. Our due dates were a week apart. First babies for both of us and we were so excited. Twin cousins!

    At week 12 she called to say that she'd miscarried. I had no idea what to say. I still have no idea what to say. I think I managed to avoid saying anything especially stupid or painful because I didn't say anything at all except that I was so sorry.

    I'm still pregnant; he's kicking me and growing just fine. I hurt for her and other than saying, "I'm so sorry" I can't think of anything to say. I imagine that me in my maternity clothes are a painful reminder for her of what she doesn't have right now. Keeping a low profile is all I can think to do, but I also worry that she thinks I don't care about how much she hurts because I don't dare say much.

    If our positions had been reversed, I know I'd watch her baby grow up and think, "my baby should be learning to walk now too . . . my baby would be starting to talk . . . my baby would be going to kindergarten."

    I feel so bad for her.
    posted by Blogger Melinda at 5/07/2006 03:10:00 PM  

  • melinda-
    I would take what you just wrote and send it to her. Or have her come to this site. I'm sure if she knew how badly you truly felt, she would be touched. And what a great place to come and read about women who are going through the same thing....
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 5/07/2006 04:18:00 PM  

  • Heather O.

    You are right, mothers don't forget. And I agree a support network, talking to others who have gone through it, that's what helps most.

    And oh it is so hard to have symptoms when you know you are losing your baby, I know.


    The best thing you can do is be there for her and let her know you are sorry. She might not want to hear about your pregnancy right now. It's not personal, it just hurts. A part of her is happy for you, another part is in pain. If you know that anything negative she says comes from her pain, it will make it easier. When it took us a long time to get pregnant with our next baby (my now 7 year old daughter), there was a long period of time where I couldn't bear the sight of pregnant women. I got over that. But there is a process.

    One of my favourite songs is by Sinéad O'Connor " Three Babies". I didn't know it at the time, but she wrote that song about three babies she lost through miscarriage.

    "Each of these
    my three babies
    I will carry with me
    for myself
    I ask no one else will be
    mother to these three
    and of course
    I'm like a wild horse
    but there's no other way I could be
    water + feed
    are not tools that I need
    for the thing that I've chosen to be

    in my soul
    my blood + my bones
    I have wrapped your cold bodies around me
    the face on you
    the smell of you
    will always be with me

    each of these
    my three babies
    I was not willing to leave
    though I tried
    I blasphemed + denied
    I know they will be returned to me
    each of these
    my babies
    have brought you closer to me
    no longer mad like a horse
    I'm still wild but not lost
    from the thing that I've chosen to be

    and it's 'cos you've thrilled me
    silenced me
    stilled me
    proved things I never believed
    the face on you
    the smell of you
    will always be with me."
    posted by Blogger Mary Siever at 5/07/2006 04:19:00 PM  

  • Ah, that's beautiful...
    posted by Blogger chloe at 5/07/2006 07:21:00 PM  

  • Melinda - After my miscarriage I found out that my SIL was pregnant. We had conceived around the same time. I still remember being with my MIL when she found out about SIL's pregnancy and she was screaming for joy and so excited (which she should be) and I felt totally empty. Totally empty. Honestly, it wasn't until I had a little space (time heals everything right?) and got pregnant again (about 4 months later) that I didn't feel a little twinge everytime I talked to my SIL. Sounds like you're doing all the right things. And I agree with Cheryl about telling your SIL about the site and what you wrote.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 5/08/2006 09:04:00 AM  

  • I guess the thing is if 1 in 3 pregnancies end in miscarriage, why is it something that women are hesitant to talk about? It is so common. I agree that things you care about are often difficult to discuss openly, and of course we all feel sensitive about our pregnancies. But I think it shouldn't be such a "taboo" topic, as you say. When something like this happens to women so often, why can't there be comfort in the fact that more women our there feel like you do. There are SO many ways that women are open about their bodies nowadays, but this is still a quiet, secretive subject in some instances. And it stinks that when women actually do reach out (like it seems many of you have done on this post) they get an insensitive remark in return. How about just an "I'm sorry" and let me get back to my life and move on. That's the only reason I don't like those support groups or chat rooms for things like this. Sometimes it seems like women are just hanging on to a loss instead of moving past it and looking to the future. Maybe SHARE is different though. I've never checked that one out.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 5/08/2006 09:12:00 AM  

  • Beth, I can empathize a little with you about feeling empty in the face of your SIL's joy. We did a cycle of IVF with 3 embryos and lost them all. I had just started miscarrying the night that we had a friend over for dinner - she announced that she was 4 months along with her first and was so excited. I was about ready to explode with grief, my husband too but we had to literally grin and bear it. Very few people knew we had been through IVF - our friend had no idea. I fell apart after she left the house. I was unable to go to her baby shower and really struggled with my emotions when I held her baby for the first time.

    But time eases pain - never takes it away completely - and in time I moved past it. Having 2 children helped...but I always remember those 3 embryos and wonder who they would have become.
    posted by Blogger chloe at 5/08/2006 10:45:00 AM  

  • Anon-
    I think the main reason --and I could be wrong-- that we don't talk about our miscarriages, is because unlike a stillborn or an infant that dies, we have no body to bury. We have no funeral. We have no real physical, tangible evidence that we were once with child --that there was a beautiful baby being formed inside of us. All we usually have is a heavy period to remind us of what we lost.

    I started showing early with my pregnancy --something that comes with it being my fourth, I'm sure. But I hadn't yet gotten into maternity clothing. People didn't know I was pregnant. So how do I approach someone and say, "yeah, we lost the baby... it sucks...yeah, I was only 2 months along..." because how are they to respond with anything except, "I'm sorry"?

    Also, I don't think it affects many other people, except the mother --and probably the father. There was no child that they got to know. There was no child that they held or saw or heard. But we, as the mothers, we KNOW what we lost. We know it because we feel what it is to know that we are going to be mothers. And when it's taken away from us we grieve. But I really think it's unrealistic to assume other people understand what it feels like.

    Hence the secrecy. All that I wrote above is much too complicated to explain to my neighbor, or my long-lost cousin. It's somewhat easier to mourn in silence with my husband and perhaps a few close family and friends.

    P.S. I wish I had kept silent when I told my cousin I had the miscarriage. The very next day, she found out she was pregnant. With her 5th. And she told me in her kitchen at family dinner. I had to wait 3 hours to cry....
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 5/08/2006 08:39:00 PM  

  • I miscarried while we were struggling with secondary infertility. It was devastating for me, because I felt like someone was dangling a carrot and yanking it away just as I reached it. I spoke to 2 friends about it and from one I got the best response ever "The Lord must know you're not ready". Um, what?! Never have I felt like punching somone in the face so badly.
    The sad truth about it is that you can't understand how it feels until you've been through it, so it can be pretty easy to say the wrong thing. That is the reason I told only my spouse and one friend when I became pregnant again. This time I was lucky.
    I don't know that the subject is taboo, but it's certainly not one to discuss with every person you meet. It's a very emotional and personal thing, and so we tend to be careful who we share it with, since we don't know what people are going to say. Nothing like hving someone say the completely wrong thing to scare you away from sharing ever again.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 5/08/2006 10:28:00 PM  

  • Sorry this is so late in posting but I wanted to add my experience. I miscarried twice before I had my DD. I was devastated both times as we were dealing with fertility issues already. With the first pregnancy, I told everyone I was pregnant early on but then had to tell them about the miscarriage. I was glad to have people that knew and would listen to me and support me (especially since I had to have an emergency D&C). With the second, I told nobody. I felt so alone and empty. However, with both, I felt a lot of pressure to be strong and to get over my grief and move on since I was only in my first trimester.

    I remember when I found out I was miscarrying with the first and the doctor made "It's better that this is happening" comment. I was devastated. How could anyone be so thoughtless (needless to say, he wasn't my doctor after that). Also many people would ask me if we were going to have children during this time. I soon learned that the only way to answer these comments was to be upfront with everyone and educate the masses on infertility and miscarriages. This definitely helped me get through the pain.

    I am so sorry for what you and your friend have both been going through. Thank you so much for being honest and open with your experiences. Maybe someday, miscarriage and loss won't be so taboo.
    posted by Blogger Elise at 5/18/2006 08:55:00 PM  

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