I remember being terrified of using the word. It felt almost like the pregnancy-version of saying a loud swear word in a church full of children.
If my husband and I ever dared to talk about the possibility, we spoke in almost a whisper. Even though it was irrational, we both feared that the simple act of mentioning a miscarriage could somehow suddenly make it happen.
Even during my second pregnancy when I bled from the very beginning, I still never uttered the word. With every scare and resulting ultrasound, I would sigh a gigantic breath of relief when they found the heartbeat. I knew deep down that something was wrong, but saying what it could be made it real. Saying it out loud made it possible.
When I was alone, I would cry and beg for everything to be OK. I thought losing this pregnancy would be the worst possible thing to happen to me. I worried day and night about the “what ifs” and felt a weight on my shoulders so heavy I found even breathing hard to manage.
And then it happened.
During a trip to NYC on Mother’s Day weekend at around 11 weeks pregnant, I started heavily bleeding the minute we landed at JFK airport. Then by the time we were in the cab to our Times Square hotel, I could feel the labor-like pain starting.
When I finally miscarried just a few hours later, I was thrown into a state of shock. There were no appropriate words in this moment, so my husband wrapped me in a hug and we wept together as our hearts broke in unison.
I went to see "Billy Elliot" with my mom that night, and silently cried while holding her hand through the entire show. It was supposed to be a weekend celebration of motherhood for both of us, and yet she was the only one who left that trip a mom.
This was my second lost pregnancy. My first was a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, and so my whole body and soul ached. At the time, I knew of very few people who talked about these kinds of situations, and so I knew even less about how to process my emotions.
It felt like something I needed to mourn, yet I had no idea how. What I thought was the worst-case scenario had happened and now I needed to find a way out. I felt like the pain would be forever, and I dreamed of the day I would be able to move on - yet it felt so very far away and unattainable.
And then thankfully one day I did.
I don’t have the secret to how I moved on. I just know that I put one foot in front of the other and found a way to keep going.
I recently had a conversation with a good friend who was newly pregnant, and she was terrified. She knew my story, and confessed she had been overly worried about something similar happening to her. I paused and thought about how to respond. I wanted to make her feel better. Tell her everything was going to be just fine, but those words would not have been the truth.
So instead, I told her what I wish someone had told me. I said that unfortunately pregnancy loss is a part of life for some of us, but thankfully not for all. I explained that I did understand her concerns, but that there was nothing she could do to stop something like that from happening.
I also told her that as scary and heartbreaking as it was to experience a miscarriage, I knew firsthand that you could survive it. I told her that even if she lost the pregnancy, she would find ways to heal and that people like me would be there to help get her through it.
Now I know that not all women and their experiences with this are the same. Some will have health complications and late-term losses. Some will struggle from mental illness or lack of external help from family and doctors. Some may never get the chance to be a mother. Now, I do not want my advice to be mistaken as characterizing a miscarriage as easy. It is painful, hard and soul-crushing.
Ten years ago, when I had both of my losses, there was so little to be said on the topic. When it happened, I told very few people. It almost felt like I needed to just move, but I felt cemented in the ground with grief.
So, I cried, I hurt, and I mourned the love I lost. And then with time, I found some peace.
The truth about miscarriages is that they happen to many of us. It could have happened to your neighbor, your work colleague or even your own grandmother. There are hundreds of thousands of women everywhere carrying around the history of this pain. They are living, breathing proof that there can be a light at the end of the dark tunnel of pregnancy loss.
So, if a miscarriage happens to you, please know that the heartache will be real and it will absolutely change you. Yet your strength and resilience will surprise you.
This loss will be a part of you always, but it won’t define you forever. Your pain will never be forgotten, but it will change over time, and absolutely make you a stronger woman in the end.