James Van Der Beek’s emotional post on miscarriage seeks to eliminate placing blame on mothers
James Van Der Beek, best known by millennials everywhere for his leading role on Dawson’s Creek, is the proud father of five adorable babies with his wife, Kimberly. The couple has also experienced the grief of miscarriage. The actor is opening up about the grief and pain surrounding miscarriage in an emotional Instagram post — and why he thinks we need a new word for it.
Accompanying a photo of himself, his wife, and their newest baby, Gwendolyn, he shares that they’ve experienced three miscarriages, including one right before becoming pregnant with their youngest.
“First off – we need a new word for it. ‘Mis-carriage,’ in an insidious way, suggests fault for the mother – as if she dropped something, or failed to ‘carry.’ From what I’ve learned, in all but the most obvious, extreme cases, it has nothing to do with anything the mother did or didn’t do. So let’s wipe all blame off the table before we even start.”
He’s not wrong. In reality, 60% of miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities; in an overwhelming majority of the cases, there is absolutely nothing you could have done to change your outcome. 10% are caused by an incompetent cervix or a uterine abnormality that requires surgery to correct. Other causes include immunologic disorders, untreated illnesses, and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).
On the grief of a miscarriage, Van Der Beek writes, “It will tear you open like nothing else. It’s painful and it’s heartbreaking on levels deeper than you may have ever experienced. So don’t judge your grief, or try to rationalize your way around it. Let it flow in the waves in which it comes, and allow it it’s rightful space.”
Last fall, I experienced my first miscarriage. I have PCOS, and I wasn’t on my insulin-regulating medication at the time I conceived, so I’ve spent a lot of time in my own grief blaming myself. Even though I know it’s not my fault, that’s what women do, isn’t it? We blame ourselves in trying to make sense of the nonsensical. I’ve spent the past 10 months afraid to try again, because even though I was “only” seven weeks along when I miscarried, I bled for 12 afterward. It’s hard to move through your grief mentally and emotionally when your body is still betraying you physically, preventing you from moving on.
Speaking of which, Van Der Beek says there’s “beauty” in how we put ourselves back together afterward. “Some changes we make proactively, some we make because the universe has smashed us, but either way, those changes can be gifts. Many couples become closer than ever before. Many parents realize a deeper desire for a child than ever before. And many, many, many couples go on to have happy, healthy, beautiful babies afterward.”
Everyone has a different way of coping. A different way of looking at life afterward. After ours, a lot of people offered my husband and I support by sharing their own stories. And while I’m not typically someone who seeks answers through faith, I remember when someone told me something along the lines of “all our lost babies are waiting for us on the other side,” I felt a little better, even if I don’t usually roll that way in my beliefs.
Van Der Beek shares something similar as he concludes his caption. “I’ve heard some amazing metaphysical explanations for them, mostly centering around the idea that these little souls volunteer for this short journey for the benefit of the parents… but please share whatever may have given you peace or hope along the way… Along with a new word for this experience.”