The Secret Sisterhood Of Miscarriage

by Katie Sullivan
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Miscarriage — it’s a dirty word, isn’t it? It’s a word you keep to yourself or whisper within close company, despite the fact that up to one in four women experience one. If you have a miscarriage, you become a member of a secret club that few outside the sisterhood want to talk about and that no one wants to join.

I found out my child had died inside me on a Monday, one day after Mother’s Day and two weeks after hearing the heartbeat. My baby was 8 weeks old. You’d think that finding out is when you feel it the most, but it’s not.

Since it was my second pregnancy, when they quietly but desperately searched for the heartbeat on what my doctor said was an outdated monitor, I knew. I knew when the technician came upstairs and could find nothing. I knew when they sent me downstairs with the false hope that it could just be the monitor. I knew when the ultrasound tech with the fancy machine told me she couldn’t tell us the results, regardless of what she found, and turned the monitor away. I knew. I felt nothing, but I knew.

Then came the call and the “I’m so sorry.” Then the tears came. I knew, and now I felt. The rest is a blur. They told me what to expect and my options, but I didn’t hear a thing.

Publicly, I decided to power through. I told close friends and family I was ready to move on. Privately, I cried in bed while my husband cared for our 1-year-old and processed our loss himself. I was told to expect a whirlwind of emotions in the pamphlets I was sent home with. I was told what to expect when I scheduled my D&C. I was told what my options were for handling the remains of my dear sweet baby. My chart even told me I was experiencing a “missed abortion” because along with my heart, my body missed the memo my child was gone.

I painstakingly researched my options and the facts of miscarriage. I was nothing if not well-informed. My medical staff was kind and attentive when they explained why they couldn’t perform my first scheduled surgery. I knew all the reasons why. I was too sick with a respiratory infection to be put under, and to add insult to injury, my prevailing morning sickness was a problem for sedation.

I knew it would be hard when I finally had my procedure two weeks after finding out my child’s heartbeat had stopped — two weeks without a single physical sign, just the confirmation from a silent, still ultrasound machine.

I wasn’t surprised when days after the surgery, I found myself in church feeling empty and sobbing as the band sang “Amazing Grace.”

I wanted to shout to anyone within earshot, “I’ve had a miscarriage.” I wasn’t even surprised when I felt myself moving on when the days got easier.

But there were things I didn’t know.

I didn’t know that people who owed me nothing would show me the greatest kindness, or that their kindness would be my silver lining. I didn’t know that even after I moved past the mourning stage, I would still feel it, or that I’d feel it in the strangest way. It wouldn’t be overwhelming despair, but a fleeting thought, like the soft touch of an unfulfilled wish.

No one told me what it would feel like to watch my almost 2-year-old rock in her little rocking chair while whispering “I love you so much” to a doll cradled in her arms. No amount of research could have prepared me for the fact that the words “sister” and “brother” would feel like ice off my daughter’s tiny lips.

I didn’t realize what it would feel like to see one line on the pregnancy test instead of two, or that I could want for someone who did not yet exist so deep in my soul.

I was not prepared for how bittersweet it would feel to watch my living child age. It’s a subtle reminder of my body’s inability to give her a sibling close in age — a sibling she doesn’t miss, but I do.

I didn’t know that it wouldn’t be the pregnancy announcements that would get me, but the announcements of loss. I didn’t know that I’d feel authentic joy for those who had healthy, glowing pregnancies. But the loss — oh, does the loss get you. It was pretty shocking that someone else’s miscarriage would bring me right back to that day, the day I knew.

No one could have explained how the longing creeps up on you when you least expected it, like when you’re alone, when the seasons change, or when you wake in the night. I didn’t expect to feel it the most when glancing at photos of happy family memories. It’s the sense that something, someone, is missing.

Now I know. My heart will always miss a child I’ll never hold, that I’ll never name. No matter how many children I have, there will always be room in my heart for that one, my angel baby.

Now I know. Miscarriage — it’s not a dirty word. It’s just a hard one.