Say it too loudly and it burns the tongue, it singes the throat. It reverberates in the back of your ears as you wonder who might be offended, hurt, scared, or even angry if you call it by its name. If you say it out loud.
She lost the baby.
The baby didn’t make it.
It wasn’t a viable pregnancy.
Statistically, as many as 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. One in five people who are knowingly pregnant lose their baby, yet nobody is talking about it.
On June 22, my husband and I eagerly awaited the results of the ultrasound. We watched the screen with bated breath, hoping and praying we’d see that tiny flicker, the little bean we had come to know so well through our preemie toddler’s many ultrasounds. It was all new, shocking, surprising, nerve-wracking. . . but exciting. We discussed names and wondered how our son would react to a new baby in the house. We talked about how my stepdaughter would squeal with joy when she found out she’d be a big sister all over again. We were nervous and giddy with excitement, but left the office that day with more questions than answers.
The ultrasound tech suspected we weren’t as far along as we thought. She couldn’t see anything aside from a gestational sac, but told us that it looked as healthy as a gestational sac could look. There was no baby yet, no heartbeat. There wasn’t a flicker. My stomach dropped and I turned to my husband. The tech could sense my fear and told me that it could be normal – there may be nothing to worry about. But that the nurse practitioner would be in to speak with us shortly.
“At this point, it could go either way,” the nurse practitioner told us. “I wish I had better news to tell you.”
Either way. The only piece of mind we left with was that it could go either way. We might have a baby. We might not. Either way.
Is this what one out of five pregnant women go through?
Why aren’t we talking about this?
The next morning, I woke up with optimism. “How about Abel?” I asked my husband. Maybe Ari. Or Aiden. I got the kids ready to head to the library to meet their granny and aunt. My stepdaughter had her library card and stack of books to return in hand as we walked through the door. As the books dropped one by one into the slot return, I felt something. I knew something was wrong.
I quickly rushed into the bathroom with both kids in tow to confirm my fears. With a shaky voice, I called my husband and he rushed to me from work. I sat in his car crying in the library parking lot while my mother-in-law and aunt took the kids through the library. It was a Saturday, and the on-call physician told me to follow up with my doctor on Monday.
At this point, there was nothing that could be done regardless. She told me that it may still turn out okay, but to prepare for the worst. My heart sank. I sat in the car in silence for a minute with my husband, and he put his hand on my leg.
“Maybe it will still be okay,” I said. But he knew.
It took three weeks of lab draws before my HCG levels were back to zero. Three weeks of making sure I was just a little less pregnant than I was the week before. Three weeks to know that I was officially back to “normal” and that there was no longer an either way.
I didn’t know how to mourn, or if I even had a right to. I cried, and yet I felt relief at knowing the roller coaster was over. I felt guilty for feeling sad, like I shouldn’t be allowed to because it wasn’t as bad as it was for other people. I laid in bed and felt like I couldn’t move. I went out for an avalanche-sized snow cone with my pint-sized toddler. I felt different. But the same. It was just the four of us again, although it really always had been.
But still, it was different.
I opened up to several people about our situation. I had told too many people about the pregnancy before that magical 12-week mark that makes everything okay. The day that you’re allowed to share your excitement. I didn’t wait. And suddenly I felt embarrassed, like I was back-pedaling through the nightmare all over again, like it never really happened.
Like I was never really pregnant.
But you know what I realized? Instead of hearing, “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” I heard, “I know what you’re going through. I’ve been through it too.” “I understand your pain, I’ve felt it before.”
“I’ve had a miscarriage before, too.”
And it helped. I didn’t feel like people had pity on me or that they were just saying things they thought would make me feel better. I felt like people understood, because they had been there. They knew.
20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Maybe we should be talking about this.