Coping with Tragedy…
A friend of mine lost her baby today. She was 10 weeks pregnant. I heard the news and I burst into tears. Those big, can’t catch my breath, smear my make-up all over my face even though I am at work kind of tears.
My thoughts began to race. Images of my pregnancy- my struggles, my joys, my plans for the future, sharing those images with family and friends- it all came back in a rush of emotion. I immediately reached out to her and I could tell she was trying to stay strong and brave for everyone else. I was trying to balance all of my personalities: (1) the friend in me who was so sad and heartbroken for a friend who is so kind and full of life and doesn’t deserve anything bad in this word, (2) the mom in me who is so scared and afraid everyday that something might happen to my family, (3) and the counselor in me who just wants to immediately refer her to someone to talk to because I know that the worse is yet to come.
The moment you decide that you want to be a mother, your life changes. It literally happens immediately. The second you make the choice to stop taking your birth control or you have that conversation with your gynecologist about pre-natal care, your life changes. I know, for some, the planning isn’t as big of a deal as it was for me. For some women, the life changing moment is when that pink line shows up (and then you go right to the pharmacy and buy the expensive digital tests just to make sure that the pink line wasn’t a fluke).
But I never realized- until it happened to me- that wanting and preparing for a child actually changes the way you think, the way you look at life. You join a club of women who all have one major thing in common- they are scared to death, scared of everything. All of a sudden, you are living for someone else. You think about everything you eat, everything you do. If you’re trying to get pregnant, your sex life changes, you make weird choices about what you eat and drink, and you feel like a failure every time you get your period. It consumes you.
Then, when all the stars align, you get pregnant. Emotions run the gamut from happy to scared to anxious to “what the hell were we thinking?” You immediately begin making plans. I need to make a doctor’s appointment. When do we tell our families? When is the due date? Childcare, breastfeeding, baby showers, etc., etc., etc…
And, after the baby is born, you discover how wrong you were about everything you ever thought. But you have a baby- that baby you have known from the moment you decided you wanted to be a mother. He’s perfect.
But, for my friend and for thousands of other women, a miscarriage stops you in your tracks. All of those joyous and exciting plans are now painful memories. Because, even though that baby is no longer living inside you, you knew him. He was yours. In your mind, you were already trying to figure out how you were going to cope with his first skinned knee and his first hussy little girlfriend.
I cried when I heard about my friend’s miscarriage because I was reminded of how lucky I am. I am so thankful that I have never experienced a loss as tragic as hers. And I cried for her and for the hell that I know she has yet to face. I have seen my clients struggle as milestones approach. I have seen them feel enormous guilt when they get pregnant again. I have seen their marriages dissolve because grief just sucks. It takes a toll on every relationship and, without help, it can become overwhelming.
I don’t think we talk about miscarriage as much as we should. It is not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Pregnant women are afraid to even say the word for fear that it might jinx them. It affects so many more women and families than you could ever imagine. People don’t discuss it. A loss this big is not something that can be carried alone.
And you don’t have to be strong for anyone. Now is not the time to put on a brave face. As a southern woman, it is hard for me to say this. But it has never been more true.