The Miscarriage Question: To Share or Not to Share?
Last week, when Mark Zuckerberg and his expectant wife Priscilla Chan shared their pain of past miscarriages, I understood all too well the timing of that announcement. The blessed parents-to-be are far enough in their pregnancy that they feel out of the woods. They can speak of the dark, twisted corners of those woods, and the emotional demons that lurk there. Most importantly, they can attest to those still entangled in the thorny darkness that there is a bright, safe place on the other side.
In the case of Sam and Nia, the vlogging couple whose video pregnancy announcement went viral, it couldn't have been easy sharing their miscarriage news with millions. But bravely going public with their sad news was a sharp reminder to many of how heartbreakingly common miscarriage is.
There's no right or wrong when it comes to sharing something so intensely painful and personal. For me, when I'm kicked in the gut, it takes me a while to catch my breath before I can speak openly again. I may be able to croak about where it hurts to the paramedics (i.e., my life-saving sisters and close friends), but that's about it. After my first miscarriage, my relief that I could get pregnant outweighed the sorrow over losing it. Yes, infertility is that off-the-hook devastating that miscarriage felt like a privileged brush with pregnancy. But when miscarriage reared its ugly head again—and again—I clammed up, and didn't speak about it until I could breathe again—usually months later. Even then, I only confided in those I trusted, or those going through the same situation. I wasn't ready to address this issue on a larger platform until the birth of my daughter.
I believe everyone is entitled to share (or not share) in their own time. And, for that matter, because of my history of early losses, I took my sweet time getting to the point where I felt secure enough share my healthy pregnancy news when it finally did happen. We're talking 28-29 weeks along! My husband and I had been burned so many times by false starts that we waited not until the first trimester was over, but until the pregnancy reached the point of viability...plus a week or two. That means we didn't fly home for visits and avoided video chats with friends and family like we owed them cash money. But having reached the point of acceptance—at which I arrived in most part because I've experienced a healthy, live birth—I now find I can't turn my back on the dark days I went through. I can't turn my back on those still in the traps of infertility and loss.
So, why did I decide to share my own story of loss and infertility—which includes three failed IVF treatments and too many early miscarriages to count? I look at it this way: I'm not a great cook, my organization skills are so not worthy, and I haven't yet mastered anything. But the one thing I unequivocally know I can do is reach out to people, and help them feel a little less alone. My network of friends know that they can pass my number to a relative or friend going through this rough road. I am happy to share or listen.
So, yes, I hurt for couples like Sam and Nia, and I celebrate the triumph of couples like the Zuckerbergs. I especially relate to the Mark and Priscilla's immeasurable relief that there is finally life present that is growing and progressing. Because of their past heartaches, this pregnancy—or for some couples, an adoption, or even just a positive outlook—is a testament to the power of hope. And hope is what people dealing with the private misery of dashed hopes desperately need. — Debbie Rigaud
Debbie Rigaud is an author of Young Adult novels and short stories. She and her husband welcomed a baby girl in early 2014, and life as they knew it has (thankfully) never been the same. Follow her on Twitter @debbierigaud