It’s been one year since my miscarriage. I’ve learned more about myself, for sure, but I have also learned more about other people (See: “miscarriage shaming.” Has anyone coined that, yet?)
I flew into the San Francisco International airport from Austin, Texas at around 7 PM. I took the complimentary shuttle to my hotel, as I always did, and I climbed into bed. In the same exact spot where I had learned that I was pregnant, I sat and sobbed for its loss. I had just gone through the beginning stages of the miscarriage two days prior, tossing and turning in absolute pain, in and out of the hospital. I was approximately two months pregnant at the time of loss.
My job was generous enough to allow me time off for as much as I needed, and it turned out that 9 days was sufficient enough for me on a professional level. However, walking into work on that first day back was a bit of a challenge. “Hey! How ya doin’, Shanyn? I heard you were sick? Glad you’re back!” I would nod with a forced smirk. “Yeah. I’m ok. Thank you,” but what I really wanted to say was, “Yeah. Well, I was preparing for a baby, but now I’m not, so. I’m just trying not to cry before 10 AM.”
In those moments where I did confide in someone, unfortunately, most of the time it didn’t sit well with me. Here are just a handful of responses:
“Ohh. I think I’ve had one, too!”
“Aw, man. Do you think it was the stress of it all?”
“Maybe it was your body telling you that it was time to ‘get healthy?’ ”
“Damn. But at least you can drink, now!”
“I’m so sorry. But, you know, these things happen. That’s why you’re not supposed to tell anyone you’re pregnant ‘until the second trimester.”
“Yeah, but it was so early, so. You know. That’s good.”
I have learned not to touch too long on these kinds of reactions, as zeroing in on them was even more stressful for me, and an unnecessary conversation for us both. I realized that some of these people reacted this way simply because they didn’t know how to handle the information, and understandably so. It’s awkward. How do you comfort someone in the moment? It’s rough, man! And in these situations, I understood it. But sometimes, it felt like it came from a place of critique. Let’s take “Maybe it was your body telling you that it was time to ‘get healthy’ ” as an example. That’s a shitty thing to say, dude. It just is. The fact is, lots of women go on to have healthy full-term pregnancies with a, as they would call it, “un-ideal nutritious/exercise plans.” And I know that they know this. So, I call bull-shit. I call B.S. on their “I’m just concerned” points of argument. It feels like a cheap, preachy cop out.
I used these reactions as a sort of guidance system, honestly. Once someone would say this to me, I would analyze our friendship. Do they mean it in the way I’m taking it? What is their body language? Are they even looking me in the eyes when they say this? The answer was usually: yes, distant, and no. And that’s too bad, but also, it helped me to wean a few of them out of my circle.
Because of all of this, I have taken a serious look at my friendships. I have re-evaluated them so that I could make sure that I was only letting those into my personal circle who could try to empathize with me. It’s not that those who were re-evaluated were shitty people, it’s just that it isn’t what I want in my life.
Regarding those who made comments similar to “maybe you stressed yourself into it,” or “that’s why you’re not supposed to tell anyone ‘until the second trimester,” I have come to label it as this: miscarriage shaming. That’s the best way that I can put it. I mean, it’s not 1952 anymore. We’re allowed to open up about these taboos, sharing our low moments so that we can relate and help others. When another makes us feel like we were solely responsible for our unexplainable pain, especially women (and especially mothers), we’re made to feel like we made a poor choice by sharing. Like we should have known to keep it personal.
One year later, I have experienced lots of moments of happiness, while still feeling lots of moments of loss. It’s not an “out of sight, out of mind” for some women/couples. It can be much more than that. But also, maybe it’s not. Who knows? It’s all relative. My point is, let’s try to be more empathetic to women, men, and couples when it comes to miscarriage. It’s different for us all. Please, try not to make such an opinion-heavy statement in a time of possible sorrow. Instead, let’s ask them how they feel. Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what you would want someone to do for you?
And also, as a side note – yes! At least I can drink! In fact, it’s been the only way to deal with those people (wink, wink).