Sunday, February 6, 2011

No Scarlet Letter

I’ve heard it said that pregnancy and having a baby inducts you into the “club.” There are all sorts of clubs for us women of childbearing age - the “new mommy” club, the “SAHM club”, the “full-time career and motherhood club”, even the “I’m not a freak, I just don’t want to have kids club” each with its own corresponding highs and lows. Towards the lower rung of such groups is the “miscarriage” club. And well, wouldn’t you know it - I never was the cool kid in school - I joined that club this last week. Let me tell you - not so fun this club. It’s full of loss, betrayal, shame, unanswered questions and prayers, and a whole lot of pain. Physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. Plenty to go around in each category.

But this isn’t about the sadness and emptiness I feel right now - instead I’m struggling more with the idea of the “shame” of it all. Why is there any shame at all?

It’s estimated that roughly 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, but the topic itself is (among most) a very dark secret and only shared on the occasion that one encounters another who’s just lost their pregnancy. BUT let me tell you - there are HOARDS of people online in message forums sharing stories back and forth, like hundreds of pages worth. It kind of blew my’s like this dark underbelly of a secret society of women who only feel comfortable sharing intimate details with complete strangers under the cloak of anonymity.

And maybe this all makes sense. But then on the other hand, I think there’s more to the situation here. I think as women we are constantly battling the judgement we feel may come from other women when it comes to all matters of reproductive health/prosperity/ability. And this doesn’t apply solely to miscarriage either - I’ve seen this quiet “shame” play out in many forms...for the woman who never miscarries but can’t conceive without the help of modern science...or the woman who can’t carry full-term on her own and depends on medical assistance...or even something so simple as the woman who has a c-section when all else fails despite her best attempts at a natural delivery.

If in the end you have the healthy baby - wasn’t the path to get there worth it? And really, isn’t that what a miscarriage is part of too? No, you sadly don’t get to make to the end with the grand prize, but it’s still all part of your body’s natural way of trying to achieve a healthy baby - it doesn’t make you less capable of bringing a baby into the world and it’s a step towards the right direction - with a detour. A painful detour, yes, but only a detour if you’re dedicated to being a mother.

When we received the news that our pregnancy wouldn’t make it full-term, there were only a few calls to be made to share the sad news - we had really only announced the pregnancy to our family circles. So it may seem very counter intuitive to share such news here, but today I was hit with this feeling of how refreshing it would be if every woman were so forthcoming. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that in addition to having X kids, that same woman also experienced X miscarriages? My mom for example has five kids - but along the way she had three miscarriages. There is no stigma further associated with the miscarriages past, no burning scarlet letter emblazoned on her chest - in my mom’s eyes her family is perfect and she has the exact children she always wanted.

Please don’t get me wrong - the pain associated with a miscarriage is deep and wide. I hope I’m not conveying it as anything otherwise. But there should be no shame involved. We, as women, have a great and wondrous responsibility to bear when we decide to step into these murky waters called “having a baby.”

So having said more than enough this time around, it’s my turn to be forthcoming - Hi, my name is JuliAnna and I’ve just had a miscarriage. I hope for three children in the future and I’m well on my way.