By Nikki Igbo
Approximately 25% of pregnancies in the U.S. end in miscarriage. It typically happens during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy with little to no indication as to why. I have had two miscarriages. The first one happened at about 7 weeks. The second happened at 11 weeks. I spent a lot of time not talking about either miscarriage and that was a tragedy in and of itself.
As I was living the experience of losing two pregnancies, two children who I very much wanted, I felt deeply alone and misunderstood. I felt as though I didn't have enough information to cope with what was happening. No one warned me about the sharp pain in my gut or the brightness of the blood or what those losses would feel like. No one explained how detached all the medical professionals would be or how one would even ask me to collect a sample of the blood and tissue to bring with me on my next doctor's visit. No one was able to make the hurt go away or reassure me that I could and would go on. No one told me not to give up trying for a successful pregnancy. In those moments of discovering that my pregnancies had failed, I never felt more alone or more devastated.
I recently had a surprisingly candid conversation with a complete stranger about my miscarriages. We were in a nail salon and we got to talking first about our children. I told her how I'd just had my second son two months ago and she told me about her two daughters. I told her how my sons were two years apart while she told me that her daughters had a nine year gap between them.
"My, you took a big break, huh," I said.
"I lost one between them," she answered.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. I've lost two myself," I followed.
15 minutes later, we were both misty eyed and emotional as we recounted our ordeals in our respective emergency room visits. It was a beautiful and cathartic moment shared but it only happened because we both knew and understood that pain and time had been merciful in removing some of the sting.
However, as we were experiencing it, we had only our family members or close friends to turn to--and they did not understand. And this, I believe, is most often why those of us who experience miscarriage do not talk about it.
My husband did not know how to comfort me while mourning his own loss. He'd never experienced it before. My mother told me things like "Everything happens for a reason" or "God has a plan." She'd never experienced it before. My sister didn't even bother to call me. She'd never experienced it before either. I hated every single one of them for their inability to help me through it and I did not want to hate them so I buried my feelings to save those relationships. What I most needed was a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and confirmation that what I was feeling was okay.
I was fortunate though. When I made up my mind to go back to living my life in grad school and at my writing internship, my manager shared with me how she'd experienced five back-to-back miscarriages. I remember sitting in her office listening to her and seeing the tears stream down her face. I remember her long and warm embrace. I remember her giving me information about fertility specialists and urging me not to give up. I remember her also glancing at the portrait of her toddler son she kept next to her computer screen and her squeezing my hand.
She gave me hope.
For those who have had one or multiple miscarriages, I urge you to be candid and open about your experience. Your testimony never fails to put life back into a better perspective. Your story lets others know that they are not alone. Your honesty can help erase anger at God and doubt in oneself and the worry and guilt that comes with the mystery of why the loss happened in the first place.
For those who have never experienced a miscarriage, I urge you to listen carefully to the sisters who have, and be the compassionate, caring, support and strength they need.
What's your experience? Does it help to talk about miscarriage?
Nikki Igbo is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and political junkie. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Political Science from California State University at Fullerton and a Masters in Fine Arts of Writing at Savannah College of Art and Design. When not staring in disbelief at the antics unfolding on CSPAN, she enjoys philosophical arguments with her husband, 70's era music and any excuse to craft with glitter. Feel free to check out her freelance services at nikigbo.com and stalk her on twitter @nikigbo or Instagram at @nikigbo.