(This essay was originally published on Role/Reboot.)
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day was earlier this month. I
wouldn’t have known, if not for the fact that my Facebook newsfeed
included several shares from friends and acquaintances who I never knew
had lost pregnancies or babies. I had a miscarriage myself four years
ago, before I became pregnant with my identical twin boys. We never saw a
heartbeat and I was only nine weeks along, so some part of me thought
it was indulgent to mourn the loss. But mourn I did.
For months, I couldn’t even look at babies. For months, I could
barely face the day. Every morning, I’d wake up and wonder if I’d
dreamed the miscarriage, if my baby was still in there. Sometimes, I’d
wonder if I’d dreamed the pregnancy. It was real though, and that baby
was gone. I often did have dreams though about a little girl, one with
caramel-colored eyes and dark, curly hair, like mine. I’d think I saw
her in butterflies that flew too close or hummingbirds that would linger
outside the window. I couldn’t seem to make those dark clouds pass, so,
ultimately, I went to see a spiritual healer, and asked her to help me
clear away the darkness and let my baby go.
Even now, recounting that time, I’m embarrassed at how maudlin I was.
The pain was so real, and yet, I felt like I wasn’t really allowed to
be as sad as I was. I felt like I was supposed to be stronger, put on a
brave face, and not mourn for a baby that never could have been. That
was really just a cluster of screwed up cells, really.
For so many reasons, I couldn’t talk about it, except with a handful
of people who had been there themselves. I didn’t really want to talk
about it anyway. Besides, what was there to say? I either felt badly
about being such a downer, or felt silly for making such a big deal
about it. My pain—this very common, very real thing for many women—was
shrouded in a thin layer of shame. Shame over my own honest, raw
Of course, as many women who’ve suffered pregnancy loss know, I also
felt another kind of shame—guilt. Even though I knew better, I felt
responsible for the loss. I remember frantically calling my doctor one
day, over and over, trying to get him on the phone. When I finally
reached him, I was tearful and panicked, begging him to tell me the
truth, “Did my body do this? Did I do something wrong? Is it my fault
No, it was nothing I had done.
As I read some of these women’s confessions on my Facebook newsfeed,
or just “liked” their acknowledgement of the day, I noticed similar
language being used over and over. This idea that those of us who had
suffered pregnancy or infant loss should, in a sense, “come out of the
shadows.” As though we were hiding this part of ourselves. As though
there was something shameful in what had happened to us.
How sad is that? That even our tragedies make us feel embarrassed and ashamed.
As it is, we’re ashamed of our bodies, whether too big, too small,
too voluptuous, too skinny. We’re ashamed of our sexuality, whether we
flaunt it or conceal it. We’re ashamed when we’re too assertive, and
ashamed when we’re too meek. We’re ashamed when we accept praise and
ashamed to receive it. We’re ashamed that we’re not better mothers, and
ashamed if that’s all we are. We’re ashamed for not wanting children,
and ashamed if we physically can’t seem to have them. I could go on, but
you get my point. It’s as though a woman’s default response is to bow
her head down, curl inward and let the shame in.
It has to stop. We have to just stop. There has to be a more useful
emotion to help us navigate through the highs and lows of our lives.
Pride? Steely resolve? Acceptance? I know, I know, it’s all easier said
than done, especially since the shame response seems to be ingrained in
I do have one idea though: That we women talk to each other more. Not
about our job woes and partner troubles and shaky friendships—I think
we’ve got that covered. No, I think we need to tell each other the tough stuff, share those
stories that are hard to tell. When women reveal themselves to one
another, honestly and openly, we realize we’re not alone. That whatever
it is we are feeling is normal. That someone else has been there before.
Our stories are what unite us and when we share them, we free
ourselves from whatever shame we’ve attached to them. When the women
around us say, “Yes, yes, me too,” we suddenly feel justified in
whatever it is we’ve thought or felt, we are able to take ownership of
our own experiences. And just like that, we don’t feel quite so sad or
angry or guilty. We realize that whatever we have been through, whatever
trial or tragedy or test of will, we have nothing, nothing to be