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A Taboo Subject

Five years ago, I had a miscarriage. I knew that I was at risk for a miscarriage even before I was pregnant, so I thought I was prepared. I didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant, because I couldn’t bear the thought of having to update everyone on my status if I had a miscarriage.  (And after all, people just don’t talk about miscarriage!) The most difficult moment was the day after I found out, having to talk to the nurse and the doctor about scheduling the D&C. I barely got through the call, and as I hung up the phone, I just started sobbing. My husband was at work, and I was all alone with my almost 2yo. At that very dismal moment, my friend happened to call—no doubt inspired, as she had experienced miscarriage twice. It was so reassuring and calming to talk to someone who knew. Yet I still thought I had done the right thing by keeping it all to myself.

Three years later, I had moved and made a new friend.  When she became pregnant, she was very open about it, in spite of a very troublesome first pregnancy. And when she found out she had a miscarriage, she was equally open about it. I remembered what a blessing it was to have someone call whom I could confide in. I hesitated to call her, because we didn’t know each other well. But I did anyway, and she was so thankful for the call.

The following year, my friend and I were sitting at the park with some other moms while our little ones were playing. My friend was pregnant again, and she brought up her previous miscarriage. One by one, each of the five of us women confessed (some with great hesitation) to having had a miscarriage. My friend was the only one that had been open about it, and she received tons of support. Meanwhile, the rest of us suffered in silence. I began to wonder whether keeping it all to myself had been the wisest course of action. 

I began thinking about this again recently, as a family member posted the details of her pregnancy and miscarriage on Facebook. Her situation was a little different than everyone else that I know in that she did not previously have children and thought she never would. When she finally miscarried, she posted about how hopeless she felt. And some very well-meaning FB friends responded that there was hope that God would bless her with a child. I thought these responses were very misguided though, because Hope does not always lie in getting the desires of our heart, no matter how righteous those desires might be (and in this instance it is medically unlikely). So again I wondered whether it would be worthwhile to share this tribulation with the world.

I am wondering what your experiences have been with miscarriage. Have you kept it a private matter? Or have you shared your world with others? Do you wish you had handled it differently?

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Shannon Johnson December 18, 2011, 11:16 am

    When I had my first miscarriage, I discovered almost everyone else has had one too. I’ve been very open (irl and online) about both of mine, and the support I’ve gotten both directly, and from hearing others’ stories is immeasurable.

    I confess that often what I see on Facebook seems over the top, but prob only when I’m making the mistake of friending/update-reading someone I’m really not that close to.

  • DeeAnn December 18, 2011, 12:02 pm

    I have had 3 miscarriages, and I have been open with all three and received a great deal of support. Yes, it’s awkward when someone asks how the pregnancy is going and you tell them you miscarried, but it was better for me to be open about it than to keep it all to myself. I was delighted when I got pregnant, because we had wanted children for so long, that there was no way I was keeping that to myself! We do have 2 healthy children. The first miscarriage was before we had any kids and that one was definitely the hardest, but it got a bit easier with the following two as we already had at least one child. I’m all for openness. It helped with my grieving because I could do it openly.

  • Tracy Polyak December 18, 2011, 2:31 pm

    Well, I grew up with a mother that was always really disturbed by comments that people make during difficult situations. I distinctly remember her talking about comments made at her father’s funeral that seemed designed to fill up empty space rather than truly comfort. So I guess I just grew up thinking I would be better off not sharing those things publicly. But I am also coming to realize that I was not raised with the healthiest of attitudes in many areas of life.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 18, 2011, 2:25 pm

    I’ve had five miscarriages. I’ve written quite a bit about them here and here.

    Miscarriage is just a (sad!) part of life. I don’t know why it would need to be kept secret.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Long Memory for SarcasmMy Profile

  • Angie Gardner December 18, 2011, 3:40 pm

    From the perspective of someone who has never miscarried, I am not in the least bit uncomfortable if someone shared this with me. I also would not be offended if they chose to deal with it privately. I think a lot of it depends on how close you are to the person, how far along you were, etc. If no one knew you were pregnant yet I certainly wouldn’t make a facebook announcement…although if they wanted support that way I am fine with them doing it. It’s a personal choice, I guess. For me personal, I wasn’t one to share with the world the moment I found out I was pregnant, so I would probably be the same way if I had miscarried – only telling those I had told about the pregnancy because those are the people I am closest to and who will help me grieve (husband, mom, sister, best friend). By the way, while I never had a miscarriage, I did have some very serious complications during pregnancy that made for a tenuous and stressful situation, including threatened miscarriage and late-term fetal death or maternal death. These things I did not share with a whole lot of people at the time, either. I have talked about them since – especially if I find out someone is in a similar situation. For me, it wasn’t about privacy or anything, it was just about I didn’t feel like explaining it to everyone who came along. Most people in my ward and others that I interacted with all the time probably didn’t even know anything was wrong, and that’s fine. I felt like I got the support from the people I needed it from and now I’m happy to talk about it with others if I feel that it will help them.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 18, 2011, 4:44 pm

    Tracy, I think all of us were raised without the healthiest attitudes, and I’m sure I’m raising my kids with unhealthy ones, too! (Try as I might not to. 🙂 )

    I’m glad you’re using your experience to learn from and help others. 🙂
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Bathroom Vessel SinksMy Profile

  • jennycherie December 18, 2011, 9:10 pm

    I’ve never had a miscarriage, but I have wondered about why it is not talked about much. I’ve always assumed that those who had miscarriages did not talk about it just to avoid causing more pain, and to help avoid the (sometimes innocently) insensitive remarks that always seem to happen. I’ve noticed, however, that there is a great variety in the comfort levels of talking about medical issues of any sort. One of my dear friends will not admit she is sick and needs to take it easy unless you all but beat it out of her! I think she goes to an unhealthy extreme by not telling people she loves and trusts. On the other hand, we have the people who unload EVERY ailment as soon as you introduce yourself. . . there’s a middle ground somewhere. 😉
    jennycherie recently posted…Joy to the WorldMy Profile

  • Tracy Polyak December 18, 2011, 9:27 pm

    I think that one of the reasons that people don’t talk about it is that there is a tremendous amount of guilt associated with it. Did I go to the doctor soon enough? Was I taking medication that was harmful to the child? Some even feel that it is some sort of punishment from God.

    The big reason that I didn’t want to talk about it (besides just being a private person in general) is that people do tend to be weird about these things. The last thing I wanted to hear was, “It’s all for the best,” or “It will work out next time.” Also, since I had once thought I would never have children but had since had a child, miscarriage just really wasn’t as bad for me as it might be under other circumstances. I really didn’t want people’s pity where it wasn’t needed.

    Yet I can see now that among all those well-intentioned but misguided well-wishers, there is a whole host of symphathetic women out there that could have been there for me. I haven’t quite decided whether I could deal with the former in order to gain the latter. (Fortunately, I don’t really have to decide with regard to pregnancy, though, as my child-bearing days are pretty much closed now. But I do think it is applicable to other situations in life.)

  • felicity December 19, 2011, 8:39 pm

    I miscarried my first and fourth pregnancies and hardly told anyone. Of the few people I told, only one or two of them had anything helpful to say. It was all along the lines of, “when man plans, God laughs,” or “it was for the best.” Neither of those sayings did anything to alleviate my pain and grief, so I learned to keep it to myself.

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