Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Things we don't say

It’s a Sunday afternoon with family, and I’m presenting my quilting-guru mother with squares of fabric I’d diligently stitched together, hoping for her guidance.

“Am I doing this right? Do they look okay? Should I do them over?” I ask her a desperate string of questions because it’s my first stab at sewing anything, ever, and I want to get it right. The project I’m obsessing over will become a baby quilt, peppered with grinning jungle animals and colorful polka dots.

She assures me I’ve done an excellent job, and only one square needs to be re-stitched. I feel relieved. She gazes at me, wearing an expression I know means she’s choosing her next words carefully.

“I’m worried about you,” she says. Neither of us needs to say she’s referring to the miscarriage that happened three months ago.

“Mom. I’m fine. Really.” I try not to sound irritated, because I know she’s only bringing this up out of love and concern.

“And you’re dealing with it?” she asks. “Because if you’re not, these things have a way of hitting you out of nowhere.” She goes on to describe a Lifetime movie she recently watched in which a woman suffers repeated miscarriages, acts completely fine and emotionally recovered, then commits suicide out of nowhere.

Considering what she’s implying with this movie reference, I have to put even more effort into concealing my irritation. “Yes, I’m dealing with it. Just because you don’t see me dealing with it doesn’t mean it’s not happening, in my own way.”

“You’re such a Jacob,” she muses, referring to my father’s side of the family. I don’t know what she means by that, and I don’t ask.

But she’s right to have concerns. These things understandably tend to stay with a person. A recent study showed that, among women who have had miscarriages, 52 percent had significant emotional distress immediately after miscarriage, over 20 percent did three months later, 14 percent did at six months, and 8 percent reported distress one year later.

Aside from that, though, what I honestly felt strongly (and still feel) months after the miscarriage was…anger. Mostly because I felt misinformed. Mostly because I walked into my very first doctor appointment at eight weeks pregnant with zero signs of trouble, thinking smugly that my chances of miscarriage were quite slim (I’m healthy, I’m young, I conceived right off the bat, and I come from a family of Fertile Myrtles) only to have a devastating bomb dropped on me.

A bomb that, as my doctor then informed me, is dropped on women like me all the time.

And as I revealed what happened to me openly and without hesitation to other women, I was aghast at the number of them who in turn confided they had also endured the awful experience. It was more than I would have guessed in a million years.

Of all the bizarre, disgusting, outrageous, way-more-than-necessary details I’ve managed to glean from very honest chatter with women about pregnancy and childbirth over the years, why had this never come up before? Why did I only figure out how very common it is after the fact?

Really, no one wants to talk about this subject. It’s awful, it’s depressing, it’s downright heartbreaking. I know this. And would I really saunter up to some young, healthy girl in her early pregnancy stages and impart something like, “Just so you know, miscarriages happen all the time, so prepare yourself”? No, I don’t know that I could.

But I do know this: I really, honestly, wholeheartedly wish someone would have said it to me. So I'll just keep sharing my experience with friends, family, acquaintances, blog readers, in hopes that it will help someone else. I guess that's how I deal with it in my own way.

--Megan Brooks

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