In 2014, I laid in a hospital bed, looking at myself in the mirror across the room. I didn’t recognize the paper-white face that looked back at me, the woman in the hospital gown who could barely lift her head, the arm that had an IV attached to it, receiving a life-saving blood transfusion.
The room was familiar — I had been in such a room before — when my oldest two children were born. But this time was different — there was so much blood lost and an emergency surgery. The baby I had been carrying only a day earlier, the one whose heartbeat we had heard, who we saw moving around on ultrasound only a couple weeks before, was gone. It wasn’t our first miscarriage, but that didn’t numb the pain.
Any woman who has been pregnant can tell you that it doesn’t take long after that first positive pregnancy test to start mentally planning for a child. You start dreaming of what that baby will look like, whether he’ll have his daddy’s eyes or whether she’ll have her mommy’s smile. And you begin planning a nursery and thinking about baby’s names.
But for a lot of women, those dreams are dashed because of miscarriage and pregnancy loss.
One in four women will experience a miscarriage or pregnancy loss in their lifetime, but the subject is rarely talked about. According to the American College of Obstetricians and the Mayo Clinic, between 15 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. However, a 2015 study found that 55 percent of people believe miscarriage is uncommon.
It’s the secret sisterhood that no one talks about and no one wants to join.
Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day.
“When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan,” said then-President Ronald Reagan when he declared the month of October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in 1988. “When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.”
In recent years, celebrities like Celine Dion, Nicole Kidman and Mariah Carey have spoken publicly about their miscarriages. Singer Pink talked about it on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and music mogul Jay-Z rapped about it.
Still, the pain is unimaginable until you’ve lost a child of your own. I know too well what it’s like to hold your breath at every ultrasound, until you see that flicker of a heartbeat. I remember the panic that sets in when that heartbeat that was once there is no longer fluttering. I know the confusion that can set in when the ultrasound tech tries to explain as you are shuffled off in tears to another room to meet with the doctor. I remember what it’s like to be wheeled down a hospital hallway filled with new moms with their newborns, only to have lost another baby.
It’s a traumatic experience, and for many people like me, talking about it with others can be therapeutic. Knowing that others have gone through something similar can help, especially in the darkest times soon after a loss.
It’s a secret sisterhood, but it doesn’t have to be. Luckily there are days like today that bring loss to light.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at email@example.com.