October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This means there are a lot of pregnancy loss facts circling the internet and a lot of women sharing personal stories of miscarriage and stillbirth on social media. The stories are often heartbreaking. But the sharing of them is wonderful. As more women talk about their experience, the stigma around miscarriage lessens. As the general public becomes more aware of the burden of pregnancy loss, better support systems can be put in place for families. I am inspired by and grateful for every person who is engaging in the conversation this month. And sometimes it is also too much for me.
I consider myself to be in a stable phase of my fertility journey. I am not actively trying to get pregnant, which has removed some of the psychological pressure I was putting on myself and reduced my emotional frenzy. I have been seeing a therapist for almost two years to work through my shame and grief. As a result, I have created enough space to allow me to hear other people’s pain with compassion, and participate in infertility and miscarriage communities and conversations. That’s why I started this blog; I was finally ready and able to participate.
There is a HUGE community of infertility and miscarriage bloggers. There are more than a few published memoirs on infertility and pregnancy loss, and a growing number of podcasts. There are whole companies dedicated to supporting women trying to build their families. But for the first four years of my fertility journey, I didn’t know any of it existed, and I didn’t want to. I don’t think I would have even read my own blog four years ago. A woman who had lost six pregnancies and still had no baby, who talked at length about disappointment and grief… it would have been too overwhelming.
It is incredible and brave when women share their story. We should celebrate those women. But it is equally important to recognize the women who don’t share because it is either too hard or their pain is too fresh.
John Legend and Chrissy Teigen shared some of their most vulnerable moments with the world last week. It was devastating and powerful; and some women couldn’t hear it, or care. Not because they don’t think it’s sad, but because it requires all their energy to care for themselves. Sometimes you only have the strength to carry your own experience. Sometimes you have nothing left to hold other people’s emotions. And that’s ok. We are all in different places and phases.
I recently read a story of a women who had 13 miscarriages; and then she had a baby. Reading this brought up several distinct thoughts for me: (1) Joy. Yay, good for her! (2) Jealousy. Dammit, why did it work out for her but not me?! (3) Befuddlement. How had she endured 13 losses? I was emotionally shattered from six. (4) Self-doubt. Was I just weak? Should have tried harder?
Even after my self-work and supposed emotional “stability,” rather than be inspired by her story, I was hopeless, self-critical, jealous, and defensive. I would love to get to a point where I can hear stories like this without such messy feelings, but it will take more time and work. I am still healing.
Some women derive strength from miscarriage and infertility stories. Engaging with others gives them hope, normalizes their feelings, and makes them feel less alone. But there also women like me who – while wanting all those things – can’t always safely let others into that tender place.
Hearing other people’s stories about infant and pregnancy loss can be triggering. It’s ok. You don’t have to engage – with either your pregnant friends, or your bereaved ones. You are allowed to take the time and space you need to heal. It doesn’t mean you don’t understand that other women are hurting. It doesn’t mean you lack perspective, are weak minded, or cold hearted. It just means healing is hard. October is still for you. I’m sorry for your loss and pray you will find support and peace as and how you need it.