Saturday, March 09, 2019

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT

One of my close friends is pregnant, and it might be an anembryonic pregnancy, or a type of miscarriage where the baby does not have a heartbeat. At least, on her previous checkup, this is what the doctor said, but she's waiting for a bit longer to check whether it is definitely the case. I hope it isn't and the baby pulls through. I know my friend and her boyfriend were happy and looking forward to it, and she would be a really good mother.

She hasn't told many people, but she approached me about the pregnancy because I'm one of the few people our age who has experienced being pregnant. It reminded me of a couple of paragraphs I read in Michelle Obama's memoir, in which she says a miscarriage is lonely, painful and demoralizing. Michelle Obama was the First Lady of the United States for two terms, she was a highly successful lawyer in her own right, she is well-educated, and generally wholesome and well-rounded, and if she could feel lonely and demoralized from a miscarriage, I just hope people know that it's a much bigger mental hurdle for women than it may seem to be. I also hope that people know it's okay to talk about things that are difficult to talk about, and more than that, it is even more important to talk about things that are difficult. This is what Michelle Obama says about it:
After many years of taking careful precautions to avoid pregnancy, I was now singularly dedicated to the opposite endeavor. I treated it like a mission. We had one pregnancy test come back positive, which caused us both to forget every worry and swoon with joy, but a couple of weeks later I had a miscarriage, which left me physically uncomfortable and cratered any optimism we'd felt. Seeing women and their children walking happily along a street, I'd feel a pang of longing followed by a bruising wallop of inadequacy. The only comfort was that Barack and I were living only a block from Craig and his wife, who now had two beautiful children, Leslie and Avery. I found solace in dropping by to play and read stories with them.

If I were to start a file on things nobody tells you about until you're right in the thick of them, I might begin with miscarriages. A miscarriage is lonely, painful, and demoralizing almost on a cellular level. When you have one, you will likely mistake it for a personal failure, which it is not. Or a tragedy, which, regardless of how utterly devastating it feels in the moment, it also is not. What nobody tells you is that miscarriage happens all the time, to more women than you'd ever guess, given the relative silence around it. I learned this only after I mentioned that I'd miscarried to a couple of friends, who responded by heaping me with love and support and also their own miscarriage stories. It didn't take away the pain, but in unburying their own struggles, they steadied me during mine, helping me see that what I'd been through was no more than a normal biological hiccup, a fertilized egg, that for what was probably a very good reason, had needed to bail out.

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