Pregnancy is not for the faint of heart. Social media can make it seem like everyone gets pregnant easily and nine months later, voila, healthy baby! We see the pretty parts—pregnancy announcements, cute “bump” photos, trendy nurseries, and hip onesies. We often get highly selective images of pregnancy and birth, which can be isolating when you experience fertility issues and/or loss.
Few people talk about how hard the journey is for many of us. In May 2018, my first baby, Ellis, was stillborn when I was 31 weeks pregnant. Up until that point, my pregnancy was smooth and easy—my husband and I were completely shocked and devastated when we learned our son had died in my womb. The doctors weren’t able to find a reason why it happened.
In the early weeks and months of grief, we were incredibly lucky to have constant support from family and friends, but I also felt completely alone.
I had intense guilt that somehow Ellis’ death was my fault and that I could have done something to prevent it. I also felt shame that somehow my body had failed.
Thankfully countless women reached out to me privately through texts, social media, and even handwritten letters sharing their own stories of loss, which helped me to feel less alone. I was continuously struck by how many women in my life had experienced pregnancy loss that I was completely unaware of.
I’ve since learned that 25% of pregnancies end in a loss—that’s one out of every four of your pregnant friends. Because the majority of losses happen before 12 weeks,
Our culture has decided that we shouldn’t announce our pregnancies until after the first trimester when the risk of loss diminishes.
As a result, parents who experience loss before 12 weeks suffer in confusing and isolating silence—the people in their lives don’t even know they were pregnant and the couple may not know of anyone else who has lost a baby. We can do better than this, ladies!
So many women carry unwarranted guilt and shame around their loss, which they had no way of preventing. Thankfully there are advocates in the social media sphere who are creating a safe space for dialogue around pregnancy loss, such as Dr. Jessica Zucker who started the Instagram campaign #ihadamiscarriage which has 37,000 submissions and counting. These communities empower women by building awareness, creating connection, and promoting healing.
I’ve personally had a very positive experience writing and sharing about my grief since losing Ellis. It still makes me feel vulnerable, but I’ve found that most people are able to relate to my pain, even if they haven’t experienced the same type of loss.
Putting words to my grief and sharing them with others has helped me create meaning out of a seemingly meaningless loss—I’m able to process my feelings, spread awareness and normalize these conversations, and build community around pregnancy loss.
Since Ellis was stillborn I’ve shared publicly that I’ve also had two “chemical pregnancies” (a very sterile term for what is basically an early miscarriage) and most recently a miscarriage at 10 weeks. Each pregnancy has been a roller coaster of emotions full of hopeful expectation, anxiety, and grief. The reality for me is that my first baby was stillborn and yet I continue to experience loss—tragedy does not earn you immunity points.
After four losses in less than a year it’s easy to assume that something is “wrong,” yet so far all the testing we’ve had done shows that everything is “fine.” I’ve also learned that, unfortunately, miscarriages within the first trimester are “normal.”
Though nothing about losing a baby feels normal, we do need to normalize talking about loss.
Upholding the belief that we should conceal our pregnancies until after 12 weeks is a way of protecting everyone from the pain of talking about loss, but this leads to shame and isolation for parents. As Brené Brown says, “shame derives its power from being unspeakable.” We should feel safe to choose if and when we want to tell others about our pregnancies as well as our losses.
I want to break the silence around pregnancy loss and hope my experience is helpful to those of you out there who feel like your journey to parenthood doesn’t look like everyone else’s—you are not alone. I hope to share a pregnancy announcement and baby pictures in the future, but I also want others to know the reality of our experience along the way. Even the unfinished stories are worth sharing.
Edited by: Cat Nunnery