The Misery of Miscarriage, Cont'd

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

From another reader who was devastated by hers:

I recently had a miscarriage. One month and 19 days. I had no idea it was so common. Women I’ve told—and they are few—express that I can “try again,” that “medically at least you know that you can get pregnant,”  or “you work in the health care field, so you know loss happens.”

All anyone talks about are the positives of birth and parenting when you announce. Miscarriage caught me by total surprise.

It would have been my first pregnancy. I’m still dealing with it emotionally and physically. I may not be bleeding anymore, but my soul is ripped wide open. I had no idea I was so fragile. I don’t know if I want to try again.

This reader and his wife did:

She had a miscarriage in early 2010. We’d only just started trying. At the first ultrasound, they told us the embryo only looked three weeks old. The followup a week later confirmed the pregnancy hadn’t taken. The OB/GYN recommended letting it pass on its own and a few weeks later my wife went through a couple of days of heavy cramping and some bleeding.

Her period didn’t return. Three months later, we were getting ready to go out when I heard a scream from the bathroom.

I ran and found my wife hemorrhaging blood into the toilet. We raced to the ER and she had an emergency D&C that night.

In the end, it turned out for the best, since I lost my job at the end of that year and was out of work for several months. Later we had a daughter and are both now in good, stable careers. My wife—who was raised in a very conservative Protestant faith—came out of the experience strongly pro-choice. She’s unafraid to talk about how political attacks threaten not just access to abortion, but to physicians trained in procedures like the D&C that saved her life.

But the lesson I drew is how privileged we are to live in a time where miscarriage can be regarded with shock and sadness. Our society has become so good at eliminating so many risks that bedeviled our ancestors’ children, we’ve nearly lost the ability to understand or assess those that remain.

I came to realize mourning that first pregnancy inflicted needless misery about something that didn’t happen for reasons beyond anyone’s control. My wife did too. We moved on.

This reader also didn’t seem as emotionally devastated as the first:

I read the various personal comments about abortion and miscarriage and felt compelled to write. I had a miscarriage very early in the pregnancy. I had been married about a year and wasn’t planning on getting pregnant at the time. Despite my husband’s initial shock and disbelief, we told our families.

It was almost exactly a week later that I woke up to cramping and it felt like something in my pelvis dropped. I didn’t know what someone did in this scenario and ended up going to the ER to confirm the miscarriage. There wasn’t much they could do since it was so early in the pregnancy, so I was sent home to bleed it out.

We told our families we had lost the pregnancy, and I had days of being weepy and sad. My husband wanted to hold back on letting it happen again, but in the end, we decided to let fate take its course. A month later I was able to tell my family I was pregnant again. We had a healthy baby girl nine months later.

What struck me the most about this experience was sharing it with other women. My sister-in-law later told me she had miscarried, but was comforted knowing that I had gotten pregnant again so quickly. She also conceived her son soon after. A friend opened up and told me how her own miscarriage was a relief to her and hearing my story without being heartbroken made her feel less guilty. She had her own daughter about a year later. Sharing that experience alleviated two women in different circumstances and mindsets about their miscarriages.

I do not think it is any different with abortion. With my miscarriage, I felt even more strongly that women should not be forced to stay pregnant. Women feel differently about their abortion or miscarriage based on their circumstances, their desire to be pregnant, and how late the pregnancy is. Sharing our stories helps women relate their own experience. No one is obligated to share, but our stories can alleviate the pain women feel in their silence and give hope that there is another chance.