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Why it's time to break the silence about miscarriage Add to ...

Hello, my name is Marie, and I've had a miscarriage.

A confession like that is akin to something you would hear at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It's just as taboo a subject, and involves just as much shame.

When my husband and I found out we were pregnant, he didn't even wait for a blood test result. I peed on a stick and he instantly reached for the phone to call his mother, along with everyone else and their mother. I did the same. We were elated.

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The second we saw that positive mark, he started treating me like a delicate flower. He was already talking to my stomach. I was eating healthy, keeping active, reading up on pregnancy and learning methods of raising a child. There is so much information about pregnancy, a person could read all day, every day, for the entire nine months, and still have more to read.

The day after the pee test was a blood test. The day after that, it was confirmed. We were officially pregnant, and now we were calling everyone again to tell them the results. The celebration continued. There wasn't a moment that went by without a smile on our faces, not a day when we weren't grateful and counted ourselves blessed. My husband and I felt closer than ever before. It was the happiest time of our lives - we had a skip to our step, the birds were singing and everything was right.

One week later, I saw troubling signs of miscarriage and went to the doctor for blood work. Two days later, I was in an emergency room and had my worst fears relayed to me - I had miscarried at six weeks. My husband and I went from jubilation to devastation in a span of nine days. The birds stopped singing, we stopped smiling and the lights dimmed.

The days following the miscarriage were agonizing. We didn't know of anyone who had been through this, so we felt very alone. All the books that talked about pregnancy devoted no more than a page or two to miscarriage. Information went from abundant to sparse.

The only time I was able to speak with a doctor was in the emergency room, and he was rushing me out to see other patients. The sole words of solace he offered were, "Even though you may not feel it, miscarriage is a normal thing." Try telling that to a woman who has just heard the terrible news and see if she believes it. It's not an easy sell.

I thought it was something I had done. Did I not eat the right food? Was I exercising too hard? Was I not appropriately dressed for the weather? Was I not thinking positively enough? Do I have a defect of some sort? Will we ever get pregnant again? If we get pregnant, is it going to end up in another miscarriage?

We had so many questions, and we were looking so desperately for answers. It seemed like a woman should be able to reproduce, and if I didn't, there was something wrong with me.

My husband and I had read that a miscarriage means the baby wasn't healthy to begin with. That's what we focused on - for our sanity. But it never felt quite right. How come I was the only person we both knew to have experienced a miscarriage? What was different about us?

Well, it's funny, this miscarriage business, because it seems more and more like the tree that falls in the forest. If nobody is there to hear it, does it not make a sound? If nobody talks about miscarriage, does it not exist? Quite the contrary.

In telling my family and friends about it, stories of other women's miscarriages came to light. When I was finally able to see my family doctor, he recounted that he and his wife have three children, though she was pregnant six times. Hearing about other's experiences began to make ours a little more tolerable.

My husband and I have slowly come to terms with what happened a few weeks ago, and we've slowly understood the science behind a miscarriage. However, we find it hard to grasp the emotion behind it, and we are perplexed by the secrecy of it all.

Why does miscarriage seem to be so taboo? If it's such a natural part of reproduction, as doctors will tell you, and if it's a natural selection process, why does it seem there is such a social stigma to it?

We are told to wait three months before announcing a pregnancy because miscarriages are most common in the first trimester. By waiting, you can spare yourself and others the awkwardness and discomfort of having to tell them if you miscarry. But what about having to go into work the day after a miscarriage? Or going out with friends? Why subject ourselves to dealing with something of this magnitude alone, or with a virtual support group of strangers in online forums?

We all fear the unknown, but the more educated we are about any given issue, the better prepared we are to understand and deal with it. The emergency room doctor told me that one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage. Since then, I've read that it's somewhere between 20 and 30 per cent. So statistically speaking, it's not rare, and not in the least bit unknown.

It seems to me that if women didn't hide their experiences with miscarriage, and had an open dialogue about it, it wouldn't be so frightening and wouldn't make anyone who experiences one feel so lost and ashamed. Some things should not be swept under the rug.

Marie Goldwater lives in Brampton, Ont.

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