I didn't want to say it. I thought about just keeping it a secret, glossing over such a difficult topic. What if things got awkward? She probably wouldn't know how to respond.
She was just being friendly, looking at my bulging belly, and asking how many pregnancies I'd had. It would have been so easy to say this was my second.
But it wasn't. It was my third. My first pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage, and it would be so easy to let that little fact fall by the wayside. What did it matter, anyway? We were at the playground -- no one's life was going to be changed here.
I had to say it, though, and I did it the only way I know how: I closed my eyes and forced my mouth to make the words. "It's my third pregnancy, actually. My first was a loss, and it took us a while to get pregnant again."
There, it was out. My dirty laundry. Maybe it was an overshare, but it was the truth. I waited for her to change the topic. Instead, she leaned in and whispered, "I had one, too. Last year. It's been really hard since then, but we're trying again."
She looked relieved. With that one admission, we were a little closer than we had been five minutes ago. With just that one shred of truth between us, we took a step toward normalizing something that's far more common than most people think.
As many as 20 percent of all known pregnancies end in a miscarriage. And yet, many people who haven't been directly affected by pregnancy loss seem to think the rate is somewhere closer to 5 percent. That's a staggering difference between public perception and reality. Especially when it's such a painful reality for so many women and men.
The big question is, how do we change this perception? Short of papering major cities with pregnancy loss awareness pamphlets, how do we start spreading the message that pregnancy loss is common and painful and nothing to be ashamed of? The answer is in our stories.
In generations past, pregnancy alone was something of a taboo topic. It was shocking just for Lucille Ball to appear pregnant on her own television show. Television executives expected audiences to be scandalized by the physical manifestation of her marital sex. If the mere image of a pregnant woman was taboo, imagine how that extends to losing the baby.
For decades, women have been expected to keep these things private. It wasn't appropriate to mention such personal matters; it amounted to airing your dirty laundry in public. The times, though, they are a-changin'.
Maybe we have social media to thank, or perhaps its the incredible wealth of information that's become available since the dawn of the Internet, but people are starting to talk. Women are starting to declare that their losses were not, in fact, their fault. Men are slowly becoming more comfortable sharing their pain after a miscarriage. Voices are starting to be heard.
There's a long way to go before pregnancy loss ceases to carry a stigma. Too many men are expected to "man up" and shrug off a loss. Too many women are downright afraid to tell their coworkers that they've missed work to recover from a miscarriage. Too many families hide the news of new pregnancies out of fear of having to tell people if there's been a loss.
Change is going to come when we force the words out of our mouths, and tell people our stories. It's time to talk about the baby you lost 30 years ago, when you were young and newly married. It's time to tell your boss that you need the day off to be with your wife, who has lost your child. It's time to be honest with each other, and reveal the messier parts of our lives. That's the only way we're going to realize that pregnancy loss affects far, far more people than we think it does.
I can guarantee that you know someone affected by pregnancy loss. It might be a relative, or it might be a friend. It might be someone you work with or someone you went to school with.
To so many of the people fighting through this, it can bring an incredible amount of comfort to hear that they're not alone.
Maybe you think that your miscarriage happened too long ago, and no one would care about it now. I assure you, someone cares. Maybe you're open about your stillbirth, and you think people are sick of hearing you talk about it. They're not. It might be that you had a loss once upon a time, but you've had children since then and have healed. There are people who need to hear your story, too.
I'm talking about my story and the story of the woman at the park. I'm talking about your story. It's time to start adding our voices to the growing wave of people who aren't ashamed or embarrassed. It's time to change how we talk about pregnancy loss. Will you join me?
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