A few weeks ago, I got an email from an old friend of ours when we lived in the town before this one. I knew her through her husband who I knew through Mr. X. We probably wouldn’t have been friends if we had met otherwise. We were just different. But, she has faithfully kept up the correspondence, even when they moved away and I have (half-heartedly) kept up my end.
As an unspoken policy, we had not previously told any of our ‘old town’ friends about our current difficulty in reproducing. It’s not something you just drop in a once in every six-months’ conversation. But, at the same time, I found myself becoming resentful that they were prattling on about this and that and I couldn’t share that huge portion of my life that was consuming so much time and energy.
So, when she sent me an email last year after my miscarriage – when I was still raw and unapologetically sharing it with everyone – I knew I could not keep silent. I couldn’t talk about unimportant things like my job or Mr. X’s job or the kitties. It was infertility and miscarriage talk or she wasn’t getting a reply. I was like a geyser – I had to tell or I would burst from the sheer effort of containing it all. I was very diplomatic about how I told her, though. No frowny faces, no woe-is-me my life sucks (even though I’m sure I said that at least ten times a day), just the straightforward, we’ve been having difficulty conceiving, sought treatment, had a miscarriage. So sad, blah, blah, blah.
She wrote a lovely note back and was genuinely sorry to hear of our misfortune, which was like balm on my raw wound. So few people acknowledged what had happened and I was always so mollified when someone who we weren’t particularly close to was so giving.
But now, we’ve had a second miscarriage, this time after IVF, do I give the sob story again? It is a huge part of my history, but not the only part. Would I feel as if I was betraying myself and our little phoenix if I didn’t tell her? Can I really let her believe that all is well in my world? I think that’s what it comes down to – this unabashed desire to be nakedly honest with her, put it all out there and let her pick and choose what she will respond to. At least I know that I have told her and she now has the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
This plan has back-fired on me before, though. After our first miscarriage, I wrote to Mr. X’s great-aunt, a woman I love and admire. She’s feisty, loving, caring and just plain neat – all the qualities that I wish to have, particularly when I get older. I told her of our miscarriage in my email and was waiting for her special brand of soothing. A day passed, then a few, then some more. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was heartbroken. She has never said a word about it and it still breaks my heart.
There were others who I told who never responded or acknowledged it: Mr. X’s cousin who I had to tell after she asked how our baby-making was coming along (not so well, my dear, not so well); our friends who had a baby last year – she called me recently after receiving my email and I could tell that she wanted to bring it up but didn’t have the heart (or the nerve). I can’t say I blame her. But, still. I knew she had read the email and still there was nothing. And, of course, there was John*.
Am I committing some huge faux-pas here telling people that our life is not a bed of roses and shitty things happen to good people? Am I harshing on someone else’s day by sharing this? Am I being totally selfish by wanting to share EVERYTHING – the good, the bad, the ugly? Or, am I making it more acceptable to talk about these things, even if they are met with silence, so that if any of these women (the great-aunt notwithstanding) has the unfortuate luck to have a miscarriage, she knows at least one other person who has had one? Why don’t more people share this information with each other? Are we all so ashamed of what happened as if it was somehow our fault (to which the resounding answer would be NO) that we can’t even begin to mention it until someone else has one?
After my first miscarriage, I seriously considered getting a t-shirt made that told the whole world what had happened. I was hurting so much that I wanted everyone to know. I never did it because the mere thought of it was comforting enough, but I still feel that stigma of being Debbie Downer whenever I tell someone what has happened – as if my bad news would taint the rest of their day.
The bottom line is this: I had two miscarriages, both after infertility treatments and I am not ashamed of that. I am still sad about it (and some days angry) but they are events in my life just like getting G or learning to sew and equally worthy of being shared. For, they have to be shared, people need to know that this stuff happens and it happens to people they know and love. I will still tell people in the hopes of meeting those few enlightened souls who ‘get it’ and educate those who don’t.