Being Brave Isn’t Pretending You’re Fine

“Gosh, it’s been so long!  How are you?”  I said to a friend I accidentally butt-dialed while trying to call someone else.

“Good…Well…OK… We were really excited because we were pregnant with twins, but then I had a miscarriage.”

And I paused.  Honestly, I was kind of shocked that she just led with that.  I mean, it had been over a year since we last spoke, and we aren’t even close friends.  That’s a pretty personal statement to just put out there.

Why though?  Why isn’t it OK to just tell the truth about how you’re feeling.  If you just lost a baby why should you have to pretend like everything is fine?  It’s not.  And what a brave thing to do.  We often hear the phrase “putting on a brave face” which means covering up your true feelings and going on with your life.  But in reality, what takes courage is to acknowledge those feelings, to let people in.  That is really scary.  Because when you let people in to how you are really feeling, to the struggles in your life, it makes you vulnerable.  It opens you up to people saying stupid, hurtful things, or getting super awkward, or just ignoring your comment and pretending like you didn’t say anything- which can be even more painful.

And miscarriage… well, we really don’t talk about that.  I remember years ago a friend of mine was pregnant and I hadn’t seen her in a while.  When I asked her how she was she said, “Well it’s been a rough summer… I was pregnant, then I wasn’t, and now I am pregnant again.”  I remember freezing, thinking, “Oh wow, she just told me she had a miscarriage.” But I was too scared to acknowledge it- ’cause what do you say?  So I just kind of pretended I didn’t really notice the comment and we skipped over it.  Yeah, I’m not very proud of that.

About 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, that’s huge.  And yet, nobody talks about it, it is kind of a taboo subject in polite conversation.  If your mom or even your dog just died and someone asks how you are, it is perfectly acceptable to say you are feeling pretty lousy because of that loss and people will comfort you accordingly.  But announce that you just lost a baby and eerrk (my impression of a needle scratching across a record,) sometimes conversation just stops.  And if it is acknowledged, the platitudes come out.  “Oh, well at least you know you can get pregnant!”  “You’re young, you’ll have another one!” or my personal favorite, “Well, it probably meant that there was something wrong with the baby anyway.”  Right.  Because I would rather have my baby die than be born with a disability, is that what you are saying?

In case you haven’t guessed by now, I had a miscarriage myself.  I was only about 9 weeks along but I was devastated.  I have been through a lot (see A Brief Timeline of Crazy if you don’t believe me,) but losing the baby was one of the absolute worst things I have dealt with in my life.  Everyone’s experience is different, but I loved that baby fiercely from the moment I knew he/she exsisted.  My husband and I called it the Hufflepuff since we didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl and we talked about our plans for the baby all the time.  When I started spotting, I knew in my gut that the baby was gone, but I still made my husband leave on a business trip because some crazy part of me believed that if I asked him to stay home to go to the doctors appointment with me, my fears would prove to be true.  But sending him away didn’t help, I still got the horrible news at the ultrasound that the heartbeat was gone.  And then I had to make decisions about what to do, and suffer through a lot of pain and weeks of bleeding.  I won’t go into that now, but I remember how hard it was.  And most of all, how lonely I felt.

We have decided as a culture not to tell people we are pregnant until 12 weeks, since miscarriage is so common before that.  But that means that if you lose a baby, most people didn’t even know you were pregnant so how can they be invested in that little life?  My husband was wonderful to me at that time, but even he could not understand why it affected me so deeply and why I became so profoundly depressed afterwards.  We have funerals in part so that we do not have to mourn alone, because that is a huge weight to bear.  But most people don’t have funerals for miscarried babies, so that burden is not shared.

Friends and family turned out in droves to help me and send flowers or cards or lend a word of comfort after each of my surgeries, which was wonderful.  But my miscarriage was when I really needed the most support, and I have never felt more alone.  A huge part of that is because no one knew, and I “put on a brave face” for those who did.  I went back to work and just said I had been sick for a few days, but inside I wanted to scream, “How can you people not see that a part of me just died with the baby that was inside me?!”  I went around pretending I was fine, but I was far from it.  Eventually, Sebastian sat me down and said that he thought I needed to see someone and I found an amazing counselor to help me work through my depression.  A few months later, I got pregnant with the twins and was so happy and so very scared at the same time!

I have been talking a lot about #BraveOctober and being brave, whatever that means to you.  To me, today, it means finally speaking up about my loss.  Telling people that if you are hurting, the courageous thing to do is to let someone know.  Not to bottle it up inside and think that you are being “brave” by hiding yourself from the world.  Maybe being honest about your struggles might just let someone know that they are not quite as alone as they feel in whatever pain they are going through.

So I paused.  And then I said to her what I wish people would have said to me.  “I am so sorry for your loss.  Do you want to talk about it? I’m here for you.”

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17 thoughts on “Being Brave Isn’t Pretending You’re Fine

  1. ❤ we had two miscarriages before having Haven and were about 9 weeks along as well. I feel like it's becoming a little less taboo to talk about (especially with posts like these and a similar one I wrote), or maybe that's just me finally feeling like it's okay to talk about it myself. Anyway, just wanted to say that I really liked this post – it can be such an isolating experience unfortunately, so I think awareness that it's okay (even good) to talk about it and acknowledge it is really great.

    • I agree that there is more of an open conversation about pregnancy loss now than there was even just a few years ago when I miscarried. Especially among mommy/women groups it is becoming a topic that is embraced rather than shunned. I do feel though, that in other circles it is still something that people have a tough time discussing. But we are doing our little part to help that! Where is your post? I would love to read it!

  2. My wife’s first pregnancy ended in a painful misscarriage. It was during the first trimester and people usually don’t announce their pregnancy until the second trimester. We had decided to tell everyone right away when she got pregnant, so when she had a misscarraige my wife was too embarrassed, and mad at me for telling people she was pregnant too early. What was amazing though was that when we did tell people, how many of them have had misscarraiges. Pouring of support was amazing, I never believe in hiding your emotions and pretending everything is fine.

    Fast forward nine years to last November. My wife was just diagnosed with Stage Four cancer on Monday before thanksgiving, but my aunt told me not to tell anybody in fear of ruining her guest’s 3000 calories experience. My response was FU, and if you want us to put on a pretend happy face for your guests you do not need us there!

    • I’m sorry about your loss. I think if I spent less time and energy pretending I was fine in the past I wouldn’t have so many issues to deal with now!

      It’s amazing the lengths people will go to to keep everything smooth on the surface rather than deal with the truth of a difficult situation. I have experienced that as well and say go you for standing up for your wife!

  3. I was at a party recently when one woman ‘confessed’ about her miscarriage a year ago and another one did and another one. These women have clearly been so affected by their losses but haven’t been able to talk to their friends or anyone about it. Worse is the guilt some of them feel as if they are somehow responsible for it. I was at a complete loss as to how to offer empathy, I listened and acknowledged and that was good enough.

    • That is the best thing you could do. I once heard it described as “holding a light” for someone. Just let them talk and feel without judging or interrupting. A place to share that burden is really helpful. 🙂

  4. I love that you see it as Bravery… I don’t know that I feel at all that way about it. I just hope that in saying it instead of hiding it more people will feel okay about saying their truths as well. A lot of it has to do with the Freeway series our church has been doing. There has been a focus on how we are not responsible for the bad things that have happened in our lives but we are responsible for what we do after them and how we respond to them. It also focuses on how other people can be set free by your testimony and seeing how God is working in your situations. But I’m glad you saw it as brave and wrote about it because I needed to read your take on it and to see it from another view point. ~Andie

    • I also like the idea that speaking your truth can encourage others to do the same. It’s sort of the whole point of this blog I guess, to have a place I can be really honest in a way I can’t be anywhere else.

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