Content warning: This story contains details about experiencing a miscarriage.

I’ll never forget that Sunday last July.

I was 10 weeks pregnant and talking to my sister on the phone while walking around a Dollar General store. I felt mild cramps, fainter than on my normal menstrual cycle. It’s nothing I’m not used to. I knew I’d live.

My baby did not.

Several hours later I laid in a hospital bed as nurses took vial after vial of blood, testing for hormones that indicate pregnancy. I already felt empty.

I knew even before I got to the hospital what happened.

That dull pain I felt earlier in the day had turned into a sharp pain in the lower right side of my stomach that woke me up later that night. I went to the bathroom, and I groaned as I heard something plop into the water. The white porcelain was coated in red. I cried out for my husband and saw immediate worry on his face when he came by my side. I knew he knew what was happening too.

I was having a miscarriage.

My husband and I interlocked hands and rested our foreheads against each other. “This isn’t happening,” I stuttered every few seconds. We sat in that sudden, blunt reality for a while.

We weren’t going to be parents anymore. At least, not this time.

Grief after a miscarriage can feel like getting a participation trophy. I was ready to be on “Team Mom,” but ended up on the losing squad with nothing to show for my efforts except grief. There are hardly any words to express the disappointment, shame, helplessness, guilt and trauma tied to losing a baby. I couldn’t understand why it happened or cope with it.

So, I was silent.

I didn’t know how common miscarriages were until I had one. As I stared at the hospital curtains with beige seashells on them, a doctor assigned to my case peeked around the corner. She once again said the obvious. I had a miscarriage.

Then, she inadvertently administered the blow that made me want to sink into the hospital bed and never resurface.

“It’s normal. You can try again,” she said.

No, it’s not normal. Nothing I felt was normal. Maybe “common” would have been a better word choice. But even that is triggering for someone who just lost their baby. Doctors may unintentionally deliver these stoic comments because it’s a normal medical occurrence for them. The percentage of pregnancies that result in miscarriage ranges from about 10% to 20%, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

But there’s nothing normal about feeling every piece of tissue that was supposed to support a baby pass through one’s body. As I keeled over the edge of the hospital bed and gripped the sheets as the worst cramps ever wrenched my body, the pain seemed unnecessary. I wasn’t bringing a new life into the world.

I was losing one and there was nothing I could do about it.

The unemotional responses from doctors are part of what can make people silent about a miscarriage, according to Jasmine Simmons, a mental health professional who also advocates for women who’ve had a miscarriage or struggle with infertility.

Certain comments perpetuate a societal norm that often ignores the grief associated with miscarriages, especially the early ones that happen within weeks of becoming pregnant.

“It’s okay for you to grieve a miscarriage. … You lost a child. It doesn’t matter how many weeks you were,” Simmons said.

Simmons empathizes with many of her clients because she’s experienced a miscarriage, infertility and pregnancy after loss. She too was silent about her journeys for some time.

“It’s a very lonely place to be and, unfortunately, we result to being in that lonely space because we don’t feel safe. That lonely space becomes the safe space,” Simmons said, adding that silence also is a way to evade the questions.

I hadn’t told anyone except my sister and husband I was pregnant because I heard the norm was to wait 12 weeks. So, when I lost my baby at 10 weeks, my circle was small, but I really preferred to keep much of the grief I was experiencing to myself. I also knew many people weren’t ready for the real answer if they asked, “How are you?”

I tried not to react to the other routine questions my husband and I faced from family and friends who didn’t know we had a miscarriage.

When are you guys having kids?

Don’t you want kids?

Don’t you know you can’t wait too long?

Each question ate away at me, so I changed the subject. Or, again, I simply stayed quiet.

I found myself unable to stay present after my miscarriage. Any milestones or special dates traced back to the baby I lost. I thought, “I would have been this many months this month,” or “this Valentine’s Day might have been their first.”

“You’re pulling yourself from past to present because what has happened is now in the past and what you wanted to happen is in the future,” Simmons said.

Nearly a year later, things are different. The present feels easier to embrace.

I’m currently pregnant.

And, though I’m incredibly grateful for a second chance at parenthood, in the first few weeks of this pregnancy, I dissociated myself from it. I couldn’t get my hopes up again. The possible letdown would mean a one-way ticket to rock bottom, and I knew I didn’t have it in me.

And though now I have started to enjoy my pregnancy, I’m still scared many times when I go to the bathroom or feel the slightest ache or discomfort in my stomach.

I’ve known for months that I wanted to talk openly about my miscarriage, especially after finding out some friends and family have gone through the same thing. Silence was also a safe space for them. Some feared they’d never get pregnant again. Others stayed quiet because they thought something was wrong with them or people wouldn’t understand.

As a Black woman in a country where we have higher rates of maternal complications, including death, I feel even more adamant about sharing my experiences. Talking about my miscarriage makes me feel less like a statistic and more like an advocate for my healing.

Grief’s road has many twists, turns and stops. Someday, I’ll be let off its route in a place where self-compassion and acceptance intersect.

Then maybe the grief will feel less like a participation trophy, and more like a key to a door that wasn’t ready to open for me at the time.

Jasmine Vaughn-Hall is a neighborhood and community reporter at the Baltimore Banner, covering the people, challenges, and solutions within West Baltimore. Have a tip about something happening in your community? Taco recommendations? Call or text Jasmine at 443-608-8983.

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