I’ll get right to it…
I had a miscarriage. There I said it. The cat’s out of the bag.
I had taken the pregnancy test on a Saturday and spent time feeling totally pregnant. I had achey boobs, a spate of acne on my nose and a stronger than usual desire for chocolate-covered marshmallows. Then — while I was out in my neighborhood with my four-year-old son — I felt terrible back pain and cramping and knew right away that I was having a miscarriage.
It felt overwhelmingly sad. I had only been pregnant for a short while, but we were already brainstorming P names — we would name the kid after my late father. When I’d taken the test, I googled “five weeks pregnant” and discovered my baby was the size of a poppy seed. I put my hand on my stomach and said, “Hello, Poppy.”
And now, it was already “Goodbye, Poppy.”
At first, I thought I would keep the miscarriage a secret. It was a private matter that involved my private parts. There was no reason to tell anyone. Beyond my best friend and my husband, who were the only two people who had known I was pregnant, I would keep this under wraps.
Within an hour, I texted another friend, Sara, who was supposed to be coming over for dinner that night. I texted her: “I have to cancel dinner because I’m having a miscarriage.” She wrote back asking if she could still come over — but bring me dinner instead. I hemmed and hawed. On the one hand, it seemed preposterous to “entertain” while I was in the middle of a miscarriage. What would I wear? On the other hand, why be alone during a miscarriage? I texted her back and said, “Life is short, come over.” She asked if I wanted pastrami and, of course, I said yes.
Two hours later, Sara and her family arrived. From an armchair I had stationed myself in, I greeted Sara: “I’m totally having a miscarriage,” I said. “I know,” she said. “I brought you an olive oil cake.” Her husband, Ian, handed me a crisp French baguette and pastrami wrapped in brown paper.
Later my husband went out to get us ice cream. When he came back to the house, he brought me a straw purse I had been eyeing at a nearby boutique and laid it at my feet. I felt like the Godfather in that famous scene with Luka Brasi. “I am honored and grateful that you have invited me on the day of your miscarriage.”
In case you’re wondering, I wore a black tank top, baggy jeans and cowboy boots. To the outside world, I looked totally normal. No one would have guessed I was having a miscarriage. Except everyone in the house knew. And that felt easy.
That night as I got into bed I thought to myself: I won’t tell anyone else. I dreaded the thought of having to endure long hugs. You know the kind? When your dad dies or your cat dies and you tell people and they look at you with pity — they make a sad dog face and hold both of your hands and then they go in for the hug. Sometimes they even rock you from side to side. I wanted to avoid those hugs.
But also people don’t broadcast this kind of information. It’s just not done.
In the two weeks following my miscarriage, I found it impossible to suppress. I told people in person, over the phone, in emails, via text. “I had a miscarriage,” I said.
I was completely drained — physically and emotionally — due to a loss of blood and fluctuating hormones. I couldn’t rally for social engagements or making dinner or packing my kid’s lunch for school. I would wake up exhausted.
In a meeting with a male colleague, I tried at first to focus on our work, but I couldn’t. A task that would have been easy for my brain to parse normally felt impossibly difficult — like learning a new language or some kind of advanced math. When my colleague got up to make us tea, I found myself blurting out: “Hey, I just had a miscarriage and I’m totally pooped.” He offered me an Oreo cookie.
Every time I told anyone, it felt freeing. And not one person gave me a long hug. People were really cool about it actually. Some offered to do chores for me, some sent me Indian take-out, some provided me with facts (“one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage!”) and many shared their own experiences having miscarriages. This thing that felt like a loss was making me feel more whole. It was connecting me to people.
Why would I feel so reluctant to tell anyone? Just because it’s taboo?
Finally two weeks after the miscarriage, I felt well enough to attend a friend’s party. I was feeling more like myself. I put on lipstick and wore a burgundy jumpsuit and big earrings. My husband and I kissed under a puffy cloud hanging from the ceiling and I nursed a glass of lukewarm white wine. I didn’t feel the need to talk about it at the party because life was starting to feel normal again.
At the end of the night, we offered a woman a ride home. In the car she talked about her two kids. She had a boy and a girl. I told stories about my son, Monte. From the backseat she asked me if I had plans for a second kid. “Maybe,” I said. I felt a slight pang of sadness at my private knowledge. So far I was batting a zero when it came to providing my kid with a sibling. I let my ‘maybe’ hang there for a while and then said, “I just had a miscarriage.” And in an instant the sadness was replaced by a feeling of power. Sharing made me feel strong.
In bed that night I did my best Marlon Brando from The Godfather: “Forgive, forget, life is full of misfortune,” I told my husband. “Now come here and let me make you an offer you can’t refuse.”
Shaina Feinberg is a director and actress, who lives with her family in Brooklyn. Right now, she’s working with her friend Julia Rothman on a modern guide to real sex written by everybody, for everybody. (If you’d like to contribute a story, please go here.)
Sending a hug to those who have lost pregnancies and anyone who needs one today.
(Photo by Marija Kovac/Stocksy.)