I've long given myself the moniker of Miscarriage McGee. I'm that girl in the room. We've all met them along the way, they're out there. We have Dad-died Daryl and Cancer Cathy, God love 'em. There's always a Divorced Donna. Perfect Polly may be spilling her red wine on your white shoe. But there's always one who has either struggled for years to have a baby or has lost many along the way. I'm her. I've had multiple public miscarriages over the past decade. Before you roll your eyes, let me explain and please, bear with me here.
I've held my dead daughter in my hands fleetingly before surrendering her to waiting hands covered in latex. I've written happy social media announcements far into my second trimester only to post "never mind," just weeks later. I've had nine surgeries to either have a baby scraped off the surface of my endometrium or to reconstruct a uterine birth defect called a nonvascular uterine septum. I've awoken from anesthesia knowing that I've lost a tiny piece of myself in a sterile room filled with pulsing beeps from foreign machines. (You still with me? I know, it's a lot.)
Each time, I'd go through a public mourning period documented carefully and dramatically on social media for the world to see. You know the post. The one where you're casually scrolling through your Facebook feed on the toilet and BAM, "ATTENTION WORLD: I JUST HAD A MISCARRIAGE" is dropped in your lap before you can even wipe. I want to apologize, in retrospect, for making my followers feel pressured to comment or acknowledge such a bold display of self-pity. I was desperate.
I'll spare you the details here not because they didn't irrevocably change my life but because they're depressing and downtrodden. Let's just say I had a bad time. I'd announce my startling news and then promptly vanish from the social scene for a week or two, subsisting solely on carbohydrates, soft cheese of any kind and obscure alien documentaries, only to emerge a shell of myself. Everywhere I looked, reminders of my pain and failure shouted at me. It was just much easier to hide myself away at home where ads for Zoloft and Ativan mysteriously popped up on my twitter feed. Cue the depression infomercial.
Because everyone and their mothers knew I'd come off a stint of losing yet another pregnancy, every social encounter was painfully awkward and ultimately exhausting. I was the new poster child for "that-which-shall-not-be-named." It's...weird. No one knows how to act around you and you don't know how to act around others, ESPECIALLY in this world where everyone's a baby factory and you're just...a cheap motel where you pick up bed bugs and the comforter has questionable blue-lamp splotches. It's no one's fault and yet it's unavoidable. The whole time you smile uncomfortably, clear your throat a couple times and chit chat about what kind of lip gloss you like while both of you dance delicately around the elephant in the room.
Eventually, someone says something reasonably normal but to Miscarriage McGee it's the most traumatizing, anxiety-inducing, panic-laden moment in the world. Take, for instance, sudden, without fair warning or empathetic-courtesy, public pregnancy celebrations. Whoa. I will speak for all the Miscarriage McGees out there. THIS. IS. NEVER. OKAY. Especially when you whip out those sonogram pics and double-lined pregnancy tests. Those remind us of our sonograms that we shamefully hid away in our nightstand drawer next to our old retainer, never to look at again. Not because we are jealous (although it's hard not to be jealous that your body WORKS PROPERLY and ours doesn't) but because we are brought back to a place where we are reminded, in a blunt-force-trauma kind of way, that we failed. For us, the moment you are so drunkenly reveling in crashed and burned in a fiery explosion of SUCK.
So, please, if you're one of those magical-fairy-pregnancy-people, have a little heart and go easy on the Miscarriage McGees out there. After all, there are more than you’d think. March of Dimes estimates that one in every one hundred American women has suffered repeat miscarriages (more than three in a row). Give them fair warning beforehand, in a calm and peaceful way, that you're about to drop your baby bomb on the world. Let them chew it and digest it and if they need to, go throw it up in the nearest bathroom before the big moment. Being prepared and putting on their emotional body-armor is tantamount to storming the beaches of baby-announcement Normandy. They'll actually thank you for it (while secretly hating you for three to five days.)
Then there's baby showers. Yeah. About those.... they're never actually fun for anyone, no? The pregnant woman hates them because she hates the attention. The guests, even ones that haven't had trouble with pregnancy, are bored. The baby can't even see the gifts they're getting in their womb with no windows. However, baby showers are even worse for Miscarriage McGees. Not for the reason you'd expect. You'd predict Miscarriage McGee to be wearing a lovely shade of green (for envy, get it?), jealous and sick over the fact that they aren't the ones having a baby. Wrong.
Miscarriage McGees hate baby showers because naturally, at baby showers, people look at Miscarriage McGee with pity. And that makes Miscarriage McGee feel stupid, even resentful. Oh, those people will act like they're not doing it, but alas, they are. It's only natural. When they think they are practicing their best "I am just nonchalantly chatting with this infertile Myrtle about how Miss. About-to-Pop is glowing" face they are actually showing their best "No, I'm completely unaware and oblivious that this is awkward for you and by the way I feel so bad for you," face. We're not dummies. We can see you walking on the eggshells of our defective embryos in your Jack Rodgers sandals. By this time, we've hit the mimosas. And if you are one of those people who invited me to a sober baby shower, then may God have mercy on your soul.
Additionally, it's unwise to try to give Miscarriage McGee advice. Look, there really isn't anything you can say or do to make us feel better. We may claim there is, and God knows those annoying pamphlets will tell you there is, but really...really...there's not. Each and every one of us has our own unique story, our own "what's wrong," and our own particular way of dealing with it. We never know if we'll have kids or be a Mom and that sucks. So please, stop pretending it doesn't.
We've heard it all. "My [insert sister/aunt/mom/cousin/godmother/whatever] had 16 miscarriages but then she had a beautiful baby!" Are you kidding me?! Is that supposed to make us feel better?! Or, "don't you think it could be worse?" This was actually said to me once. Yes. Yes, it could be worse. I could have COVID. There could be a tsunami barreling down the street. But no, right now, this hurts and it sucks. Thanks for reminding me that things COULD ACTUALLY get worse. Then there's, "don't worry, it can't happen again, you're due for a win." Ha! Oh, you sweet naïve thing, you. You still have faith and hope. I remember those days when I still had hope. Don't ever change, dearie. The best one is, "what you should do/take/drink/eat is..." No. Just no. If it were that simple, Brenda, I would've had a baby yesterday. If you'll excuse me I need to leave before I throat-punch someone.
What's worse, however, is when entire meal conversations centers around your babies sleep schedule, feeding habits or bowel movements. Look, we aren't going to delude ourselves into thinking that at every moment of everyday people are thinking "how can I avoid upsetting Miscarriage McGee?" But when it's been a solid half hour and you're still discussing what kind of sippy cup is best over Sunday brunch with the girls, Miscarriage McGee will start to shake uncontrollably as she hails the waiter to signal for her fourth Bloody Mary. In fact, so will Single Sally and Divorced Donna. Cancer Cathy has furtively slid her hand into her purse and popped ALL THE XANAX. Not everyone's got a baby/husband/family/house like you do and frankly, it's bad manners when you are unaware of your audience, even if they are the minority. That's like a bunch of girls sitting around during a birthday dinner discussing how wonderful their moms are and you've recently lost yours. Or talking about how healthy you feel when someone at the table has just found out they have diabetes. Be aware, people. Be courteous. Need I even mention that sippy cups and sleep schedules are not rousing dinner conversation? Pull your head out of that diaper for God's sake! (Just kidding...but...not really).
Being a Miscarriage McGee isn't easy for many reasons. What people don't realize, however, is the toll it takes on our social life. All we're asking for is a little empathy and awareness. It's bad enough we feel disconnected and wayward already.
If you've somehow found yourself as the poster child for anything, whether it's the Token Single Friend or Divorced Donna, you're not alone. There's a whole world of people who are navigating awkward social situations just like you. [Insert Aladdin theme song]. Take it from the Supreme Miscarriage McGee... it gets better, but only if you speak up and stand tall. Perfect Polly isn't a mind reader and you're probably drunk (Jesus, we've talked about this.) So, advocate. Explain.
For those rare unicorns out there that have simply reached for Miscarriage McGee's hand, squeezed it and said, "I'm sorry. This sucks. I'm here." You da real MVP.
Bethany Cunha is a teacher, writer and mother of one who was born with a crippling uterine defect that caused seven miscarriages, two in the second trimester, and countless surgeries in her quest to be a Mom. She's happy to report, she finally got her happy ending. Her writing, a letter entitled 'Lonely War Vet' has been featured on Cheryl Strayed's podcast, Dear Sugar, and she's been featured on the popular podcast Beat Infertility. She'll soon be a guest on the groundbreaking show, Your Fertility Hub. She's currently working on her first book entitled "Pregnancy Interrupted; When Getting Knocked Up Knocks You Down." She can be found on twitter @CunhaBethany and Instagram @goldfishboxers.