Every Woman Has The Right To Define Her Miscarriage In Her Own Terms

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miscarriageThe American Pregnancy Association estimates that anywhere from 10% – 25% of all pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Though many women won’t even realize that they are pregnant when the miscarriage occurs, plenty will go through the traumatic loss of believing that they were carrying a child, only to have their pregnancy end tragically.

Though technically speaking, I went through an ectopic pregnancy, meaning that the fetus was lodged in my Fallopian tube, I often use the term “miscarriage” so that I don’t have to explain my situation over and over again. I also have said that I lost a child, because in my eyes, that’s exactly what happened.

In this week’s “Unbearable” column, one commenter questioned my word usage and how I should refer to my loss. Ann said:

“This is an interesting article and I feel for you loss. I too have had miscarriages, 2 in fact before and after my first child. But I must say that your comment that you “lost a child” I find troubling. You did not lose a child, sadly you lost your early pregnancy or growing fetus, I don’t believe that to be the same thing at all. I feel that women who have lost a child would find your comparison a misnomer.miscarriages can be extremely traumatic but I think we all have to be careful how we word what happened to us because language has power (hence the mommyish poll: reduction or abortion) Perhaps your healing process can be fully realized if you can comes to terms what really occurred. This comment is not in anyway supposed to be hurtful or insensitive but I wanted to give you pause to think about your choice of language and to consider what in fact happened when you miscarried. I hope you can find peace and healing.”

Like some commenters who were kind enough to come to my defense, I have to admit that I found this comment upsetting. In fact, I found it more upsetting then plenty of vitriolic and hate-filled nonsense that often gets thrown at internet writers, because this comment wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. Ann obviously was trying to discuss a sensitive topic and her personal feelings on it, which she has every right to do in the comments here on Mommyish.

And yet, the idea that someone else, anyone else, should have the right to question my vocabulary or frame my topic of conversation for me concerning this deeply personal and traumatic experience is really hard for me to deal with. The idea that someone else can recommend my “coming to terms” with what happened by changing the language that I use to describe it feels insulting.

The fact is that lots of women go through miscarriages. They are much more common than we realize, until we’re the ones who are coping after that loss. And even though it’s an experience that many women will go through, no one has the right to define it for someone else. No one gets to tell us how we feel, and sometimes the most well-intentioned comments simply cross the line.

I remember plenty of people trying to help me see the “bright side” of my situation. I cannot count the number of family and friends who said, “Well at least it was early on,” or “Well, now you know that you can get pregnant.” As I laid in bed, completely unable to stop the steady stream of tears that flowed down my face for days, well-meaning individuals reminded me that, “It could’ve been worse.”

To all of those attempts at glass-half-full optimism, I wanted to tell people that I had every right to be sad. I had every right to be grieving. And I shouldn’t have to agree with someone else’s empty platitudes because they want to find the silver lining.

One of my fellow writers here at Mommyish wrote an amazing piece about the fact that everyone should be able to grieve in their own way. Any parent suffering the loss of a child, whether they were a month-old fetus in a woman’s stomach, a day-old newborn, or a cherub-like toddler, should be respected and left to cope in whatever way they can. There are no degrees of loss. There is no competition.

If a woman feels better about her miscarriage because she hadn’t really gotten the time to plan for her child, that’s her right. I’m happy that she found something to give her comfort. But that doesn’t mean that any other woman who has miscarried should feel “lucky.” The fact that anyone could suggest it to another human being dealing with that kind of tragedy is repulsive.

Words do have power, and that’s why we should all be able to choose our own when we’re talking about grief and tragedy. I didn’t think of my pregnancy as a fetus or a collection or cells. I thought of it as a baby. My baby. And when I went into surgery, I lost that baby. I felt a pain that I couldn’t have even imagined before I went through it. I felt a grief that left me numb for a month.

Not everyone will feel like I do, and they don’t have to. We all should be able to cope with loss in whatever way we see fit, with whatever words help us identify and communicate our feelings.