“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience. Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you—as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own.
In today’s open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn’t distance us; it brings us together. It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope.” – Mark Zuckerberg
When Mark Zuckerberg posted these words along with the announcement that he and his wife, Priscilla, were expecting their first child, Jason and I were somewhere in the struggling on our own phase. I just learned of Zuckerberg’s announcement last Thursday and was inspired to write, so here goes.
Let me back up…
If you know us very well at all, you know that it’s been our “plan” to explore Europe, then settle down and start a family. We spent three glorious weeks from April 25th-May 15th traveling all over – Paris, Normandy, London, Norwich, Nurburgring, Munich, Venice, Florence, Rome. I’m sure as I get back into blogging, we’ll cover some of that as well 🙂 but this is too important.
We, more than perfectly, stuck with “the plan.” On June 29th, I had a positive pregnancy test. I was able to keep the news to myself for about 24 hours, trying to figure out the best way to tell Jason. Before work, I headed to Target and purchased two adorable tiny onesies – a TMNT one and a grey one that said “Free Hugs.” After work, I wrapped them up and anxiously awaited Jason coming home from watching the USMNT Gold Cup game. Our 5 year wedding anniversary was three days later, and I told him I’d have an “anniversary surprise” for him when he got home. Maybe it wasn’t the surprise he was hoping for, but he was overjoyed and in disbelief, just the kind of reaction you’d hope for.
Fast forward to July 6th, we had our first pre-natal visit. We were so excited and anxious to understand just exactly how far along I was and what to expect for the next 7-9 months. Our NP assessed that I probably was right around 8-9 weeks; expected due date: February 11, 2016. She answered all the questions we could think to ask, gave me permission to “race” in a sprint tri that weekend, and scheduled an ultrasound for the the following Thursday so we could have a better assessment of the due date. We left that appointment with so much hope and confidence.
Again, if you know me, you also know that I’m pretty much a type A, planner. So, what had happened between the positive test and that first visit was nothing but planning and full-on immersion into learning and researching all the things that one doesn’t know until they are having their first child. What should I be feeling? What should I be eating? Not eating? What do I need? What’s the best stroller? Car seat? Running stroller?
Even though there was only about a week between the test and appointment, I/we had a lot figured out. In my mind, the nursery was completely decorated. The strollers and car seat were already selected. The thought of purchasing a bigger car was in the works. I’d decided to volunteer at any race Jason was doing to stay involved with the running/tri community. I still planned to mentor Fleet Feet’s first half iron distance training group – what could be more inspirational than a preggo mentor? Plus early morning trainer rides and long runs with larger groups (including slower pace groups) would be a perfect way to stay in shape. I figured that I would ride on my trainer in my Bike MS team’s Tour to Tanglewood tent, rather than on the road. We’d discussed when to tell the family and how to keep it from them until then. This little boy or girl, either way, even had a name that we agreed on – imagine that!
All of that came to a screeching halt. On Thursday, July 9th, I had a miscarriage.
All of those hopes and dreams came crashing down and, to an extent, have continued to crash down. Each time we do something that we’d planned to do differently when I was pregnant, it stings… a lot at first, but still a little here two months later.
For a while, I couldn’t stand to look at all the baby and pregnancy photos that flood my newsfeed. Trust me, I was happy for you all, and still am… but, honestly, I just wanted to flip you all and God the bird and say “Fuck you!”
I don’t say that to be mean or hateful, but to be real… and to let anyone else who is going through this know that it’s OK to feel that way. Honestly, it’s OK to feel however you feel, whenever you feel it. Just let yourself feel it, at least for a little. Whether you were pregnant and knew it for a whopping 10 days like me, or for months, I’m sure that you too made plans and had dreams that you are still trying to reconcile. Let yourself grieve.
And then, let yourself be happy.
I remember laughing for the first couple of times in the midst of the grief, about completely unrelated things. I remember it feeling so good. It’s good to feel that good and it’s good to feel sad, angry, pissed, disappointed, in disbelief, etc.
I did go ahead and race in that sprint tri two days later. It was the best thing I could have done. I was hating my body for not doing what I’d wanted it to do, doing the race gave me hope that it could again conform to my demands. I won my age group and beat Jason by one second. I couldn’t have scripted that more perfectly. My tri group raced in the international race and it was great to cheer them through the finish. For many, it was their first race of that distance.
As Jason and I cheered on some of the finishers, there was a man coming into the final stretch. He was yelling “Rachael! Rachael! I’m gonna get you, Rachael!” We thought he may have been yelling at the woman in front of him in the race, maybe a training partner or spouse. As he rounded the final turn, a little girl, maybe 3 or 4, stepped under the flags and stretched her arm up to grasp the hand of her father and cross the finish line with him.
Jason and I instantly broke down into a gigantic blubbering embrace. But looking back, I have the image of that little girl with her arm outstretched burned into my brain.
It’s giving me hope.
It makes me know that we want this.
It lets me know that it’s all worth it.
In the days and weeks that have followed, Jason and I and our families have grown closer than ever. The experience has opened up so many conversations and helped realign our priorities. One day, we’ll be the ones scooping up a little one to cross a finish line.
Now, just a final note before I sign off. I wanted to send this out into the vaste void of the internet for a couple of reasons…
First, because miscarriage isn’t something that’s openly talked about. However, it’s extremely common – up to 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. That’s an astounding stat. It’s something that I was shocked, and rightly startled by during my researching phase. To me, that means that if every woman with kids in the US has 2-3 kids, one out of every two women with kids has experienced a miscarriage. We are not alone. And the emotions we are experiencing as a result are not unique, but we need to be willing to talk about it.
Second, because in my healing process, I’ve been having a difficult time relating to people. It’s difficult to have a conversation about plans or upcoming races when the other party does know what I’ve been going through. Now, it’s out there.
Thanks for listening and understanding. If I’ve made anyone feel a little less alone, I’ve accomplished my goal. As Mark said:
“In today’s open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn’t distance us; it brings us together. It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope.”
If you’d like to read more about Mark’s announcement, or a similar one from Beyonce a few years ago, here are some links: