"The Club I Never Wanted To Join" — How I'm Finding Peace Through Grief In My Loss
When I first found out I was pregnant, I expected to feel excitement, awe, and a little bit of panic. I felt all of those things. But I didn't realize that it would feel like an initiation: an invitation to the secret club of motherhood that I had always wanted to join. Almost immediately, a new world of information revealed itself: There were pregnancy apps to be downloaded and supplements to dig into and belly creams to buy and restricted food lists to memorize. My Google searches cached quickly, and soon my feeds were full of mommy bloggers giving advice on how to manage first-trimester nausea and videos on how to swaddle your newborn.
You're supposed to temper your excitement in these early days. You're carrying a life-altering secret—coupled with intense physical symptoms—but you're not supposed to speak a word of it to anyone. I pride myself on being an open book and assumed I would struggle with this social pretense. Surprisingly, I didn't. These early days felt sacred, and I kept our news close: a secret knowing that only my partner and I shared.
At exactly seven weeks, I started cramping and bleeding. Google tried to convince me that what I was experiencing could be normal, but my intuition told me otherwise. I oscillated between pre-mourning and holding on tight, searching for things like What do I do if I'm having a miscarriage? and Is bleeding during pregnancy normal?
In between frantic WebMD searches, my pregnancy apps served me a notification that my baby was now the size of a blueberry.
The conversation that changed everything & the word that was never said.
I don't remember what the doctor said the next day at the transvaginal ultrasound. Something about there only being a sac, no embryo. Something about how I was only measuring at four weeks. I do remember that she never used the term "miscarriage." In the coming days, I would learn how scary most people found this word to be. I would find myself shying away from it too. As if avoiding a word or phrase could somehow protect me from its painful permanence.
My pregnancy was over, but my cache didn't know it yet. Maternity clothes continued to fill my feed. My stretch-mark oil arrived in the mail. I deleted the baby apps, changed the settings in my period tracker to "no longer pregnant." Somewhere amid my searches for miscarriage recovery I learned about "rainbow babies." A rainbow baby is what some people who have experienced loss call their healthy baby when they eventually go on to conceive.
And while it occurred to me that this vocabulary probably provided many women comfort—a proverbial rainbow on the other side of the storm—for me, this term only reminded me of what I'd lost. I didn't want a rainbow baby. I just wanted a baby. This label meant that I was now part of a different club—one that I had never wanted to join.
I took two weeks off of work after my loss—a privilege that is not lost on me. I work at a company that offers a "miscarriage leave policy" and had a manager that actually encouraged me to take it. During this time, I called up a close friend for advice. Her words stuck with me: Don't bury this. She said that the women she knew who chose to just soldier on were the ones still haunted by the experience years later. Her advice felt like a permission slip. I sobbed for three days straight. I binged Cheer. I allowed myself to do absolutely nothing but sit with the pain—not transmute it. I can now see that giving myself this time and space was integral to my mourning, my processing, and ultimately, my healing.
Through grief came peace & a call for community.
As I emerged from my cocoon of grief, I noticed that my first instinct was to keep my story to myself, just as I had done with my early pregnancy. This was the unspoken cultural norm: Carry on and don't talk about it (and if you do, use a hushed voice).
But here's the thing about keeping something secret: It erases it. And that just didn't feel right to me. I had crossed the threshold into motherhood—both physically and emotionally—and although I had been ricocheted back to my pre-pregnancy body, I felt permanently changed. Talking about my experience, my loss not only helped to slowly upend this code of secrecy but allowed me to honor my pregnancy and see it as something beautiful.
And what a beautiful experience it was. I had seen firsthand the physical changes that my body would undergo, the emotional attachment I would start to feel, and the capacity of love that I could access for something that hadn't even materialized. I had crossed into the labyrinth of motherhood, lifted the veil, and although the grief and pain were acute, the wisdom I had gained was extraordinary. My membership in this club might be on pause, but now that it had been granted, it could never be revoked.
Leah Gordon is a writer and editor with a passion for all things wellness. Previously at InStyle.com, she now leads a team of writers at Pinterest. A born and bred New Yorker, she currently lives in Oakland, California with her husband.