Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, the day we in the United States celebrate motherhood, mother figures and all they have done for us. Unfortunately, not every woman feels like celebrating or her joy is bittersweet. For many women who have experienced a miscarriage, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of our losses. Though statistics show that as many as 20% of pregnant women have experienced miscarriages, most women suffer in silence. This Mother’s Day, I am breaking the silence to raise awareness.
Prior to my miscarriages, I knew that miscarriages were possible. However, because of the silence, I had no clue how many people, many of them close to me, had suffered this pain. So, I thought it was something that only happened to other people, and a small group of other people at that.
In fact, when I was in my thirties, I was looking for a new gynecologist. This was not a unique situation. I had switched doctors before, but this occasion now stands out in my mind. This time, I distinctly remember filling out the medical questionnaire and coming to an entry for “# of pregnancies” next to another for “live births.” Having yet to be pregnant at the time, I quickly scribbled a zero in each not really processing what the entries meant and moved on.
Later, the nurse reviewed my questionnaire and echoed my entries on the form. Her tone was questioning. In my ignorance, I flippantly replied, “Yes, shouldn’t they be the same.” And yes, in a perfect world they would be the same, but we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where miscarriages can and do happen, a world where the numbers I now enter on the form are no longer the same.
Needless to say, prior to my own experience, miscarriage and the pain those around me had experienced/were experiencing just wasn’t on my radar. People didn’t talk about it, so I didn’t know. It is ironic how your pain or the pain of a loved one changes your perspective.
A Survey on Miscarriage
In preparing to write this blog post, I learned that last June “A National Survey on Public Perceptions on Miscarriage” was published. This survey was conducted at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine to ascertain public knowledge about miscarriage occurrence, causes, and effects.
Though 15% of the 1,000 participants responded that they (or their partners) experienced one or more miscarriages, over half still believe miscarriages are an uncommon, even rare, occurrence.
Emotionally, the survey revealed what I already knew: that the emotional effects are deep and widespread. Over a third of those having experienced a miscarriage felt they had lost a child, almost half felt guilty, almost as many felt they had done something, two-fifths felt alone, and over a quarter felt ashamed. It’s not surprising since the survey also revealed that many believed the causes of miscarriages to be things we can control, like stress (76%), heavy lifting (64%), having worn an intrauterine device (28%), or taking the pill (22%).
In light of these results, I am not surprised that over three quarters wanted to know what happened to cause their miscarriages or that knowing the cause lessened the feelings of having done something wrong by almost 20%. I remember having those feelings.
For the record, according to Dr. Hope A. Ricciotti, Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, “most miscarriages are the result of chromosomal abnormalities in the developing fetus, structural abnormalities of the uterus, or endocrine or autoimmune disorders in the mother”. None of these are things we have control over. God opens (Genesis 29:31; 30:22-23) and closes the womb.
Lastly, the survey reported that people felt less isolated when public figures disclosed their miscarriage experiences. I understand this because I felt less alone when others shared their experiences with me.
So, I am speaking out again in hopes of letting those of you who may be grieving or remembering a child this Mother’s Day know that you are not alone and bring some understanding to those who aren’t.
- What is your miscarriage awareness this Mother’s Day?
- How will you be sensitive to those around you this year?