If you remember, then follow
Last week, my favorite image of me and my dog, Ashley, came up on Facebook's Memories feature - you know, that thing where they show you your posts from the same day in previous years. I was so delighted that, on a whim and without even thinking about it first, I started writing. Eventually, I realized I was writing a post about the miscarriage I had in the fall of 2012.
I guess for a moment I thought, "Huh, do I really want to go here? Is this a bad idea?" By now, most of my close friends know that I miscarried, but the majority of the people in my life don't. That's partially because I wasn't ready to talk about it for a long time, but mostly because we live in a culture where discussing openly the details of your miscarriage is still considered a faux pas. And that faux pas inadvertently increases the suffering experienced by most women who are already going through one of the most painful things you can survive - because we're forced to endure it in silence.
After I had the miscarriage, I was plunged back into a dark and lengthy period of depression. This is not new to me, but it was the worst I'd experienced in a very long time, probably ten years, and I'm still healing. Mostly, good things have come of it. I finally faced the fact that I am a person with major depression, and I have been for at least 20-something years, and will be for the rest of my life. It also turns out that I'm not just a worrier, which I've been labeled by friends and family for my entire life. I've got a chronic anxiety disorder. Not the kind you can pop a Xanax for, either. Facing these truths and the circumstances behind them led me to finally, finally begin talk therapy, which I should have done twenty years ago, and take prescription medication to regulate my anxiety and depression. Additionally, I continued to work out but added yoga to my mental and physical self-care plan. I made more time for reading and writing. I learned to say "nope" more often. I started speaking my mind more and made a decision to stand up for what I believe in, even if it means I lose friends. My life has improved so much because of all of these things.
But it hasn't all been good, as you'll see below. The hardest thing has definitely been that I'm not over it, three years later, and the world expects you to get over a miscarriage. Quickly. And try again. And not talk about the pain until you've birthed a healthy, perfect baby, at which time it's acceptable to mention it, but only in certain circles. It's been hard, because I'm not ready, I'm not over it, and I might not ever be. And there's no way to explain that to the world, unless you're talking to someone who's been through it, who has - I'm sorry to say it - seen their hopes and dreams literally flushed away. And maybe that's why I wrote, all of a sudden, without planning it.
I never expected that my Facebook post would touch so many people...but I should have, because it did. I am still reeling from all the comments I have received. If you wrote to me, I have read it, and if I haven't written back to you yet, it's because I'm still processing all of it. And so, because social media isn't necessarily the best place for something to live if you want to be able to find it later on, I've decided to share that post here on my website. If you've already read it, maybe share this with a friend or loved one who has experienced or is experiencing a loss. Maybe it'll help them. Maybe it'll encourage them to talk about the pain, instead of letting it fester and take hold.
There's a song from the musical The Fantasticks that, for some reason, popped into my head when I was sitting down to write this post. Maybe because it's about remembering all the highs and lows, the sorrows and joys of life, reminding us that "without the hurt, the heart is hollow" and calls us to action: "Try to remember and if you remember then follow." Maybe by remembering, and sharing, others will follow...and we'll all feel less alone. Listen to the original Jerry Orbach recording - it's sweet. (P.S. I always wanted to be in The Fantasticks and it never happened. Still bitter. Can I still pass for 16?)
Now that I've opened this door, I will probably write more about miscarriage in the future. But for now, this is enough. And thank you to everyone who has sent words of support or reached out in solidarity. Light and love to you all.
Posted to Facebook on October 2, 2015
*climbs up on soapbox* *tosses tissues to the crowd*
Sometimes, Facebook memories are really worth it. This is a photo I took in my hallway mirror on September 16, 2012, but I posted it on October 2. It's my favorite picture of Ashley, and one of my favorite pictures of myself, because we took this picture when I was in the middle of a miscarriage. Due to a bunch of crappy circumstances, Jay was away during the miscarriage, which lasted throughout that weekend in September, but had been threatened for a week prior, and from which I have to honestly say I have never recovered. I know many people bounce back; I did not.
To me, this picture is special for two reasons. One, it reminds me of the absolute love that can and does exist between dogs and their owners. Ashley took better care of me that weekend than any human ever could. She was never further from me than she is in this photo, not for the five days I couldn't get off my couch, couldn't put on real clothes, couldn't stop crying. She has always known when there was something wrong with me, sometimes even before I know. We have a bond that's been truly amazing, hopefully for both of us. This is a picture of me during one of the lowest lows of my life, at a moment when, exiting the bathroom, I literally collapsed to the floor in despair, right there in front of that mirror, and I thought, "I might not ever get up." But there's a smile creeping in, because I'm loved and watched over, and because her attachment to me is so fierce that even in a moment of complete pain, I could see humor. She gave me some perspective, and I needed it.
The other reason this photo is significant for me is that, even though at the time I wasn't ready to tell people about my miscarriage, it tells me that I knew I would be at some point. That I would want to remember it, that I would want physical evidence of what I was going through. And now, three years later, I do feel that way. I feel that it's important to shed the stigma of shame and secrecy that surrounds miscarriage, to put it out there in the open. Because it's so common, because it's so painful, and most of all, because there is a real danger in our country of women no longer having control over their own bodies. It's possible I may not become pregnant again, or maybe I will, but I know what it's like now. And knowing gives me empathy and compassion for women in every single stage of pregnancy. It also teaches me that I cannot know what pain is like for anyone other than myself, and therefore I have no right to judge it, or to question another woman's choice.
If this makes you uncomfortable, I don't apologize. I say, good. It should, until it doesn't anymore, until miscarriage is something we can talk about openly and without shame. And until women's bodies are no longer under threat of government control.
Two seconds after this picture was taken, she started licking my face. And I knew everything would be okay someday.