I never thought I had anything in common with a king, but with Meghan Markle’s announcement that she had miscarried last summer, it was there. While it’s been two decades since I’ve experienced three miscarriages, I immediately felt a connection to Markle’s pain, loss, and isolation.
It is this isolation – the lonely grief Markle mentions – that has a particular sting. Grief is never easy, but so often when a miscarriage occurs it is a private experience rather than a shared one. I lost each of my babies early in the first trimester, long before I made my pregnancies public. As such, I was reluctant to share the news.
The path to healing could have been easier with a network of support. In his absence, I was immediately immersed in life as if nothing had ever happened.
It is amazing to me that almost 20 years later, as a society, we have not made great strides in the discussion of miscarriages. I hope that by sharing her raw, unfiltered pain, Markle moves the needle.
In women who know they are pregnant, approximately 10% to 15% of pregnancies in the first trimester end in miscarriages and 1% to 5% in the second trimester. Many women miscarry before they even know they are pregnant, and up to half of all pregnancies can result in a miscarriage. That said, it is likely that women you know and love have gone through the pain of a miscarriage.
Miscarriages occur for a variety of reasons. Most occur because a fetus is developing abnormally, often simply by accident, and not caused by anything the woman did or did not do.
Guilt and shame
Regardless of what causes the loss of pregnancy, a miscarriage brings a whole range of emotions, ranging from grief to guilt to shame.
The grief is for what could have been. I don’t think I realized how much I was attached to my future children until I lost them. I mourned the fact that I would never have known what these children would have looked like or who they might have been.
In addition to sadness, I struggled with guilt and shame, and I suspect that most women who suffer from miscarriages do too. It’s hard not to feel guilty – like your body has somehow failed. And we are programmed by society not to discuss things like infertility, miscarriages, and other “female” problems. It is not polite or pleasant to bring up these topics outside of silent conversations with very close friends, which perpetuates our sense of shame.
My first miscarriage happened before my first successful pregnancy, so I could put this under a “these things happen” category.
However, it was the two miscarriages between my first and second born that caused me to spiral with the weight of guilt. This felt like a pattern now and I wondered if my behavior was behind it.
I am a runner and continued to run during pregnancy. While there are many models of women today who continue to train for the entire nine months, at the time I had my share of side eyes and suggestions that it might be time to give up my favorite pastime.
Even though I knew – and my doctor had assured me – that running had not led to any of my miscarriages, a core of doubt still lingered somewhere in my subconscious. What if?
I also felt guilty about being a pregnant woman of “advanced maternal age”. In my mid-30s, my eggs were aging and increasing the chances of miscarriage. I did well for waiting so long – I wanted to start a career and get on my feet before starting a family. Why hadn’t I sacrificed my career to have babies at a younger age like so many other women?
Over time, I was able to accept that sometimes things go genetically wrong and that in the end I didn’t or could not have done anything to change the outcome. I also understood that in my case, I would be a better mom to my children because I waited until I was ready to have them.
I am nearly 20 years away from my first emotionally painful experience of miscarriage. I have two beautiful teenage children and that has gone a long way in my healing, as has the passage of time.
What I regret from this time in my life is stop talking about the experience. I have a wonderful network of friends, women who I know would have turned up to help if I lost those pregnancies. I also think that speaking might have helped fuel conversation and understanding of miscarriages.
I’m glad Markle is helping an entire generation of women by sharing their pain. She offers her experiences so that others can understand that they are not alone and that it is more than okay to have these conversations.
With her announcement, I hope Meghan Markle gets the love and support she needs. I also hope that in this way our shared experience of miscarriage will be as diverse as our lifestyle.
Amanda Loudin is a Maryland-based freelance writer with bylines in the Washington Post, Money Magazine, NBC, and others. Outside of work, she is a single mother in her sophomore year.