In early May I gathered my husband, daughter, and in-laws for family photos. As we were leaving, I grabbed an adorable pair of Santa-themed baby booties that I had pulled out of storage after finding out that we were expecting a baby due on Christmas. It was early still, but the opportunity to take a professional-level pregnancy announcement photo was too good to pass up. Plus, with one healthy pregnancy in the books and the critical first weeks behind me, I was sure that we were in the so-called safe zone.
Later I learned that we took the pictures on the exact day my unborn baby’s heart stopped beating.
When I found out that I was miscarrying, I went from eagerly awaiting our family photos to dreading them. The photographer sent the link two days after my miscarriage started, during the awful waiting period between finding out there was no heartbeat and undergoing a D&C to separate the baby from my body surgically. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the pictures and instead spent time crying to my husband, sister, and mom, none of whom could fully understand my pain.
On a Friday morning, I had my D&C and was at home well before lunchtime. I cried, napped, cried some more, and finally sat in my silent living room, ready to open the family pictures. The photo of me, my husband, and my daughter holding the booties tore at my heart.
However, as I looked at the picture that should have been our pregnancy announcement I did something wholly unexpected: I decided I was going to use it to announce our loss.
“After a few days, I'm finally poking my head out of the ocean of grief and needing something to grasp onto,” I wrote. “Talking with other women and families is what's sustaining me. Please tell me your story if you can.”
I clicked post and held my breath. I tend to shy away from social media and am certainly not a Facebook over-sharer. However, I was so engulfed in grief that I knew I needed to connect with other people who had been in that place and survived. I had already shared my story in a moms’ group online, and the stories from strangers were heartening. I hoped that having family and friends share their stories would be even more powerful.
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Immediately my notifications began ringing. A business associate whose online life looks LA-glam told me about her three miscarriages. A former employer who had multiple losses fiercely reminded me that I had every right to be sad even though I have a beautiful living daughter. A neighbor who I have known for 20 years shared for the first time that she had two stillborn sons. An acquaintance who I assumed was childfree by choice spoke of her loss of twins after a surprise pregnancy late in life.
Over the course of that afternoon, 32 women from all areas of my life commented on my photo, sharing their own stories of loss and survival.
People who I saw thriving in everyday life posted publicly and messaged me privately, telling me what to expect physically and emotionally over the coming days and years.
I sat in my living room alone but surrounded by all the love and support that I needed at that moment. Knowing that so many people in my life had shared the experience of miscarrying made it possible for me to believe that things would get better. After all, real women who I knew and loved were living life after this loss. I cuddled with their rainbow babies and admired their professional careers. They showed me a myriad of options for what being okay could look like.
The benefits weren’t just for me, either. My Facebook friends began talking with each other and learning from other’s experiences. My sister and mother, who have never had pregnancy losses, both spoke to me about how much the post had opened their eyes to the experience, and how heartbreakingly common it is.
Women are often told not to announce their pregnancies until they are past the first trimester. Even in the pain of my loss, someone thought to comment about the fact that “at least” I hadn’t made the pregnancy public on Facebook yet.
Making the miscarriage public was the most cathartic thing I could have done for myself.
It allowed me to validate my feelings and have hope that those feelings would be less intense going forward. It also prepared me for the fact that the loss would remain with me even after the initial wound has healed.
The community that came together around that post highlighted all the best parts of social media: the joining of people who otherwise wouldn’t have connected, sharing experiences to move forward. I’ll forever be grateful for that.