There’s never anything easy about miscarriage, but one thing that makes the already heart-wrenching experience a million times harder is the fact that, for some reason, there seems to be an unwritten rule that we shouldn’t talk about it. We keep our baby news quiet until the 12-week mark — once everything’s deemed “safe” — even though not telling people means that those who experience early loss are often left to deal with it in secret. And that totally unnecessarily and often harmful social convention is why, when actress Ashley Williams realized she was having a miscarriage eight weeks into her second pregnancy, she decided to talk about it.
In an essay for the Human Development Project titled, “I Need To Talk About My Miscarriage,” the Jim Gaffigan Show star revealed the heartbreaking details of the day she recently miscarried her second child. Her hope in opening up about it now is that she’ll encourage others to speak up about their miscarriages too, in order to de-stigmatize an incredibly common experience that never should have become taboo in the first place.
In her moving essay, Williams writes that she and her 23-month-old son, Gus, were preparing to head to Whole Foods to grab some pizza when it happened. She’d been feeling crampy all morning, but thought that meant her baby was “nesting” — settling in for the remainder of what she assumed would be another long, healthy pregnancy like her first.
But that all changed when she realized she had begun bleeding, right in the middle of the grocery store.
As Williams later learned, miscarriage is actually far more common than most people think — in fact, about 1 in 4 women will experience one in her lifetime, William’s midwife told her. And yet, the actress says she’d had no idea, no preparation, and no way of knowing it was entirely possible that her pregnancy wouldn’t automatically progress just fine. What’s more, she had no idea that she already knew so many other people who had been through the same thing.
“My surprise increased in the days that followed when I reached out to close friends and found out that most had miscarried at least once. My question to each friend: Did you talk freely about it? No. They answered, and sighed right along side me.”
But the problem with staying silent, Williams quickly realized, is that it feeds into the idea that somehow, women who’ve experienced pregnancy loss have failed. That means that a whole lot of women are left carrying around a whole lot of unnecessary guilt and shame over something that happens all the time, usually for no good reason whatsoever.
And that’s why Williams puts forth a plea for us all in her post; a somewhat radical plan. She asks that we all decide we’re actually going to talk about our miscarriages without shame.
“Maybe tell your Starbucks barista that you need an extra shot because you just had a miscarriage,” writes Williams. “Tell someone to carry your bags for you, not because you’re weak, but because you recently had a miscarriage and you deserve a break. Tell the bartender to make it a double because you haven’t wanted to drink alcohol for months and now you’re allowed to. ‘Why?’ Your bartender will say. ‘Because I’m not pregnant anymore,’ you’ll say. ‘And I want to talk about it.'”
The idea of being so open and honest about something we’ve all been taught to keep hidden might seem scary, but finally getting it out into the open and talking about it without shame can be incredibly healing. And even if you’ve never gone through a loss yourself, learning how to respond in a supportive way to someone who’s miscarried can make a world of difference to someone who has. It can be so easy to rely on clichés and unintentionally hurtful platitudes about how she can “always have another baby,” or that it was God or Nature’s will. But real support — and likely, the kind you actually want to give — is much more likely to come from just listening. Simply letting that person feel whatever they’re feeling, even if it makes you uncomfortable, and being honest that you might not know what to say or do to help, can mean the world to them.
“I invite you to start, with me, a vocal army of the 25 percenters who can normalize miscarriage in the social sphere,” urges Williams. “You are not broken. You did nothing wrong. You are strong, you are brave, and there is hope. I was right there next to you at Whole Foods, bleeding out of my shorts. Now I’m well. I’m a survivor. Healed, I will try again.”
There isn’t any reason why someone should be expected to suffer through their grief alone. And, as Williams aptly explained, it’s way past time we all started talking about it, and supporting one another.