Our waitress was all smiles as she came over to our table, tottering along with her bulging belly and overflowing bosom. She radiated the kind of glow that every skin moisturizer promises, but only pregnancy can deliver.
“How far along are you?” my husband Vijay asked.
“Six months,” she replied, beaming.
Vijay went on to share that I was also pregnant and I felt myself blush as her eyes focused on my flat stomach. I quickly let her know that I was only six weeks along and as a reply, she launched into a story about baby names, and how she’d had the hardest time choosing.
I felt a thrill as we shared this “pregnancy moment” and I couldn’t stop grinning all through breakfast, although I was feeling the slightest case of belly envy. I had no doubt, however, that my own pregnancy glow and baby bump were only weeks away.
My husband and I were only two weeks pregnant when we decided to start spreading the news. We were like third graders who had just been told a playground secret; we were giddy with our need to share.
“Let’s start with close family and friends,” Vijay suggested.
And so I did, first telling my mom, dad, aunts, grandparents and cousins, followed by friends from college, work and the neighborhood. By the end of that first day, our pregnancy seemed to be making national headlines. Sure, we had heard the warnings, “Don’t tell anyone until the start of your second trimester, just to be on the safe side.” But we were two young, healthy, newlyweds; what was there to be afraid of?
Six weeks later, I miscarried. Over the course of one heart-wrenching week of cramping and bleeding, we started to accept what was happening. Our tears were endless. We felt helpless and hopeless.
At the end of the week, I had to go in for my D&C, dilation and curettage (or the painful scraping of your uterine lining, to get technical). The surgery went as well as could be expected, but as they brought me out of my anesthesia-induced haze, I cried for a half-hour straight, asking the doctor repeatedly if I’d ever be able to get pregnant again. He held my hand the entire time, until he decided to put me back under with a strong sedative and try the whole wake-up process again later. I remember none of this, and I’m shocked that the sadness so quickly sunk into my subconscious.
My first recollection following surgery was the groggy realization that my miscarriage was official and that people would start finding out. I thought about how embarrassing it would be to tell people about our loss, and I felt a burning sense of shame. My body’s failure would be public knowledge. Slowly, though, it occurred to me that this was no more my fault than it is someone’s fault for getting breast cancer or Alzheimer’s. I couldn’t understand society’s pressure to keep this thing under wraps.
By the time I miscarried, everyone, from friends and family to our friendly waitress, knew of our pregnancy — and slowly they came to know of our loss.
I actually avoided our favorite breakfast place for a few weeks after, feigning disinterest whenever my husband suggested it. I knew that the bubbly waitress would be there waiting and wondering. My husband finally caught on and insisted I face my fear. Surprisingly, it was quite painless.
We took a seat at our normal table and she came waddling over, weeks away from her due date.
“How are you feeling?” she asked. “I am about ready to burst myself!”
I looked at her with my head held high and simply said, “I am feeling better than I was a few weeks ago when I lost the baby.”
She replied with an “I’m so sorry” and an encouraging smile, and with that I settled in to enjoy my pancakes. It turns out the anticipation was the very worst part. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a single awkward encounter as people asked about my pregnancy, only to learn of my miscarriage. They offered an endless supply of kind words and thoughtful actions. Shoulders were lent to cry on, gifts of food and flowers were offered, and stories of personal losses were shared. I felt no embarrassment, only support. I started wondering why we had been warned not to tell. Has our society become so superficial that a personal loss creates hopelessly awkward situations that should be avoided at all costs?
I often indulge in the guilty pleasure of YouTube surfing and I am always shocked to see what people are willing to share: awkward ballads belted out with no shame, dance moves that should never have seen the light of day, dirty secrets spilled for no obvious reason, other than the lure of five minutes of fame. Celebrity private lives are broadcast on a minute-to-minute basis; divorce, adultery, addiction. Nothing is off-limits, and the public is always hungry for more. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, you could get the impression that there is no such thing as a secret. Why then, is it taboo to share news of a pregnancy in its early stages? What are we so afraid of?
For us, it turned out that telling the world was the very best thing that we could have done. We had support pouring in from every direction. Best of all, I did not have to hide my sadness and pretend that nothing had happened. I was open about my joy, and found I could also be open about my grief. When we try again, you can bet the phones will start ringing the minute we conceive. As hard as it is to suffer a public loss, we all need the joy that the news of a new life brings.