I remember it as if it just happened today.
I was sitting in a Yellow Cab driving down Lexington Avenue crying in a way I had never cried in public before. It was the kind of crying in which my whole body was wildly shaking, my eyes streaming with tears, and a profoundly deep but loud voice was coming out of my mouth as I unsuccessfully kept on trying to catch my breath.
The driver peeked at me with concern, but somehow realized I was fine and needed to not be bothered.
Two hours earlier, my wife and I were sitting and waiting for our OB/GYN to enter the check-up room. We were nine weeks pregnant, in our 30s, eagerly awaiting the development of our child. As soon as the ultrasound came up on the screen, my wife — who is a physician — said, “There is no heartbeat.”
The OB/GYN asked us to wait a moment as he took a closer look. Upon that closer look, he agreed.
He went on to call a colleague and confirm this finding. We were both devastated. It was the sense of making it to the top of the game of snakes and ladders, and then being sent all the way back down. Except this was real life, and much, much worse.
It was not news we felt like sharing with anyone at the time. I both headed back home in a state beyond devastation. My wife took the day off. Crushed and devastated by this news, mourning and sorrow had set into our lives.
I headed, though late, over to work. Things got even harder when I realized that, as a teacher, I have a responsibility to be kind, joyful and gracious with my students. With miserable tears at the edge of my eyes, a half a smile on my face, I went on with my day.
Albeit unique, this story represents the story of too many people, whose story is rarely ever heard.
Miscarriage is an outstandingly common situation. Miscarriage is something that affects 15 to 25 percent of women who know they are pregnant, and more than 50 percent of all cases of fertilization. And yet, most of us cannot name anyone we know who went through this terrible life event.
Most women and their spouses go through miscarriage in silence and solitude. The comfort and social support that are often present when we go through difficult lifecycle events are not there when it comes to dealing with miscarriage.
Sure, many of those who deal with the loss and pain of miscarriage choose to do so in privacy and silence, but others do so because of a belief that this is such an uncommon situation. Knowing how common miscarriage is, speaking about the grief and pain that follows it, can help men and women who are coping with a deep sense of loss, overcome this difficult hurdle.
Which brings us to the next horror of miscarriage.
Miscarriage never ends at miscarriage. Once individuals encounter the tragedy of the loss of pregnancy, they must deal with the next stage — clearing the uterus. This can be as traumatic as the loss of the pregnancy because of the physiological nature of the process.
The fetus is no longer alive, it needs to come out. Except that it doesn’t just come out. For some women, it will come out naturally — with much pain and difficulty. Others need to take misoprostol, a medication that helps the body extract everything that is in the uterus. And for some, a medical procedure with some health risks is necessary.
Imagine having to deal with the pain and uncertainty of childbirth — just with no happy end in sight. This is what the process of getting the fetus out is like.
You don’t know when it will happen or exactly how, and so all that pain and uncertainty are there for you to deal with just to find an unviable fetus in the end.
So what do we all need to know about miscarriage? We need to know it exists. We need to know that it is prevalent. We need to know that it never ends at miscarriage.
Whether to share a personal story of miscarriage will forever remain the prerogative of those who experience it. Recognizing the prevalence, pain and powerlessness associated with miscarriage will empower those who go through this terrible experience, and help them return to life — a life that will never be the same.
The author is a rabbi, teacher and bipartisanship activist.