In reality, that number is probably a lot higher because they can only account for medically confirmed pregnancies. Far more women will lose babies in those very early weeks, sometimes without even realizing they had a loss.
I shared a little bit of my story yesterday. When I do this, when I open myself up this way, when I let people into the deepest darkest places in my soul, I wonder why. Then I remember why. I'm doing this in the hopes that maybe someone else out there is reading this right now, is feeling what I felt, and that maybe they won't feel so alone.
Our story is a bit of a roller coaster, so bear with me. In October 1999, my husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I was in law school, we'd just been married the year before. We had no intentions of having kids for at least five years, but when you find out that it might never happen at all, and you've got a very small window to try, you try.
Between the surgery and the beginning of radiation treatments, we had a week and a half to bank sperm and try to get pregnant. Complicated by the fact that he needed to come up with at least three samples, at least 24 hours apart and that I had *just* stopped taking the pill in desperation, we knew it was a long shot.
I'm not going to write about the whole sperm banking part of this all because it's strange and horribly embarrassing and that's his story to tell, not mine.
Anyhow, we tried. And we hoped, knowing that it probably wouldn't work. There was too much else going on.
Fast forward to December 9th. It was the last day of his radiation cycle, and I'd sat in the waiting room feeling like I was fifty years younger than all the other spouses every day for weeks. I'd basically taken a leave from school (and should have quit, but that's another story). I waited and waited to do a test until that day. On that day, the last of his treatment, there was a line. I was about 7 1/2 weeks.
All the hell we'd been through seemed worth it. It was a miracle. Even if we could never get pregnant without help again, this had happened.
We told everyone. Shouted it from the rooftops. All our friends, family, classmates, co-workers. Everyone was rooting for us, everyone was so invested in it with us.
On January 12th I went to the doctor. I was supposed to be 12 weeks at that point, but the doctor couldn't find a heartbeat. She told me not to worry, that maybe the dates were off, and that I would have to go have a more detailed ultrasound the next day.
It didn't even really occur to me that anything was terribly wrong.
The following day, all I could think about was the fact that they'd forced me to drink almost a gallon of water and I couldn't go to the bathroom. Appointments never run on time when you're pregnant with a full bladder. I was nervous, but not afraid. My husband was with me.
In the dark room, the humming of the machines. The technician welcomed us, asking if it was our first baby. Excitedly, we said yes. Told her the story. She cried. Placed the probes on me and started quietly taking pictures. After a long time of silence, she left the room.
When he walked in, I knew. The look on my husband's face did nothing to reassure me. This was the same man who'd diagnosed his cancer months ago, and he was here today to tell me that my baby was dead. I don't remember much else about that day.
The doctor called me later that afternoon to ask what I wanted to do. I could have a d&c or they could force it with medication. It was too late to wait any longer for my body to take care of it without help. All I knew is that the last place I wanted to be in the entire world was on a labor and delivery floor with women who were having babies. I opted for the other choice.
The following day, I went, alone. I didn't want anyone there. She placed the tablets on my cervix, and coldly told me that I might want to stop and pick up a heating pad. It was going to hurt. Sent me home. On a Friday. Alone. With a dead baby that needed to come out of me.
The cramping was almost unbearable, and after many, many hours, the baby was gone just after midnight. It was January 15, 2000.
I know in my heart that she was a girl. Her name would have been Hannah.
I spent days curled up in the fetal position on the floor crying. I couldn't bear to pack up the piles and piles of baby stuff that everyone had bought for us in their excitement. We had even bought a condo during this whole process, thinking we needed a home to raise a child in. Except there was no baby anymore.
I went into a bad, bad place. I knew that this had happened to other women, sure. But you never ever think it will happen to you. And no matter how many stories you hear, none of it helps. None of it makes it hurt less.
I cried myself to sleep for months, and would wake in the middle of the night thinking I heard a baby crying. It was torture.
I didn't care about school at all anymore. Plus, there was a girl there a few weeks further along than I was. I couldn't sit next to her every day, so I just didn't go sometimes.
When you have a miscarriage, in the eyes of far too many people, there is nothing to mourn. It's not a child yet, it's not someone who you have stories and pictures of. It's an idea more than anything.
People said all kinds of things, in attempts to console me, that came out wrong and made it hurt more. I stopped talking to people.
You can have more babies.
There must have been something wrong with this baby.
Maybe it was the cancer.
It's better this way.
You can finish school.
None of it helped.
Even my husband, as much as he tried, couldn't console me. Men just come from a different place with this all, and I blamed him for a long time. It's not that I wanted him to hurt as much as I did, I just wanted him to understand. With time, I knew I had to let that go. It wasn't fair. He was never going to be as close to this as I was.
On a particularly hard day, I found myself wandering the mall instead of sitting in a Constitutional Law lecture. I walked to the window, and on display were birthstones. August. Peridot.
Spontaneously, I walked into the store and bought myself a small pendant. Put it on immediately, and as strange as it sounds, I felt comforted by it. She was due in August.
I made a deal with myself that I would wear it every day until she was supposed to be born, then I would put it away.
And I did.
I think I needed that necklace, as silly as it sounds. It saved me, and it's a memory that I will always have of her.
I wear it now every year on January 15th.
Everything else in my life gets the rest of the year, but that day will always belong to my first child.
As women, we are the mothers of these babies, even if they reside only in our hearts and not in our arms. They make us who we are, they shape our life experiences. They change us.
If you have a story and you would like to share it, please feel free to do so in the comments. All of our stories are important and need to be told.