As the doctor looked at the sonogram screen, his brow furrowed and I knew something was wrong. He continued to move the wand around, as though he was looking for something elusive. Finally, he told me the pregnancy wasn’t viable. At first I refused to believe it. Wasn’t it possible that we’d gotten the dates wrong, or that he just hadn’t looked hard enough? Couldn’t he do a hormone level test to be sure? I wanted to blame somebody, because this certainly couldn’t be happening to me. I’d just shared our good news, and everyone was so excited about this baby! My husband’s expression was a mix of sympathy and sorrow. I thought I would melt away.
We returned home, where a friend was waiting with a congratulatory stack of pregnancy and parenting books. All I could do was shake my head.
What could possibly have gone wrong? No one in my family had miscarried, I thought, believing this sort of thing was genetic. (It’s not.) I racked my brain to figure out what I might have done to cause this. (Nothing at all.) Then I crumpled up, ready to disappear.
Over the next several weeks, I heard from countless women about their own or their family members’ miscarriages. I was stunned. Why had I never known that other women close to me had been through this? And I even had family members who’d miscarried, despite my previous beliefs. While hearing others’ empathetic stories, I couldn’t help but wonder, Why didn’t anybody tell me this before? Why don’t women talk about this? Why is miscarriage such a taboo subject?
Miscarriage is defined as any pregnancy that ends spontaneously before a fetus is able to survive. As many as 75 percent of women trying to conceive experience miscarriage in early pregnancy (in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy), though some women who miscarry in the first month after conception don’t ever know they were pregnant. About 5 percent of women experience two miscarriages in a row, and 1 percent have three or more consecutive miscarriages.