So what happened when we told our friends and family? First, we had to figure out how to tell them. It’s not quite like “oh, did you see that great hockey game last night and did I mentioned that we’ve had 3 miscarriages that we haven’t mentioned previously?” Because our society doesn’t talk about miscarriage, it becomes rather awkward to bring up. We tried to be sensitive to each of our friends/family circumstances, and just found a way to do it. Here are a few examples:
- My Parents – We do not live in the same city, they travel internationally a lot and we aren’t incredibly close with them. This makes it hard to have a face to face conversation, but we decided if we were going to tell them, it had to be in person. As I was actively going through the 3rd loss, travelling to them wasn’t an option. But coincidentally, they were travelling through our city, so we told them we had to talk to them in person. As this was an odd request from us, they came over before they drove home. We just told them what was going on, and made it very clear that the current baby would not survive, and there was no hope. We explained that with this being the third, we are now in that 1% of the population and we would now get sent to specialists. The wait could be up to a year to get into the public clinic, and private clinics would likely be quicker but much more costly. They were disappointed that we hadn’t included them in the earlier miscarriages, and we just explained that we had not included anyone. They seemed to respect our decision.
- My husband’s brother and wife – Telling them was very easy because she’s a family physician. We didn’t have to explain everything and answer a hundred questions. She knew enough and could find out more if they wanted more information.
- My brother and wife – They announced their second pregnancy, with twins, the same day we found out our third baby was dying. Not the best timing, but definitely not their fault. We didn’t say a word about our situation as we were not going to take away from their happiness, although I hung up the phone and burst into tears. It might not make sense to everyone, but hearing someone else is getting a baby when you cannot is heartbreaking – it’s a terrible reminder of what you are going through and what is missing in your life. But, this story doesn’t end here – a few months later, they lost one of the twins. At this point, we told them about our situation, because we thought it might help them to know that although very different, they did have someone to talk with if they wanted. They have chosen not to talk to us. They now have a healthy baby.
- Friends (Couple A) – They were pregnant. We waited to tell them until after their baby was born, as we felt it was very important to not add to their worries as we figured that every parent worries about having a healthy child, so we didn’t need to increase that worry by sharing our experience. Needless to say, I did eventual tell her. She was obsessed with the details, of when, how far, etc. As if any of the details mattered, which they just simply don’t to us. It took over an hour on the phone, explaining and often repeating myself. It was the most challenging conversation I have had with anyone, and one of the most hurtful. She was one of my closest friends, and he was one of my husband’s best friends. Together we were all great friends, they were a big part of our lives, we saw them almost weekly, travelled internationally together, and shared many laughs over the years. Given their personalities, we weren’t expecting them to be too supportive, but we still wanted to include them in our journey because we had been such good friends. I felt that by not telling them, I had not given her a chance to be a good friend and I owed our friendship that. However, they have chosen to not speak to us since – it’s now been 6 months. I’ve been devastated by the loss of our friendship, I didn’t expect it. I feel like screaming at her – are you kidding me?! They aren’t contagious!! If I honestly try to think about why she made the decision to end our friendship, I think she was really hurt that I didn’t include her in the earlier pregnancies and she was mad at me for not being a bigger part of their babies life (something I just couldn’t do right then). But I cannot change our decision not to include them earlier, nor would I. We simply weren’t ready to tell people, and we had to do what was best for us at the time.
- Friends (Couple B) – No kids and not currently trying to our knowledge. They were awesome. We told them one late night after a dinner party with a larger group of friends and acquaintances, which also happened to be the night before I was scheduled to have surgery. They have been great – they have not treated us differently, they don’t ask us a tonne of questions but let us talk about it if/when we want to.
- Friends (Couple C) – No kids and not currently trying to our knowledge. We were wrong – they are currently trying and it’s not working for them. The connection with these friends is through the men, who are not big talkers. I think the guys have had a few conversations, but otherwise none of us talk a lot about it. I think it’s because we come from very different situations, but somehow it’s nice to know that they sympathize with our desire not to always be hanging out with all the friends having babies; and, therefore, they understand why we haven’t been as social in the last year as we were before.
- Friends (Couple D) – Pregnant (child is now born). This friendship is also through the men and although she and I get along we don’t hang out together without the guys. He has been awesome and very understanding when we said we weren’t ready to meet there baby. They gave us the space we needed and let us take a few months before we met their baby. They didn’t try to force me to hold the baby (which many other people do and I despise), and this meant the world to me. She was a little less sensitive when she proceeded to tell us about their plans for baby two. But I just let it go, and reminded myself that of course they are thinking about their long term family plans (even if we cannot even dream about our old plans for multiple children ).
We didn’t tell everyone. We made very careful decisions on who we would include and why. We were very technical and logical in our decision making process. The two most important factors in our decision making process was that we had to believe whoever we told would be supportive and that they would keep our news to themselves for the time being. Not surprising to us, but probably surprising to anyone reading this, this meant a lot of family and some friends didn’t find out. We don’t come from the most supportive family structures (a story for another day), and based on past life experiences we knew not everyone would provide the support we needed. So, for example, my husband’s parents do not know about our situation and neither of our extended families.
These decisions have been hard, and we know one day we will have to answer for them. But, for now, we are being selfish. We now live by the motto that if there is a time to be selfish, the time is right now. We need to do what’s best for us, and hope that eventually people will understand or at least accept our decision. But that’s a bridge to cross one day, and we’ll cross it when we get there.
One of those things you get to learn when you go through a tough time is, who are your real friends? And which friends have the courage to be there when you need them the most, even if they have no idea what you are going through. We sure have learned the answer to this one!
So, first let me explain that only two of my absolute closest friends knew about the first two pregnancies. We figured, the first two are statistically normal, so no big deal and no need to tell the world. We typically keep to ourselves, so we didn’t really want people to know we were trying. We wanted to have a surprise for our families when we had good news. My psychologist wanted us to tell people, but we kept saying no – our families won’t be supportive. I think this kinda annoyed her, but she respected our decision (not that she really had a choice). And as she got to know us better later in our journey, she started to understand our decision and eventually even admitted that we were right since some of the reactions were just as we expected – unhelpful and even hurtful. She recommended that maybe the best course of action is to start building friendships with people who will be supportive. Although, I’m still not sure how to do that – put out an ad in the classifieds or kijiji “looking for supportive friends, who don’t have children and won’t focus all conversations on babies?” Anyways, I digress.
Of course, by not telling people for the first two, we were also constantly hiding the fact that we were pregnant and/or trying to be pregnant. We call this the pregnancy bubble – living in all aspects of our lives the “healthy” lifestyle – no alcohol, no lunch meats, no chia tea lattes (and I love these), no strenuous activities, no cleaning products, etc. We got really good at avoiding Friday and Saturday night social events which almost always included alcohol, with excuses like “our dog’s sick” or “I have a migraine”. We got really good at planning breakfast get togethers (something we had always done every few months, but suddenly were doing more frequently) and any other time we went out, I was always the designated driver. It became a constant and annoying juggling game of which small white lie had we told to who, and making sure we kept our stories straight.
So when we hit the critical 3rd loss mark which meant we are now part of the 1% of the population who experience repeat miscarriages, we decided to tell a few more people. We were still very select on who we told and made it very clear to them, that we were not ready to tell the whole world and we expected them to keep our secrete to themselves. My husband and I are very logical in our decision making (as we usually are), so here is a few of the key reasons we decided not to tell the whole world:
- I’ve been through enough in my life to know that I do not like being the centre of attention for negative or positive things. I much prefer a quiet congratulations, or a small celebration and not having to answer questions.
- Telling people meant that we had to admit to the world what we were going through. Somehow this made it more real for me. We couldn’t hide from the fact that we may not be able to have children anymore.
- I had no desire to have people tell me it will be okay, that you can try again or maybe next time it will work. These are some of the most insensitive comments I have heard in the last few years. It belittles our loss. It leaves me empty every time I hear one of these comments. I feel like screaming at the person (who presumably actually trying to say something supportive), but of course I have to keep my cool and remain calm and smile and node.
- We didn’t want our future family decisions to become decision by committee. This is our decision – an intimate decision between a husband and a wife. A decision that deeply and profoundly affects every element of our future. Outside opinions are not welcome. So far, people who are in the know of our situation, have respected this. They may ask questions about how we are doing, but they do not try to tell us what we should do next. This has been a blessing, because I’m pretty sure if someone tries to give me an opinion on if we should try again, they will get to take the brunt of my anger.