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Girl Smarts 'How I told my mother about my miscarriage'

My husband and I knew we wanted to start a family right away. So, we were completely over the moon a few weeks after our honeymoon when we actually found out that we were pregnant.

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GENEVIEVE ELAINE PHOTOGRAPHY play

GENEVIEVE ELAINE PHOTOGRAPHY

(womenshealthmag)
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"She had lost her first baby, who was stillborn at 39 weeks." My husband and I knew we wanted to start a family right away.

So, we were completely over the moon a few weeks after our honeymoon when we actually found out that we were pregnant.

 It was my first pregnancy, so I didn't know what to expect. I didn't realize everything was going to hurt so bad. Everything was sore.

Our initial reaction was to call close family. They called extended family. And I remember texting pictures of the positive results to some of our close friends, who were overjoyed as well. Even though I have a Ph.D. in reproductive biology, and know that 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies result in miscarriages, I couldn't help but share the good news. We were just so happy.

I don't know if I was just on a high from the wedding or having gotten pregnant on my honeymoon, but everything felt like it was on track. Our dreams were coming true.

We even gave the baby a nickname. After our honeymoon, my husband and I were calling each other Eagle Ray One and Eagle Ray Two. So, my husband would come home from work, kiss my belly, and say, "How's little Eagle Ray Three doing?" We felt really invested that this human growing inside of me was a member of our family.

I felt pain during my pregnancy, but just assumed it was normal, like the excruciating pain I’ve felt all my life due to my endometriosis. So, at first, I thought my sore breasts and intense cramping were normal. My doctor even said it was fine. But, after awhile, I started to get a bad feeling.

Six weeks into the pregnancy, I insisted to my doctor that I should get more blood tests. Then, when my husband and I went in for the tests, it was clear that my hormone levels were not rising in the right way. As a reproductive healthcare specialist, I knew that it probably was not a viable pregnancy. That was devastating.

I felt helpless, guilty, and personally responsible—like it was somehow my fault. Again, I'm a scientist and I knew the numbers and that my risk as a 32-year-old mother was higher.

I knew that this wasn't a huge surprise. Yet, I remember one night, I stayed up really late looking up every single ingredient on a tube of toothpaste in case my new toothpaste had something to do with my miscarriage.

Watch an ob-gyn answer questions about fertility & pregnancy:

There was no playbook for this. My miscarriage, the first bump in my fertility journey, just wasn't something that people really talked about. So, I found myself wondering: What is the acceptable amount of upset to be over a pregnancy loss? Is it okay to be sad if you're having a miscarriage? Is it okay to miss a day of work for this? Are all miscarriages created equal?

And, once I started confiding in people, they really didn’t know what to say. I had well-intentioned people say, “Oh, well, aren't you glad you lost it so early. I had a friend who lost it so much later.” It didn’t make me feel better. In fact, I felt doubly isolated.

I felt like when I started to talk about it, it made me feel worse, so I should just not talk about it at all. (And many women don't. According to a study by Celmatix, 43 percent of women who experience miscarriages do not tell their friends. And, 21 percent don’t tell their partners.)

Yet, I forced myself to talk about my miscarriage with those I was saddest to share the news with—my husband and my mother. I was sad to share it with my husband for obvious reasons: this miscarriage was hard on him, too.

Then, I had to tell my mother. I dreaded the thought. For one, this was her first grandchild, and she was on an incredible high after hearing the news.

Also, I knew something that she had shared with very few people. She had lost her first baby, who was stillborn at 39 weeks. To this day, she can't remember it without becoming very emotional. It's a pain she's had to live with.

Going through my own loss made what she had gone through so much more tangible. I always knew her story growing up, and it had moved me. But, now I realized that if I felt this bad losing a pregnancy after just a few weeks, I couldn't even imagine the pain my mom went through.

My mom and I are really close. We speak all the time. She has a second sense, and I knew she would be worried if she didn't hear from me for a few days. As hard as it was to speak to her about it, it would have been even harder to hide.

Still, I waited a few days for the second test to confirm what the first one had shown. I wanted to be sure. My mother lives in Texas and I live in New York City, so once I got the nerve, I gave her a call.

The conversation was emotional, to say the least. At first, I felt incredibly anxious to even bring up the topic, and as I started talking, I was overcome with sadness. Her response to the news, though, was the same as my husband's: "Are you sure?" she asked.

I knew the data, so I was sure. We spoke for around half an hour about what I was going through. As I feared, it did bring back memories of her own loss, and we ended up talking about her experience as well.

And, while it was hardest to share my miscarriage with her, it turned out to be the most comforting. By the end of the conversation the pain was still there, but I felt a deep sense of connection and less alone. We were united in the sadness of losing our first babies.

Going through that first experience on my journey to motherhood with my own mom by my side brought me so much closer to her. I suddenly understood her in a different way. Even though our relationship hadn’t always been perfect (I was a handful as a teenager), powerful bonding moments like the one really remind me of my unique relationship with my mom, and how much gratitude I have for her.

It took me a year and a half to get pregnant after my miscarriage, and doctors told me that I had a 1 percent chance of conceiving a baby due to my hormone levels and endometriosis. Since then, though, I’ve had three children.

The oldest is just turning 5. And my personal experience informs how I lead my company, Celmatix, which provides genetic testing for women's and reproductive health.

It should be okay for women to talk about fertility. It should be okay to say that a miscarriage is a real loss and to be able to get the support you need. So, we started the #SaytheFWord campaign to pull reproductive experiences like mine out of the closet and bring them into the light.

On www.wesaythefword.com, women can pledge to #SaytheFword and share their fertility-related goals. For every pledge to #SaytheFword, Celmatix will donate to nonprofits that support women’s health, up to $25,000.

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