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Monday, January 11, 2010

Miscarriages and the Media

This is such a sensitive topic, and yet one I've been wanting to do for awhile. You see, it seems that many women (and especially men) have no idea how common a miscarriage is. There is this idea that as soon as you see that BFP, you know that nine months later there will be a baby.

For some women, this is 100% true.

For other women, this turns out not to be true once in their child-bearing years.

For another, much smaller sampling of women, that BFP means you are probably going to have another miscarriage.

Before I got married, I knew women had miscarriages. Of course! I'm not going to post any statistics up here (go search the internet yourself if you're that interested), but the truth is that as many as 50% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage.

Usually miscarriage seems ignored in the media. People don't realize the mourning that mother must do, for the loss of her baby, of her dreams of a child. But I saw two movies last month that accurately pinpointed the suffering a woman feels at the death of her baby.

The first, of all things, was Up. This cutesy little animated film by Disney has a section in it, with no sound, where the new husband and wife are laying on their backs, pointing to the clouds and imagining what they look like. Dear husband makes the mistake of pointing to a cloud and saying it looks like a baby. Dear wife's eyes light up, her smile goes big, and when the camera pans to the sky again, all the clouds are babies. So cute! The next few scenes show her painting a nursery, buying baby things, preparing for baby.

And then the next scene is in a hospital. She's sitting in a chair, head in hands while she bawls, husband and doctor holding on to her.

There are no words, but that pain, that loss, is tangible.

The next movie was Marley and Me. If you've seen this movie, you remember the scene. Wife and husband are in the doctor's office, tape in hand, ready to listen to the heartbeat on the doppler. The nurse can't find it, but it's not a big deal, because the wife isn't quite ten weeks. So they move straight into the ultrasound. While the nurse looks for the baby, the husband and wife kiss each other's hands and giggle over what they expect to see. Interrupting them, the nurse says, "I'm going to get the doctor. Be right back, okay?"

The husband and wife look at each other. She licks her lips. He looks down. Everyone knows this isn't good.

And the doctor comes in and breaks the news to them. There's no heartbeat.

Somehow, that woman holds it together until they get home. She sinks onto the couch inside the house, letting her husband make tea for her. When he comes back into the living room, she is holding their dog (Marley), head buried in the fur, sobbing.

I cried over this scene for about ten minutes. It's extremely accurate. It's very similar to how my first pregnancy went. At ten weeks, the doctor couldn't find a heartbeat. Again, no big deal, it's still early. We scheduled an ultrasound for the following week.

The tech didn't say a word to us during the ultrasound. Then she sent us into the lobby and said the doctor would send for us. The receptionist looked at me and my husband and said, "Oh, you don't need to wait here. The radiologist will call you with the results."

And I said, "But the tech just told us the doctor would want to see us."

"Well, that's strange," the receptionist said, and she called into the tech's office. The tech's office was right next to where we were sitting, and we heard every word of the following phone call.

Receptionist: "Did you send this couple back into the lobby to wait?"
Tech: "Yes. Something's wrong with the baby. The doctor will want to talk to them."
Receptionist: "Oh, okay." Hang up. "It'll just be a few minutes."

My husband looked at me and said, "Did you hear?"

How could I not? I remember how I focused on the wall in front of me, concentrating on breathing, trying to ignore the heat behind my eyes. I did not want to cry right there, in front of all those people.

Miscarriage happens. Yet it is so often played down, the woman's grief minimalized or ignored. To those of us who experience miscarriage, a BFP no longer means baby. A heartbeat means baby.

Since I'm baring my soul to the whole world here, I'll admit that I've had four miscarriages. This is my seventh pregnancy. Yes, I'm pregnant. And this morning, at 9 weeks and four days, we heard a heartbeat. God willing, folks...this BFP equals baby.

28 comments:

David J. West said...

You and my wife both-we didn't think for the first couple years we would be able to have kids. Now I have 3 monsters.

nikkimantyla said...

Thanks for this post. We had a miscarriage at six weeks in the fall, and I think the thing that helped the most was knowing that my mother had two and my mother-in-law had two and it's common and normal. We're still waiting and hoping for when we can go hear a heartbeat as well. :)

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

David--this will be #3 for us. When I had 3 mc between #1 and #2, I wondered if we would have anymore also. It's good and bad that these things are normal!

Nikki--my heart goes out to you. You are so not alone. Good luck honey. It's funny how you never take being pregnant for granted again.

T. Anne said...

Huge congrats to you! I will be praying everything is status quo until the happy day! Thank you so much for the heads up on UP. (no pun intended) I miscarried in my fifth month. I did have to go through labor and was fortunate enough to hold my child at least once. This would have been a tuff movie if I hadn't been warned. I still get emotional after all these years.

Charity Brown said...

Congrats!!

M. Gray said...

Congrats, Tamara! That is awesome! I'm sorry about your miscarriages. That is so hard. I've had one but it was very early and I got pregnant with my daughter the month after.

Do you get very sick? I get SO sick.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

T. Anne--i know what you mean. I always cry too.I cried watching Up, watching Marley and Me, writing the post, reading your comment. It's not something you ever get over.

Thanks, Charity!

M. Gray--I don't get very sick, happily enough. With Jacen, I felt great. Didn't miss a day of work, don't recall feeling tired, just a tad bit queasy when doing dishes. I was so nervous that I wasn't really pregnant! With Asher, I did get sick. Right away, almost as soon as I conceived, I was puking, and it lasted until week 16. This one, I've just been tired and kind of car-sick-feeling. The tiredness has been killing me.I wake up at 9:30 and am ready for a nap two hours later. I force myself to do housework and by 7pm I'm ready for bed. But I'm still making meals and getting fat!

Kate said...

I hope everything goes well for you this time. I've had six at varying stages. Pregnancy never feels safe anymore and I'm pretty much an emotional wreck at delivery because I'm so nervous. Oh, but I love those little babies!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

oh Kate! I know, it's all worth it for the chance of having one of those little babies!

Jannie said...

Oh, Tamara...this post made me cry...I love ya...I am SOOOO glad that you heard a heart beat and I am so excited for you!!! :) I'll keep you in prayers...I am so happy!!

LMJ said...

OMG! I'm crying...
Congratulations!!!

I had the same fear, when I got pregnant (mother had 5 miscarriages). I was even too afraid to walk and kept praying to please, please, please, not to let me go through that. I CANNOT imagine what mothers go through. Every ultra sound was nerve wrecking for me.

At 23 weeks, I had not felt her move in three days. I cried and cried until I was able to see her move in the ultra sound.

You'll be in my prayers.

LMJ said...

Oh, I saw Up with my husband, and I could NOT stop crying when they showed that part. I was still pregnant with Emma.

Meagan@Megs7827 said...

Congratulations! You are a very strong woman. Thank you for sharing your story. I pray that you hear a heartbeat!

Melanie J said...

Congratulations on your pregnancy! And thanks for sharing your story. I've been okay with all three of my pregnancies so far but I know my heart would break if I had to go through what you've been through. Best of luck that your little bean grows even bigger.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

What tragedies to have endured. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I pray your little bean holds on and finds his way to you. Congratulations....there's just nothing in the world like hearing that little heart thumping.

Annie McMahon said...

Congratulations! Wow, number 3? Trying to catch up with me? LOL I have three kids as well.

I've never had a miscarriage, but I can imagine how heartbreaking it must be. Thanks for sharing your story. I saw Marley and Me and I remember that scene very well.

Heindogs said...

There are fewer sounds more precious than a heart beat. We are praying for you!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Hi Jannie! We're praying too...I rented a doppler so I'll be listening probably every day!

LMJ, just thinking about that scene in Up gets me teary eyed!

Thank you, Megan, Melanie J, and Carolina! No, there is no sound like that little heart going. So amazing.

Annie, we're so going to beat you, girl. We want five kids. Three's just the beginning!

Thanks, Connie!

Stephanie Faris said...

I'm SO happy for you! I had one pregnancy ever and it ended in miscarriage, so I know how tough it is. I can only imagine the fear of those first months. But I've had so many friends, including my fiance's ex-wife, who have had multiple miscarriages but they kept trying. They never gave up. And they ended up with a baby. In fact, isn't that the way Marley and me ended up? I can't watch it...I made it to the miscarriage part and I had to turn it off.

Amber said...

I know I've never experienced that grief, but I feel for you just the same. And those parts in BOTH of those movies make me cry EVERY TIME. Funny that you should mention them. I love both of those movies, too, btw. I'm so excited that you're pregnant, though! It's so exciting! Keep us posted, dear Tamara. :-)

Voidwalker said...

Sorry to hear about your previous losses. It's very difficult and you are right, I think it doesn't get enough attention. I think one of the reasons why, is because abortion rights advocates are pushing the concept of "it's a fetus, not a baby," which then is supposed to nullify the idea that you just lost a baby. I don't know a mother out there, who doesn't consider the life inside them as "their baby." I don't buy the concept that it's a fetus until it's born, but I really believe that the community at large is being spoon fed this concept and as such, media doesn't get to involved in the miscarriage scene.

Good luck and God bless you and your baby rearing days to come here. We'll have our fingers crossed.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Congratulations on your pregnancy. Thanks for such a valuable and powerful post. My sister-in-law had a miscarriage last spring and wasn't aware of how common it really is. It was a difficult healing process for her. You're right - it isn't out there in the media, like so many other things. Beautiful post, Tamara. I'll be praying that you have a healthy pregnancy. :)

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Voidwalker, don't even get me started...I could do a whole post on how murderous abortion is (hello??? there's a heart beating! I've seen a baby at 11 weeks old doing a little dance in the womb!) but it would be emotionally draining.

Thanks, Shannon, Stephanie, and Amber!

Aaron and Emily said...

Congrats! What's your due date?

Elisa said...

I have really been surprised to find how many opportunities to comfort others that have fallen into my lap since our miscarriage over a year ago. I try to be very open in talking about my experience just because I remember thinking I was the only one (granted-- I knew people--like you-- who had been through the same thing, but I didn't want to talk about it not in person. Sorry. I just communicate best face to face) when I was going through it. I want others who experience loss to know they don't have to deal with it in a vacuum if they don't want to.

Diggestive said...

My wife had 2 miscarriages before the birth of our first child. So I know a little of the pain it causes. Great post!!!

Congratulations and best wishes

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Em, I'm due Aug. 12.

Dianna said...

So wonderful! I am so happy for you! I'm praying for you!

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