Trigger warning: the following piece discusses pregnancy loss.
Meghan Markle dropped a bombshell on the world today with an op-ed in the New York Times entitled, “The Losses We Share.” In her essay, she shared not only her feelings on the losses that we have shared as a collective society in the wake of this year’s suffering, but also a very personal loss between her and her husband, Prince Harry, revealing that back in July, she had suffered a miscarriage.
“It was a July morning that began as ordinarily as any other day,” Markle writes. “Make breakfast. Feed the dogs. Take vitamins…Throw my hair in a ponytail before getting my son from his crib.” And then: a sharp cramp that signified what Markle would describe as the beginning of the loss of her pregnancy.
“I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second,” she says.
“I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second,” she says.”
The feeling she describes is one that so many women know all too well. I remember feeling it myself during this holiday season only a few years ago. A positive pregnancy test I had happily wrapped up for my husband in Christmas paper for his gift turned into heartbreak when my first ultrasound revealed a heartbeat beating much too slow. My baby, my midwife told me gently, would probably not make it.
Hiding Our Losses
I went home that day waiting for my baby to die inside of me and that’s a reality that’s hard to explain. Every second of every minute of every day I watched and waited and hoped and prayed. I analyzed every twinge, every wave of nausea, wondering if it was somehow less severe than the day before and if that meant my baby had died. I berated myself for not knowing the exact moment it would happen because what kind of mother can’t tell when her baby dies inside of her?
We hosted a Christmas brunch for my in-laws that year and there are pictures of me from that day on social media, laughing and smiling and posing with a cup of champagne that I never actually drank, just in case. A cousin announced her pregnancy that day. Another was heavily pregnant. The talk inevitably turned to labor and babies and all the things moms talk about. That day, I was very much not OK. But I pretended I was.
So when I read Markle’s words about putting on a brave face during a public tour when she was exhausted and struggling and breastfeeding, it reminded me of the truth that no matter what the outside–or social media or photos–may show, the inside may be telling a very, very different story.
Sharing Our Pain, Together
Markle has been able to speak her truth and share her pain and losses in a way that many moms may not be able to. Grief and loss are real for us all, but unfortunately, not all of us have the time or space or opportunity to process our losses in the way we need to. We might be overseeing remote learning or clocking in for another shift or helping a sick family member while still trying to navigate the losses in our own life, and there’s no easy way through that.
But her essay reminds us all that instead of pretending that we OK, maybe what we all need is just to remember that none of us are truly ever fully are, and we need to have more open and honest discussions about that. What would have happened that Christmas brunch if I would have admitted that I was miscarrying at that very moment? Why do we as women so often feel the need to hide our pain?
I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I do know that what the Duchess writes is true: now, more than ever, moms need someone to ask if they are OK.
And sometimes, it’s not even about the answer–it’s about the question. Because it shows that someone cared enough to ask. So maybe today and this holiday season, we can be the one to ask:
Are you OK?
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