Alyssa’s story ,on March 15th, 2020, I left the maternity ward of the hospital and went directly home to quarantine from the COVID-19 virus. It was chaotic, people were confused and scared, grocery stores had no toilet paper. A time of utter chaos for everyone. What made it different for me? I had gone into the hospital pregnant and hopeful, and a week later, had come out of the hospital with no baby to take home after experiencing a traumatic and painful miscarriage at 16 weeks.
I had always seen myself as a “get shit done” kind of woman, both in my personal and professional lives. A “go to” resource for my colleagues and friends. Someone who can find an answer easily, make decisions quickly and with confidence, and then execute. And now, I was utterly useless to anyone around me.
Alyssa’s story How was I supposed to navigate caring for my toddler whose school was shut down due to the pandemic, being a partner to my spouse who was now working from home instead of an office, grieving the loss of a much wanted pregnancy, taking care of myself both mentally and physically, and returning to work?
The answer was that I couldn’t. Alyssa’s story it just wasn’t possible for me to function at a level where I could keep all of the balls in the air. I felt profound sadness, I felt empty, angry and detached. I blamed myself for every little thing I could think of that I might have done to cause the miscarriage (none of which was true, because there was no medical explanation for why it happened). Alyssa’s story I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to be more comforting or supportive to my husband, knowing that he so badly wanted this baby too. I felt betrayed by my body and even more by the science, since we had gone through IVF (In-vitro fertilization) and had done genetic testing on each of the resulting embryos, before moving forward with the procedure.
We thought we were “out of the woods” having gotten to the second trimester, so most of our friends and all of our family knew about the pregnancy. For weeks and months after the loss, I had people asking me how I was feeling and when the baby was due. We were in the throes of a pandemic, so most people hadn’t seen me in person to know that there was not a growing bump. Each time someone asked, it was like a dagger.
We decided that I would take a short term medical leave from work so that I could try and find some way to get back to functioning like before. I am lucky to work for an organization that not only allowed, but encouraged this. What I learned was that return to normal wouldn’t be easy and would be uncomfortable at times. The things that seemed important before, just didn’t anymore. I felt detached from myself, from my family and from my work . Alyssa’s story My performance at my job took a hit, and it was noticed. Alyssa’s story I just couldn’t focus the way that I had before and I didn’t know how much to share with my colleagues or leaders because I didn’t want to seem like I wasn’t capable of doing my job. I was disappointed in myself, but I couldn’t find the motivation to do better; it just didn’t seem important in the scheme of things.
I had friends and knew more than a few people who had suffered losses like this, and when they happened, I thought that I knew how to be supportive. But, when it happened to me, I realized the depth of loss and grief that each of those before me had experienced, whether they shared it or not. I was also acutely aware that no matter how much “progress” we have seen in our society, women’s bodies and the experiences they have are still considered taboo to talk openly about. As we know, there are also those who still want to uphold or enact laws and repercussions about governing our bodies.
I can say now, that ultimately, my career has suffered and I will end up having to work much harder to get back “on track” and prove that I am capable of leading at the next level.
Alyssa’s story The only way this will change is for us to keep talking about it. And that is why I chose to share this in a place where my professional life and personal life rarely collide.
So, on this day, one year later, here is what I know (which applies to many situations and not just this particular experience):
- The feeling of loss doesn’t go away. It becomes a less frequent thought, but it’s still there and sometimes it still derails me completely. And that’s ok.
- Not everyone will react in the way that you might want them to, but instead of seeing that as a negative, let people show their support however they know how.
- You are likely being harder on yourself than the people you are worried about disappointing are being on you.
- It is ok to take a break and say “today I just can’t.”
- It is also ok to forge ahead and not allow the trauma to take over every time you think about it.
Alyssa’s story This past year has fundamentally changed me. We have all been experiencing the gravity of a global pandemic and many of us have been working toward fundamentally tackling the longstanding racial and social injustice in our country and the healing our communities so badly need. Alyssa’s story I don’t feel like I have had the opportunity to grieve properly. Maybe I never will. I put a lot of pressure on myself to “get it together” and “move along,” because I don’t like feeling helpless or being seen as someone who isn’t reliable.
Alyssa’s story Today, I am a changed woman, partner, mother, daughter, friend, ally, advocate, and activist and I am grateful for that. I may not feel like I am back to “normal” yet, but I’m slowly learning to embrace the change and build on that. Alyssa’s story I am hopeful that as we continue to come out of this pandemic, I will be able to find the space to heal and get back to being the person and professional that I know I am.
By sharing this here, I hope that I have contributed to your understanding about what it is like for women to suffer a traumatic loss (or any other trauma) and be expected to put on a brave face and move on. Sometimes we can and we do. Other times, we just can’t, and that needs to be ok too.