Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me This? [an introduction]

A look at infertility and miscarriage.

written by Molly

Trigger Warning: infertility + miscarriage. You may want to skip if you’re sensitive to those topics.

I am a worst-case-scenario kind of girl. Rarely do I ever have good/high expectations for anything; I go straight to expecting the worst. “I won’t get this job I really want.” “This boy would NEVER like me.” “I won’t book this wedding I really want to book.” “These girls don’t really want to be my friend.” “I won’t close this deal.” “I won’t have this baby I’m carrying.”  

It’s not that I think I’m not worthy of good things, it’s just that I think they couldn’t possibly happen to me. Whether I intend for it to happen or not, the worst-case has always paralyzed me. What began as a way to protect myself from disappointment has stifled my growth over and over again, and it almost kept me from starting this project. “No one will want to read what I have to say, and no one will want to share their story with me.” Sometimes you just have to tell the inner monologue that it’s time to be quiet; you have to push ahead regardless of the potential to fail because the work is just that important. You, friend, are that important.

The Backstory: 

My husband and I married in 2011. He was a Private in an elite Special Operations unit in the Army (1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment), and I was still in college. At that point, I was a full-time student and nanny and had just started my professional photography business. We knew that we wanted to start a family, but we felt it was the responsible thing to do to wait a few years. And so we waited—what’re a few more years when you’re only in your early 20s?

Sometime during 2016, while he was a student at Yale College and I was (again) a full-time nanny with a budding photography business, we felt like it’d be a good time to try to start a family. For about six months, I checked my temperature daily (sometimes hourly), I planned and plotted, I changed the way I ate, I changed the way I worked out, I did anything I knew to do. I did every possible thing right. And finally, I saw those two pink lines in January 2017. Before I had time to get excited, my period started. But I had prepared for disappointment, and so I moved right back to my checking/planning/plotting. And then nothing—months and months of nothing.

Finally, in June 2017, I decided it’d be a good time to just pause. He was going to be living in NYC over the summer, I was going to Savannah for a month or two, and it just felt like maybe it wasn’t supposed to happen then. And then it did; those two pink lines were immediately followed by morning sickness, fatigue, and the worst cold I’d ever had. For about six weeks, everything felt normal (very bad, but normal). And then one morning, I woke up and knew something was wrong. I don’t know that I had the conscious thought that the pregnancy was not progressing, but I think I knew in my heart. 

For several more weeks, I was in and out of doctors’ offices. They ran test after test, and everything looked normal. My belly grew a little, the nausea and vomiting continued, but I just kept thinking “This won’t happen for me. This just isn’t meant to happen for me.” It wasn’t until my 10-week ultrasound that they confirmed what I had known for a little while already—no heartbeat, no visible embryo—just emptiness that my body had missed. And even though I’d prepared for the very worst from day one, my perfectly-built wall of protection came crashing down in a heap of dust and debris. 

I decided to try to pass the gestational sac on my own, and a little over a week later it fell out into the toilet. I fished it out and held it in my hands, and then I did the most undignified thing I’ve ever done in my life; I flushed it down the toilet. When I look back on it now, I see that most of my uncomplicated hopes and dreams swirled away into blackness with that palm-sized group of cells. I will never know what it is like to experience a pregnancy without fear. There will never be an ultrasound that I will go into expecting to see good things. My trust in my body’s ability to do what it should naturally do is broken in an irreparable way.

Several weeks after it all ended, I decided it was time to tell my story on my various social media platforms. I was desperate to know that I wasn’t alone in the pain and sadness that I was feeling. One thing they don’t tell you about miscarriage is that the pain and sadness that is often felt is vastly disproportionate to the physical wound. The grieving process is frequently just like what is experienced when someone loses a loved one, but this is an invisible loss. If you didn’t tell anyone, it’s possible no one would ever notice. You can feel like you don’t deserve to grieve the way others grieve a loss, but that doesn’t mean the pain is any less. 

When I spoke about the loss I had experienced, the response I got was really surprising to me. Not only was I not alone in the grief I felt, but I was also not alone in how alone I felt. Um, what?! Of all of the women I spoke with, virtually every one of them expressed feeling alone or like no one had prepared them for what this could feel like. And in that moment, I knew that I had work to do. 

Oh Four Two One [04/21]

April 21, 2018 would have been my due date. Rather than being a happy day filled with celebration, cupcakes, party hats, and two chubby, little fingers held up for a photo, it’s a day I dread each time it comes around. Most everyone’s forgotten each year (it isn’t anyone’s burden to remember, and that’s ok), and I’ve sat alone with my pain.

Oh four two one. Oh four two one. Empty womb. Empty arms. A heart filled with love and nowhere to put it.

But this year is different. 

This year, it is a day that still holds pain, but it also holds hope. 

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me This?

The exact degree of pain this kind of loss can bring isn’t something that anyone can truly prepare you for, no matter how much they tell you or try to prepare you. However, one thing I saw over and over in conversations I had with people who had encountered similarly difficult things was a desire for more conversation about difficult, taboo, or simply not-talked-about topics. We feel alone and unprepared because no one is sharing their experience with hard things. We are just expected to figure it out on our own.

You’re starting a business all by yourself, and you don’t have any experience with running a business? Yeah, figure it out.
You’re a new mom trying to navigate a new identity, keeping a small human alive, and a major life transition? Yeah, figure it out.
You’re grieving the traumatic loss of a parent? Yeah, figure it out.
You’re navigating a non-traditional lifestyle without the support of your family? Yeah, figure it out.
You want to become a parent and your body continues to work against you? Yeah, figure it out.
You’re struggling with overcoming an addiction? Yeah, figure it out.
You’re doing a big thing for the very first time, and you have no idea what you’re doing? Yeah, figure it out.
You’re responsible for yourself for the first time in your life? Yeah, just figure it out.
You live inside your worst-case scenario (doomed to limit yourself forever)? Yeah, figure it out.
You’ve just sprouted your very first chin hair? Yeah, you’re definitely figuring that one out alone, honey.

The heart behind all of this is to build community and to help each other feel less alone in whatever it is we are navigating. It doesn’t have to be super heavy or painful for you to feel alone in it. We are often hesitant to talk about the things that make us feel alone because we don’t want to be faced with the reality that maybe we are the first person to ever feel this way, and so we don’t talk about it. Do I really want to tell the world that I live waiting for the worst-case scenario to happen? Not really, but if it makes you feel like you’re not alone while always waiting for the sky to fall, it’s worth it for me. We don’t want to risk vulnerability or feeling more alone, so we just suffer in silence. I’m kinda done with the suffering-in-silence thing.

Another thing that made me feel compelled to start this blog is my desire to help us love those around us a little bit better. We are so quick to judge because we rarely know the full story—we rarely know what causes a person to move the way that they do. A very wise human once told me that there are always three things to consider when we think about the way we interact (and form judgments) with others; the way someone sees themself, the way you see them, and the way they actually are. Having these pieces fit together is crucial when it comes to loving others well because it allows us to give grace when grace is needed. It helps to fill in the gap between what we see a person do, the reason why we think they’re doing it, and the story that led them to move in that direction.

My hope with Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me This? is that eventually, we won’t have to ask “Why didn’t anyone tell me this?” because some really brave and lovely humans did tell us, and that hearing the stories will allow us to love those around us just a little bit better.

  1. Sairy says:

    Loved it Molly Morris Smith!

    4/12/06 was my date. We kept a set of little baby mittens we had gotten her because it felt devastating not having her hands to hold. They are a reminder that we hold her close to our heart.

    • Molly Smith says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read, Sairy. The baby mittens are such a beautiful way to remember her. All my love, friend.

  2. Valerie Cole says:

    Excellent Molly….made me become a reflective human…where/when have I felt alone, unworthy, compromised, unprepared thru life’s journey….Plenty! I look forward to reading more…to learn more about others as well as myself.

    • Molly Smith says:

      Thank you SO much for reading and for your words of encouragement. Here’s to less aloneness, unworthiness, feeling compromised or feeling unprepared!

  3. Patti Smith says:

    Molly you express your feelings beautifully. Thank you for sharing your personal journey. You are a beautiful young lady and I am so proud and happy you chose my son to love. Love you, Patti

  4. Eiryn Hernandez says:

    Wow. Chills. So transparent and real! Thank you for sharing your story. And thank you for creating this space! 💞

    • Molly Smith says:

      Thank you SO much for the encouragement and for taking the time to read, Eiryn. *hugs*

  5. […] make it a point to sit and listen. It wasn’t until my life came to a screeching halt in 2017 (you can read more about that here), that I took a second to stop listening to the noise around me and tried to listen to what was […]

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