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Identity Crisis

By Rachel Ezzo

During my time as a staff member at Kate’s Club I have talked about and written much about grief. I have shared my stories about grieving my aunt, my sister, and even my dog. I have lead presentations with children about grieving and how to support a grieving friend. I have shared with civic organizations and corporations the mission of Kate’s Club, to empower grieving children facing life after the death of a parent or sibling, and our vision of creating a world in which it is okay to grieve. Our mission is focused on children grieving a parent or sibling but people also grieve friends and classmates, grandparents and cousins, and other loved ones.

Talking about grief is now a familiar topic for me. It isn’t an easy or comfortable topic. It is part of my job and I understand the importance storytelling has on creating a world in which it is okay to grieve.  Despite that recognition and awareness, there is one area of my own grief journey that I have always shied away from discussing. In the summer of 2006 I discovered that I was pregnant with my first child. Unfortunately, I miscarried that baby at 13 weeks. I had waited until 12 weeks to share the joyous news with all of our family and friends; only to turn around a week later to share about the miscarriage. In the past, I might have discussed my miscarriage with close friends or someone who has shared their own miscarriage story with me. I didn’t discuss it openly because I felt like (and still feel like) people didn’t always value or recognize my loss in the same way that I did. The loss of this pregnancy was a turning point in my life and had an absolute impact on my behavior and plans for the future.

The weekend I miscarried, it was mid-September and my mom and I had been at Stone Mountain enjoying our annual trip to the Yellow Daisy Festival. I had noticed some very light spotting but, after phoning the on-call nurse, we continued to walk around for a bit. I began to get more nervous and panicked about the spotting so we decided to head home for me to rest. Things did not improve. By the time I went to the emergency room that night it was clear that something was very wrong. Having never been pregnant before, I knew that I was likely miscarrying but held onto the hope that my baby might survive. After I finally miscarried the ER doctor, in a very matter of fact fashion, informed me that I had a complete miscarriage and that I should follow up with my doctor. It was very perfunctory and there was little acknowledgement of the loss I felt. I remember sitting in the hospital bed in pain and in shock. I kept thinking is this really over? For the past couple of months I had been planning on a baby, on being a mom. I had loved and nourished this baby. I knew that technically I wasn’t a mother yet but I was already identifying with being a mom and providing for this child. I had not met my baby but I loved it and suddenly it was all gone, the baby and my identity as a mom.

People were very sympathetic when they heard I had a miscarriage but their responses were sometimes lacking in awareness and sensitivity. I heard a lot of comments like – you are still young, you have plenty of time to have more. Really? Could I have more? I wasn’t sure. I had only been pregnant once and it didn’t end well. The doctor had no real explanation for why it happened, “It just does sometimes, something wasn’t right”. I think I was in such a state of shock when I was at the hospital that I failed to ask some basic questions. A few weeks later, out of grief and curiosity, I called the hospital to ask if they had run any tests on the fetus. Yes, I was told, but they were inconclusive. I kept thinking, what did that mean? I was really pregnant, right? I actually asked the person on the phone if I had really been pregnant. Yes, I had been pregnant. They could not determine why the miscarriage had happened or the sex of the baby. For a long time I struggled with the guilt of not asking more questions. Maybe if I had been thinking more clearly and had asked questions sooner I could have gotten more answers. Did I even deserve to be a parent, I thought, if I couldn’t even find out what had happened to my baby? Or what gender it was? I really wanted to know the gender so I could quit calling the baby an “it”. A couple of weeks after my miscarriage I received a reminder about my next prenatal appointment and a reminder about a sonogram. Thanks for the reminder, doctor’s office! (I changed doctors.)

It was a difficult time for me. I was grieving but felt like the rest of the world just kept on moving and I was expected to do the same. People were sympathetic but it felt like many people regarded this as an insignificant loss. I am still not sure if that was real or my perception. I went through a “normal” grieving process. I was sad and angry at times. I was jealous of my pregnant friends. I questioned my ability to have children. I did not lose just that baby but I was also losing hope of ever becoming a mom. I wanted to be a mom but, at the same time, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go through the uncertainty of another pregnancy. Life was less engaging and had lost some of its color. I stalled for a long time before actually trying for another baby. Eventually I did get pregnant again and gave birth to the most amazing gift I have ever received. Being a parent is hard work, tiring, and expensive! I feel lucky and blessed to have my son in my life. My miscarriage, however, is still a painful memory and will continue to be no matter how many children I have. Every September is a reminder of that loss. I can’t regret that pregnancy. I still feel that, even if for a very short time, I was lucky to have created something so amazing. Would life be different if I had never had that pregnancy or that loss? Would I have my son? When we did decide to try again, I looked for a different job that had less stress and was more family orientated. Would that have happened without the miscarriage?

These questions are impossible to answer. What I do know is that the loss of that baby was part of my journey in life. The grief and loss I experienced was real. Miscarriage is not uncommon and it shouldn’t be a taboo subject. Healing happens much more easily when you have the freedom to discuss your loss and your feelings. As Kate would say, we aren’t meant to grieve alone. I am very thankful for organizations like Kate’s Club that open up the dialogue on grief and loss. Grieving can be an arduous undertaking and feeling isolated can exacerbate your already raw feelings and emotions.

Rachel and her boy, 2010 Photo Credit: Stephanie Zell

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