Everyone knows the old saying, “Misery loves company.” Obviously, I agree, or I wouldn’t be such a pill to deal with right now. But I know there’s a much deeper truth in that maxim, and I call it “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pains.” To be fair, it is more like a fraternal order, as there are plenty of men who face pain and loss, too. Alas, “The Fraternal Order of the Traveling Pains” lacks the pun and the catchiness of my title, so the guys get to join the Sisterhood. There is great innocence in those who have never experienced shattering loss, and I envy them in a way. Can you imagine what I would give for my first pregnancy to have been perfect, to never worry about every pain or hormone fluctuation, to have heard just one of my babies’ hearts? I will never know the innocence of pregnancy without the fingerprints of loss and devastation. I only envy that innocence to a point because I now know a depth of emotion and strength in my heart and soul that I never imagined existed. I think that’s what Steven Curtis Chapman was expressing when he said, “I have met the God I never knew,” in an interview after his daughter was killed.
There is a bond that doesn’t need to be fully spoken between people who have suffered through devastation; we have all met a depth of loss that brought a new depth of life to our experience. While I may never have an “innocent” pregnancy, if I ever do carry a child to term, I know I will cherish every moment, every ache and pain. Beyond that, I know the sadness of the other women who have lost a pregnancy, and God has endowed my spirit with new levels of empathy through my struggles. A dear friend of mine who lost his sister described it as “the worst best friend you can have,” meaning that you now have a friend who can understand and comfort your soul, but only because they had to experience it, too. There develops a shorthand for expressing the range of emotions that follow grief that someone on the outside can’t understand. For instance, you don’t have to feel ridiculous admitting that you’d like to take your boxing gloves to work or church and clock the people who say ridiculous things to try to comfort you. That sounds like overreacting or inappropriate behavior to someone who has never experienced a miscarriage (or any other loss, for that matter), but if you’ve been there, done that, and have the t-shirt, you’re secretly rooting for someone to actually do it, and you’d probably join the ensuing brawl.
As further proof that misery indeed loves company, I have found great comfort in other people’s survival. Though miscarriage is not often talked about, it is more and more acceptable to discuss it or admit to it, which means that more people feel comfortable seeking help and offering help to others. I am astonished at the sheer volume of women that I know well who have experienced miscarriage and infancy loss. The more amazing thing to me is that those who have walked through it before me are beautiful, resilient women in spite of (or because of) their tragedies, and they give me hope that I will walk in their footsteps. To know that kind of pain and to survive and grow past it is to learn a new depth of love to share with others who have lost, whether it is a child, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, or a friend. It is the courage to share your battle wounds so that you can help others bind up theirs. It is the inspiration of hope, and I hope it is a lesson I am putting into practice. To the angels in my life who have had the courage to share their losses with me, there are no words to thank you for what you’ve shared and no words to comfort you except, I love you. And to the angels in my life who haven’t walked this path but have chosen to share it anyway, you make every day easier knowing that I have friends like you to support me – you are honorary members of the Sisterhood, and I hope you will never have to become official members.