"Strength & Fragility" By Jamie Zimmer

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I recently had a miscarriage. I’m 36 years old. I have two beautiful, healthy children, aged seven and five, both of whom I enjoyed easy, healthy pregnancies and deliveries with. I am deeply grateful for both of them and their father; they are my reasons for being and doing.

Two years ago, my husband and I discussed having another child. We were ready, and excited. And then the world quite literally fell apart. He fell dangerously ill unexpectedly, tiptoeing closely to death, but miraculously surviving. He was hospitalized for ten days, with two months of recovery at home. I became his caregiver, a single mother, and the sole breadwinner for a time.  

I’m sharing this because it partially explains my miscarriage right now. Why I tried to get pregnant again at 36 and not 34. It explains my stress levels, my mindset, my altered worldview.

Miscarriage is far more common than many would like to admit, or know. According the American Pregnancy Association, 10-25% of all pregnancies are likely to end in miscarriage, with a staggering 50-75% happening like mine, within the first trimester. Harrowing though that is to read, it’s scientific truth, and one we women don’t enjoy considering. And why would we? The numbers hurt. The risk is scary. And far too little is spoken about the aftermath, when the major physical symptoms may have subsided, but others arise, and complications can abound at any turn. The fact that the pregnancy itself may have passed (or have been painfully, surgically removed) still doesn’t account for the myriad of other health issues that can arise. The fragility of a woman’s body in the weeks following the trauma of any level of pregnancy loss is notable, and one that we tend to ignore, or dismiss.

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Thus far, I’ve only spoken about the physical, without taking a moment’s notice of the emotional, the psychological, the spiritual. To some degree, I feel like I can’t with any authority comment on those because I believe they are too deeply intimate, too specific to each individual survivor, and I can only speak for myself. However, I am a 1-in-4 statistic, and the truth I currently understand is that I have joined too many of my friends in this category. And what I have noticed, heartbreakingly, is that each one of us has felt compelled simply to plow on. To go back to work. To keep on keeping on. To just try and be the person we were before.

Women are quite incredible in that respect. We’re resilient. We’re tough. The hormones that allow us to bypass the trauma of childbirth to be nurturing caregivers also wreak havoc on our bodies. Most often, we suffer it in silence; we know it’ll pass, that the world will return to its axis, that balance will be restored. Because of the incredible power we harness to grow human life, that same power has to be reshaped, to be repurposed and redistributed amongst all of our charges, whether it be our children, our partners, our careers, or simply the strength required to heal entirely. And a large part of me feels right now that one of the reasons, oddly, that women are often deemed “weak” by others is because there’s so little understanding of the enormity of our experience. The vulnerability we need to display in order to heal and regenerate our power is seen as a failing. That’s madness. A world that puts so much trust, so much blind faith, into our bodies to continue the species, offers in return so little trust, respect, and comfort for when, much more commonly than we’d like to admit, it gets complicated and chaotic.

So what we do we do? Sadly, often enough, we play into that narrative and think we just have to keep at it, to be the people we were before when we most certainly are not.

The fact is, though, that most women go through the experience of pregnancy loss on their own. Their partners may be sensitive to their extrinsic needs, but the internal scars take so long to heal. They may be invisible to the naked eye but they are deep, and raw, and need time, space, and care to heal. And what grows from that scar tissue is equally beautiful, and capable, and deserving of love and respect. In many ways, so much more so than before.

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At one of my students’ bar mitzvah this past weekend he shared the most interesting drash (biblical exegesis) on that week’s portion, which talked about Moses’ smashing the tablets, how the second set, the decalogue he took by hand, was in fact the better one. The original set placed unrealistic expectations on the people. The second set, the one that was rebuilt from those which had been broken, were the ones Children of Israel could truly accept in order to become a better, stronger, holier nation. The ones that guide who they really are.

We women get broken. And we repair, and come back stronger than ever. May we all put the trust in ourselves, and each other, and process of repair. Let’s connect, and accept, and really respect that experience. Let’s put each other back together, piece by piece. That way, what was once a “mis” will become a stronger carriage, forward.