The most shocking thing was how quickly it happened. One moment I was hopeful and the next moment I was crying in a hospital bed while my husband held my hand.
“Don’t worry,” cooed the nurse. “You are young and healthy. You will soon have another baby.
After I left the hospital, my husband drove me to my cousin’s house, where our 4 year old daughter was sleeping. They gave me couscous and tea. We thanked them for taking care of our daughter, brought her home and went to bed.
That was it. On Thursday June 24, 2021, I had a miscarriage. All day long, I just wanted it to end and go to bed. But once it was over, I felt totally lost. I didn’t know what to do next.
I was taught not to talk about miscarriages – to shut them up, to fold them with the laundry and to close the drawer, a secret sadness not to be discussed or shared. At the same time, because miscarriages are so common, women are often advised not to share the news of their pregnancy early, lest they miscarry. Some Jewish women have feared, for generations, that if we talk about our pregnancies, we are tempting the evil eye.
When we miscarry, we are locked in secrecy and shame. Nobody knows how to support us, because nobody even knows that something is wrong. It’s one thing to keep a pregnancy silent until you’re ready to share it, but it’s another to endure your grief in silence and isolation.
We are failing to help women and families cope with pregnancy loss, and we are failing so many people. Miscarriages shouldn’t be insulating – they should be a time when you are enveloped in love. It is time to work for meaningful changes within our communities so that Jewish women do not have to suffer in silence.
My husband told a close friend of mine about my miscarriage while in the emergency room. We hadn’t planned on telling people about it, but we were supposed to see her that night.
When I opened my door a few days later, I found that she had left a huge gift box, overflowing with bubble bath, tea, cosmetics, newspapers, medicine and a full note. of hope detailing his own struggles.
I cried in gratitude – not just for the gifts, but because I felt seen and loved.
When someone in our community has a miscarriage, there are no instructions, no recipes, no halachic obligations. No one knows what to do or how to talk about it.
One of the best parts of Jewish community life is that we present ourselves for each other. I have been trained all my life in knowing how to show myself in great times. When you get married, I’ll drink and dance to celebrate. When you cry, I’ll bring a roast chicken to your house and sit quietly with you. When you have a baby, I will come and see the child’s name and bring a gift.
When the pandemic was most cruel, I found solace and purpose in the rhythms of Jewish life. The annual cycle and our sacred rituals provide structure and support during many of life’s most triumphant and difficult times.
But those who experience miscarriages do not have such formal rituals and community support to rely on; too many women are ashamed and feel lonely.
The day after my miscarriage, I woke up and everything was different. I’m the same, just empty and devastated. When someone in our community is sick or grieving, we come together around them. So why should this type of loss be subjected to shame and silence?
I wish there was something better to do than listen to Debbie Friedman’s “Misheberach” on my own as I sit with my grief.
Fortunately, Judaism is constantly evolving, and we can work to change this reality. Perhaps after a miscarriage, our synagogue fellowships can arrange to provide a Shabbat dinner for the family of a grieving mother. Maybe the friends can all take turns taking their other children to play, so that the parents have some room to mourn. There should be a special prayer, a song that you sing to yourself.
And we, as individuals, can learn to show off for each other, just like my friend did for me.
Although I have the utmost respect for the halacha, I believe that the men who wrote the guidelines on miscarriages and bereavement could not fully grasp the physical and emotional trauma involved. It is high time that women’s voices were reflected in the rituals that honor our experiences.
I’m not sure exactly what form that support should take, but I do know it’s a conversation we need to have.
I’m dealing with a lot of strong feelings right now. But I refuse to let secrecy and shame be part of my Jewish life.
I have stumbled into the position of being a trusted leader and a friend to those who have read my work for years, especially other Jewish women. To continue the silence around miscarriages, to allow it by being silent when I have always been noisy, would be like a huge betrayal of the Jewish women who read my work.
And today, I need to talk about not only joy, but my desire to have children and my sadness over the loss of a potential life. While women like me will continue to face intense pressure to have multiple children, we also need a place where the discussion about what it takes to have these children is supported and embraced. We have to recognize that American motherhood is really difficult and that the community should step in to support families as much as possible.