Afternoon Inquisition

AI: The Vagina Everyone’s Talking About

A couple of weeks ago, Brazen Carreerist founder Penelope Trunk tweeted this gem, sending the world into a tailspin:

I’m in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there’s a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin.

Penelope has taken a lot of heat for this tweet. She was flippant and callously discussing miscarriage and abortion. People were angry.

As most of you know, I suffered a miscarriage around Memorial Day. The reason most of you know this is because I announced here on Skepchick that I was pregnant just 3 weeks earlier (after our ultrasound showed a healthy fetus with a beating heart). That was my second miscarriage, and it was awful.

Initially, Trunk’s statement really upset me, probably because I’ve lost two pregnancies that I very much wanted.

But her explanation, and her defenders, points out something very important: most women suffer miscarriages – whether they want the pregnancy or not. And we should probably be talking about it more – it’s just part of being a woman.

I’ve noticed that when I’ve discussed my miscarriages casually in conversation, people tend to get uncomfortable… they don’t know what to say. It’s one of those things you only discuss in third person, and only in a hushed tone. (“Oh, you didn’t hear? Elyse had a miscarriage.”) But to me, it’s a part of what’s been going on with me lately. I still think about it, and sometimes I mention it when it’s relevant to the conversation… kind of the same way I discuss my sister who passed away in 2002.

What do you think of Trunk’s statement? What do you think of her explanation? Should we be talking about miscarriages more? Is the 12-week-wait rule of announcing your pregnancy prudent or a part of the “we don’t talk about miscarriages” problem? Is it even a problem?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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63 Comments

  1. What do I think of Trunk’s statement? I am uncomfortable with it. Probably for the same reasons Elyse mentioned.

    I’m with George Carlin’s philosophy about word usage when I enter the discussion of miscarriages.

    The effect of a miscarriage to the parents is the same as a death of any of their children. Within a very short time of learning of the pregnancy, we already formed hopes and dreams for that baby. The point of gestational development when it died was irrelevant to the pain of the event. Your hopes and dreams for your child aren’t dependent on their size in the uterus.

    Even the word “miscarriage” is a euphemism of what really happened. The baby died before it was born. This is a bad thing and people who experience it know it very acutely.

    The pain is not insurmountable. But, it should not be marginalized, either.

  2. I think bringing up a miscarriage is a perfectly good answer to “How’s the pregnancy?” I don’t think it’s a good answer to, “How are you?” Then again “How are you” is a fairly moronic question so maybe they deserve it.

    I’m completely okay with Trunk’s Tweet. If you don’t like what Penelope Trunk says, don’t follow her. I used to be all paranoid about what I said on Twitter and even commented here. If I make jokes about religion maybe people will unfollow me. The horror! Eventually I decided to just be myself. It’s less work and my followers can sort themselves out.

  3. Our (that’s myself and Grrl, although obviously only one of us was actually carrying a fetus inside them, although I don’t know how obvious that is depending on just how weird you people think I am) first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. And the only thing that was even close to as heartbreaking and awful as the miscarriage itself was telling the people that we had told that we were pregnant. It just added another dimension of shame and failure and general bad feeling to what was already a miserable situation.

    So we waited the next time.

    I don’t know how much miscarriage “should” be discussed, but I think that the idea of taboo subjects in not skeptical in general. I’d say that it’s usually a danger sign when you can’t talk about something, either that society is fucked up or you are a danger to yourself and others. In this case, I think society is fucked up. The feelings of shame and guilt for something that is not shameful are not healthy.

  4. I honestly don’t see what’s to be upset about. It was an unwanted pregnancy, and she saw HER miscarriage as a convenience, as much as such a thing is possible.

    I heard one common-tater say that she was callously dismissing the loss of a human life. Uh, no. That’s not in any way accurate. She chooses to share personal details of her life, and that’s her business. No one is forced to subscribe to her tweets.

  5. @The Skepdick: The pain is not insurmountable. But, it should not be marginalized, either.

    I think everyone’s experience is different. I’ve been through it, and it really wasn’t that traumatic. My wife took it harder of course, but other than a period of sadness she passed it by fairly easily. It’s just one more sucky thing that can happen to you in life. Losing the cat we had lived with for 24 years was much harder.

    To a large extent events only have the power we give them. I don’t ignore the bad stuff, but I also try not to make a point of dwelling on it. I’d much rather discuss what makes people happy.

  6. When my MIL was dying of cancer, we survived by making flippant and extremely gross jokes. Cancer is ugly. It was too enormously painful to take seriously. Unfortunately, we were overheard a few times and really upset a few people. It was only one aspect of the story but they didn’t have access to the rest of it. They probably thought we were evil.

    It was an extremely emotional time and some of that spilled over onto people who were not involved. I still feel bad about that. But when I read something like Trunk’s tweet, I tend to give the person the benefit of the doubt. Coping isn’t always pretty.

  7. I had a miscarriage in January. It was horrible even though I hadn’t been planning on getting pregnant and was considering terminating the pregnancy. In the end, I think (I am pretty sure) I would have kept the baby.. in the end, I didn’t get the choice.

    It was hard to talk about…. But I did because it was how I processed. I even blogged about it. I got all kinds of support and also all kinds of mean hurtful things. I still think about it as well. On what would have been my due date, I cried. A lot.

    I do think it is something that should be talked about… because it is so common. It wasn’t until months later that I realized I wasn’t alone or as unique as I thought. The fact is, (according to my doctor) 1 in 4 women have a miscarriage. I think if I had known that going in, if I had been more prepared that it was something that could happen to an otherwise normal healthy young woman, then I might have been more prepared. I might have been able to deal with it easier. Maybe not.

    Her tweet… was her tweet. It isn’t how I would have described my situation, but then again, it was her situation and not mine. Am I offended ? Nope. Do I think miscarriages should be more in society’s light? Yes. Do I think it is up to the individual? Damn yes.

  8. I have to agree with both @faith and @maralenenok. I don’t think people should be offended by someone using a harsh tone in referrence to them self.

    For years I have told people when the subject of my very existance comes up that the only reason I’m here is abortion was ilegal when I was born. It’s the truth and I don’t have a problem with that.

    Now I would say that if she had been talking about someone else yes then that could be considered insensitive, even offensive.

  9. Kaylia_Marie said pretty much what I was going to say. I don’t think any of us get to dictate how someone else deals with a physical process like a miscarriage, especially if that person was clearly ambivalent about the pregnancy in the first place.

    We can argue about whether any bodily process should be discussed on the same communication channel that a person uses for business (as Trunk uses that Twitter account for professional contacts), but I will easily point out that I work with guys that have no compunction about talking about their latest heart attack or hernia surgery.

  10. @Bookitty: My husband and his good friend both had their mothers die relatively near each other. They would often joke that they were part of the dead mothers club and would make dead mother jokes. Other people would get really uncomfortable or even upset if they overheard them.

    So I agree, benefit of the doubt is key for sure. It’s not like they were serious and it’s their mothers, let them deal with it they way they need to IMHO. Who says everyone has to deal by getting really depressed?

    Part of them making jokes was to let people know it was ok to bring it up – because inevitably they’d meet people who’d ask about family or notice that they’d only mention “visiting Dad” as opposed to “parents”. Then comes the “actually my mother died…” “OMGIMSOSORRY!” which made *them* feel uncomfortable.

  11. @Jeff Wagg:

    I think what’s upsetting to many people, or at least what was upsetting to me, is to hear (see) someone saying, “Hooray! Miscarriage!”

    While it’s certainly her miscarriage and pregnancy to talk about, and I’ve since changed my mind about how I feel about the tweet, for someone who has dealt with an emotionally difficult pregnancy loss, it’s painful… in the same way it’s painful for someone who lost a parent who they loved very much to hear someone say, “Yay! My mom is dead!” From someone who didn’t love their mom very much… maybe even more painful because the idea that a miscarriage is a painful loss and can inflict long-term grief is something most people have the good fortune of not understanding.

    When I had my miscarriage in May, my husband was told he could have the rest of the week off as bereavement. He returned to work to find out that HR had denied the request due to it not being a real death in the family. That says to me that people don’t understand pregnancy loss.

  12. @teambanzai: My mother really wanted to abort me but my father talked her out of it. It was still illegal at the time but available. It has never bothered me. She was 18 and it would have been the smart thing to do. My ex-wife used to try and use this as a way to drive a wedge between me and my family. It didn’t work. My current wife spent over $30,000 trying to get pregnant before we met and lost all of them. It makes her so angry to see people who get pregnant easily and then are shitty parents. There are times in peoples lives when they are dealt a harsh blow and deal with it through gallows humor. It was the way I dealt with it when I almost died in a car wreck. This may have been her way of dealing with the miscarriage. We should hesitate before judging harshly.

  13. I think Penelope Trunk has a right to tweet about whatever she wants and however she wants. If you don’t like her perspective, don’t subscribe to her “newsletter”. Was what she said a little harsh? Maybe, but I agree that different people cope with things in different ways. I myself have had two miscarriages and have not felt the need to tweet about either of them. I felt at the time that it was an extremely emotional private family matter between me and my partner. That is how I dealt with it. However, I clearly don’t think it is an issue or conversational topic that should be considered tabu. It is a natural part of the human experience, however unfortunate or ugly.

  14. What do I think of Trunk’s statement?

    I don’t see anything wrong with it. It was an unwanted pregnancy to start with and in the end “nature” effectively took care of it so the people that were bitching about the “loss of human life” should take it up with their god(s). He/She/It/They are the ones that killed it (according to their world view)

    As for the appropriateness of discussing it; I don’t see any problem with that either. I don’t actually “get” the taboo of the subject. It’s an unfortunate (or not in this case) but natural process so why the hushed tones?

  15. @Bookitty:

    My best friend and I both lost our sisters who were quite young. We joke about it… it gets awkward when he says things like, “Hey, where’s your sister tonight?” in front of people who don’t know… and then I have to explain that both of our sisters are dead, and we’re kidding.

    I think in Trunk’s case though, it wasn’t that she was dealing with the emotional pain of it (at least that’s what she’s saying) but rather the relief and that it shouldn’t be a big deal that she was 1. having a miscarriage and 2. was planning on having an abortion anyway, so this is way convenient.

  16. @The Skepdick:

    The effect of a miscarriage to the parents is the same as a death of any of their children.

    It certainly wasn’t this way for Trunk. Not every woman handles pregnancy, miscarriage, or abortion the same.

    Even the word “miscarriage” is a euphemism of what really happened. The baby died before it was born.

    A fetus is not a baby.

    Within a very short time of learning of the pregnancy, we already formed hopes and dreams for that baby.

    “We”? Do you mean you and your partner, if you have one? Or everyone? All women?

    If I found out I was pregnant right now, I’d be pisssssed and not happy about it. My only hopes and dreams would be that I could find an abortion, that it would be accessible, and that it would not be expensive — and I live in Arizona, so this is not going to happen.

    Some women plan to get pregnant, because they want a child. Some women get pregnant on accident, and decide they really want that child. In either of those situations, a misscariage may very well be devastating (but certainly not for all of those women).

    Some women, like Trunk, do not want to get pregnant and were not happy about the news, and perhaps her miscarriage was a relief. Considering getting an abortion where she is is likely very difficult, I really don’t blame her.

    Was it blunt? Harsh? Maybe. But she was talking about HERSELF. She wasn’t talking about any other woman’s miscarriage or pregnancy.

    If it upsets you to read something like that, then don’t read her tweets. But what she said isn’t *offensive*. She wasn’t insulting anyone or making any remarks about any one else. She was talking about herself.

  17. You know, another thing…

    My miscarriage was really really painful and messy and took forever. I couldn’t imagine going through that (emotions aside) while at work.

    Just another way of realizing that our bodies and our hearts go through things in very diff ways.

  18. @Elyse: While it’s certainly her miscarriage and pregnancy to talk about, and I’ve since changed my mind about how I feel about the tweet, for someone who has dealt with an emotionally difficult pregnancy loss, it’s painful…

    Of course, but if people didn’t joke about uncomfortable and painful subjects there would be no jokes. Expecting the world to kowtow to my sensitivities or yours is not reasonable. You took your miscarriage very hard. My wife didn’t. Trunk told a joke. They are all valid. The problem happens when you project your response onto someone else.

    It is also not reasonable to expect an HR department to understand. Understanding your pain is not their business. Your husband’s manager might have intervened. I’ve turned in paperwork for vacation only to have my manager tear it up on the spot. He understood how I felt about my cat even though my company does not have a cat bereavement policy.

  19. A little less than two years ago, I died on the operating table. Apparently, they brought me back to life and finished what they were doing. For most, if not all, of you that is a fact without context. For those who know me, it is something of a curiosity. For me it is a very significant issue. Like Trunk, I have a personal context for what I say and feel about my experience.

    I don’t Tweet. I don’t think anyone outside my circle of friends needs to know when I’ve gone to the dry cleaners. For others that is important. For Trunk it obviously goes to the point where she needs to share her feelings about a very personal experience with total strangers. That is her right. As has been stated above, if you are not interested, don’t “follow” her.

    Should miscarriage be discussed in the open? On the broadest of terms, absolutely. My experience was based upon a heart condition that required rummaging around inside my heart. I have since met several people who had had the same problem and, when confronted with it, had no idea what the doctor was talking about. An open discussion about the circumstances, aftermath and life after the event can help those suddenly confronted with it to better cope, especially if it has been kept a deep, dark secret. I wouldn’t presume to speak for Elyse or any of the other women who have shared their experiences here, but I do believe that they would have had less emotional trauma if they had, first, understood the possibility and frequency of miscarriage before the event.

    I’m not sure whether miscarriage is a “disease” as opposed to a normal bodily reaction to an otherwise insurmountable problem. If it can be looked upon like the disease of breast cancer then, perhaps in the coming years it can be as openly discussed as that once taboo subject now is.

  20. And yes, I’d feel the same way if I was in Trunk’s shoes. A huge sense of relief. I don’t have any shame in that.

    That said, I understand that for many women, it is a very difficult situation. I would like for people to talk about it more — so that more women know it’s common and they don’t feel like they are horrible people/mothers (a lot of women think they did something wrong, when they didn’t).

    But it can be a very personal, and emotional time for many women, and that is okay.

  21. @marilove:

    I think Skepdick was talking about himself and his partner and their experience.

    And while I agree that a fetus is not a “baby”, to a woman or a couple who WANT that child, it very much is “their baby”. And the loss can be profound.

    It doesn’t have to be… it isn’t for everyone. But it’s not fair to berate someone who says they felt the loss of their “baby” just because it wasn’t born yet. It’s not the same as being anti-abortion. It’s explaining our own pain and our own losses… for me and Brian, we lost a baby. For Skepdick and his wife, they lost a baby.

    For davew, he lost something else… something that was going to be a baby one day, but wasn’t yet.

  22. I am grateful for Trunk’s honesty. She didn’t want to continue the pregnancy, so she saved a lot of grief, time, inconvenience, and money by having the pregnancy terminated by a spontaneous abortion rather than a medical or surgical abortion.

    Despite a lot of noise from the religious right, most women don’t regret their abortions. Trunk’s comment is refreshingly honest, and it’s probably not as unusual as a lot of her readers/listeners may think.

  23. @davew: I was in agreement with you up until this:

    It is also not reasonable to expect an HR department to understand. Understanding your pain is not their business. Your husband’s manager might have intervened. I’ve turned in paperwork for vacation only to have my manager tear it up on the spot. He understood how I felt about my cat even though my company does not have a cat bereavement policy.

    For some, a miscarriage IS a “real death in the family”. His request should not have been denied.

    Also, your cat dying is not the same as having a miscarriage, sorry to say. Especially for those who really wanted to have that child.

  24. @davew:

    Expecting the world to kowtow to my sensitivities or yours is not reasonable. You took your miscarriage very hard. My wife didn’t.

    I don’t expect that they should or that it’s reasonable. I can still be hurt by it, and I can still not like what’s said. It can still bring up painful memories.

    Wanting people to shut up about things that may offend me is not the same as saying that a statement hurt and offended me.

    Trunk told a joke.

    Trunk did not tell a joke, BTW. Trunk made a statement. An honest, raw statement.

  25. About Trunk’s statement, I would be surprised if people who follow her on Twitter were genuinely interested in her privacy. I can understand about her family, who would know by other means, but her Twitter followers? That’s just exhibitionism. I had the feeling reports on Twitter’s being mostly babble were true, but this is hard evidence.

    About whether “Should we be talking about miscarriages more?”: if the question refers to talking more or less on the Internet and assumes that the Internet is a suitable place to do so, then sure, why not. If, however, we assume bandwidth should be preserved for exchanging relevant content, then I see no justification for this kind of intimate information being shared publicly. It is a sort of egocentric cult of personality that amazes me.

    As for the “12-week-wait rule of announcing your pregnancy”, I think knowing when to shut up is essential to knowing to talk. I think prudence is advisable in all cases, when disclosing almost all kind of information, and particularly personal information.

  26. @marilove: For some, a miscarriage IS a “real death in the family”. His request should not have been denied.

    I agree that many most people experience it this way. Our HR department, however, is very clear on what constitutes a death and fetus isn’t on the list. Our managers have the discretion to broaden or ignore the rules. I think it’s a good set up.

    Also, your cat dying is not the same as having a miscarriage, sorry to say. Especially for those who really wanted to have that child.

    I’ve been through both and I can certainly say how they affected me. I don’t think it’s fair to tell someone else how they should compare the two.

  27. @davew: It is absolutely reasonable to expect the HR Department to understand. This does not translate into automatically granting leave, but HR should be the employee’s representative in circumstances such as these. It was not too many year ago that that department was called “Personnel.” With great flourish, company after company changed the name to “Human Resources” to reflect a supposed understanding that they were dealing with -you know- humans. This would be a good time to prove it.

  28. @Elyse: I don’t expect that they should or that it’s reasonable. I can still be hurt by it, and I can still not like what’s said. It can still bring up painful memories.

    Wanting people to shut up about things that may offend me is not the same as saying that a statement hurt and offended me.

    Fair enough. I construed your statement incorrectly. For a couple of weeks after my dad died I noticed how many jokes about death there are in the world. Intellectually I realized that these people didn’t know, but it hurt just the same.

  29. It isn’t just miscarriages that seem to make people uncomfortable in conversation either. It seems to be anything that has to do with reproduction. When my wife was pregnant with twins, invariably the conversation would end up with me explaining that we used IVF. Usually this was in response to, “Do twins run in your family?”

    It surprised many people how open I was about what we had to go through, and there were also many who dropped the conversation at the mention of us doing it artificially.

  30. Regarding the tweet:
    I’m with the it’s-her-body-she-can-deal-with-its-ordeals-however-she-wants boat. If she was planning to have an abortion anyway, then for her it was convenient. It doesn’t seem she’s relieved about the loss of child per se, but rather, given the option, she is relieved to have had a miscarriage rather than go through the process of an abortion. It was going to be one or the other.

    Having never even been pregnant, much less having had a miscarriage or abortion, I’m literally coming at this from an ignorant point of view, so I can’t weigh the relative physical (or emotional) pain of a miscarriage versus an abortion. But if I imagine myself in her situation – an unwanted pregnancy – and being faced with an agonizing decision – to abort or not to abort – I may very well feel relieved to have the weight of that decision taken off my hands. Would I tweet about it? No. But that’s me. And as I said, I may not know what I’m talking about.

    Regarding miscarriage in general:
    I don’t understand why it’s taboo. It’s one of the many unfortunate things that can happen with a pregnancy and it’s unfortunately not uncommon. Women (and their lovers) should feel free to talk about it as necessary for them to cope with the loss.

  31. Hmm, this seems to be a tough one for me to answer, as I am not a woman, I have not been in a situation where such a thing has happened to a woman that I know (for various reasons not applicable to this topic), and with at least one exception, I don’t know anyone personally who has been in that or a similar situation, but I certainly don’t think this is a topic that shouldn’t be discussed openly, that is, if the person or persons involved deem it necessary. As to how a person reacts to such a thing as a miscarriage, I suppose that is entirely up to the person and who she perceives the miscarriage.

  32. Although the tweet does make me squirm, I admire her honesty and openness about her experience. Our society should be able to talk about this. Women deserve to know how common miscarriage is.

    When I had my first miscarriage, the doctor used the phrase “early fetal demise.” I like this clinical perspective. In both cases, I opted for D&E. Interestingly, some people were very surprised/uncomfortable to learn that the the surgery is essentially the same as for abortion. What a difference a still heart makes.

    Since we longed to be parents, both deaths were unspeakably devastating.

  33. In answer to the question, yes it should be talked about more. So many women think it’s unusual and they’re alone, or that they did something horribly wrong and feel guilty when in fact it’s pretty common in early pregnancy.

    That said, her statement is a pretty crass public post, but if that’s par for the course for her then her followers shouldn’t have been surprised.

    Personally, I had an abortion at 16, and had two miscarriages and three kids since. I didn’t find either miscarriage any more emotionally painful than when I didn’t qualify for this or that car loan. Stuff happens, it ain’t over til the fat baby sings, etc.

    Women should be told when they first become pregnant that it’s not a done deal and they shouldn’t pin all their hopes and dreams on it until it can live on it’s own.

  34. @spellwight:

    Women should be told when they first become pregnant that it’s not a done deal and they shouldn’t pin all their hopes and dreams on it until it can live on it’s own.

    Huh? I knew the chances of miscarriage… and it was still really painful. Not everyone makes a conscious choice to bond with their baby. Are you seriously saying we should tell women “Listen, there’s a chance it ain’t gonna happen. It’s your own fault if you get all hurt and shit.”

    I think everyone knows that any pregnancy can end… I don’t think anyone’s stupid enough to think that’s not a chance. And not everyone who gets hurt by a miscarriage had “all their hopes and dreams” pinned on having a baby. I have other hopes and dreams (as well as knowing conception isn’t a done deal) and still found miscarriage to be devastating.

    To say that women should stop getting so emotionally involved in their pregnancies until the baby is capable of living on it’s own is ignorant of the human condition at best and, at worst, is saying that things that may die are undeserving of love and are unimportant because they’ll be gone soon anyway.

    But yeah… this whole thread has convinced me that we need to talk about miscarriage more. Abortion is getting the attention… women blogging and tweeting and talking about how they’re happy they had abortions, and that it was the best decision they’ve ever made.

    It seems like we talk about pregnancy, abortion, and having kids as if those are our options, even though we know that as many as 75% of conceptions don’t result in a live birth (not counting intentional terminations.)

    But we have people comparing miscarriage bereavement to denied vacation requests and not understanding how this statement (even for people who applaud Trunk’s tweet) can be extremely painful.

  35. Talk about your miscarriage openly, or don’t talk about it; never mention that you are pregnant until the 12 week mark, or tell the whole word as soon as you pee on the stick – just like abortion, it’s all about choice.

    Should we be talking about it more openly? I don’t know. But I do know that we shouldn’t be lambasting those like Trunk who chose to do so (or those who chose not to).

  36. @Elyse: a very well said and cogent point, and if I said anything that may have fallen under the comments that are “extremely painful” I fully apologize, I was trying my best, despite my ignorance on the subject to be as sensitive as possible.

  37. When I worked at a suicide hotline, we had the option to answer “suicide hotline” or “crisis line.” I always chose the former because I liked how it got the word out there into the conversation right away.

    Suicide and miscarriage are both taboo subjects, and I believe the silence surrounding them is more harmful than open discussion. My close friend had a miscarriage before she had her two beautiful kids, and she felt very alone and isolated in her experience (not that her husband wasn’t wonderful in support). I know shame was part of her feelings and I can’t help but think that could have been alleviated if there weren’t so much secrecy and unease associated with miscarriage.

    Full disclosure: although I haven’t been pregnant, my mother had several miscarriages both before and after I was born, some of them fairly horrific, and she spoke about them to me very openly, so I grew up believing that it is a sad and potentially devastating experience but that it can and should be talked about.

  38. @Elyse:

    But we have people comparing miscarriage bereavement to denied vacation requests and not understanding how this statement (even for people who applaud Trunk’s tweet) can be extremely painful.

    I don’t want to split hairs, because I think you’re probably right to conclude that breaking the miscarriage taboo would be a positive thing. But… I think you’re misunderstanding the thing about the ‘denied vacation request’. I read what @davew was saying as a suggestion that those who are having trouble with HR giving them time off for bereavement might go to their managers. The vacation time wasn’t denied outright, his manager just have him bereavement (for the death of his cat, if I’m understanding) instead.

    Am I crazy? That’s what he was saying, right?

  39. Wow, Elyse, that was a pretty harsh arrow aimed at me. Because I answer a question with my opinion I’m “ignorant of the human condition at best and, at worst, is saying that things that may die are undeserving of love and are unimportant because they’ll be gone soon anyway.” Really? That’s reading a lot into one comment.

    Maybe you were aware of the possibilities, but most of the young women I’ve known over the years ignore it completely. As with all young people, most think this or that horrible thing only happens to other people. Truth is, it can happen to anyone, anytime and for any reason from yes you drank too much last night to… there was a full moon or the cows didn’t come home.

  40. @spellwight:

    Perhaps it’s the problem of communication on the internet, but to me, your comment seems to paint women who do find their miscarriages emotionally devastating as naive and/or ignorant. And I think that’s more than a little unfair.

    And thinking that miscarriage is something that only happens to other people isn’t a product of under-education, it’s just the way people think. I know my husband could get killed in a car accident on his way home from work tonight… that I assume he won’t and refuse to believe that he will does not make me ignorant of car crashes or statistics… it makes me able to get through my day. And if he were to get killed in a car accident on his way home, the grief would likely kill me. Again, that doesn’t make me ignorant.

    We can’t go through life waiting for everything and everyone around us to die or to wait to get the all-clear before we start loving.

    Maybe I misinterpreted what you were saying, but if you’re saying that the emotional fallout of a pregnancy loss is simply the refusal to understand the facts, then you are plain wrong. If that’s not what you’re saying, then I apologize for misinterpreting what you’re trying to say.

    Discussing miscarriage won’t decrease the pain of losing a baby. What it will do is change the way we deal with women who are coping with that loss.

  41. I think there’s a reason gestation lasts 9 months and your emotional investment should start out just as small and grow accordingly. Not plunge full-in at the very beginning.

    And now I’m done responding.

  42. @spellwight:

    For you, your emotional investment may have been something you could control. For other women it’s not.

    With my son, I never bonded with him while pregnant. Not once. I tried to… I couldn’t.

    With my last pregnancy, I tried not to, but I couldn’t help it… I was in love. Nothing I could do… I tried to distance myself.

    For you, great. That’s awesome that you can walk away from a pregnancy without any scars… but to assume that women who don’t are naive or throwing emotional caution to the wind is simply untrue and unfair. Love is not a rational thing… especially parental love… it’s driven by hormones and other crazy things.

  43. I think a good way to look at this is everybody copes in their own ways. Elyse I know that I could never truly understand how this affects women on a personal level but from what I’ve encountered the emotional investment varies from person to person. I also must applaud you for this post I imagine it was a very difficult subject for you to cover.

  44. I think Trunk’s comment was in poor taste. I hate when people say things like “Well it’s her body she can talk about it however she wants” That may be but her callous approach shows a lack of caring for other people. It’s like walking into a room of overweight people and proclaiming that you’re glad you’re skinny. It’s your body and you can talk about it how you want but what you say still affects other people.

    I’m currently on my fifth pregnancy and have no living children. I’ve had three miscarriages and one ectopic. I think miscarriage should be discussed more but it should be discussed in a sensitive way. When I had my first miscarriage I knew it was a possibility but I had no idea how common it was. Suddenly it seemed like every woman I met either had had one herself or knew someone who did. I was surprised I had never heard all those stories before.

  45. I don’t think she should come under any fire for this statement. But as a male my opinion probably doesn’t really matter. I have no love of fetuses and have lost a few both intentionally and through miscarriage. I think the gestation time has a lot to do with it too. It would be a real loss if you lost a pregnancy you really wanted in the final few months. But anything that makes less people is a blessing to the planet in my opinion. One can always adopt a child that is already in need of a loving home….there is no need to pass on your specific genes when we are all almost identical genetically anyway. But as I said, as a male I am not going to have the full perspective on this.

  46. Miscarriages are difficult things to talk about because they are very awful things to experience. And being male, I can’t ever come to understand what it feels like to lose a baby like that, or the other pains that come with the package of being female, so it’s really tough for me to take it all in because I’m a he and not a she. So all I can ultimately do is listen and provide help and my company.

    But I’m not upset about the Tweet being about a miscarriage, but that it’s context is really bizarre. Was Trunk messaging while she was having a miscarriage or is there more to this?

  47. Getting pregnant means different things to different people, obviously. For me, it would be a tragedy to *get* pregnant. I have never wanted children, my husband has never wanted children and we have a life and plans that do not involve children. Ever.

    Getting pregnant would be like one of us getting an illness for us – it would be a strain on our relationship, our lives, our family and something we would NOT want to deal with.

    This is obviously VERY different from how you or other women would deal with pregnancy. But it is still a valid emotional reaction.

    I sympathize with Trunk. Was her comment in poor taste? Perhaps, but I make comments in poor taste *all* *the* *time*. It’s each person’s decision what they do or don’t want to talk about and who they do or don’t want to risk offending.

    For me, having a miscarriage *would* be a relief. Perhaps that’s an unusual emotional response but I don’t really see why her emotional response should be held to a different standard than someone who is happy and excited to have a baby and who is already considering that fetus to be a child.

    You look at a fetus and consider the broad possibilities of what the potential of that collection of cells will be in 9 months, the joy it will bring, the happiness of having a child.

    I look at a fetus as a collection of cells that would ruin my life if allowed to come to term.

    Both are projections of a concept onto a collection of cells. Both are emotional, human responses. Neither is better or worse than the other, in my opinion.

  48. @Pinkbunny: “It’s like walking into a room of overweight people and proclaiming that you’re glad you’re skinny. It’s your body and you can talk about it how you want but what you say still affects other people.”

    I’m not sure how that’s the same. I might have misunderstood, but the example describes bragging about something desirable, but hard to attain (apparently – since it’s negatively affecting their emotional state), to a specific group of people. She didn’t do that. She made a blunt statement about her own feelings about her own situation. She didn’t say that other people in the same situation shouldn’t feel loss and what she said doesn’t prevent them from feeling loss.

    Would you have had this reaction if she has bluntly declared over Twitter that she’s skinny? Why is it different when it’s miscarriage? Both statements have the ability to affect people.

    “I think miscarriage should be discussed more but it should be discussed in a sensitive way.”

    The thing about “you can say what you want but…” statements is the “but” is usually followed by a subjective determination of what’s appropriate. Who gets to decide the level of sensitivity when a person is commenting on their own situation? And how do we know we’re being sensitive enough?

  49. @marilove:

    Way uncool.

    I saw the images of our boy that died at 12 weeks gestation. In all respects, clearly a human boy. Just small. And dead. Not good at all.

    You apparently missed the point when I mentioned the developmental state of the fetus is not relevant to the pain of the event. I am wondering as I write this if you point out that it was a fetus in an attempt to modify the importance I put on his death.

    I also suspect you knew very well who “we” was in my post. Although I have to admit I could’ve chosen my pronouns better than I did for clarity.

    To be uber-clear, I wasn’t upset by Trunk’s tweet, I replied to Elyse to her question what I thought about it. “Uncomfortable” was the word I chose, not insulted or offended. Merely my reaction to a statement. And equally bloody valid.

    Clearly you and I value pregnancy differently.

  50. In my opinion miscarriage is, right now, where breast cancer was 30+ years ago. Breast cancer was only discussed in hushed tones and third person discussion. The best way to deal with a difficult thing is to talk about it. Bring it out into the open. Reassure the woman who had the miscarriage that it’s not her fault and that there is NO SHAME in going through it.
    People are uncomfortable talking about miscarriage because we haven’t learned HOW to talk about it. I include myself in that group. I DO think that it is something that needs to be discussed far more openly than it is.

    As for what Trunk tweeted, I can understand why some people would be hurt, angry and upset. Unfortunately many of us tend to personalize people’s comments even when those comments are not directed at us. It’s pretty self-centric. It’s easy to get angry at someone elses comments when those comments open up our old wounds.
    But as others have said, she simply voiced what was going on in her personal life and her feelings about it. It may have seemed harsh and abrupt but keep in mind she only had 140 characters to express herself in. It’s pretty hard to convey meaningful dialog in such a small space.

  51. I’m curious to know if it changes anyone’s opinion to know that Trunk claims to have Asperger’s Syndrome?
    Michele, thanks for that link, I should have known that all the religious propaganda against abortion was crap.

  52. I have a question…when she tweeted “I’m in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage.” in the present tense, does that me she was in a board meeting, realized she was miscarrying, and her first reaction was to tweet, as opposed to, I don’t know, leave the meeting and seek medical assitance? That just doesn’t sound right somehow.

  53. @pciszek:

    And this is part of the reason we need to be talking about these things more.

    A miscarriage isn’t something that you actually need to seek medical attention for. There’s nothing your doctor can do to stop it. Unless you’re bleeding extreme amounts of blood, you can wait it out however you want. In fact, once you start bleeding, if you call your doctor, she probably won’t even see you until the next day. You’ll get told to take it easy, go to the ER if you’re soaking more than one pad an hour, and make an appointment to be seen for an ultrasound in the morning… and take Tylenol if you’re in any pain. That’s the drill.

    Also, miscarriage doesn’t just happen for a few minutes or hours. It’s not like you start bleeding, the fetus falls out, you bleed a little bit more, and then it’s done. If you don’t choose a D&C (or other procedure), it can happen for weeks… 3 weeks or so I hear. If you choose to let nature take it’s course, at some point you have to go back to board meetings. Business isn’t going to wait for your uterus to sort itself out. (In fact, even if you elect to speed up the process, you’re still miscarrying for a week.) You have to go back to work.

    There’s a decent chance that on any given day there’s a woman sitting in a board meeting having a miscarriage.

  54. @Elyse:

    Thanks for the information. When friend in college had a miscarriage, it was a much faster and messier process, involving blood all over the dorm bathroom, and involved a trip to the hospital. That was why the idea of sitting in a board meeting having a miscarriage unnoticed sounded odd.

  55. Purely from a scientific point of view… Miscarriage is incredibly common, mostly occurring in early embryos so it goes unnoticed. The nuts and bolts of fertilization, early cellular growth and early development have many checkpoints, and if any of these is not met there is a spontaneous abortion of the process. The gestation process is a critical time of selection where precise processes must align completely to produce a normal infant capable of surviving and reproducing. The internal checks help us make healthy babies.

  56. @Elyse:

    I think what’s upsetting to many people, or at least what was upsetting to me, is to hear (see) someone saying, “Hooray! Miscarriage!”

    Well, I guess you’ll be upset when I say, “Hooray, miscarriage!”. My mom had a miscarriage and I’m thankful for it. She was in a relationship with an abusive man, and a baby would have trapped her into it. I’m glad for her sake that she got out of it. I could also play the existential card and say that if she didn’t have that miscarriage, I wouldn’t exist, but if I didn’t exist then I guess I wouldn’t really care about it.

    Miscarriage is great for some women in some circumstances. For women who want a child but have a miscarriage, it’s devastating.

    Should I never mention that I practice birth control because it might hurt the feelings of someone who has been trying to get pregnant but failed?

    If I get laid off from my job right before I’m about to quit, I’ll be happy about it. Should I never speak a word of it because I might hurt the feelings of someone who got laid of from a job they truly loved?

  57. @catgirl:

    I don’t think you understand what I am saying, because that’s NOT what I said. I simply said how I feel about the tweet. That’s all.

    I think it’s unfair to say that you should be able to say whatever you want about anything you want whenever you want but I shouldn’t be allowed to say that I find what you say upsetting., because somehow I’m stifling the emotions of happy people. Especially since I never said that upsetting words should never be uttered.

    In fact, if you’ve read through my comments, you’d see that I actually applaud Penelope Trunk for her tweet.

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