The Thing That No One Talks About

If the thing that no one talks about happens to you, you might not know what to say at first. You’ve never heard anyone talk about it, and so you wonder if maybe you’re not allowed?

If the thing that no one talks about happens to you, you probably won’t be expecting it. You might be at the doctor’s office, happily holding your partner’s hand, when the technician tells you they can’t find a heartbeat. And now you’ll have to take a pill to make sure your body does the rest.

Or maybe, if the thing that no one talks about happens to you, you might not even have a doctor yet, because it’s too early now for anything but wonder. And then you might wake up to the creeping, quiet stillness of blood on your bedsheets.

If the thing that no one talks about happens to you, you might have been planning on telling your mother that very day, and you might wonder frantically what you should say, whether you should wait, and whether you should explain.

If the thing that no one talks about happens to you, you might be walking with your family and ask to take a break, to sit on that stump over there, because — no, it’s nothing — it’s not a big deal — it’s just these cramps — I just need a quick rest…no, it doesn’t hurt too much…

If the thing that no one talks about happens to you, you will probably scour the internet for some other answer — any other answer — that explains it. You might be assured by your sister that she had her period twice when she was pregnant, and now her happy five-month-old daughter bounces on her knee. It’s alright; it happens. And it does, so you will tell yourself not to think about it too much.

You will learn that implantation bleeding at four weeks is totally normal, and how many weeks along were you, anyway? How much blood was there, do you think? Was there a lot of pain? Did you have to use a tampon? How many tampons? Was it normal, or lumpy, or clear?

You might not really want to answer those questions.

If the thing that no one talks about happens to you, you might not want to go to the doctor, because at this point there’s nothing they can do anyway — right? But your dad might plead with you to go, just to get a test, just to make sure everything’s okay. Isn’t it better to know for sure? he’ll ask. And you’ll say yes, but silently you won’t agree. Maybe, you’ll think, it would be better to pretend for a little while longer. Because you might already know the answer. You might already feel your body changing, going back to what it was before. Things that were sore are no longer sore. Things that were strange and new and wonderful are back to familiar and old and plain. There might be a tiny whisper in the back of your mind that notices all this. It’s happened, she says, it’s happened and there’s nothing you can do.

And when the doctor calls you back to tell you the test was negative, you’ll feel a compulsion to assure them that you took five tests last month, and they were all positive, you swear, all of them, they were — because you’ll worry they might think you’re crazy. You’ll wonder if you just — imagined it all in the first place?

But you did have someone with you, someone only you could know, someone who is now gone — and you never even got to learn their name. You knew them more intimately than anyone else in the whole wide world could know them, and now you’re wondering where they went, and whether they will miss you.

Then again, if the thing that no one talks about happens to you, you might feel none of that. If you are lucky, a good friend will tell you: Anything you feel right now is okay. You are not obligated to feel sad. You are still a good mother if you feel a breath of relief sneak waspishly into your heart. You are still a good mother if you feel numb, and confused, and don’t know whether to laugh or shrug or sob with grief. And when you grieve, that is okay, too — even if you feel strange crying for someone you ‘never met.’

If the thing that no one talks about happens to you, it is okay if you don’t feel sad at all — it is okay if you don’t consider yourself a mother yet — it is okay if you weep alone for days. That whole spectrum, I want you to know, is perfectly alright. Anything you feel right now is okay. It is okay to feel it all, and it is okay to feel numb.

If the thing that no one talks about happens to you, some people will smile and say, “It just wasn’t the right time,” as though that makes it easier. They don’t realize they sound cruel; they are confused, and words fall out of our mouths when we’re confused. Some people won’t know what to say at all, because they won’t know how you feel. Some people will share their own stories, and you will feel connected to them and that will feel beautiful. Some people who never knew might pester you about kids; try not to smack them with a frying pan. Some friends with newborns or pregnant bellies might not know what to say to you, might ask you if you mind if they talk about their lives, and you must be honest when you answer.

They don’t teach us how to talk about this, they don’t teach us how to mourn for this, they don’t even teach us how things are supposed to go now that everything is over. Should we give her a name? Should I bury something? Should we go to the doctor again? Will I be okay? Should I be worried if I get hives? Why the hell am I getting hives? (You probably won’t get hives.)

Tell a doctor. Tell a friend. It is good to ask for help, even if you don’t feel like you need it.

As time passes, you might find yourself wanting to do all the things that were so temporarily forbidden to you. You can’t get piercings while you’re pregnant, did you know that? But now you might hold a friend’s hand while the hoop goes in, and you might say, “This is for her.”

Or you might drink extra margaritas at night, and extra coffee in the morning — or perhaps the other way around. Maybe you’ll tell everybody, and maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll hold your partner, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll mourn for it, maybe you’ll celebrate it, maybe you’ll silently ponder the weight of it. But you will realize through it all that you are strong.

If the thing that no one talks about happens to you, perhaps you’ll sit down and write something about it, because more than anything, you might want the 1 in 4 women out there to know they’re not alone — and maybe we should talk about this more.

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