Miscarriage is a frequent and normal part of the human experience, but we rarely talk about it, so a woman going through one often feels like she, or she and her partner, are alone. There’s something especially awful about needing the comfort of others and remaining silent while being subjected to certain types of men opining on women, pregnancy, and their productivity.
I’m a successful person who is in the public eye, and I never told anyone that I was pregnant—or that I was suffering through loss—because I didn’t want to be the topic of that kind of conversation on the train or in a coat line. Instead, I spent a good part of my 30s quietly feeling like a failure. My ob-gyn and I agreed on a strategy, and I was executing it without deviation: I took the prescribed regimen of prenatal vitamins, I continued to exercise, I got enough sleep, I cut out caffeine, and I gave up the occasional glass of wine with dinner. It was the first time in my life that I couldn’t achieve. I had no idea how to fix whatever was wrong.
My fourth pregnancy stuck. At 24 weeks, my stomach was protruding, and I finally felt confident that I was in the clear. I didn’t stop working. I keynoted a conference for prominent news editors, and after, the nearly all-male audience asked me questions along the lines of “Who’s going to run the company from now on?” and “Will you step down as CEO?” One editor in chief of a large metro newspaper simply said, “Thank you for showing up in your condition.” My tights were a little constricting, yes, but other than that my condition was perfectly normal.
Read: The high-tech future of the uterus
Those who would make assumptions about anyone going through fertility issues would do well to look beyond their own pregnancy-induced brain fog to see whether those correlations are real or simply the result of narrow-mindedness. More women than you realize are going through miscarriages: women married to other women, single women, women working through breakups or divorces, and women who have chosen to help others by serving as a surrogate. There are also women like me, whose husbands are supportive but ultimately feel helpless. Miscarriage affects the pregnant person’s partner, too.
I’ve had several miscarriages, including a traumatizing one at 18 weeks that required surgically removing the remaining fetal tissue from my uterus. I also gave birth to a healthy daughter, and by anyone’s measure she’s a terrific kid. The entire time I was miscarrying, staying pregnant to full term, and becoming a mother, I’ve written three books. (Two were best sellers and won awards; the other has been optioned for a movie.) I’ve produced nine editions of an annual report read by 8 million people. I’ve advised three-star generals and admirals, White House leadership, and CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies. I’ve taught 18 graduate classes. I’ve traveled to 17 countries for work. My company has enjoyed substantial growth. Of course, none of it has been easy. This has been the most challenging time of my life, at times straining my well-being, my relationships, my health, and my marriage. Like every working mom or would-be parent, I’ve made sacrifices. I’m sorting out life as it happens.