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What We See Is Never the Whole Story

{If you do not have time to read the below words, just click here!}

Seven years ago, after I learned I had miscarried, I climbed into bed and cried. I cried and worked hard to hide my tears. I chided myself for having jumped that proverbial gun, for having emailed my good friends about my nascent pregnancy. Because now they would know. They would know that I lost that pregnancy. And for some reason I didn't want them to know this. I felt sad and angry and embarrassed and wildly private about what was happening to me. It turned out that sending that email was one of the best things I could have done because the people I loved knew about my pain as I was feeling it, and were there to support me. Still, I kept my loss private from the world. I cloaked my grief. For the masses, I put on a happy face. I'm good at that. So many of us are.

Seven years ago, I was a wannabe mom and a wannabe writer. My dream of becoming a mom was at that point freshly-dashed and I had the untidy bulk of a novel stashed in my desk. I had put my writing on hold when I got that little plus sign on that little plastic stick; I'd quickly grown obsessed with reading pregnancy chat boards and looking for baby things online.

Seven years ago, I would have never imagined that I would go on to have three girls and publish a novel and start a blog and lose my Dad. Seven years ago, I would have never imagined that I wouldn't just write fictional stories, but very real stories. Stories about me. Stories about struggle and loss. I would have never imagined that I would one day have either the desire or strength to write about October 17, 2005, the day my first pregnancy ended.

But I did write it. I wrote that story. I had no plans to do so, but this past Monday, after a follow-up at the orthodontist, I wandered - as I often do - into one of the city's many Starbucks. I ordered my Venti bold blend and I sat down and plugged in. And, in time, I found myself utterly immersed. In words. In story. Though I hadn't thought about my miscarriage in months, I suddenly remembered the date it happened. It was October 17th. I was still in my first year of marriage and I was smug and excited to be pregnant, already flipping through fat books of baby names. I literally had no clue that anything could, or would, go wrong; I was young and healthy and determined after all. But something did go wrong.

And so in a fury, I wrote and wrote. A flurry of words, of truths, and memories. I wrote them and then I came up for air and realized that hours had passed. It was almost Middle Girl's pickup time at Preschool and I didn't realize this; thankfully, our wonderful nanny knew to run and grab her. This has happened to me before; this getting utterly lost in my own words. This is the best feeling ever, by the way.

After I wrote my story, I submitted it to the Huffington Post. I wanted it to reach the most people possible and though this blog has a hearty and wonderful following (you), the Huff Post gets more eyes. And hearts. And so I submitted it. And then I emailed my friend Allison Tate whose own post at the Huffington Post continues to spread around the world. In my email, I thanked her for inspiring me to tell a hard story and if not for Allison, I'm not sure I would have had the courage, or even the idea, to write it.Β Allison asked me if I realized that October 15 - the day I wrote my words, the day we emailed - was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. And I didn't know this; and learning it gave me chills. Chills.

Allison said something else to me in her email: "Honestly, I think the key is to tell the stories most raw to us. I haven't experienced a miscarriage, so that is not a story I could write. But you can. And because you can, you should. It's crucial in this day and age for us to make connections and find the stories that show us we are more alike than we are different, that the human experience is universal and we are not alone."

Yes. We are more alike than we are different. How unbelievably easy is this for us to forget? We run around the world sizing people up, making judgments, glimpsing otherness when in truth sameness invisibly prevails. We wake up and we mean well and work hard and we want to be happy and we love people and things and we struggle and stumble and we have hopes and fears and big, messy dreams and then we go to bed and get up and start over again. We are so much the same.

The day after submitting to the Huffington Post, I got an email from an editor there and she told me she thought my post was beautiful and important. She told me that her own mother suffered three miscarriages and that a story like mine might have helped her mom at the time. She said they wanted to feature my piece on Huff Post Parents. She requested some pictures which I sent along.

And yesterday afternoon, it was published. My story. I clicked over and there I was on the front page, walking along my sister's old street between Riverside and West End. There I was, with my three girls. It's one of my favorite pictures because it is not perfect, but blurry in spots. Because it is all of us, together, in transit, in love, in the heart of this city and life we cherish. And the editors attached a title that was, and is, just perfect. That title: What You Will Never Know by Looking at My Family.

Because this is what this is all about, right? It's not just about pregnancy and loss. It is about these things of course, but it is also about appearances and reality, about what we see and what we don't. When we see other moms and dads and families frolicking on the sidewalks of our lives as I am in the picture above, we don't know what it took to get there, to that picture. When we see someone succeed and exude happiness in some arena, we don't know the story behind that seeming success and apparent happiness, we don't know whether there was sadness or struggle in the prologue of this story; So often, there is.

Since the story went live, I have heard from so many people. People I know. People I don't know. People who were moved in a more general way. And, most importantly I think, people who have weathered loss like I have. Truth be told, I am humbled and overwhelmed by the notes and stories that continue to roll in. And really what I want is to thank you so much for reading my words there and here. And this is when I grovel a bit, so get ready.

If I have already tagged you by email, please ignore, but for the rest of you: It would mean a great deal to me if you would take a minute and post the link to the Huff Post article on your Facebook page or in your Twitter feed or send it in an email to some of your friends. Here it is:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aidan-donnelley-rowley/miscarriage_b_1967351.html?utm_hp_ref=parents&ir=Parents

I was talking with a friend about this sharing part. I said to her that my concern was (and is) that if people are hesitant to talk about miscarriages in the first place, they might also be hesitant to share a story about miscarriage. And she said: "Some people will find the sharing cathartic and others are just too private. But I'm sure there's enough of the former to get some legs on the post."

I very much hope she's right. If you share, you can even said that I told you to share it, that you are doing a friend a favor. How absolutely amazing would it be if that article (and this blog even) became a repository of so many true stories, stories that could in simple and profound and ineffable ways help so many of us?

Because, really, this is not about me and my October 17th seven years ago. This is about all of us.

Seven years ago, I would have never imagined any of this. And if I did imagine this, this rich life of loving three little girls and telling my stories and listening to yours, even in my deepest sadness, I would have smiled.

Thanks, guys.

♣

When people see you what do you think they conclude? Are there things about you or your life that people would never know just by looking at you? Do you think that external appearances are often very incongruous with internal realities? Why do you think we so often forget that what we see is not the whole story? Have you ever gotten totally lost in your work? Isn't "flow" the most incredible thing?

Happy 4th Birthday, Middle Girl!

Tell a Truth