Susan McGeown

Author, Speaker, & Teacher

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My Greatest Failure

Posted by Susan McGeown on December 23, 2017 at 9:25 PM


I’d been given the privilege of a private room in the hospital. It was a big room – easily meant for two beds – but there was only mine in the vast space. Was this the official “Miscarriage Room?” I wondered. The locale where all failed mothers spent their initial first moments of cruel reality. How many defeated, broken women had bided their time in this room in this very bed waiting until the doctors determined they were “strong enough” to be launched back into their lives? Now it was my turn. I lay there and thought about things I didn’t want to think of but couldn’t escape. Noisy, buzzing thoughts battered my head and my heart. How would I have the strength to inform my fourth grade students that there would not be a baby after all? How could I tell church friends that our big announcement just the week before was incredibly, foolishly, premature? How did we announce to the family that the joyous first grandchild was … not. How would I tolerate the looks of sorrow and pity and compassion from the numerous people we had so stupidly told in our excitement? How did a man cope with retracting his proud announcements to his coworkers? Worries bombarded me. Would this happen again? Did I do something wrong? Was I flawed? Should I have done something different? Tears trickled down my face and collected in my ears. I didn’t want to see anyone: not my husband, not my family, not even the damn doctors. I just want to be left alone in my ultimate defeat as a woman. Forever.



A nurse came in. I don’t remember her name or what she looked like. I don’t remember if she checked my IV or took my blood pressure or my temperature. She sat down in the chair my husband had recently vacated and took my hand. I couldn’t look at her. I wanted her gone. “You can’t believe it now,” she said quietly, “but I promise you it will get better. You will go home and take the time to heal and then you’ll try again. One day you’ll have a laughing child in your arms and all this pain and sorrow will be put away because the joy won’t leave it any space to exist.”



Her words made me furious. Who was she to speak to me about laughing and joy?! How dare she imply that I would one day forget?! I turned to tell her clearly to get out of my room and that’s when I saw the tears. Unable to remember her hair color or her eye color, I never forgot the tears coursing down her face. “My little boy is two years old now. I cannot possibly imagine life without him now…,” she said intensely, “but there was another child before him that I lost.”



That wasn’t my phoenix moment; it was that nurse’s. I clung to that reassurance she had given me, though. I so desperately wanted to get as far as she had in her healing. She’d shown me that the pain and sorrow would still be there but she had also shown me that it would get better.



I would eventually go on to have three beautiful children … and suffer another miscarriage as well. When I finally reached a stage in my healing where I knew exactly what she had been trying to explain to me about love and joy and laughter – oh, what a victory! I would eventually have the opportunity ‘pay it forward’ and to speak a woman who had also suffered a miscarriage. As I shared with her my story and offered her words of hope and reassurance I realized that my healing had taken another forward step: it had become a strength for me. I had a unique capacity to comfort others who had experienced the same pain of loss. Sharing validated that worst moment; making it valuable and pertinent. It changed it from a hopeless hole to a point of victory.



The encounter with the nurse happened to me on November 30th, 1992 at St. Peter's Hosptial in New Brunswick, NJ.

Categories: Tragedy, Depression & Anxiety, Empowerment

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