Having a miscarriage is a devastating experience for most people that have experienced one. No one goes into a wanted pregnancy expecting this sad outcome, and for Chrissy Teigen and others like her, having a miscarriage later in pregnancy is beyond what most people can imagine. But two years ago, Teigen lost her son Jack at 20 weeks, after a complicated pregnancy that landed her in the hospital. Eventually, it was determined that to save Teigen’s life, the hospital would need to deliver the baby only halfway through her pregnancy. After some time processing the loss of her son, Teigen came to understand that what she had was, in fact, an abortion.
Since she shared the news recently at a summit called “A Day of Unreasonable Conversation,” people have been lambasting the expectant mom wondering how she couldn’t know. When I first heard about the criticism of her sharing her discovery, it knocked the wind out of me. One in four women experience a miscarriage and I happen to be one of them. Most people know someone who has experienced a miscarriage and they’ve hopefully treated them with care and compassion, but few people know what comes next for those of us who have miscarried babies.
After getting through the tears, depression and haze of having had this experience, insurance paperwork shows up in your mailbox or you happen to look over the discharge papers from the hospital and you read the words “spontaneous abortion” in the diagnosis section. If you’ve had a D&C (dilation and curettage) or D&E (dilation and evacuation), the paperwork may only read “abortion.” It reads this way because it’s a medical term, even though it’s a term that has become emotionally charged.
There are women like Teigen who may have been told something much less harsh when they miscarried. Doctors do their best to not cause extra duress on the person losing a child, so sentences like “we have to induce” or “we have to deliver” are used when they can, instead of words like “terminate” or “abortion.”
No matter the situation, oftentimes seeing the word “abortion” on your paperwork when the child you lost was very wanted can knock you off kilter. So many people have been where Teigen is, having the realization the procedure they had was classified as an abortion, even if their bodies completed the miscarriage on its own.
On a post about how Teigen may not have realized she had an abortion, hundreds of people shared their stories about learning what was written in their charts. One commenter, Jennifer, wrote, “I remember reading ‘habitual aborter’ in my medical record. It was horrible and anxiety inducing. I had three miscarriages back to back while trying very hard to have a baby. I was dealing with a lot. I was not ready to read that in my records.”
Another commenter, Julie, said “I remember reading ‘spontaneous abortion’ in my medical records after a very much wanted pregnancy that ended in miscarriage. It was devastating to read that. There’s a reason doctors and nurses don’t use that term with women going through that.”
Stephanie shared, “I had a D&E because I was bleeding so bad they were afraid I was going to bleed to death. Heartbeat was gone. 3 weeks later I opened the mail and opened up a report with the word ABORTION on it. I screamed and cried for two hours.”
The comments go on and on full of people who had no idea what they had was considered an abortion. It’s heartbreaking to know Teigen is facing such harsh criticism over her discovery. No one wants to become one in four and no one wants their experience invalidated by people who have never experienced the pain.
Medical terminology doesn’t care about the political atmosphere. It doesn’t care about how emotionally charged people get around seeing or hearing the word. Medical terminology is there so other doctors and insurance carriers know what’s going on and doctors do their best to shield grieving parents from terms that may make things worse.
Teigen may never see the comments people leave, but family and friends will. I don’t know if there will ever be a day where the word abortion doesn’t elicit such a visceral reaction from people, but education around how the word is used could be a start.