After revealing his own family's struggles with miscarriages, the Dawson's Creek alum talks about why he believes the term mistakenly implies blame on the mother.
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Earlier this summer, James Van Der Beek and his wife, Kimberly, welcomed their fifth child into the world. The couple has taken to social media several times since to share their excitement. Recently, however, Van Der Beek shared a side of their story that no one had heard before—one of great loss and sadness.
In a heartbreaking post, the new father revealed that before welcoming their daughter, Gwendolyn, the couple struggled with the pain of pregnancy loss—not once, but several times. He wanted to take a moment to share a message with those who've experienced the same pain, letting them know that they're not alone.
"Wanted to say a thing or two about miscarriages... of which we've had three over the years (including right before this little beauty)," the actor wrote alongside a photo of himself and his wife with their newborn. (Related: Here Is Exactly What Happened When I Had a Miscarriage)
"First off—we need a new word for it," he continued. "'Mis-carriage,' in an insidious way, suggests fault for the mother—as if she dropped something, or failed to 'carry.' From what I've learned, in all but the most obvious, extreme cases, it has nothing to do with anything the mother did or didn't do. So let's wipe all blame off the table before we even start." (Related: How I Learned to Trust My Body Again After a Miscarriage)
Wanted to say a thing or two about miscarriages... of which we’ve had three over the years (including right before this little beauty). First off - we need a new word for it. “Mis-carriage”, in an insidious way, suggests fault for the mother - as if she dropped something, or failed to “carry.” From what I’ve learned, in all but the most obvious, extreme cases, it has nothing to do with anything the mother did or didn’t do. So let’s wipe all blame off the table before we even start. Second... it will tear you open like nothing else. It’s painful and it’s heartbreaking on levels deeper than you may have ever experienced. So don’t judge your grief, or try to rationalize your way around it. Let it flow in the waves in which it comes, and allow it it’s rightful space. And then... once you’re able... try to recognize the beauty in how you put yourself back together differently than you were before. Some changes we make proactively, some we make because the universe has smashed us, but either way, those changes can be gifts. Many couples become closer than ever before. Many parents realize a deeper desire for a child than ever before. And many, many, many couples go on to have happy, healthy, beautiful babies afterwards (and often very quickly afterwards - you’ve been warned ). I’ve heard some amazing metaphysical explanations for them, mostly centering around the idea that these little souls volunteer for this short journey for the benefit of the parents... but please share whatever may have given you peace or hope along the way... Along with a new word for this experience. #miscarriage #WeNeedANewName #MoreCommonThanYouHearAbout @vanderkimberly
Sadly, this heartbreaking experience isn't rare: "About 20-25 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies result in loss," Zev Williams M.D., chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center tells Shape. "Most cases of pregnancy loss are due to a chromosomal problem in the fetus, resulting in it having too many or too few chromosomes. But, many many things have to go right for a pregnancy to succeed and a problem with any of them could result in a loss."
Not only that, but women often feel intense grief after experiencing pregnancy loss, with a mourning period that usually lasts a year, reports Parents. "The vast majority of women and couples feel a lot of guilt and self-blame after a pregnancy loss," says Dr. Williams. "Using the term "miscarriage" does not help, and may even contribute to this feeling by implying that the pregnancy was miscarried. I much prefer the term "pregnancy loss" because is it truly a loss and there is no assigning of blame."
As Van Der Beek says in his post, it's a pain that "will tear you open like nothing else."
"It's painful and it's heartbreaking on levels deeper than you may have ever experienced," he explained.
That's why, by speaking up about the issue, he hopes to raise awareness about the fact that pregnancy loss is no one's fault, and that things really do get better with time. "So don't judge your grief, or try to rationalize your way around it," he wrote. "Let it flow in the waves in which it comes, and allow it its rightful space. And then, once you're able, try to recognize the beauty in how you put yourself back together differently than you were before." (Related: Shawn Johnson Opens Up About Her Miscarriage In an Emotional Video)
That's perhaps the biggest takeaway from Van Der Beek's message: Beauty and joy can still be found in the healing process.
"Some changes we make proactively, some we make because the universe has smashed us, but either way, those changes can be gifts," he wrote. "Many couples become closer than ever before. Many parents realize a deeper desire for a child than ever before. And many, many, many couples go on to have happy, healthy, beautiful babies afterward (and often very quickly afterward—you've been warned)."
While coping with the grief can be hard, Van Der Beek says that believing the would-be babies, "volunteer for this short journey for the benefit of the parents," gives him a sense of peace. He ended his post by encouraging others to find and share something positive they held on to while going through a similar experience.
If you or anyone of you know is struggling with the loss of a pregnancy, Dr. Williams has the following advice: "It is very natural to feel alone after a loss. As with many things in medicine, knowledge can be very helpful. Just knowing how very common pregnancy loss is, and that many family and friends have probably gone through it, can be helpful. Support groups and sharing with others can be beneficial as well."