What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
In the summer of 2016 I was stage managing a show at the Toronto Fringe Festival. It was twenty minutes before show time and I was perched on my stool in the darkened booth, allowing my mind to drift into thoughts of the ultrasound I had had the day before, after the spotting I was experiencing became more than what my prayers could keep at bay. As I looked out over the empty seats toward the barren stage, my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number and wondered if it was one of my cast members calling from the dressing rooms in need. I slipped out of the booth and into the bright florescent hallway. It was my midwife. She had received the ultrasound results and confirmed the tragedy that was playing out inside of me. I was having a miscarriage.
She asked if I was alone - if there was someone there with me. I heard the sound of the audience filing into the theatre, making their escape from reality (if only for an hour) and never, have I ever felt so alone and envious.
After receiving my instructions to visit the Early Pregnancy Clinic when I could, I hung up. I took a deep breath and went down into the bowels of the theatre to give my actors their 15 minute call. The last call I had to make in person. I retreated to the booth where, for the next 60 minutes I had to -- I needed to -- keep it together and call the show.
For four years I studied theatre at Acadia University and since then theatre has been my life. This is what I am trained in. You’re sick, you go on. You're tired, you go on. You are losing the life inside you, you go on.
The next day was a day off. I went to the Early Pregnancy Clinic and in an attempt to take control of an uncontrollable situation I opted to get a prescription for misoprostol to take when the run was over. There were only two shows left; I could wait until they were over, right? I had gotten through one show; what were two more?
The next night the show ended at midnight and when I emerged from the theatre my best friend met me on the side walk with two ice cream bars. We walked all the way home; it took us over an hour and set a new step record on my health app; a bitter-sweet reminder that held for a very long time.
The next day we closed the show and cleared the theatre of our things. I parted ways with my beloved cast members, who due to my four years of acting training still had no idea what I was dealing with on the inside. With my husband and daughter by my side I returned home to say another good-bye.
Advised to take the misoprostol before bed so that I could hopefully sleep through any uncomfortable cramping I sat on the edge of my bed, pill bottle in hand and doubled over weeping. I chose the misoprostol to control when the miscarriage happened but I hadn’t thought far enough ahead to the moment I had to take the misoprostol to make the miscarriage begin. My body ached as my mind tried to will it to do what my heart wouldn’t let it. I wanted so badly for the baby to remain and yet I knew I had to let it go.
My husband walked into the room and I remembered my midwife’s words - “Are you alone?” This time I wasn’t. My husband was right there beside me and this had been his baby too. We held each other and he assured me I was strong enough to face what was ahead that night and in the days to come. And so, with his support holding me up I took the medication and settled in to wait for what was to come.
I took the week off work and at my mother's insistence had my best friend and sister alternate days keeping me company, eating ice cream and watching tv to distract me and/or listen to me when I wanted to talk. I ended up having to take a second round of medication but eventually everything passed.
A month later the friend who had brought me the midnight ice cream texted to say she had to give up her role in a play due to a family commitment. She asked if I would be interested in auditioning for the now vacant part and explained how she knew I was a perfect fit. But there was one catch; the character had gone through a miscarriage and she wondered if it was too soon.
As actors we are trained to find ourselves in our characters and we often ask ourselves, “Where does this sit in me?” We do this to bring authenticity to our characters. When I read more about the play and the character’s journey my answer to the aforementioned question was “This sits in every fibre of my being. I am living this.” I knew going in it would be rough but I wanted the part. I wanted the pain of my loss to create something positive, something beautiful. I went to the audition armed with truth and experience. I got the part.
The rehearsal process was hard. Show content aside, I was coming into the process later than the other actors and tackling the proper English accent was no picnic. But on opening night when I stood on that stage, surrounded by an incredible set and supported by my cast mates, I was given the opportunity to be vulnerable, to share the private feelings of my own personal tragedy to an entirely sold-out audience through my character. It was an incredible release. It was the start of a healing process I had not rehearsed for but was determined to survive until its time in the spotlight was over.
How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
The miscarriage showed me emotional pain unlike I had ever experienced and at times that pain creeps up to the surface. It creates an ache in my heart that makes me turn inward and shut people out until I can find something to bring me out of it. I lose moments, sometimes hours of my day when this happens and I am resentful for that.
It has allowed me to connect with other women in a way I was unable to before. I promised myself, after I started my healing process, that I was not going to shy away from talking about my miscarriage. By doing just that I have found that many of the women I have mentioned it to have also had a miscarriage. And though I’m saddened that they have been in the same position, it is nice to be able to talk openly about my experience with someone who has been there.
What have you learned through this experience?
I learned that I am strong and that I am not alone on this journey. There are people who care about me even when life may be uncomfortable.
What do you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?
I try and hold on to the fact that it was not my fault and that there was nothing I did or did not do that would have changed the outcome. I also find that sharing how I feel with my husband helps me acknowledge those feelings out loud, allowing them to pass easier.
In three words describe yourself before/during/after miscarriage (in miscarriage specific situations)?
Before – Hopeful
During – Torn
After – Numb
How have others responded to your infertility situations? Has it impacted your relationships? What are some things you’ve been told that have been helpful/harmful?
When I finally felt like talking about it with people outside of my family and closest friends I found myself in a conversation with a colleague who had been through two miscarriages. She told me that there would be good days and bad days and that the bad days would often come without warning. She said that my due date would come and it would be a bad day but slowly as time passed the bad days would be fewer; they wouldn’t disappear completely but they would be less. By saying this I felt she had given me permission to be sad or angry on the days I needed to be and that here was no time limit on my grief. The best thing I could do to make it to the next good day was to acknowledge and work through the feelings each bad day brought up.
Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
I am a proud East Coaster. A P. E. Islander for life. I love the city but miss the water’s edge. My passion is the theatre and whether it be producing, performing or observing, I can’t get enough. I love my family, near and far, and cherish the many friendships I have built across the country.
What is your favourite quote?
“The good die young but not always. The wicked prevail but not consistently. I am confused by life, and I feel safe within the confines of the theatre.” – Helen Hayes