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Pregnancy Loss and the Olympics

I watched the skeleton competition in a Nyquil-guzzling, cold-induced haze because I wanted to see if Noelle Pikus-Pace placed this Olympics.  Hopefully this won’t be a spoiler for you, but she won silver, which is a huge deal considering that she retired from the sport to build her family and then decided to return to it after an 18-week pregnancy loss, which she spoke about in the mini-bio they ran during the skeleton competition.

I love her for using her platform to speak out about pregnancy loss.  Unfortunately, I can’t find the video they aired where she spoke about not having answers for the loss, but how the loss shaped the athlete now at Sochi.

She’s a really amazing story of having setback after setback in her sport, and I love the message in the New York Times coverage about feeling that bump, thinking her chances were over, pushing on anyway, and getting the silver.

Congratulations, Noelle!


1 kateanon { 02.15.14 at 3:03 pm }

Her story moved me, so much so that I found myself watching a sport I had no previous interest in. (also nice to see a local Utah girl from a few towns over). I liked that they didn’t just gloss over it. I find it reassuring when people publicly talk about their loss and still seem emotional about it after the fact. It makes me a little more hopeful that people I love will understand why I’m still sad later. It’s nice to have recognition on a national media level of how life-altering a miscarriage can be.

2 Kathy { 02.15.14 at 3:29 pm }

I was moved by her story too and she spoke more about it last night in a post-medal winning interview with Meredith Viera. I thought she really explained well how loss effects people and how you often need something to focus on, which can be therapeutic, as you work through your grief. How amazing that for her it was returning to this Olympic sport and that her family was so supportive and able to travel with her.

3 JB { 02.15.14 at 7:01 pm }

I was also moved I am always inspired or strengthened by the women who choose to speak out about how devastating loss is. Thanks for writing about this.

4 Pepper { 02.16.14 at 8:28 am }

Somehow I missed that part of her story. So awesome and amazing. Thanks for sharing.

5 Leisha { 02.16.14 at 3:02 pm }

I was very moved by her story as well. Thank you so much for sharing it with all of us.

6 Erica { 02.17.14 at 7:51 pm }

I think she is awesome. I’m a bit uncomfortable with the loss-as-inspiration spin, though. Which doesn’t take away from Pikus-Pace being awesome, just to be clear. But I found a facebook prompt this past week that talked about how her loss inspired her to get back to the Olympics and then asked, “What did your loss motivate you to do?” and my honest answer was “get drunk and hide” (only less polite).

Overcoming the almost overwhelming need to numb myself and retreat from the people around me was really hard after my own loss, and I’ve heard similar stories from several others, too. It seems like, after losing a baby, the choices presented to us by media and pop culture representations are either 1) go crazy, or 2) be stronger, better, more amazing than ever, and most of us fall in the middle – forever changed but not necessarily for the better. I think that should be okay, and I wish it weren’t easy for people who aren’t familiar with pregnancy- and baby-loss to pull inspirational sound bites from amazing stories that are nuanced in really important ways. (And now that I’ve written this, I want to be clear that I don’t think that kind of simplification is happening on this blog or in the comments here, but I see it a lot in the wider world.)

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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