Recently I ran the following twitter:

“I’m in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there’s a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin.”

Why the uproar over this twitter?

Not only have bloggers written whole posts about the disgustingness of it, but 70 people unfollowed me, and people actually came to my blog and wrote complaints about the twitter on random, unrelated posts.

So, to all of you who think the twitter was outrageous, think about this:

Most miscarriages happen at work. Twenty-five percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Seventy-five percent of women who are of child-bearing age are working. Most miscarriages run their course over weeks. Even if you are someone who wanted the baby and are devastated by the loss, you’re not going to sit in bed for weeks. You are going to pick up your life and get back to it, which includes going back to work.

This means that there are thousands of miscarriages in progress, at work, on any given day. That we don’t acknowledge this is absurd. That it is such a common occurrence and no one thinks it’s okay to talk about is terrible for women.

Throughout history, the way women have gained control of the female experience is to talk about what is happening, and what it’s like. We see that women’s lives are more enjoyable, more full, and women are more able to summon resilience when women talk openly about their lives.

To all of you who said a miscarriage is gross: Are you unaware that the same blood you expel from a miscarriage is what you expel during menstruation? Are you aware that many people are having sex during menstruation and getting it on the sheets? Are you aware that many women actually like period sex? Wait. Here is a link I love, at askmen.com, telling men that women like it so much that men need to be aware of this preference.

To all of you who are aghast that I let myself get pregnant: having sex is playing with odds. There are no 100% sure methods of birth control. I am 42 years old. The likelihood of someone my age getting pregnant even with fertility treatment is less than 5%. The likelihood that a pregnancy in someone my age ends in a miscarriage is almost 75%. This means that even if I had done nothing for birth control it would have been as effective as a 25-year-old using a condom. So everyone who is complaining that I’m an idiot for getting pregnant should go buy a calculator.

To all of you who said I should not be happy about having a miscarriage: You are the ones short on empathy. Any woman who is pregnant but wishes she weren’t would of course be grateful when she has a miscarriage. Yes, there are many women who want the baby and have a miscarriage. I was one of them. I cried for days. I get it.

But if you have ever had an abortion, which I have, you would know that a miscarriage is preferable to an abortion. Even the Pope would agree with that.

And what is up with the fact that just one, single person commented about how Wisconsin has a three-week waiting period for abortions? It is absolutely outrageous how difficult it was going to be for me to get an abortion, and it’s outrageous that no one is outraged.

Wisconsin is one of twelve states that have 24-hour waiting periods. This puts a huge burden on an overworked system. These are also the states where there are few ways to get an abortion. For example, in Wisconsin, the only place to get abortion that is covered by insurance is at a Planned Parenthood clinic. There are 3 of them in all of Wisconsin. In Chicago, you can get an abortion at Planned Parenthood with less than 24 hours notice. In Wisconsin, there is a week and a half wait to get the first meeting and a week and half wait to get the abortion.

A digression: I’m linking to Planned Parenthood so everyone can make a donation. This organization is enabling women to have the right to abortion. Planned Parenthood seems to be the only effective, community-level force against states that are attempting to legislate the choice into oblivion.

To all of you who think this has nothing to do with work:

I think what really upsets people is the topic. We are not used to talking about the female experience, and especially not in the context of work. But so what? We can start now. The female experience is part of work. What we talk about when we talk about work defines how we integrate work into our lives. If work is going to support our lives, then we need to talk about how our lives interact with work. We need to be honest about the interaction if we hope to be honest about our work.

772 replies
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  1. Michael Pope
    Michael Pope says:

    I followed you on Twitter because of this comment, although I might unfollow you if you make fun of my bald spot. Sorry about the miscarriage, because that sucks.

    -Michael Pope

  2. Dan
    Dan says:

    Are there any men who ACTUALLY read this blog anymore? Judging by the comments, the answer is NO. It’s not a big surprise you were fired from being CEO like you were previously fired by Yahoo. One learns early in Speech class to know their audience, and your’s is tiny as you relate to very few in the OVERALL population in America who have nuclear families and raise their kids right.

    • Emma
      Emma says:

      Because of course men must always be included in the audience. Grow up. Women don’t have to cater to men in everything anymore.

      • Dan
        Dan says:

        Oh Emma, “grow up,” please. You are so se%ist and mad it’s not even funny.

        I am much older and wiser than you, and will take my traditional 68 year old catholic mother anyday over a snotty br)ad like you!

    • Jenny
      Jenny says:

      Dan, you’re a man, and you’re reading this blog. Penelope is profiting from your angry SHOUTING, which makes me happy. btw I am in a nuclear family, raising my kid right, and I can totally relate to Penelope’s material. We are everywhere.

      • Dan
        Dan says:

        Jenny, that’s great, but when you exclude 50% of the population from your audience, and by the way very few women I KNOW and in MY FAMILY are wierd man hating libs who can’t hold a marriage together and don’t think at all like you do, you are going to get very few customers. The best blogs are the ones that appeal to both genders. In fact, i used to read a law professor’s blog from Madison quite often as it wasn’t nearly as weird as this one.

        I have a lot of fun here because I used to live in the Communist People’s Republik of WI and can relate to some of the posts and backwards mindset of that state.

  3. James Todd
    James Todd says:

    1) I think the casual tone of the tweet is what is offensive. Without a minimal amount of ambivalence, it sounds inhuman. Hard to put ambivalence in 140 characters.
    2) My interpretation is that this is a weird Asperger's thing. Is that rude to say? Your tweet/post doesn't change my high level of respect for you and the value I place on your input.
    3) I am only pro-abortion if they extend the maximum age to 18 years. All or nothing.
    4) Didn't know about the period thing. Will ask my wife her preference. Thanks! :)
    5) Planned Parenthood is a predatory eugenics machine and I hate it. One family's opinion. 30% of African-American children in our generation have been destroyed by abortionists.
    6) Your post makes me think a lot about what insurance would be like if it actually were pricing risk. I am a cyclist, with allergies, with kids, exercise regularly, but sedentary job, family history of cancer, monogamous, wife prefers home birth no-meds. If the insurance company had that level of data or more, what would the pricing look like? What would it look like for you if they had that level of data?

  4. Sara
    Sara says:

    Of course it was a shocking tweet … that was the point. It created dramatic tension. It created interest. It got a lot of people emotionally involved, and all those people were waiting for this follow-up post.

    Say what you want about Penelope, she’s a damn good writer. And when it comes to self-marketing, she’s the Madonna of the blogosphere.

    To all the haters: you’re unclear on the concept. If you don’t like Penelope’s blog, the best thing you can do is to simply ignore it. Outrage (especially shared outrage) increases traffic. Traffic benefits Penelope. Simple as that. Save the moral judgments for the nuclear family dinner table.

    (I do love the term “nuclear family”, and how it connotes the possibility of a cataclysmic explosion. But that’s another topic.)

    • Anthony
      Anthony says:

      Sara, let me ask you this? What happens when someone who reads this blog and has a more traditional career path than Penelope follows her lead? It is going to hurt them. If someone put stuff like she write on the internet he/she could lose his/her job. Furthermore, by intentionally mixing her personal brand with her sex life, she puts not only her own career but her company at risk of a backlash. She should be free to write about whatever she likes, but she shows a lack of good judgment by writing about her own sex life on a blog that is meant to be about professional problems. Yes, her being controversial generates traffic and attention, but it does so with total disregard to her professional responsibilities both as a CEO and a career advisor.

      • Sara
        Sara says:

        Anthony:

        1) Grownups are responsible for their own decisions. Anyone who mindlessly follows someone else’s example/advice without considering their own specific circumstances is going to get in trouble sooner or later. There is no point in trying to protect people from themselves. Bloggers put information out there: it’s our job as readers to assess that information and decide whether or not it actually applies to us. We are not lemmings.

        2) Penelope is responsible for her own brand. Sharing personal information is obviously a key factor of that brand. What you think her “professional responsibilities” should be is completely irrelevant. The only people who have a right to play that card are her co-workers … and should they choose to do so, I’m sure we’ll read it here first.

      • Anthony
        Anthony says:

        Sara, I would be inclined to agree with your first comment if Penelope did not portray herself as a career expert. If she wants to call herself an expert, then I would hope that she believes that this entails a responsibility to at least not knowingly give bad advice, and to censor where appropriate so as not to mislead.
        Furthermore, she has in the past targeted millennials, young people who often aren’t equipped to necessarily make these decisions. They might see how open Penelope is and think that is a good idea. Since Penelope targeted these people, my hope is that she would again take this into account.

        As for her company, it’s not only her employees who’s opinions matter, it’s also her investors. They may not be aware of what she is doing on here or what effect it is having on her company. I’m certainly sure that her investors would be pleased to know that she was twittering during a board meeting.

        This comment of yours though is what bothered me:
        “Say what you want about Penelope, she’s a damn good writer. And when it comes to self-marketing, she’s the Madonna of the blogosphere.”

        This is the issue. There are more important things than simply generating traffic. Take the current issue being discussed. I have no problem with discussing miscarriages at work, and I actually think it is a very important topic to discuss especially for the poor women who felt they had no choice but to work during one. I also have no problem with her talking about her experiences with them as it is germane to the topic and serves to put a human face on it. I do have a problem, though, with the way this was handled.

        Penelope was not inspired to write this because of the experience she had. Instead, she wrote this to justify a poorly timed and poorly worded tweet about the incident. In doing so, she has ultimately turned what could have been an enlightening post about her experience into a three ring circus about her poor choice.

        The saddest thing is that this did not have to happen this way. She could have brought up the tweet to expand upon it and clarify what she was thinking at the time. This could have been used as a valid jumping point to discuss the larger issues at play. There was no need to even apologize, as I agree with you that she doesn’t owe that to anyone for this. The explanation could have politely answered some of the criticisms that had been in error, and then used to expand upon what happened and how women are affected.

        Instead, we get a screed in which she blasts individuals who dared to criticize her bringing it up in a public venue. She uses the points about miscarriages as mere points in here argument about why she was right in what she did. This invites nothing but distraction as it brings more focus to her than was necessary.

        Now, I’m sure you’ll come back with how this isn’t mine nor anyone else’s business. Now, if we were all at the same restaurant and we overhead Penelope, you would be perfectly correct in your argument. Here is your problem. She makes it our business. She puts it out there for everyone to see, and she even invites our criticism by allowing us to leave it. To her credit, she has the integrity to leave it all there no matter what is said. If she doesn’t want people making judgments, then she shouldn’t put it out there and create a forum where this happens.

        Now, as for why I read. I don’t usually. It is this type of cavalier and at times narcissistic behavior that has drove me from this blog half a year go. (In all fairness, I do tend to be a fairly private person, but it appears that she is going increasingly for shock value.) Given her personal biography and the manner in which she handles issues such as this, I concluded at that time that her only qualification for giving out this advice was the fact that she was able to purchase server space. (No, yahoo does not count in her favor. Most of their authors have no business posing as any sort of journalists or advisors.) The only reason I came back was that I transfered my Linux install onto a new laptop, and I happened to use an older copy of my bookmarks that had this rss feed. The title looked interesting, so I figured why not. I did not expect what I saw, and I certainly was not thrilled with how it was handled. I only stay for the conversation on this thread, where I have not only discussed her behavior, but also some of the surrounding issues, including a defense of a woman’s right to choose. Once this discussion dies, I will gladly go back to my policy of avoiding this blog.

  5. Matthew | Step into the Flow
    Matthew | Step into the Flow says:

    The only thing that is morally wrong is taking away someone’s choice from them forcefully. Personally I don’t like the idea of abortion, but the idea of taking away someone’s choice in the matter is far, far more abhorent. For a country built upon having choices made locally and not from England, this has been lost.

    And yes, I like that Penelope brings home real world stuff. One thing I hate about work is the feeling that you can’t talk about real stuff, show real emotion, or be a full human being with significant issues included. The companies I loved to work for always, without exception, had more of that. More understanding that people have all that.

  6. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    I don’t follow you on Twitter but I do read your blog regularly. When I read the tweet in your blog post, my first thought was “WTF? How callous can she be?” But then I started thinking about it and I came to the conclusion that it’s all about perspective.
    For someone like me that desperately wanted more than one child, every miscarriage was devastating. I had seven total before I decided to give up and move on via a tubal ligation & ablation.
    For someone that doesn’t want more children, the pregnancy itself would be the thing that could be devastating. In that situation, having a miscarriage would absolutely be preferable to having to get an abortion, especially if I had to wait for almost a month to do so.
    On another note…one of my pregnancies was far enough along that I had told my coworkers so consequently, I had to tell them when I had a miscarriage. It was unbelievable to me that not one single woman said anything to me. Not one word of condolence, not one question about how I was doing, nothing. However, two men went out of their way to come up to me and talk with me about it. Ever since then, I have made it a point to push past the discomfort and acknowledge a loss (of any kind) as soon as I find out. Yeah, it sucks and it’s uncomfortable and finding the right words isn’t easy. However, hearing someone stumble through an acknowledgment is so much better than hearing silence.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      @Kelly – thanks for sharing your miscarriage experience – specifically – “It was unbelievable to me that not one single woman said anything to me. Not one word of condolence, not one question about how I was doing, nothing. However, two men went out of their way to come up to me and talk with me about it.”
      It’s your words and Penelope’s – “Throughout history, the way women have gained control of the female experience is to talk about what is happening, and what it’s like. We see that women’s lives are more enjoyable, more full, and women are more able to summon resilience when women talk openly about their lives.” that make me believe both men and women need to talk about the female experience. The female experience affects both men and women.

  7. Liz
    Liz says:

    To the people saying someone is an “idiot” for getting pregnant: no one I know uses her ovaries to make decisions. Pregnancy is a natural bodily process. It happens without your volitional control. It’s true that it won’t happen if you don’t have sex, but if we all waited to have sex until we absolutely wanted and could afford any baby that might result, well, that’s a stupid idea. If you want to live like that, fine, but don’t act as though it’s the only reasonable way to build a society. It’s not. You’re just trying to control what other women, strangers to you, are doing with their own bodies. That’s intrusive and creepy and a level of state intrusion into my private affairs that I find unacceptable (and so far, the USSC agrees.)

    Incidentally, I found it especially funny that two demonstrators outside my local clinic a few weeks ago got out of a car sporting a pro-gun-rights bumper sticker. Really? You’re freaking out about “the state” taking your guns, but you want to make sure that I can only have sex when I am able to support a pregnancy or a child? Let me guess, you’re opposed to health care reform, too, right? Sheesh.

  8. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    I am pro-choice so I support your right to have an abortion. But you were far too flippant in both your choice of words and the medium you chose for such a serious topic. I can’t believe you are so foolish as to not think a tweet like that would be met with the reaction you described and I think your rationalizations for posting it are deeply flawed. The more likely reasoning behind it is about blog traffic, which is becoming more and more transparent and tiresome with every outlandish statement you make.

  9. Beth
    Beth says:

    This was your best. Ever. Post.

    I’m glad 70-odd people removed your from their feed, it’s less to worry about. I mean, honestly.

    Penelope, you ‘get it’. Miscarriage is a messy, personal business. It’s uncomfortable, horrible and plain annoying. And that’s just if it was ‘a pregnancy’ to you. If it was a much wanted baby, your hopes and dreams for the past year or so, all wrapped up in an embryo, then it’s far, far worse.

    We’re women. We lose our babies, fetuses, pregnancies… at work. That’s life. It’s our life.

  10. Catherine
    Catherine says:

    Thank you for your post. I really appreciate your honesty. And I agree we need to talk about all these issues more openly. And the need to support Planned Parenthood so that every pregnancy can be a wanted pregnancy.

  11. Vladislav
    Vladislav says:

    Penelope,

    Thank you for having the courage to speak when things simply need to be said because when you speak, you create the space for others to speak. Do not let the small minority of religious anti-choice fundies silence you! :o)

    There is so much dialogue that’s missing from the general discourse. Thank you for disrupting the silence, keep up the amazing work. Good luck healing through this process.

  12. Jen
    Jen says:

    Don’t be so quick with the outrage over a “relieving” miscariage. No one has feelings in a vacume and it is very possible to be relieved, saddened and even guilty about it all at once. I certainly managed all of those at once. At 25 I was diagnosed with cancer. I already had been diagnosed with PCOS (making an accidental pregnancy pretty unlikely) and I was taking the pill, so when the mandatory “pre-radiation” pregnancy test came back positive I was shocked and devestated. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a child ever, but the timing was disaster and the pre-radiation prep meant any child I had then would likely suffer serious developmental issues. When I learned I “spontaneously aborted” I was incredibly relieved and then felt very guilty for feeling relieved and also was disapointed and upset that I wasn’t beating the odds with what could have been my only shot at having kids. Did I talk about any of that with anyone at the time? Heck no. I hadn’t even told most people I had cancer and I’d told no one that I was pregnant. The subject is too taboo for talking about with pretty much anyone without risking their wrath so I sat at home alone and cried.

  13. Eva
    Eva says:

    Just to say, as a counter balance to the critics, here – I’ve lived through miscarrying while having to be at work — two weeks of uncertainty and terrible waiting. I desperately wanted the baby (luckily the next one worked out), cried and cried at my desk, and was a complete basket case for months. I was brand new at the job, entirely untested. My colleagues were not impressed.

    That said, the tone of your tweet would have been completely understandable to me even if this pregnancy were expected and wanted — when you’re going through something awful for a long time, it seems normal to me to be matter of fact — even flippant — about it. I’m not really sure why people think you should wring your hands in public, and I certainly don’t think you should live with it silently.

  14. J-Mo
    J-Mo says:

    I don’t understand why, when you post such intimate, personal material, other peoples’ reactions surprise you. This can’t be the first time you’ve made such a post or tweet, nor can it be the first time you’ve received a reaction different to the one you expect or would like. Having said that, I’m not sure what reaction you would want, as I’m not you.
    These are, as you point out, complex issues. Which makes it somewhat contradictory for you to be upset/surprised when people consider your tweet flippant.
    I’m not sure what you want. I don’t think I’m interested.

  15. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I missed the tweet and resulting furore.

    I am pro-life and I agree that a three-week waiting period is too much. Having said that, I don’t think it’s something to take lightly – and nor do you, judging from your previous posts on your experiences with abortion.

    I guess I’m surprised to hear that you were accidentally pregnant again. I hope that doesn’t sound judgmental.

    No contraception is 100% effective but it’s pretty damn close, both in my experience and according to medical statistics. Perhaps you are extremely fertile/seriously unlucky. Or perhaps you are not taking sufficient precautions and kidding yourself it’s about the effectiveness of contraception. Obviously only you know the answer.

    Anyway, I’m glad to hear that you are no longer pregnant against your will.

  16. Jess
    Jess says:

    I also missed the Tweet, but wanted to thank you for talking about this.

    As someone who has watched one family member miscarry and another have an abortion, I think both would have benefited from a world in which we could talk about these things more freely. This is the kind of conversation that empowers women.

  17. JC
    JC says:

    “Today my best friend's mother, who's been a pro life activist for as long as I can remember, had an abortion. She's 52 years old and her doctors told her the pregnancy may cost her her life. MMT”

    Right to Life is another way of saying Right to Lose Rights, which is a weird thing to say, don’t you think? How would you feel if birthing a child would be the death of you?

    It’s amazing how easily people throw their religion and their god into the mix. Educate yourselves on your holy books, people… please.

  18. Mariana
    Mariana says:

    Penelope,

    I am one of those people who “actually came to my blog and wrote complaints about the twitter on random, unrelated posts.”. So let me clarify my position: I am female, liberal, sexually active, career oriented and pro-choice. I am not grossed out by the idea of a miscarriage or abortion. I also applauded your previous post on abortion and agree that the subject must be discussed more openly.

    However, I can only disagree with your method of using miscarriage/abortion as a form of birth control –it is playing the lottery, and means an unnecessary hassle and health risk (physical –see ectopic pregnancy- and mental) for yourself, not even touching upon the moral grounds.

    “So everyone who is complaining that I'm an idiot for getting pregnant should go buy a calculator.”
    No, no, and no. YOU buy a calculator and do some research on birth control methods. You compare your ad-hoc “let menopause do the work” trick to the condom. Well, the condom (like pulling out, or the rhythm method) has a high failure rate and is thus not ideal for people having regular sex. There are several methods with much higher success rates, like:
    – the pill, and other variations of hormonal control
    – IUds
    – tubal ligation

    Your carelessness in this matter speaks very poorly of your research, decision-making and self-care skills. It is at its best stupidity, at its worst drama-seeking.

    • C.H.
      C.H. says:

      ONCE AND FOR ALL PEOPLE–Abortion is birth control.

      Pregnant + Abortion = No child
      Pregnant + Do Nothing = Child

      See how that works? I do not understand why people do not get this. Abortion is the absolute last resort to controlling birth.

      • Caitlin
        Caitlin says:

        @C.H The dictionary definition of ‘birth control’ is “regulation of the number of children born through the deliberate control or prevention of conception”. It’s a synonym for ‘contraception’ – ie. something that prevents contraception, or governs it so it only occurs when you want it.

        Dealing with an unwanted pregnancy AFTER conception does not fit the dictionary definition of birth control.

        Yes, abortion literally controls birth but that doesn’t mean it’s birth control. You’re being far too literal!

        Consider this – if you take a pregnant woman and shoot her dead, you probably kill the baby along with the mother. It doesn’t mean that shooting pregnant women is birth control.

        (Note, I am in no way saying that abortion = killing pregnant women. I’m just picking an extreme example to show that not everything that prevents birth is birth control).

  19. MDTaz
    MDTaz says:

    I follow Penelope and I saw the tweet. The first thing I thought about was what how horrible it must be to experience a miscarriage in any situation, but certainly in a board room. Then I thought about how if it happened to me, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t share it on Twitter. For instance, when I was in early labor stages, I turned off my phone so people wouldn’t bother me. Some things are private. To me.

    Having said that, Penelope is not me. And she is someone manages to put everything out there and it’s raw and bold and controversial and sometimes it makes me uncomfortable but then I think, no, it takes courage to be honest and provocative. She’s got the cahunas to say the unsayable and as a result she gets a dialogue going, she moves hidden subjects into the light. (I really like Sara’s comment above, that Penelope is the Madonna of the blogosphere.) It’s why so many people follow her (well, so many minus 70) on Twitter and read her blog.

    How interesting that this caused a firestorm of political and ideological responses and yet what I was left with, a few moments after reading her tweet, was concern. I hope she’s okay, I thought. I waited and watched and checked again and didn’t see a follow-up and I actually got worried. You’re all entitled to your political opinions, but was anyone else concerned about Penelope?

  20. LG
    LG says:

    So basically—you play the odds and decided to let either miscarriage or abortion be your method of birth control. That is sick. Most ppl have not had 2 abortions in their life. START USING BIRTH CONTROL.

    • wrong
      wrong says:

      I got prego twice on birth conrol (multiple forms, no less). I am hoping my body likes this new bc better as my husband and I are not prepared for 3 under 3 or for excercising my right to choice. I sure as hell am not prepared for more wingnuts to tell me I should have been more responsible – Especially if it is those same wingnuts that don’t want me to have affordable health care that would actually pay for an elective procedure to solve this dilemna. (And we are “lucky” enough to have great coverage!) Stunning how high those soap boxes can over 140 characters of insight.

  21. S. Grimmett
    S. Grimmett says:

    Penelope, thank you for blogging about this topic – one of the ways in which women are marginalised is through “othering” – and especially at work. If women’s issues are never discussed in the work place it creates an aura of mysteriousness and strangeness around them which can exclude women.

    There is no reason why this shouldn’t be blogged and tweeted and discussed just because some people feel uncomfortable.

    You know what? It made me feel uncomfortable but I embraced that and questioned why and realised it was only because I’m not used to thinking about abortion and miscarriage in a work context.

    So thank you – and to all those posting negative comments – we have enough subtle sexism in the workplace as it is without women themselves perpetuating this misogyny.

  22. Kirk
    Kirk says:

    First of all, most seem to forget that this is A) your blog and B) your Twitter acct. Both of which are ‘opt in’ (or ‘opt out’)

    You may well be the Eminem (Marshall Mathers) of Business, ie, both in upper Midwest and both prefer to discuss openly what most are reluctant to mention even in private. Good Bad or Ugly.

    However, I think the title of post would be more appropriate if it was “I” can’t manage “My” career etc. Because thats whom you’re referring…

  23. Marinka
    Marinka says:

    someone retweeted that tweet and it made me follow you on Twitter and subscribe to your feed. It’s a good thing that you don’t sell Tshirts, because I’m sure that I would have stocked up.

  24. Terri
    Terri says:

    Penelope, I also had a miscarriage at work very early in my career. I had to tell the HR person that I was pregnant in the same breath as that I had to leave to go to the doctor. Everyone was very understanding and the HR person told the brokers (all men) that I worked for at the time for me what was up. I kept it private except for them. I didn’t feel any more alienated from career success than before in this old-school job, because I was female and an assistant, and that’s what we did. Placed trades and had babies. My moving up the ladder was so foreign to them that it couldn’t be hampered by the miscarriage any more.

    I don’t work there anymore, and I’m done having babies – can focus on my family and career now. I was glad to read your post and also shocked about Wisconsin. Who knew?!? Thanks for sharing.

  25. Mary Baum
    Mary Baum says:

    Had to skip down to the bottom, so sorry if this is a repeat. But the real difference between pro-life and pro-choice is not whether or not you think it’s the right thing to do to carry a fetus to full term.

    If you call yourself pro-life and if you vote that way, you are voting for LAWS that say a woman or a doctor or both should go to JAIL if they DON’T.

  26. Liddy
    Liddy says:

    To begin with, I’m pro-choice because its nobody’s chioce or business but my own what I do with MY body. And pro-choice does not mean we are all pro-abortion and using it like birth control. I would like to see more people educated on proper birth control use and common sense when it comes to taking on the responsibility of having sex. The world is over-populated and there are enough women having babies they are unable to care for without public assistance that it seems we have a big issue with proper education and access to birth control in the first place. Abortion should be a last option when having a baby just isn’t the right thing to do – for whatever reason.

    On miscarrage at work, I think that anything involving a person’s health and well-being should be handled with compassion and care, but with some level of privacy. Penelope might not mind having everyone she works with know what she is going through. That’s fine. Most people would rather not have everyone know all the intimate details of their health, personal life, etc. because for most people work is a place to get work done not an extension of their living room or bedroom. And there is nothing wrong with work life being at least somewhat separate from the rest of your life. Its nice to have friends at work but not your whole social circle. This applies equally to men and women. I’m sure men go through health and comfort issues at work too.

    Finally, what are you doing tweeting during a business meeting? Shouldn’t you be focused on the task at hand? I know you were miscarrying but if you were staying in the meeting and keeping quiet about what was going on (soldiering through so to speak) why were you tweeting about it instead of paying attention to your work? Maybe that’s the difference between working and whatever it is you do. I still don’t understand how a social network site makes money when everyone signs up and contributes for free. Advertising revenue alone? Serious question, I really don’t understand how people like Penelope make big bucks off free internet content when I don’t know anyone who buys anything from ads or links on these types of websites. They go specifically searching for an item or service. Where else is the money made?

  27. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I think the main issue with the tweet was not the subject but rather the tone. I have no problems with you talking about miscarriages, abortions etc. I’m an American who’s pro-choice living in Ireland where abortions are completely illegal so I understand how this issue affects women. I’ve also learned from your posts that you’re always honest, which is refreshing.

    The problem for me was the tone was… bizarre I guess. Perhaps twitter’s character limit is to blame, but I read your tweet and honestly wasn’t sure if it was a joke or not. It was very matter of fact, I didn’t know what to think.

    I also agree that the WI waiting period of 3 weeks is ridiculous but I chose not to reply at all. I didn’t want to respond inappropriately if you were joking/serious etc. Effectively, instead of opening up the conversation, your tweet just shut it down for me.

    I really do appreciate your honesty, which is another reason that I didn’t reply. The last thing I want you to do is censor yourself. I just felt that this blog didn’t address the core issue of mine – tone.

  28. bindu wiles
    bindu wiles says:

    i think the issues of miscarriage and abortion are always going to elicit wild comments from people. so the subject matter seems inherently combustive. what i appreciate about both the twitter as well as todays blog, is your willingness to put things out there and volunteer to be so transparent. regardless of the issues and where people stand on what you bring up (it is YOUR blog and YOUR twitter after all!), i think there is a bravery inherent in your style of writing and revealing that can make people uncomfortable and thus want to criticize. isn’t it always the way? we attack people who make us feel uncomfortable who write/speak/live outside the paradigm of the box? keep going.

  29. Puf
    Puf says:

    I think this brings to light one of the communication issues that things like twitter, IM’s, and Texting have brought about. It is often difficult to communicate well within the confines of brevity. It took essentially thousands of characters to give necessary explanation to a 140 character tweet. People are so quick to overeact to simple statements about complicated situations (that’s why politicians have foresaken eloquence for the 10 second sound bite). I’m hopeful that by taking the opportunity to better clarify, that some of folks that make knee jerk reactions have a better understanding, and understand don’t fire with both barrels until you know the facts.

  30. Ruth
    Ruth says:

    So I know you’ve gotten lots of comments about your abortion stance, so I’ll leave that nuclear hot dog of a topic alone. I am so sorry for your loss, because even if you didn’t want this baby, it must be bittersweet to know that a child has been lost.
    As to your opinion about talking about the female condition at work: hear, hear! In my office of 5 people, my 2 male bossed think they’re progressive and supportive of families, but both of the women that have worked here and gotten pregnant no longer work here, one of them because she was edged out of work (you know, it’s just not reliable to have a worker who might have to stay home with a sick kid on any given day) but its not just the moms that catch flack. I get debilitating cramps every month (seriously, throwing up at work with the vent van on so the client won’t hear me before I go to start the meeting. Could I not have stayed home?) But can I talk about it openly? Of course not. I have all sorts of crazy hormonal changes every month, but am I allowed a mood swing? Career suicide! you’d think if half of the work force deals with female things, and the other half is married to or in relationships with the half that deals with those things, that there’d be a little more understanding for the fact that it’d JUST HOW MY BODY WORKS, but no. And if I do ever get pregnant? I already know that I’ll be hiding it as long as possible, because my bosses have already made it clear that my career with them will be over once I become “unreliable.” Nice, eh?

    Thanks for putting it out there, that we’re female and we have different issues than guys, and if they’re going to work with us and appreciate our contributions to the workforce, then they should deal with the little messy things that come with it. Great topic.

  31. Jen
    Jen says:

    First of all – I am sorry you had to go through this at work. Thank you so much for writing this – there really isn’t enough information out there about miscarriage. I recently had one – never thought I would – and I never want to go through it again.

  32. Lis
    Lis says:

    People, Wisconsin doesn’t have a mandatory 3 week waiting period! Those of you outraged by this need to do some research (or read what Penelope wrote a bit more carefully). The problem is that Penelope does not want to pay for an abortion out of her own pocket…and since Planned Parenthood is the only abortion provider in WI that insurance is accepted, there is a long wait. If she was really desparate, she could spring for the abortion by paying for it.

  33. Lea
    Lea says:

    My brother’s girlfriend had an ectopic pregnancy, and the miscarriage started while she was at work — and she’s a teacher. I believe she was taken to the hospital by an ambulance (she needed emergency surgery). Before this post, I never thought about how this would be a common experience for women.

    I would have thought that Wisconsin’s abortion laws would be more liberal, but I guess it’s still the midwest. Congrats to you for shining a light on something that I never knew about and that needs loud opposition and calls for change.

  34. McK
    McK says:

    I think the Twitter was a little too cavalier. I thought you were kidding, actually. And, one thing to note, pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. I think one of the paragraphs rings to that effect. I think life has circumstances and therefore we need more options. I am opposed to national or state policies that have rigteous beliefs at their core. That said, I am very pro-adoption, as that is my life plan. But to each their own.

    My immediate family members are social workers who investigate child abuse daily. They are disgusted by the parents who treat their animals better than their children, a court system that is ready to give these parents numerous chances and the abuse circle throughout generations.

    I don’t know the answer to our own cruelty, but perhaps there is something to be said about options rather than sending a perfectly innoncent child into a household that does not want them.

  35. Cheesesbabe
    Cheesesbabe says:

    Penelope,
    I so enjoyed this blog. The bottom line–that “talk” helps bring things to light, give them power and allows for change–is so important.

    It’s not just abortions or miscarriages or other events–it’s all events. I have a large number of female friends–some of us married, some single–and in talking about what we want from partners, dating, sex, etc. it’s particularly liberating and empowering to be graphic.
    One friend talked about exactly how a new man held her, what the sex was like, what her desires were and how they didn’t line up.

    Further, because she is a very empowered woman who also believes silence is a disease, she talked directly to her partner about this too. Though it took him by surprise, as a result of their very in depth, typically kept secret comments, their entire sex life has changed.

    My ex and I had a great huge bed. He would come to bed with me and lie there until I fell asleep, then he’d go sleep in the guest room. We were both tall and liked to spread out. We enjoyed the closeness, but ended up often sleeping apart.
    I felt ashamed of this until one day at a lunch with four women friends, another friend made a reference to her husband “in the other room” and revealed that they also slept in separate beds when it came time for truly sleeping. The third woman nodded and said she and her husband do it often. The fourth woman moaned and said “I only wish Dan and I had a guest room! We barely fit together in the bed, being able to spread out would be great!”
    Just one conversation changed my mind about how I viewed my relationships! It was very freeing. I felt my relationship must be going wrong if we’re both so comfortable not snuggling constantly like they do “on TV.”
    Talking about it with others openly revealed I’m not alone and, as is always the case, the definition of “normal” is flexible.

    I also live in Wisconsin and empathize with your plight. Though I’m not a communist (and Dan, I work in government and happen to be a Ph.D., so that backwards comment was funny to me. You must have met all the wrong people!) I have also lived for some time in Alabama and find Wisconsin oddly liberating in terms of how people think and react. Our laws may have to catch up, but I find people seem willing to work on it.

    • Dan
      Dan says:

      “cheesebabe,” it makes sense that you are a PhD and work in the government because most non MD PhD’s have no additional value in the private sector and only the government would hire these people! For the record, I had the “joy” of working in WI state government for three years in Madison and found most liberals quite comfortable loafing around state government as they were the only beneficiaries of WI’s high taxes, paid for by the private sector, of which is very small and not growing for obvious reasons.

      Yes, the mentality in WI is backwards, is entitlement minded, and very narrow. If you’re not an alcoholic, you won’t like living there. If you aren’t lazy and think the government is the answer to all your problems, that state is not for you. If never ending higher taxes and a business and family unfriendly environment is not attractive to you, WI is not for you.

      My parents are from Ohio and I was born there and found it was “weird” that no one from your pathetic state actually came from there and people couldn’t believe I didn’t have “extended” family there, as if this were the 1950’s and no one had ever left their home town, ever. Now that I live in the free and greener pastures of TN, where we aren’t over policed to death and taxes are low and freedoms are high, I find out that WI and its Packer fans along with their mega guts are just @ss backwards.

      Madison has some cool bike paths, but the winters are worse than Milwaukee and the job market is TINY.

      Thanks but no thanks, not worth the price tag and the hassles!

  36. JPeep
    JPeep says:

    Something like 31 % of all pregnancies end in miscarriages before the woman even knows she’s pregnant. It’s very common, and yeah, it happens at work, and the Right to Lifers can mourn all those precious lost babies, and women who want to be pregnant can mourn those precious lost babies, but honestly, our systems are flushing out a lot (like, A LOT) of babies that were never meant to be naturally, so I can’t get too worked up about it as a policy issue and prefer to let it be a personal one.

    Also, here’s what I tell men, especially young, hip single men who like to have sex with women, about the whole abortion debate: “Do you want to make a baby every time you put your penis in a lady? EVERY TIME? 100%? A baby? That’s yours? That you made and will support and love and pay for? No? Then give a little money to Planned Parenthood and vote for pro-choice candidates, or stop putting your penises in ladies.”

    Penelope, I missed that Tweet, but, hey, I’m outraged for you about Wisconsin’s laws, and I hope you are ok. That must have been a very stressful day.

  37. Julie
    Julie says:

    I have a comment about your use of statistics to imply that you had less chance of getting pregnant than a 25-year-old using a condom.

    A statistic about 42-year-old women does not mean every 42-year-old woman has the exact same likelihood of conceiving. You know that, but you imply that it does.

    If you take a group of 42-year-old women who have had at least five previous pregnancies, as you have, the odds of conceiving are a hell of a lot higher than 5%.

    Your statement could both discourage 42-year-old women who are trying to conceive, and encourage those trying NOT to conceive to skip their contraception.

    Get your own calculator.

  38. Biscuit
    Biscuit says:

    I’m a casual reader of your blog and have to say that while your original tweet raises some beneficial (although, beaten-to-death-right-to-life) issues for discussion, I think your reaction piece here is completely contrived.

    You post something where you mention the word abortion, which you clearly should know from experience (and common sense) will enrage a good portion of the internet populous. You’re now suddenly shocked… SHOCKED… at the “uproar” your post caused? Please.

    I know your whole gig on here is to say whatever you want with no filter… and that’s fine. But feigning outrage and shock over the response to your post is nothing if not contrived. You knew what the response would be- flames and anger… and, of course, increased blog traffic.

    You’d be much more real and believable if you were actually discussing women’s issues in a positive way. Instead, you’re just another self-promoting internet personality who knows the best way to obtain attention. Let’s haul up the abortion debate and wrap it in the mantle of being concerned about womens rights at work.

    Your initial tweet was the equivalent of an attention starved child doing something he or she knows to be naughty to receive any sort of attention from his or her parents. The follow up reaction is the false tantrum that the child has when they’ve been put in time out- even though they know full well what was done was wrong.

    I happen to be a pro-life, liberal woman in my mid-20’s, so I’m on board with the ideas you’re backing… but the execution was in poor form, Penelope.

  39. Kim
    Kim says:

    This is a good, thought-provoking post that is all but undermined by your original post about your previous abortions. Even though you didn’t explicitly say it, I thought your post about your abortions ran dangerously close to saying that abortions aren’t really necessary, so women shouldn’t worry about them (and their diminishing legality.) It seems really disingenuous for you to now complain about the 3-week waiting period in Wisconsin (which I agree is ridiculous) when it seemed like your post about your abortions served to undermine the pro-choice ideology.

  40. James Fowlkes
    James Fowlkes says:

    The reaction to that tweet is crazy. Whateva! Thank you for being YOU and sharing your gift of writing. You might just be my favorite person to read on twitter. So, keep rockin’. Love ya, Penelope!

  41. Amber Rhea
    Amber Rhea says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and have never commented… but I really respect your strength and determination, and how you write openly and honestly even in the face of such hatred.

  42. Tom
    Tom says:

    You were fine. Please, these people need to get a life, get over themselves, quit projecting their belief systems on other people, and accept that someone else might be different than themselves. Also, everyone needs to be a bit more tolerant of other people’s lives.

    Good luck and keep up the good work.

  43. cecelia
    cecelia says:

    I am outraged that it takes three weeks to get an abortion in Wisconsin. If I had to wait to three weeks– with the persistent 24 hour nausea and complete disinterest in anything but laying on the couch and sleeping– I would have lost my mind. Miscarriage– even at work– is not gross. Legislators who try to control women through paternalistic laws, however, is absolutely disgusting.

    • Sara
      Sara says:

      By WI state law there, is a 24-hour — NOT a 3-week — waiting period to get an abortion. Penelope explains this in the blog post. Apparently there is a 1.5-week wait to get a Planned Parenthood appointment, and another 1.5 week wait after that to have the abortion.

      If she went somewhere other than Planned Parenthood, the timetable might well be different.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Sara, my health insurance, GHC (Wisconsin based) does not offer any abortion provider besides Planned Parenthood. In many states there is a shortage of people who perform abortions. The result is a three-week wait. It would not be so long a wait if the law did not require an extra appointment to meet the waiting period requirement.

        – Penelope

      • Sara
        Sara says:

        Penelope: Fair enough. Thanks for clarifying!

        btw, I know you didn’t ask, but after 3 birth control failures, I finally went for a copper IUD. No hormones, lasts 10 years. Not the right answer for everyone of course, but personally I love it.

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