CBS Correspondent Shares Story of Miscarrying While Reporting on 2017 Wildfires: 'I Blamed Myself'
"I've moved past the stigma to help myself and help others," Mireya Villarreal wrote in her essay
A Texas-based CBS News reporter is opening up about her experience suffering multiple miscarriages while on the road covering stories, including her first miscarriage covering the massive wild fires in Northern California in 2017.
Villarreal, 39, doesn’t shy away from the pain of having had three miscarriages, but also offers words of encouragement and empowerment to other women who have experienced the same thing.
Villarreal’s story begins on a July day in Yosemite National Park, where she had just climbed for 45 minutes to the top of a scorched ridge.
While she wrote that she felt like she should have been proud in that moment, instead she was in terrible pain — and one of her male coworkers suggested that perhaps she had just eaten a bad burrito for lunch.
“When we got to the top of the ridge, I should have felt a sense of accomplishment,” Villarreal wrote in the essay. “Look what this tiny Hispanic woman from Edinburg, Texas, did: I climbed this mountain with a male production crew, covered a major story that would affect thousands of people’s lives, and now I’m going to fight to get this story on CBS Evening News.”
“Instead, I was cringing in pain. It was excruciating. It was like someone was taking a knife and stabbing my abdomen, right near the C-section scar from my first son,” she said. But she continued to work through the miscarriage, describing her fear of blood soaking through the yellow fire-retardant suit she had to wear while reporting and her distress at not being able to get to a bathroom or see a doctor while on location.
The coworkers that she was with on the story didn’t know she was pregnant, but the words “You must have eaten a bad burrito for lunch or some bad Mexican food on the way here” stung nonetheless.
“I knew if I told any of the men on that crew what I was going through, they wouldn’t understand. I’d get that look — ‘Oh, you poor woman’ — and then word would get back to my managers. So I kept everything to myself,” she wrote.
Villarreal said that after her first miscarriage, she fell into a depression, and kept asking herself, “[D]id I cause this?”
“In the beginning, no one could say anything to comfort me,” she added. “I was angry at my husband for not caring enough. I was angry at the doctor for not having answers. I was angry at my coworkers for going about their days like nothing had happened, even though most had no idea.”
“In my line of work, the facts are all that matter,” she wrote. “But for some reason, in this situation, finding data and stats wasn’t easy. Blaming something or someone for the loss isn’t that simple. Sometimes, your body can’t handle the pregnancy. Sometimes, it’s chromosomal abnormalities with the fetus. Food. Trauma. Stress. Sometimes there is no explanation – it just happens.”
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“I’ve read it all. And the reality is, for every woman it’s different. And yet, I still felt ashamed and guilty. I blamed myself then and still do,” she said.
Villarreal wrote that since July 2017, she has been able to grieve the loss of that child with therapy and is working on forgiving herself. In the past eight months, she said she has experienced two more miscarriages, both while on the road for work.
“I’m no longer ashamed of what happened. I’ve moved past the stigma to help myself and help others,” she said.
Villarreal continued: “Someone recently told me, ‘Why can’t you just be happy? Some women never get to have kids. Can’t you be happy with what you have? Isn’t it enough?'”
“Here’s the thing: No, it’s not enough. And it’s okay to say that. It’s okay to want more for whatever reasons you may have,” she wrote.
“I want to have more of that joy in my life. I want to have a bigger family. I want to have more children. And I would go through a hundred more miscarriages if it meant having another child like my 3-year-old.”