I am the first person to admit that I had no clue about adoption before I adopted my son. I remember when I was growing up, I would tease my brothers that they “were adopted”. There was a girl in my first grade class who was adopted, but I was always told not to talk about it to her. I came to think that adoption was something that was a secret, and because it was a secret there might be something wrong with it. (more…)
Recently, when I was around 10 weeks pregnant, I went in for a dating ultrasound.
My midwife wanted to confirm my baby’s due date, because we suspected that I was actually 9 weeks along, or maybe 11 weeks.
The radiologist discovered that my baby was dead – had died at 8 weeks and 4 days… whenever that had been.
We all know that miscarriage is always a risk, but it’s still a shock to go in for a routine ultrasound with a seemingly healthy pregnancy… and then leave in tears talking about getting a D&C.
A week later I was sedated and the remains of my baby were scooped out of me.
I was heartbroken. I was grieving.
But I was also very lucky: I had immense amounts of support.
I had friends texting me constantly asking what they could do to help. My house smelled like roses, because the girls at work sent me a big bouquet of flowers. My neighbours invited our son over for dinner so we wouldn’t have to fake cheerfulness with him, and left cookies in our mailbox.
The love and support I received contrasted violently with the experience of a friend, who was fired from work after her miscarriage, who got no flowers, no cookies, and whose grandmother and mother-in-law both hurt her frequently by nagging her to produce a baby.
But it’s not a fair comparison – you see, I told people about my miscarriage.
My friend did not.
The conventional wisdom – in our part of the world at least – says that you shouldn’t even tell people that you are pregnant, lest you miscarry. Better to wait until the second trimester, when your risk of miscarriage drops dramatically.
The implied assumption is that you don’t want to tell people about your miscarriage, so it’s better keep your pregnancy a secret until that danger has passed.
I want to know: Why don’t we want to talk about miscarriage?
For many women, miscarriage isn’t just a matter of, “Oops, never mind, no baby after all!” While some may feel that way, and that’s fine, others can be devastated.
I wasn’t just mourning the 8 week jellybean inside me. I was weeping for the baby I had been expecting, my Christmas baby, and as I wept, I clutched the little newborn sized Christmas pajamas that I had already bought.
And sometimes these women suffer side by side.
I had two friends who miscarried close to each other. Both told me, neither told the other. They each thought they were alone. Neither knew what the other was going through. Neither knew that they had something in common.
When I announced my loss at work, every woman over 35 had a miscarriage story to share.
Just think – of the ten women at my work, four have had miscarriages. And none of them talked about it… until I announced mine.
They shared their grief with me, and we hugged each other, and listened to each other’s stories.
And I wondered… why aren’t we supposed to do this?
Why do so many women keep miscarriage a secret, often not even telling friends or family members? Why do some women keep their pregnancies a dark secret, just out of fear that the pregnancy might end?
There’s an element of shame that hovers around miscarriage.
People think that talking about their miscarriage somehow addresses a failure, as if they had made a mistake.
It’s natural to blame yourself for your miscarriage. My first thought was, “What did I do wrong?”
The first thing my midwife said to me was, “You did nothing wrong.”
When I spoke to the nurse at the Early Pregnancy Assessment Centre, she told me that 97% of the time, miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities and have nothing to do with the mother’s actions.
When I went on to worry that something I was exposed to at work might have killed my baby – x-rays, or pesticides – she told me, “We see a LOT of women in here who are pregnant, but don’t want to be. You wouldn’t believe the crazy stuff they have tried to end the pregnancy at home. It never works. Trust me – there is nothing you could have done to bring this on yourself.”
My miscarriage was not my fault.
I didn’t fail, and the women who have told me about their miscarriages didn’t fail either. So why do we treat it like a failure?
But even the term “miscarriage” implies some fault on the woman, as if I had dropped the baby in a moment of thoughtlessness. In fact, some women have even been prosecuted for their miscarriages.
So we don’t tell people about it.
In a culture where you aren’t supposed to talk about your miscarriage – or even your first trimester pregnancy lest it end in miscarriage – families grieve for their lost babies in a vacuum of shame and secrecy.
There is no funeral. No compassionate leave. No Hallmark cards. But that doesn’t make it less real of a loss.
Even women who aren’t grieving their miscarriage – perhaps they didn’t even want the baby – feel the need to hide it due to the stigma around it.
And that’s never going to change unless people start talking.
Until we bring miscarriage into the light, it will remain a dark, hidden secret.
Until people start talking about it, people won’t know how to respond to it appropriately. Until we remove the stigma, the shame will continue.
Until we talk about it, people will continue to suffer in silence.
Because if you don’t tell anyone unless they have had a miscarriage too, how does anyone who has miscarried find each other?
It just takes one person to speak out, to announce their loss like it is any other loss, and the stories and support come pouring in.
So we need to speak up.
We need to tell people when we suffer a loss. We owe them that, and we owe ourselves that, because for all we know, they need someone to talk to, too. Don’t assume that they don’t know what you’re going through, because chances are, they do.
I’m asking all of you to be brave.
Talk about it on Facebook.
Tweet it, #talkaboutmiscarriage.
Tell people you don’t know very well.
Tell them if you’re grieving. Tell them if you aren’t.
There’s no reason to hide what has happened, or how you feel about it. Chances are neither the experience, nor your emotions, are unique to you.
Only by opening those doors can we find the support we need, and join together the women who have been suffering in silence for all this time.
Have you or has someone close to you had a miscarriage? How did cultural attitudes toward it affect the grieving process?
Photo credit to Jiri Hordan. This photo has been released into the public domain by its author, Jiri Hordan.
I was watching my daughter play with a bubble machine today. She and I were laughing as she was running through the bubbles, and we were both looking at the bubbles floating up to the sky trying to see different images. I looked over at her as she watched the bubbles drift away and she had the biggest, sweetest smile on her face. I wondered in my mind if she would remember this extra special ordinary day because I knew I was making an imprint of it in my own mind…these special moments with just the two of us in the middle of the day in the middle of a week are starting to slip through my fingers… (more…)
I was reminded recently that it was about a year ago when Jen asked if I fancied writing some articles about motherhood. I had never seen or read a blog before, and never thought that I would be able to write one but I tried, and I got hooked!
I just read the first article I ever wrote – and though I recognise everything I wrote, it still feels like a different me and a different time.
I had only been back to work for a couple of months after maternity leave and I was just getting used to this new ‘reality’ – and here I am, a year later, and this is reality now. Both my husband and I are working full-time and the wee lad is in nursery and he seems to enjoy it as he gets to run around as much as he likes. My husband takes him to nursery in the morning, and I pick him up in the afternoon, and we seem to have found some sort of a routine that works, for now at least.
A year feels like a very long time ago, and a lot of things have happened this past year. The wee lad’s first Christmas, and first birthday, first step, first word – a lot of ‘firsts!” Quite a bit of traveling as well to see (more…)
Today’s Friday Question comes to us from our founder, Veronica Samuels. This week she asked our writers…
“Why do you blog?”
And here are the responses from some of our World Moms…
Alison Lee of Malaysia writes:
“I love to write and I’m pretty opinionated and where better than to express it in my own little space? I also enjoy connecting with fellow moms, learning from their experiences, sharing in their joy, sadness and triumphs. I get a lot of satisfaction from blogging and have gained some friendships along the way. What’s not to love?”
That fact that I am here today to write this post, or rather, that I am even walking the face of this earth, is actually a miracle. A miracle that occurred three generations ago, when a little lady persevered with her son’s life. This post is a tribute to that wonderful woman who was my great-grandmother.
In an age where having 10-12 kids was considered the norm, my maternal grandfather was an only child. And, not by choice either.
My great-grandparents had completed over 16 years of married life before their one and only son was born. Living in a little town called Thrissur in the royal state of Cochin, they had tried just about every treatment that was available to them in India in the early 20th century, somewhere in the 1920s.
It was around then that an acquaintance told them about a big hospital in Madirashi (later called Madras and today known as Chennai), where they had had success in treating infertility. My great-grandparents must have been pretty well off then (history, a.k.a my aunts from whom I learned this story, are not particularly clear on that point), for they decided to go to Madras to pursue the new treatment there.
Unlike today, in those days if a couple did not have children, it was thought that maybe God had cursed them and things were left at that. (more…)