In an ideal world society would be able to recognise miscarriage at any stage as a form of grief. Losing someone that you love is painful and soul wrenching, but as a society we recognise that pain and we celebrate funerals as a community to say goodbye to the person we have lost. We celebrate their lives and honour their passing.
In miscarriage many women are deprived of these rituals, because they have literally just flushed a life down the toilet. Sometimes there are no remains to bury and sometimes you don’t know the sex of the person you have lost. All this contributes in processing this grief in an abstract yet tangible way. Shame and guilt are common feelings because you feel the amount of grief has to be directly proportional to how old the baby was. The lack of understanding of miscarriage grief in society leads women like us to hide from it to conceal a pain that is not recognised as worthy and proportional to the tragedy.
Zoe Clack-Coates deals with this topic extensively in her book ‘The Baby Loss Guide’, a practical take on processing miscarriage grief, which has proven priceless in my quest to understanding my own pain. I won’t go into as much detail as she does, but in one of the exercises in the book she asks you to write things that people have said to you after a miscarriage and how it makes you feel. So I have reflected on this after my most recent miscarriage and this is what I came up with.
‘You are still young and you have plenty of time to have children. It’ll happen in the end.”
On the surface this comment is harmless, hopeful and well meaning. However, I felt empty after having seen it. On the one hand, you do want to have hope that you will have living children in the future, but on the other hand, you are grieving for this baby and not any other baby. You will never have this baby in your arms.
It reminds me a little bit of whenever you go through a breakup and someone tells you ‘there’s plenty of fish in the sea’. That might be true, but I love this person. All the other people are irrelevant to me right now. You need time to process this loss before you even think of trying again for another baby. Ttc (trying to conceive) is the last thing you want to be thinking about. Its like you just climbed a mountain and fell off the mountain, then realised you have to climb it back again. The rollercoaster of ttc seems insurmountable at this time.
“Everyone is going through a hard time right now with the lockdown.“
Minimising and comparing people’s pain never ever ever works. This comment made me incredibly angry. Let’s admit it, the world has been through some fucked up shit in the last few months. We have a global pandemic, people are losing their jobs, breaking up with their partners, their dreams on hold, parents homeschooling children, people are dying!
All of this doesn’t deter one bit from the pain and grief of pregnancy loss. If anything, it enhances it. I had to go to the hospital alone and hear there was nothing in my womb alone. I also live in the lockdown. Pain is not a competition, by acknowledging my pain you’re not denying everybody else’s or yours. At that moment, I needed to be understood and listened to, but, at the same time, I am aware that not everyone can provide that or has the mental fortitude to do so. I have found people to converse with who, even if they were in pain themselves, have taken the time to talk to me and for that I’m most grateful.
“It is very common, it happens all the time, I know a person who so and so.”
This comment can be handy at times, especially if someone has been through pregnancy loss first hand and can relate to you or know someone who has. However, it can be tricky to relay other people’s stories that are not your own, I guess that there is a risk of hearsay and inaccuracy.
On the other hand, the fact that it happens all the time is alarming! Especially as it gets put down to bad luck and not recognised by medical professionals and not investigated. The myth is perpetuated by them as the 1 in 4 (one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage) and this is part of the problem. Perhaps, if miscarriage was made more of a deal of, then it would be researched, explained and there would be a solution for it. The way I see it miscarriage should be a thing of the past. We can create robots and go to the Moon and Mars but we are still in the dark as to how to prevent miscarriages.
Another common misconception of this is that ‘a pain shared is a pain halved’. But this is a double edge sword because it encourages you to compare yourself with other people, something that I had been trying to avoid for a long time as it spawns feelings of jealousy. Having said that, I enjoy the frequent success stories I bump into online, as it gives me fuel to keep moving in the quest to eventually have a baby in my arms.
“How can you keep doing this to yourself? Are you just being a bit stubborn?”
This comment is very very painful because of the compound guilt that you feel for being unable to carry a child to term. Recurrent miscarriage makes me feel like a serial killer. However, I’ve asked myself the same question every single day of my infertile life. ‘How can I keep going?’ I’ve been questioning myself for exactly 1095 days. I am sure when someone is looking for a job but can’t find one, you don’t slur them for persevering to try and find one. What’s needed is not undermining but encouragement. The world already gives you shit, please don’t add to the equation. Pretty sure you have a degree in psychology, but if you don’t understand the stages of grieving, maybe you missed that module. Rant over. Sorry, I had to take my anger out on this one. Haha.
In some occasions the instinct to reproduce takes over individual survival and that, for me, is crazy. I can’t understand why I keep going, but I do.
And that’s pretty much where we are at. There has been incredible support from people in general though. People who have listened and read my story and people who have made me laugh on phone calls or go camping with us. I understand it’s very difficult to know what to say when someone goes through recurrent miscarriage. One of my best friends told me ‘I don’t know what to say any more other than I am so so sorry’. That meant the world to me. He gave me a hug in lockdown and that also saved my life.
In an ideal world I would like to have a funeral for my babies and be able to talk about my pregnancies freely, without the taboo that a failed pregnancy represents. I would also be able to talk about my babies, their names and why I named them as if they were alive. My boyfriend has been incredibly supportive. He bought Pequeño a blanket that I will always hold dear, he bought me flowers so that the only thing I had left from the pregnancy wasn’t hair loss and weight gain. Physical reminders of my babies and pregnancies I hold very dear in my heart. It is only after I have honoured my babies that I can move on. Rest in peace. Amen.