On Tuesday 27th March 2018, I had a miscarriage. I pinpoint this date because this was the day that the radiologist typed “absent foetal heart rate” on a screen in front of us at the hospital and we officially found out that our baby’s heart had stopped beating. They later told us that it had probably occurred several days or even weeks prior to this point. The events that proceeded this earth shattering news have led me to believe that there’s so much that we need to change. We need to talk about miscarriage.
Much like other forms of loss and grief, it took me some time to process what had happened. I was ten weeks pregnant, but in all likelihood my baby had only lived for eight short weeks inside of me. Eight weeks when I had already created a lifetime with this child by my side in my mind. Our baby’s and family’s futures as we had envisioned them had been wiped out in a fleeting moment, and it was only a couple of days later that I was able to fully take on the enormity of what this truly meant to me. I broke down.
Just days before, caught up in a flurry of excitement and urgency, as people were starting to guess our news, we proudly announced that we were expecting to all of our friends and social media followers. We took some special photos. I wrote a blog post. Our closest friends and family already knew, but we wanted the world to know. I was sick and tired but riding that new pregnancy wave of positivity and happiness, and barely thought twice about the risks associated with pregnancy before 12 weeks.
As sure as I was that I wanted these people to know that we were expecting, I then wanted them to know we were not any more. I couldn’t bear the thought of bumping into someone on the street who would casually congratulate me and ask how the pregnancy was going, and then having to relive the horror of my new reality all over again. I needed some kind of closure.
And so I did the unthinkable. I talked openly about my miscarriage on social media.
I wasn’t prepared for the influx of responses that came through thick and fast after that. I later counted my messages and realised that over the space of two days, over 70 women had reached out to me to tell me that they too had suffered a miscarriage. They openly discussed the pain that they had endured, and offered me their support, advice and understanding.
I was overwhelmed, not just by their kindness, but by the taster I was being given of the sheer magnitude of this life event, which is being experienced by women all over the world every single day. Some of the women that reached out to me I knew personally and knew they had been trying for children, others I knew personally and had no idea that children had even entered their minds, let alone that they had miscarried, sometimes several times. Many of these women I did not know, and yet they opened up to me in a way that affected me to my core.
These women all had one thing in common, you see. They had all suffered in relative silence. Hardly anyone, aside from their nearest and dearest, knew anything about the pain that they were going through. Most of the time, people didn’t even know they were pregnant in the first place at all. Suddenly I wasn’t just grieving for me, my family and the life we’d lost, but I was in mourning for every single one of these women who had endured the most unthinkable pain alone, without the full support of the community behind them.
It might surprise some of you to find out that approximately 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage within the first three months. One fifth of the population who find out they’re pregnant will experience this pain, hardship and heartbreak at some point in their life. When you translate this into actual numbers, they are astronomical, and yet opening up about the issue is still so taboo in our society. Why?
Why are women expected to simply pick themselves up, get on with their lives and go back to work as if nothing has happened at all? Why don’t the resources exist for these millions of women to access professional guidance and help? I just can’t shake the gut-wrenching feeling that the miscarriage taboo is preventing women from expressing their true vulnerability, from accepting the extent of their grief, and ultimately from getting the real support that they might need during this incredibly difficult time.
In an age where society expects women to stand equal to men in every dimension, including emotional strength and resilience, have we gone too far, at the expense of allowing ourselves to truly embrace the physical upheaval and raw emotion that comes along with miscarriage?
One day I might find the strength to talk openly about the physical and emotional turmoil that I have been through, and am still going through now, but what I will say is this. If I didn’t have the network that I had to lean on during the past eight days, I’m not sure how I could have survived.
This is the crux of it to me. Not every woman will feel the same as I do. Some won’t want to talk, and will get through the pain by picking themselves up and moving on as best they can, without having to discuss it with a single soul. This is perfectly OK. However, there will be others that will cope much better knowing that they aren’t in this alone. There are people that might want to hear other women’s stories. There are people that will need support from those around them as they transition through the various stages of their grief. This is why we need to talk about miscarriage.
Teachers need to talk about miscarriage in their sex education classes when they educate our future generations on the risks associated with pregnancy. Workplaces need to talk about miscarriage in their HR manuals when they outline bereavement policies and compassionate leave. Politicians and policy makers need to talk about miscarriage when they set out plans for the future of our healthcare systems, and psycho-social support systems. Doctors need to talk about miscarriage in clinics and centres and consultations. Families need to talk about miscarriage at the dinner table. Society at large needs to talk about miscarriage, to normalise it and shake off this taboo.
Let me leave you with a message from one of my followers.
“I just wanted you to know you’re not alone. We suffered a long drawn-out process of miscarriage the first time and then a shocking quick ‘almost died but then it was all over’ ruptured ectopic the second time. We went through both in silence. We only told a handful of close family/friends and for the most part pretended to the outside world that all was OK.
I think you posting publicly about what you’re going through is amazing. I’m not sure that you can understand at this raw stage that you are going through how much this will mean to other women going through this. Not that you need to be any kind of hero, you just need to get through this and ride the emotional rollercoaster as best you can. But speaking out about pregnancy loss is MASSIVE! We need to do that shit! We need to talk and talk and talk, we need to break the taboo!”
So I’m writing this post to do just that. To spread some awareness of this important issue, not for myself, but for the seventy-odd women who got in touch with me when I spoke up about what I was going through to offer their support and solidarity and understanding. This is for those incredible women and countless others who have suffered one of the most heartbreaking yet commonplace events that life can throw at a person and who have suffered in silence throughout.
Losing a child is a life altering experience. We need to talk about miscarriage.