Why is it that a pregnancy is readily announced and a miscarriage is tucked away like a shameful secret?
I want to share with you some thoughts based on my personal experience and the conversations I’ve had with other parents and expectant parents about miscarriages. By doing this, I hope that it will open up the conversation and help other parents to not feel alone.
First, let’s not call this a women’s issue. While women experience the physical impact of miscarriage, men are equal bearers of the emotional toil. In fact, men might disproportionately carry the emotional impact as there is even less perceived ‘allowance’ for them to speak about it.
I am the founder of WellVine, the first on-demand healthcare platform for pregnancy and children’s health. I believe passionately in supporting parents in their journey from pregnancy to early parenthood and beyond. I spend a lot of time with parents, not just understanding their healthcare needs, but digging deep into their hopes and their fears, for themselves and their families. I feel privileged to have been entrusted with stories of happiness, of sadness, of the highs and lows of parenting. There is one common thread through many of these stories: being public about joy, and private about grief. And that especially applies to life-changing experiences such as struggling to conceive, or having a miscarriage. The remarkable thing is that many people would prefer to speak openly about their grief and loss, but feel unable to do so.
My first pregnancy was a long journey, after years of trying and IVF cycles. The second pregnancy, much like the first, felt like a very special gift and one we could hardly believe. At the end of the first trimester, a devastating scan revealed I had a ‘missed miscarriage’; my body forgot to tell me that I had miscarried. The physical recovery took whatever time it needed to take. We were less prepared for the emotional rollercoaster, the unexpected silence and uneasy responses from some of our nearest and dearest.
I do believe it’s because fundamentally people are unsure about how to respond to loss. For happy occasions, there is a prescribed social script, an easy model to follow. For unhappy ones, it’s far murkier. The biggest worry appears to be of somehow increasing the hurt to the person hurting, by bringing up a topic that is painful. It then becomes a circle of silence, where all parties implicitly agree that perhaps it’s better to just ignore this uncomfortable truth.
There is also a tendency to trivialise miscarriages, because they are common. However, much like common celebrations – from birth to weddings – are unique to an individual and worthy of recognition, so are experiences of loss. Everyone’s experience of miscarriage is different.
Perhaps all it takes is a bit of courage – to speak up, to speak out, and to start conversations.