My wife and I had a miscarriage a few years back and this is predominately how I came to have a better understanding of this very difficult subject. What upset me was I thought miscarriages were not that prominent until I realised that they were and are just not being talked about and given the deserved prominence in the national discourse considering the grief and distress suffered by the parents. I wanted to know why there was this life changing , emotionally devastating event resulting in a great sense of loss of what promised to be a life fulfilling event in people’s lives but is still socially kept under wraps almost like a embarrassing little secret.
I had only ever had one conversation about miscarriages with a work colleague and it was only necessary to coordinate time off and other work logistics. I do not think we would have discussed the topic otherwise and even still we conversed almost in dark shadows for fear anyone would know the content of our short discussion. I know men are not great at talking about emotional issues but maybe that is something that needs to change also.
Personally what I felt after our miscarriage was that I wanted, almost needed to talk to people about it. This was not something that had to be kept a secret and told only to the necessary few. It is mentally unhealthy to suppress the emotions that come with a miscarriage. There was a profound sadness in the loss of our potential son or daughter that was necessary for us to share. There needed to be an acknowledgment of what had happened, a major anguish in our lives.
What I found from talking to people about our miscarriage was a cluster of similar stories from both friends and family who had gone through similar difficulties and had shared our grief. These were major events in their lives that I did not know about. They were forgotten occurrences that were not talked about in social conversations and only came to light when I was apart of that ill-fated group as well. It shocked me as miscarriages are not something we choose to do to our pregnancy. Miscarriages can just happen by natures way of saying that this time it is unfortunately not going to work out. It is sad but it is not our fault. It can just happen. There is no need to be ashamed or embarrassed. This should not be a taboo subject. This is not like deciding to terminate a pregnancy for example where there may well be a taboo attached around this decision socially and people may feel uncomfortable talking openly about it. In the case of miscarriages it is generally out of our control. We should not feel like 50/60 years ago where virtually anything to do with the procreation of our species was forbidden to talk about or heaven forbid even think about.
Asking ourselves what did I or we do wrong is a common question afterwards and of course the answer is invariably – nothing. Feelings of guilt can be erroneously misguided. The truth is miscarriages are completely common. It is estimated that 10 to 25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages with the actual number estimated to exceed these figures. Happily most women who have miscarriages go on to become pregnant again and have a healthy child.
I remember a few years ago when Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced that she was expecting a baby. The couple also revealed for the first time that she had previously experienced three miscarriages. They were applauded for their openness in bringing the commonality of miscarriages to the fore. It still made me wonder though about why this topic needed a famous ambassador to tell us that it is ok to talk about because it happened to them too. It simply just is ok to talk about and it happens to millions of people in every corner of the world every year.
The grieving process afterwards can be an uncertain procedure to engage in. People can find it difficult to perceive or imagine a loss that they have never seen. A considerable amount of your emotional and physical reactions will largely depend on your views on life, when it begins and what constitutes a human loss. From our part we had a complete scale of reactions from people. Some were a pat on the back as a ‘hard luck’ gesture and that was it. Others grieved with us as they may have known themselves what the loss is like. Some gave us reminders to hang up for the ‘soul’ that did not make it but would be watching over us. Others were expecting a funeral service for the life that was lost. It can be hard to know where exactly to fit in here. I found it difficult. Should I just have moved on? Did I cry enough? Should we have had a service? Either way the importance of having the topic of miscarriages as an open honest and non censored subject cannot be over emphasized.
It is difficult enough as it is when you are going through the experience with all the confused emotions that are aligned with it, the misguided guilt, the loss, the remorse, the misconceptions. The way to deal with these emotions effectively is not by hiding them, pushing them down and feeling in some way at fault for what happened. You should not feel ashamed to talk about it openly and with a social acceptance. I am not saying it has to be shouted from the rooftops but it is ok to talk about miscarriages and for the rest of the world, it is ok to listen, understand and empathize. You never know, it just might be you someday.