Miscarriage is a horrible word. It turns the death of a baby into something trivial and transient (like misspell, misspoke and mishap), but also carries that subtle implication of blame (why did you fail to carry your baby? What mistake did you make?).
Miscarriage is staggeringly common; for every four women you know, one will suffer from a miscarriage during their life. Each year in the UK 250,000 parents have to cope with the loss of their baby during pregnancy. Because 85% of miscarriages happen before 12 weeks (well before most people look visibly pregnant), you’re almost certainly complete unaware of it happening around you.
Despite one in four pregnancies ending in miscarriage, the silence around the subject means that many women who have lost babies harbour unexpressed feelings of failure, isolation and guilt. Tommy’s research, 2015
Perhaps a friend is a bit quiet for a few weeks, or a colleague takes a few days off sick – both briefly mourning the loss of a child they’ll never meet and their future life together, before trying to bundle themselves back into their old lives whilst hiding the pain inside.
Because, frankly, we’re crap at talking about miscarriage in the UK. There’s a quiet stigma that anything related to sex should deeply personal and hidden. Stiff upper lip, and all that. If you do mention your loss to someone else, you’re likely to hear some panicked platitude like “it wasn’t meant to be” or “at least it happened early”.
I have no doubt that the death of your child shortly after birth can be a worse experience than a miscarriage at ten weeks. But that’s like saying losing two legs and an arm is worse than going blind.
The #misCOURAGE campaign
Tommy’s is a charity funding research into stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage. On 16 November 2015 they launched a #misCOURAGE campaign, encouraging people to speak out about miscarriage to try and break some of the taboo and prevent people who do lose a baby feeling quite so alone. They’re also trying to persuade the government to change policy – at the moment the NHS won’t investigate possible reasons for the loss of your baby until it happens three times.
It’s a worthy cause. Before we had mini-DarkerSide, we lost a baby at ten weeks. It wasn’t a planned pregnancy, we hadn’t told anyone outside our immediate family, and – as miscarriages go – it wasn’t physically horrendous.
It was by far the worst time of my life so far.
It was bad partly because it was so unexpected. Maybe my all-boys secondary education was deficient, but I had no idea that the loss of a baby early on was a real risk. My mind had raced ahead to our future family and becoming a dad. Those first few days, then first steps; first words. Learning to ride a bike. How we’d rearrange the flat. What our child would look like.
Then, suddenly; it was all gone. Stripped away for an unknown reason, but “probably a genetic problem with the developing baby”. We were left mourning a person we’d never meet, as well as the family we’d tricked ourselves into believing we’d already become. It was absolutely miserable.
I am endlessly thankful that we now have a healthly, happy, thoroughly mischievous little boy (who, even as I type, is busy trying to hide a slice of bread under the sofa for later consumption). And I can only say to those trying to pull their lives back together after a miscarriage: I’m so sorry. Please talk to someone about it – you’re not alone. You can speak to Tommy’s on 0800 0147 800 or at email@example.com, your friends and family, your doctors and midwives. Hell, you can even speak to me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For everyone else, please take a few minutes to read through some of the #misCOURAGE stories on the Tommy’s website. Spread the word about the campaign. We need to make miscarriage something we can talk about without fear or embarrassment.
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