Recently “Every Child is a Blessing” posted two pics that went viral.
The pictures above went viral not because they were just another picture of women pre and post birth but because these pictures were dedicated to the “taboo” subject of miscarriage. Whether or not I love the execution of the image is irrelevant, people have complained it is adding salt to the wounds, because I certainly appreciate the sentiment. The stigma surrounding miscarriages needs to end.
Miscarriages are often treated as if they are shameful secrets that need to be hidden away. People would deny that they thought this way but the actions of many actually indicate that they do. Women are indoctrinated that they should never tell anyone that they are pregnant until 12 weeks in case they miscarriage. Why? Because if people don’t know that you were pregnant than it doesn’t matter? That you’ve tried and failed and can keep the shame secret? That you’ll not be sad if others don’t know? These and other reasons are utterly illogical. Once a woman is pregnant and has decided to keep that baby, their hopes and dreams for that baby grow just as fast as the fetus. It isn’t just a collection of cells to the woman, it is the hopes and dreams of a rosie cheeked baby. A warm little person to hug and hold. A human being to love and nurture. It is real and it is growing and the mother is using her own body to feed and protect that little bundle of joy. In short, they love that baby. The pictures represent those dreams externalised that will never come to be with that pregnancy. The loss of that dream isn’t any better because people didn’t know, in fact it is harder. Harder because you have to endure that grief without support and because of this stigma of not being allowed to talk about it, you can’t even ask for support.
People are often highly insensitive to woman who have had miscarriages because of that taboo. I myself was told after mine that X person had also had a miscarriage in the past but thank God she hadn’t told anyone but immediate family because then nobody knew and therefore it was better for her. The message was pretty clear that it was “better” for people not to know. That telling people after your first ultrasound was unacceptable. One must wait until the second ultrasound. It was on my second ultrasound where I was told that there was no longer a heartbeat and that it was a case of fetal demise. I needed to get a babysitter for my daughter so that I could go to the hospital because my body was not letting go naturally. I’d put on the same amount of weight as if I had had an alive fetus.
The fact that my best friend knew and could offer me sympathy and support was a blessing. The fact that others also knew was both a blessing and a curse. A curse because insensitive women told me how it would have been “better” if others didn’t know, but a blessing because so many women I knew then opened up to me that they had miscarried before. That they were there to talk because they knew how much support was needed because they were denied it. They were expected not to speak about it and just soldier on because they knew that is what was expected of them. That because the baby wasn’t full term it didn’t count.
(Just a quick side note, none of my children reached full term. My daughter reached 35 weeks and my boys 32 weeks. All happy, healthy, alive and perfectly real and worthwhile to this day.)
But those hopes and dreams do count and one does grieve when those are literally ripped from their body and one does need support. And most importantly people deserve support and there is no shame in having a miscarriage, only sadness. The woman has done nothing wrong. It is sad, and it happens. But there is no fault and there does not need to be a secret.
So I’m glad that those pictures went viral. I’m glad that people now can visualise what the women have actually lost. And now maybe people will have compassion for women when they have a miscarriage rather than trying to shut them down with their insensitive comments about how people shouldn’t mention they’re pregnant until 12 weeks, or thank goodness it was so early on so it doesn’t matter. It does matter. People knowing will allow women to get support and stop being silenced.
And for the record, the greatest miscarriage risk is at 7 weeks not 12.
So hopefully now people will start offering support rather than lectures or dismissive statements. If you don’t want to be supportive of a grieving friend that’s fine, but please admit that the problem is with you, not because they told someone in your opinion to early or because the baby wasn’t “real enough” in your opinion. It’d be appreciated if people were honest that the problem was societal bias and not the grieving no-longer-mother-to-be.
Miscarriages aren’t a shameful secret that people shouldn’t know about. They’re sad and tragic and people need the support of loved ones to get through it, NOT secrecy and shame.