It was the empty cot and lonesome teddy bear which first caught my eye followed by the words "The secret heartache of 1 in 4 women". With my own heart suddenly beating just a little bit faster, I knew instantly what the headline was referring to, and the feature on miscarriage couldn’t have been published by Stylist at a more poignant time for me. I am one of those "1 in 4", in fact I am in the 1% of women who have suffered more than one loss, having just miscarried for the third time. The timing of the article couldn’t have been better, or perhaps worse, once the high percentages and increased future risks were digested.
Somewhat ironically, I have wanted to write a reader’s column on miscarriage for Stylist for some time, but the silence surrounding it and the shame and embarrassment which puzzlingly accompanies it, stopped me. I now feel emboldened to do so, but I am maddened at myself for waiting for this green light. This is the very problem women affected by miscarriage face.
I think the reason it is shrouded in such silence is because it is a very different form of grief. How do you grieve for someone you didn’t know? When people close to us die, it is the memories of them that cause us to grieve for them. Importantly, such grief and these memories can by very easily shared with others. A funeral is often the very platform for this early sharing of loss. But with miscarriage, there is rarely a platform and indeed it is more a process that a couple moves through in foggy isolation. You can’t blame other people for not understanding and often not knowing what to say, because they can’t possibly feel or share the loss – a loss which is actually an acute emptiness.
It is a very different form of grief. How do you grieve for someone you didn’t know?
I am a lawyer working in the City. Like many women who have miscarried, I didn’t feel justified in taking sick leave. In fact, rather unfortunately, it was a very busy time at work throughout all three miscarriages. So each time I just packed the emotional pain away, and got on with it. I pride myself on my professionalism at work, and for me, rightly or wrongly, I felt making this public was a sign of weakness. Maybe this helped and maybe it didn’t. The upside is that to others, and for me during the day, life was pretty much normal. The downside is that I don’t think I ever really allowed myself to work through my grief. I remember one evening saying to my husband through tears, "no one else thinks it is really that important, so why should we?" But, perhaps we don’t give people enough credit. I was the one with the low expectations of my work colleagues, who have certainly never done anything to deserve such judgment.
But amongst all this, there is one other equally important silent player who I have failed to mention thus far – the father. They are often, quite simply, forgotten. Presumably this is because it is not happening to them physically. But my husband, who prides himself on being a man of steel, actually shed a tear this recent time. I know for him it is a feeling of helplessness and let’s face it, men like to solve problems and to be in control.
And I think that this is what it boils down to. Miscarriage is something very few of us can control and in today’s society, women especially, we like to think that we can do and control it all. For me, I have picked myself up for a third time and have just had to accept that for the moment, it is what it is. Who knows what’s around the corner? Perhaps more heartache, but perhaps not. It is quite clearly the hope for the latter that keeps us all trying.
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Picture credit: Rex Features