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Meghan Markle’s miscarriage, and the problem with “putting on a brave face”

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Hollie Richardson
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Meghan Markle

The news of Meghan Markle’s miscarriage has shocked and saddened people today, but there’s a lesson we must take from her heartbreaking New York Times essay.

There’s a sombre mood in the air today. It is yet another dull day in lockdown, after all. The grey sky, Christmas bubble confusion, bristling November chill and third wave fears all continue to feed into this collective “meh” mood. But the breaking news that one of the most famous women in the world recently lost her second child has also added a certain layer of sadness for many of us.

When a “Meghan Markle reveals she had a miscarriage as she opens up about her and Harry’s ‘unbearable grief’” headline flashed on my phone this morning, it shook me in a way I did not instantly recognise. I wanted to reach out and hug this woman who I’d never met before. I just wanted to ask: “Are you OK, love?”

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In her New York Times essay, Meghan details the devastating moment she knew she was miscarrying her second baby while looking after her son Archie: “After changing his diaper, I felt a sharp cramp. I dropped to the floor with him in my arms, humming a lullaby to keep us both calm, the cheerful tune a stark contrast to my sense that something was not right. I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.”

My heart broke for Meghan while reading these words. Meghan – who always has to put on a “powerful” or “brave” face to “shut down” the haters – is just a woman who isn’t immune to the heartaches that life cruelly gifts us with. And yet, I still knew she would have to justify her reason for sharing such a personal story, just like Chrissy Teigen had to when she shared photos of her stillborn son Jack earlier this year

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For some people, it’s not enough that these women are helping to break the stigma around talking about miscarriage – something that happens in more than one in five pregnancies, which the Miscarriage Association estimates is probably around a quarter of a million in the UK each year. It’s also not enough that talking about miscarriage could help them through this lifelong grief they are now navigating alone.

They want to know why, why, why are they really talking about this? And, although Meghan is under no obligation to give an answer that satisfies everybody, the latter half of her essay has one.

Meghan refers to an interview with ITV reporter Tom Bradby, filmed during her and Harry’s trip to South Africa in 2019, which saw her telling Bradby about how hard life has been under the spotlight since becoming a mum.

She writes:“‘Are you OK?’ a journalist asked me. I answered him honestly, not knowing that what I said would resonate with so many – new moms and older ones, and anyone who had, in their own way, been silently suffering. My off-the-cuff reply seemed to give people permission to speak their truth. But it wasn’t responding honestly that helped me most, it was the question itself.

“‘Thank you for asking,’ I said. ‘Not many people have asked if I’m OK.’”

Meghan ends her essay by asking people to “commit to asking others, ‘Are you OK?’”

But maybe the real focus is on learning to be fully honest about the answers we give and receive in response to this. Because Meghan’s story reminds us that we should never assume what’s going on in another person’s life. Most people reading this will know exactly what it’s like when you feel a need to “put on a brave face” in front of others. Even in the most painful times, we still so often see it as a weakness to be vulnerable. But perhaps, when we are at our most vulnerable, we are also at our most powerful. 

And that’s why this news feels so personal. I may not know Meghan, but I do know so many others going through a painful time right now. And I want to ring them up and let them know they can be completely honest about it.

For support and information on pregnancy loss, please visit Miscarriage Association 

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…