Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and for reasons best known to myself I’m writing about Facebook comments on a BBC News article. I know, I should not react. But the reaction to an article about miscarriage stigma utterly baffled me. It was an overwhelming “What stigma?”
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there should be any stigma around miscarriage. It should be something that every family should be able to talk about. But the work is dismantle that stigma is not yet done and just claiming ignorance of it ever being there isn’t a helpful attitude to take. It’s like people who claim that racism isn’t a problem because “I don’t see colour”. You don’t solve a problem by refusing to acknowledge it was ever there.
I should also say I’ve never had a miscarriage. I’ve had two pregnancies and I have two children. I’m one of the lucky ones because so, so many women that I know have been through it. And yes, there is a stigma.
It’s stigma that stops families announcing pregnancies in the first trimester because they don’t want to also have to announce a miscarriage. It’s employers expecting women to be back at work straight after it happens. It’s the expectation that women will stop being sad about it a month or a year or ten years later. Or the expectation that they’ll stop being sad about it when they get pregnant again. And then there’s the lack of understanding around pregnancy after loss – the constant paranoia about every twinge and every moment of stillness in the later trimesters. We all need to understand that subsequent pregnancies will never be as anxiety-free as that first one. Until this is all acknowledged and widely talked about, the stigma will never quite go away.
It is great that so many women who commented on the BBC article had experienced positive and sympathetic reactions to their miscarriages. But we all need to understand that every family’s experience is different and sadly, not every family has that positive experience. Others who commented that miscarriage was a “private family affair” also missed the point – telling women to stay silent about their trauma only exacerbates that trauma. How do we not know this by now?
I don’t know how best to go about dismantling the stigma that we still see around pregnancy and infant loss. I’d hope that my friends know that they can talk to me about their losses, even if they were a long time ago. But I do know that calling it a “non-issue” is insulting to so many who have been through it and feel like they can’t talk about it.
I hear you. I see your pain. It is genuine. Let’s hope we can get to a place one day where everyone feels that their pain is equally heard and seen.
Be kind to yourselves today, parents of lost ones. And be kind to yourself tomorrow and the next day too.