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Miscarriage is a strange, lonely type of grief. This Instagram account helps.

I had my first miscarriage in 1999, before the Internet. It was brutal in every way. Physically, I felt destroyed. At 19 weeks my body was preparing to welcome a baby. After she died inside me, after she was removed while I was under anaesthetic – I wince even now all these years later when I type the word ‘remove’ because it’s so brutally different from the way I’d wanted her to come into the world… to give birth to her… to hold her in my arms.

My empty arms.

The first thing I do when someone I know loses a baby is to tell them to go and buy a beautiful stuffed toy, something soft, and hold it, hug it. The maternal need to hold something after giving birth is primal. And so it can be after having that possibility snatched away from you. I was bleeding, just like after giving birth to a live baby. My stomach was swollen. I was hormonal.

And the milk. Nobody told me about the milk. As I stood in the shower, sobbing, the day after I’d had day surgery and said a tearful goodbye to my daughter while holding my stomach on the way into the operating theatre I was shocked to see milk mixing with the water and my tears on the floor. What the actual…

My body was confused. It wanted to hold a baby. It wanted to feed a baby. And I had… nothing. A cavernous empty hole in my heart where all my hopes and dreams for this baby had lived just a few days earlier.

There was nobody who understood. Oh they tried. They tried so hard. My husband. My mother and father. My best friend. They all tried to talk to me, to hug me, to console me. But I was unreachable. My grief was part bubble, part prison. I couldn’t escape from it and neither did I want to, frankly. All I wanted was to talk with and listen to other women who had experienced what I was going through. It was 1999 though, and I had no way to find them.

LISTEN: Monique Bowley opens up about her miscarriage on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below.

I went to bookshops, self-consciously standing in the health and self-help aisles, looking desperately for books about miscarriage. There were none. I had no friends who had experienced pregnancy loss. They were still in the trying-not-to-make-a-baby phase of their lives as was my sister in law. My other sister in law was pregnant. I couldn’t talk to her. My mum hadn’t been through it. I was alone and isolated by my tragedy and these feelings amplified the crushing sense of failure that so often accompanies pregnancy loss.

I’ve never forgotten how I felt in the aftermath of my miscarriage and it was fundamental in why I went on to create Mamamia eight years later… so that no matter what a woman was going through, she could find information and first-person stories from women who had been through it too. So she felt seen, understood, included, normal, reassured, safe.

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Mamamia launched our first annual Pregnancy Loss Awareness Week in 2016 (you can find all the content for that here) and we will be doing it again this year.

We have a closed Facebook group for women who have experience pregnancy loss (you can find it here) and we have created a free e-book that anyone can download or send the link to a friend (you can find that here).

Social media can feel so overwhelmingly full of perfect lives and impossible bodies that it’s so important to highlight people and places who are doing good things for women. When women share our stories and our experiences, we provide other women with a gift of spirit and generosity.

The Instagram account “I Had A Miscarriage” was created by Jessica Zucker, a Los Angeles-based psychologist specialising in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health. In her work, she’d spent a decade counselling women after pregnancy loss but until she lost her unborn daughter at 16 weeks back in 2012, she didn’t really understand the depth and magnitude of how it felt to lose a baby. She created the Instagram account “@Ihadamiscarriage” and the hashtag #ihadamiscarriage.

Zucker’s miscarriage was during the second trimester of her second pregnancy and she delivered her baby at home alone. She had to cut the cord before she began haemorraging and was rushed to hospital by her husband where she had to have a dilation and curretage to remove the placenta and remnants of the pregnancy. Within a few hours she was back home. Not pregnant.

By telling her story and starting the Instagram account, Zucker told self.com that she wants to reach out to other women and help ease their feelings of guilt and shame – emotions that are so common and so isolating among women who have experienced pregnancy loss.

“By putting it out there in the world and sharing it with women globally, people then feel this sense of recognition and a robust community,” she says. “I don’t have to know you, because it’s social media, but I know those feelings so well. In so many of comments or messages people say, ‘I could have written this myself.’ Part of the point is to really show that we’re more similar than we think.”

Anyone can contribute to the hashtag or the page. Here are some of the incredible photos and stories…

Invisible Girl by @pieraluisa. Posted with permission. _ There is an invisible girl in this photo. Look closely. Can you see her? No? Perhaps, then, I imagined her. You're right. I did. _ I imagined a lot. A life. A love. _ You upside down on the monkey bars Me clenching my teeth in fear while cheering you on. My fearless girl. My powerful girl. I wanted to keep you that way. _ For a while you were real. Confirmed by a heartbeat. A squirm. A black and white image. With me, a surfacing sense of possibility. A yearning so deep I wanted to hide it from myself. _ Apprehension too. For compromise, identity mutated, for what life might be and not be. I wanted you so bad, but you scared me. _ Did I scare you? _ Then one day, a rush of blood. Running panicked through an office. A hospital. A sharp inhale. _ Did you know that if you hold your breath you can stop time? I tried to create a force field so bad news couldn't land on us. I tried that and it didn't work. _ Desire calcified in the moment it was not. Grief cracked me wide open. Heart way too open now. If there is such a thing. My world filmed in a lace-like web of beauty and pain. Small moments unfolding, opening trap doors. _ As I reconfigure my dreams, don't tell me that I lived too much. Shhhhhhhhhhh. Just listen. Shhhhhhhhhhh. _ 'Cause I see it all right now. Life's mysteries laid bare. And I don’t want advice, I just want to be. _ Now sleeping with a palm-sized rock. Grieving an invisible girl. Molten to the touch when I wake, empty, filled up. _ Wherever you are, I'll save this space for you. And know I can always find you here. _ #IHadAMiscarriage #miscarriage #pregnancyloss #stillbirth #infantloss #motherhood #grief #loss #1in4 // Photo by @prue_stent.

A post shared by Jessica Zucker, Ph.D. (@ihadamiscarriage) on

THIS by @ashleedwells: "Mama. I didn't yike it in your belly." . _ My face softens as her brown eyes look up at me. Lashes dragging softly inside blue glasses. "What didn't you like baby?" "What do you remember?" . _ I didn't yike it in your belly, Mama. It was too quiet. I yiked it and then Aurory yeft and it was too quiet." . _ Without warning the tears come. Streaming down my cheeks as I lean back in my chair to look at her fully. So matter of factly. She remembers. "I'm sorry love. I'm sorry it was so quiet. I'm sorry sister left." . _ "Yeah. I didn't yike it Mama. Too quiet. I didn't yike it in your belly." . _ I hold her close to my chest for a quick moment before she pushes back and slides down. Determined to wrangle Doc McStuffins or dessert from my partner, her less tearful parent in the other room. _ I'm left with a gift. Stream of conscious memories from the brief window where children can recall memories and experiences from a time that seems unfathomable and simultaneously have the language to share them before they're forgotten forever. A language half human and half god from a space between two worlds. _ I sit. I breathe. Tears still falling. Grateful. Heartbroken. _ There was a time I thought I experienced alone. A time when the three of us – Aurora, Nova, and I – were one. A time when there were no boundaries between mother and child. Where hearts beat and babies swished. A time before. A time I wasn't sure she'd ever remember. Right now she does." _ #IHadAMiscarriage #twinloss #stillbirth #infantloss #grief #loss #motherhood #ttts #twintotwintransfusion #identicaltwin #pregnancy // @ashleedwells is the founder of @4thtribodies.

A post shared by Jessica Zucker, Ph.D. (@ihadamiscarriage) on

I'm unsure which pain is worse; the shock of what happened, or the ache for what now will never be. – I'm sharing this with everyone as it's therapeutic for me and due to the fact that it's not talked about enough. – I had a miscarriage at 6 weeks. The excitement of growing our family by another beautiful soul seemed to have vanished in an instant. We spent 2 days in the ER knowing what was happening but we were also holding on to a sliver of hope that it wasn't so. June 29th we learned that the baby whose February arrival we had only begun gushing about, would no longer be. The cause is unknown; we will probably never know why. The doctor, a sweet young lady, told me that it's very normal, 1 out of 4 women experience it. I had become a statistic. Beyond that I got a lot of “reminders” that I could “have another baby”, that “it just wasn’t meant to be”, or reassurances that I would “eventually get over it”. What I wanted to tell these people was that I didn’t want “another” baby.  I wasn’t interested in their “meant to be“. I was interested in the baby that I had, the one that I loved every moment of it's being and was excitedly anticipating. THAT ONE is the one that I wanted, and THAT ONE is the one that I would now never have. Yes, I could possible have another, but that hope didn't make the loss of this one any less painful. – Today I sit here, riding the waves of emotion as I have for the last 33 days. But today is a little different than the rest; it is the first day of my first cycle since the miscarriage. A very raw reminder of the blood that was the beginning of the end. I'm not quite sure how I feel. – I've shared my grief, in hopes to reach all the mommas who feel alone and misunderstood in their loss. You are not a statistic. The self-blame and the shame must end. We are not alone, we are strong, and our feelings are valid. Resist the rush to heal quickly, or the judgement on moving on too soon. Whatever the case may be for you, only you know when you're ready for either. #TogetherWeHeal #ihadamiscarriage #StrongAsAMother Image found on Pinterest.

A post shared by Bal Thind Claire (@balthindclaire) on

If you need advice or support about miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death, Mamamia urges you to contact SANDS on 1300 072 637.

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