I measure grief. Even without meaning to.
Other people’s. My own.
We all do.
When I heard the Today Show‘s Georgie Gardner speak so frankly about her miscarriage and the pain she had suffered privately (you can watch that interview here), my heart sank.
In an interview with Show 'n Tell online, Georgie said, "I know no malice is intended, but people are often ready to dismiss it a bit ... I’m sure at 39 weeks of course it would be a lot harder, it would be a lot more harrowing than nine or 10 weeks, which was what I was.”
But for some, it isn't. It's true that a pregnancy lost further down the track is one that more people have invested in. Plans have been made, friends know. But that doesn't mean women who lose a baby in the first trimester aren't 'allowed' to be devastated. Or 'as devastated' as someone who experiences a stillbirth.
Without even realising it, in her moving interview Georgie Gardner perfectly articulated the fear many mothers have around the various ways pregnancy, lost pregnancy and even no pregnancy at all, can hurt us. We hide our grief, we feel perhaps people might not understand, we worry it is not 'enough' to be rendered devastated, unable to function as a result.
But here's the thing: Grief isn't a competition.
Pain is pain. And when you are invested in that new life … it hurts whenever it is that they slip away. It hurts even if they never existed at all.
There isn't a grid that calculates 'appropriate grief'.
"It really rocked me, absolutely rocked me," Georgie said. "Some women I know have miscarriages and are very accepting and say that’s OK, that’s nature taking its course but, my god, it really took me to a very deep and dark place actually."
And that's the worst part. Explaining the grief to others. Explaining the grief to yourself.
Making it real. Legitimate. OK. Acceptable.
And doubts over how worthy your grief might be hang over all the other factors. It was an early miscarriage that Georgie suffered and Georgie already had two young children. But does this make her loss any less painful? Some people think, yes. Others, quite the opposite.
There's a sad space in a mothers heart for a pregnancy lost and it would be perfect if it could be filled by the blossoming of other already-thriving children, but it never will be.
The space is never filled, it's just forgotten. In other words, the complexities don't just lie in what's gone but what's already been.
About one in four women will experience miscarriage. That's about 147,000 Australian women each year. It can happen at any point before 20 weeks gestation.