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'I told my work team of 30 about my miscarriage. I didn't expect their response.'

This post deals with pregnancy loss and may be triggering for some readers.

I’ve had a pretty easy and privileged life relatively speaking. Pregnancy loss and infertility has been my struggle. 

As I write this, I am firmly wedged in the space between learning that the pregnancy isn’t viable, yet waiting on the hospital visit to have the embryo removed from my body. It sucks. 

Not as much as the first time around, but still... universally acknowledged as not a great time.

Watch: A tribute to the babies we've lost. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

I am getting better at processing my grief each time and slowly learning that talking about it actually helps.

It’s also prompted me to consider why it isn't generally acceptable to talk about miscarriage at work. What's sitting behind the silence? Is it the shame and stigma sometimes associated with miscarriage? And is this part of the reason people tend to wait till 12 weeks before they announce their pregnancies at all?

When is the right time to tell your boss you’re pregnant?

Who you tell your pregnancy news to, and at what point, is an intensely personal decision. 

I’m not suggesting there is a right or wrong, and have found it usually depends on the relationships and the context. 

For me, my immediate family got the pregnancy news before the pee had even dried on the stick.

I train in Muay Thai, so was in the unusual position of telling my training buddies not long after so they knew why I was modifying my pad-holding technique, and so I could kindly ask them not to punch me in the stomach when sparring. 

The more curious question for me was when I would tell my colleagues at work.

I was interested in other people’s experiences telling their colleagues, so I asked our amazing parents' group at my workplace, South East Water, when they shared their news and why. 

I wanted to get a handle on what our culture is like when it comes to sharing personal news like this, and what those individual mums and dads considered before making that decision for themselves.

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There isn’t enough trust in the workplace.

A theme emerged really quickly: The greater trust the individual had in their people leader, the earlier they shared their pregnancy news. 

So, with leaders they trusted, even knowing the risk of miscarriage, they opted to share their news early because they felt it was a safe environment to do so. 

They felt they could be transparent about what was going on for them and felt they would be supported if the worst did happen. 

Sadly, it wasn’t all great news. Some people held back till well past the 12 week mark, citing reasons such as a fear of being disadvantaged with project opportunities or feeling like it just wasn’t that acceptable to share something like this. 

Certainly, we still have work to do.  

This is a real example where you can reflect on how safe your people actually feel working within the culture you’ve helped to create.

This feedback tells me, as with so many other areas of engagement at work, it’s all about the people leader relationship. In fact, engagement experts Gallup have found that up to 70 per cent of our engagement at work is directly correlated to our relationship with our boss. 

So... reflection time: If you’re a leader, and you’ve had someone report to you that was expecting, and they waited more than three months to tell you the news, you may have a trust issue. 

Sharing surprised me.

Now, back to my pregnancy. 

I told my boss (our Managing Director) early on, partly to help provide a bit more time to succession plan, and partly because of my history with pregnancy loss – I knew there was a reasonable chance it wouldn’t go to plan and I was going to need support. 

When I found out the pregnancy wasn’t viable, I also made the decision to share this with my team of 30-odd. 

I did this for a couple of reasons, but predominantly because considering our team demographics and the common occurrence (one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage), I wanted them to know I was here for them and they weren’t alone if they went through something similar.

I guess in the end, I want to do my part in helping to normalise this topic, this super common thing that sadly happens fairly regularly but just isn’t spoken much about in a work context.

Legends like Meghan Markle sharing their stories helps this cause immensely.

So this week I hijacked the weekly update video I send to the team and shared, warts and all, what was going on with me. 

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The response quite simply blew me away. The care, connection and compassion that came from the team, not only for me but for one another, was immediate and intense. 

It was like a switch was flicked. Like that video had just provided the permission for others to get vulnerable, share their stories and reach out to one another for support.

The power of vulnerability.

Brene Brown talks a lot about vulnerability in her research, that "in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen". 

At the time I felt a little exposed, but on balance thought the benefits of sharing outweighed that bit of discomfort when I hit "send". 

Sending that video out into the world was like watching Brene’s research happen in real-time, taking what was already a highly engaged and empathetic team to the next level, almost immediately.

I feel closer to each of them on an individual level and feel confident that that closeness will translate into better outcomes for each of us, personally and professionally.

My lesson and the key takeaway for any leaders out there, whether it’s pregnancy loss, or something else you are sad, scared, nervous or unsure about, is that there are benefits to being vulnerable and sharing this with your team.

As a leader, you really do set the tone and play a key role in creating the climate for your teams, where it’s not only okay but encouraged to bring your whole self to work. 

COVID-19 has definitely accelerated the blending of professional and personal lives. In my experience, it takes a lot of energy to try to keep those two separate.

Being more vulnerable, bringing down these invisible walls between our worlds, for me made it easier to breathe.

I have two amazing boys I am eternally grateful for. And I do hope one day baby number three makes an appearance. 

In the meantime, while I process my grief (and suss out how to block the relentless ads for pregnancy clothes on my Instagram), I want to use this as an opportunity to normalise pregnancy loss. 

To encourage leaders to create workplaces where it is psychologically safe to share news like this if people want to, enabling the supportive infrastructure at work for what is an emotionally and physically taxing time. 

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637. 

This post originally appeared on Linked In and has been republished with full permission. 

Feature Image: Getty