I’m part of a club I never wanted to join. And each year 55,000 women in Australia are unwillingly granted exclusive membership. They are forced to join the Baby Loss Club.
After my third pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I wanted to process the experience and work through the grief by talking to those around me. But I quickly discovered that miscarriage is a taboo topic. It makes people uncomfortable. They avoid the subject or attempt to offer up the reassurance of a silver lining: It was probably for the best. You wouldn’t want a deformed child anyway. At least you know you can get pregnant. You already have two children. At least you weren’t further along. Don’t worry, you’ll have another one.
But these words don’t offer comfort. They deny the right to mourn the loss of that baby. So women grieve alone, misunderstood by those closest to them. We are expected to move on – quickly, quietly – to get over what was just a biological glitch. Life goes on.
This week marks the start of Never Forgotten: Mamamia’s Pregnancy Loss Awareness Week.
And it does go on. But many women silently carry the wound of a miscarriage with them. The problem is, if we don’t talk openly about miscarriage then it will always remain this secret unspeakable thing. A hidden wound.
If you’re lucky, you get pregnant again, as I did. People around you celebrate gratefully. That awkward thing called a miscarriage can now be forgotten, because another baby is proudly pressing your belly outwards. But babies are not like broken objects that can be discarded and upgraded. One baby doesn’t replace another.
During the miscarriage, as I spent weeks bleeding, I experienced conflicting emotions. ‘I never want to have another baby,’ I cried adamantly. ‘Never.’ But then days later: ‘I want another baby so desperately. I want to be pregnant again. Now.’ After it was over I discovered equilibrium. I grieved, I let go. And I felt ready to try for a baby again. But my husband didn’t.
Men are often forgotten in the grief of a miscarriage, as if because they weren’t carrying the baby it somehow didn’t matter as much to them. But my husband couldn’t bear the thought of it going wrong all over again, and he didn’t want to move on. He was angry that we had lost our baby and he felt that if he let go of those emotions it meant he was okay with what happened. So that was it. Even though we’d always wanted three children, he was out.
Then one evening we were watching a terribly sappy romantic comedy. On screen three adult children sat around a table with their parents. My husband imagined himself into the future with only two grown children and realised our family would be incomplete. Suddenly we were both ready, and I quickly fell pregnant again. We were thrilled.