Living With Grief

Imposter Syndrome

Fraud (noun): A person who deceives others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities

I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously, that it took me forever to seek out the baby loss community; other like-minded women, who’ve been through or are continuing to go through it. It took three pregnancy losses, for me to “actively” access the club. I just never thought it was meant for ME. Not that I thought it was strange or anything, I just thought, it was for people who had had it a LOT worse. I thought that I would feel like a fraud. I had baby loss imposter syndrome, I guess. I now know I’m not the only one.

After my first miscarriage with BoC (pronounced “Bock” – which I am going to note again and again now, as it’s made me recoil a bit in real life, when I realised people thought we named our first baby “bunch of cells”. No no, it was just the acronym that stuck. We called ‘him’ Bock or Bocky!), my sister in law sent me a book about miscarriage, it was this one. She said she wasn’t sure if it would be helpful or not, but she thought I might like it. Bruth be told, I cringed a little. I knew that she had had it a LOT worse than “just” my one miscarriage. I thought she was incredibly thoughtful, sending me the book, but buying one about miscariage (even though I’m an absolute book fiend) wasn’t something that would ever have occurred to me. Though we were both deeply sad and shocked about the miscarriage, I think I was still just being all British and stiff upper lipped about it: I tried to tell myself that miscarriage was common and just bad luck, not something that most normal people felt sad about. Surely a book about miscarriage, was not for me?

We knew that Christmas with the family (just a month after we’d miscarried) would be a hard time for us, so we booked a holiday for the week preceding it. I packed the book as part of my reading material, and ludicrous as that sounds – reading a book about miscarriage, on a beach in Mauritius, the week before Christmas! – WOAH, I cannot tell you how much it resonated. I turned down so many corners of the pages, where comments hit home. I photographed the particularly helpful and insightful quotes and I sent a message to my incredibly thoughtful friends F and C (the three of us are always on the lookout for the perfect gift) telling them they might want to keep the book in mind, if anyone they knew ever went on to have a miscarriage. After my second miscarriage with My Baby, I bought 9 or 10 copies of the book and left them with GP surgeries in my local area. I asked them to give them to any patient in the years ahead, that they thought might possibly benefit from it.

My long-winded point is that that book was the start of something. Without it, I would have (completely, without reason!) felt like an imposter in the baby loss world. EVEN THOUGH I HAD LOST A BABY. If my sister in law hadn’t bought me that book, I never would have realised that not only was I not an imposter, but that I belonged in the baby loss community. When you’re going through fertility struggles, in any way, shape, or form, I cannot tell you how important a feeling of belonging is. When the real world keeps turning, and everyone else’s experience looks so different to your own, a sense of belonging means everything.

After our second miscarriage, I took to Facebook and ‘outed myself’ with my first ever miscarriage post, for baby loss awareness week in 2019. It is now years later, and I’ve not just popped out, I’m out-out! Yet I’ve still been struck by how prevalent the imposter syndrome is, at all levels – both for myself and honestly… pretty much every loss mum out there! Here are a few recent examples:

  • Mums frequently minimise their losses in relation to mine, caveating their conversation with things like “this is nothing, compared to what you’ve been through” or “I’ve “only” had one miscarriage”
  • Even though I know a mother who lost her teenage son reads this blog, as she finds it helpful, I felt I couldn’t possibly join in a baby loss forum where some parents had had full-term stillbirths and others had experienced child loss, losing their babies several months after they were born (inner monologue: “surely “just” three pregnancy losses is nothing in comparison?”)
  • Yet, the other mums in the forum (and to this day, this continues to blow me away) felt and showed such compassion and empathy for the miscarriage mums. They felt privileged about the greater amount of time they had had with their babies and felt sympathy for those who hadn’t had any time at all with their children.
  • Finally and most recently, I hadn’t wanted to read Elle Wright’s book, because she experienced neonatal loss at full-term, whereas I “only” experienced neonatal loss at 20 weeks gestation. Surely my experience pales into insignificance and the book wasn’t for me? (I did read it and it was for me actually, it’s for everyone)

Even though I’m a paid-up member of the baby loss club (I have a frickin’ website!), I’ve still felt the imposter syndrome a lot, having most recently had a second trimester loss. It was complicated by the fact that Summer lived for a little while after birth, making it a neonatal loss. So I don’t fit into the miscarriage or stillbirth category, but I don’t fit in the ‘traditional’ neonatal loss category either, where babies are usually much further along. Second trimester loss lives in limbo. It’s very different from a miscarriage, but it’s not as far along as a full-term stillborn. I bet women who’ve had ectopic or molar pregnancies and blighted ovums feel some of this imposter syndrome too.

…Can you see what’s going on here? We’re all caught up in this “someone else has had it much worse than me, I don’t belong here, I don’t deserve to fully participate or have these conversations”. Bull poop. It’s true that no-one will ever fully understand, what any of us have been through, but my goodness, there are a heck of a lot of valid comparisons and huge amounts of overlap at every stage of loss. We’re not frauds or imposters or outsiders, we all belong here. We’re all hurting and we’re all healing.

So I refer you back to an earlier blog here: there’s enough space for us all. Remember that and reach out to others, if you need to. Because as a friend reminded me recently:

It’s not the Grief Olympics!

None of us are winners here and none of us would want to win THAT medal anyway.

I guess I’m writing this, as it’s something I could have done with learning sooner, but also, it’s something I frequently need to remind myself and others of. There is no hierarchy here, we are all standing in a pile of bull poop (yeah, I’m repeating that phrase, as it made me chuckle above), so let’s at least all (do a Michelle Obama and) hold hands while we’re here.

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