Taboo (adjective): A subject prohibited or restricted by social custom
Some labels you can’t choose: I’m female, I’m in my 30’s, I’m of Indian origin.
Some you can: I work in the City of London, I love to travel.
Some you want to be associated with: I’m an economics graduate, I have always supported children’s charities.
Some you don’t: I had a miscarriage.
I always disliked labels. I didn’t like being categorised, reduced to just one attribute. I’d always resented the simple, fixed, one-dimensional terms. I’m so much more complex – we all are – we’re perfectly imperfect! James once gave me a birthday card and he addressed it to “my perfect blend of contradiction” – I absolutely loved that. That’s more like it.
Yet here’s something new, another now Vs then: At this point in time, I don’t mind being defined by just one aspect. At this point, I embrace being defined by baby loss, because it’s important. It’s a lot more worthwhile then any of the other labels. I didn’t initially accept the ‘miscarriage’ label, but I wish that I had.
Why is grief embarrassing? It’s nothing to do with our particular social custom i.e. being British and the stiff upper lip, because I’m seeing it the world over.
Is it because we don’t know what to say? But we MUST try. Are you starting to see that? Not one of us can go through life without experiencing loss, so why is the topic so uncomfortable? I think the same regarding mental health issues; none of us will waltz through life, sheltered from stress or difficulty. So can we stop ignoring it? Can we start to have the difficult, yet more meaningful, conversations? What is friendship without honesty? It’s pointless. Friendship means trust, trust is honesty, honesty demands the difficult conversations.
So is it that people don’t want to pry? Well, physical health is another personal issue, but it’s now ok to say “I have cancer”. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. Can we please make it the same for baby loss?
Cards on the table, I never used to understand why people grieved miscarriages. I thought “I don’t get it, they’ve been NOT pregnant for longer than they ever were (i.e. their entire life), so why’s it so difficult to get over?”. Shameful as that is, I think it’s because of how I’d always naively thought about setbacks – lament for a bit, then try again. Except grief isn’t a temporary setback, it’s a permanent one. It’s so obvious now.
When most dreams fail – relationships, house purchases, driving tests, interviews etc – there’s a course of action (you can try again) and a limit to the upset (it fades with time). Death is a whole new kettle of fish.
Firstly, you can’t just attempt a re-do. A new loss-mum friend said something (much more eloquently than this paraphrasing) which really hit the nail on the head: when you lose a grandparent, people don’t ask you if you’re going to try again. They don’t say, are you going to try to find another grandparent? They just say sorry for your loss. They appreciate that there’s a permanent void, so why’s it so different with baby loss?
Another important point to articulate is this: Grieving the past is so different to grieving the future. When you miss someone who has been here, you can identify what you miss: their sense of humour, the good times: you miss all of the knowns. However, when you miss a baby that’s died, you miss all of the things you didn’t get to experience, you miss all of the unknowns. There are no memories to find comfort in, just huge gaps labelled “what if?”. The passage of time can make it more acute, not less. Our two nephews Dylan and Arlo should have been starting school in September, but they didn’t live long enough for any of us to see that, we have to imagine what it would have been like instead. The years which have passed does not make that any easier.
I am learning so much, but if there is one thing I would like to go back in time and beg myself, it is this:
Please grieve your miscarriages.
I have only recently started to fully grieve my losses. I was so proud of Summer being born alive. Not only because it must have meant that she was incredibly strong, but because she spared me having to say it was “another miscarriage”. She was nearly half way, she has a birth certificate and it was a neonatal death. It made a great deal of difference, that ‘title’, because it made me realise: I am now allowed to speak about this, this validates my child.
It wasn’t just ME that was dismissive of miscarriage, it was society too. In fact, maybe society had shaped me this way. Other people calling it this word: ‘miscarriage’ and telling me how common it was, meant I had been made dismissive of it too. I have been grieving for a long time, but hadn’t allowed myself to acknowledge that. I just told myself to buck up and get on with it. I went back to work after a week or two! That’s insane. Being a neonatal death, Summer made me finally feel like I could join the baby loss community, that I could now talk about what had happened (hence my launching Mumoirs) and take time out to grieve, but I should have done it years ago, after my very first miscarriage. I hope now to encourage others to do the same, for there is unbelievable strength in numbers and such healing in exploring all this and remembering them.
I think I previously may have cringed at a blog like this, I may have found some of it cheesy. However, uncomfortable as this subject matter is, my silence was part of the problem, I now need to be part of the solution. We all want to be better people, right? So if you have only one takeaway from this entire blog (and I mean the whole website, every single one of the blogs), let it be this:
The silence around taboo subjects must end.
So please, be part of the solution.
N.B. This is such an important subject, which I’ve so poorly articulated. I may have to revisit these topics at a later date. Preferably not when it’s 1am.