Breaking the Silence on Miscarriage – Denise’s Story
This blog has so far been the most difficult for me to write. Not because I’ve experienced a miscarriage myself, but because I haven’t. Infertility and IVF are subjects I find easy to write about, because I’ve been through them, but thankfully I have not had to endure a miscarriage. My mother did and I’ve had a few close friends that have too, and of course some of my clients have. I want to treat this subject delicately and with the respect it deserves. So, I asked one of my dear friends, Denise, if she could sit down with me and share her miscarriage story, and she generously agreed. Actually, she was quick to say yes as she feels strongly that we need to talk more about the subject in order to shift the guilt and shame women often experience after a miscarriage. My chat with Denise also reminded me that losing a baby through miscarriage is an extremely sad and precious thing that impacts both parents, not just the mother. Our male partners are often not thought of as much but we must remember to make sure they’re coping ok too, and to encourage them to seek help if they aren’t.
Denise and her husband fell pregnant shortly after they decided to start trying for baby. Surprised at how quickly it happened but also delighted they decided to not completely adhere to the “12 week wait rule” and told their immediate family and a few closest friends shortly after their pregnancy was confirmed. Whilst celebrating Christmas they decided to tell their extended family, which happened to be around 10 weeks.
“It just felt right timing wise.” Denise said, “we were at a Christmas gathering and I knew people would notice I wasn’t drinking so we decided to share our happy news.”
Unfortunately, 11 and a half weeks into her pregnancy Denise and her husband received the news no mother wants to hear. During an ultrasound she was told that her pregnancy “wasn’t viable”. Those were the exact words that came out of the young male radiographers’ mouth when he could not locate her baby’s heartbeat. To hear this heartbreaking news in such a cold and clinical manner did not fit the emotionality of the situation at hand. Denise still remembers the way he delivered this news and how it made her feel like a case file rather than a thinking, feeling, human being. Thankfully, her GP, whom she attended a few days after the initial ultrasound was warm, caring and reassuring. He made sure she knew it wasn’t her fault, asked after her husband to check if he was coping ok and gave her the advice to give themselves a few months for her body and mind to recover and reset and to do what she needed to do to enjoy life again.
A miscarriage is defined as the loss of a baby before 20 weeks of pregnancy. In Australia it is estimated up to one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. When Denise learned of these statistics from her GP she was incredulous and asked him “If they are so common, why aren’t we talking about this?” Following her own experience several women in her family and social network came forward to share their stories with her and she was shocked to learn that one of her family members had experienced multiple miscarriages.
Many women choose to keep their experience of miscarriage to themselves, which is of course their prerogative. The unfortunate consequence of this is that many of us don’t understand how often they occur or what is happening medically which can lead to self-blame for somehow causing it. It can also mean that the idea of it being something we shouldn’t talk about is perpetuated leading to many women and men dealing with the emotional impact on their own and not being able to draw upon a circle of support or reach out for professional help.
Fortunately for Denise and her husband they received lots of support from family and many of their friends. Denise was especially thankful that some of her co-workers were able to step in for her at work and give her other colleagues the heads up that her pregnancy had not progressed with a happy outcome. She recalled that her brother and best friend seemed to know exactly what to say. “My best friend sat with me and commiserated about how shit it was that this happened. She didn’t try and make it better, she just validated my feelings” Denise remembered. There were of course some people who said all the wrong things like, “It happened for a reason” but Denise was protected and supported by those close to her.
The happy ending to Denise’s story was that about twelve months later she and her husband gave birth to a very healthy little girl. A child born after a miscarriage is known as a “rainbow baby” and Denise fully appreciates the preciousness of her rainbow baby following her miscarriage experience. She did recall not being able to fully relax until she held her baby girl in her arms though, which shows the far-reaching nature of the emotional consequences of a miscarriage. In my next blog post I will discuss further the emotional and psychological effects of miscarriage which includes the disruption of the attachment which occurs early in pregnancy, identity crises, guilt, anger and the impact it can have on relationships.
If you and your partner have experienced one or more miscarriages and are wondering what some time with a Psychologist can offer you, then I’d love to chat. I’ve been supporting individuals and couples at all stages of their parenting journey in my professional practice for many years and, I’m here to give you the guidance you need to make it through with good mental health, no matter what the outcome. You can find all my contact details here to get in touch.