#misCOURAGE story, 08/03/2017, by Mary
There’s this big deal made about not telling people you’re pregnant until you’ve made it to your twelve-week scan. Just in case.
I’ve tried it both ways and found that keeping it a secret only served to create a sense of shame. This societal norm dictated to me and my friends how we should react to my miscarriages.
It implied that I’m not as good or as perfect as the mums that made it to twelve-weeks. I can’t be in their club because I don’t have a photo.
It also made it hard for me to seek support post-miscarriage, when I needed it most.
But I did seek support and sadly, because it’s such a taboo subject, most people felt unequipped to discuss it and offered platitudes such as “it wasn’t meant to be”, “at least it was early”, “at least you can get pregnant”, “I know someone who miscarried and she has three kids now” etc.
Like many others my story starts out with a relatively easy time getting pregnant, but at six weeks I began to bleed. An early scan was reassuring – baby’s heart was beating away; all was fine. I relaxed and began to tell people close to me.
Two weeks later I had a heavy bleed. The EPU nurse EPU told me I’d “know about it” if I was miscarrying; I’d be doubled over in pain and bleeding through pad after pad, so she didn’t scan me. Her advice? “Go home and have sex with your husband. That’ll help you to relax.”
I continued to bleed, but I couldn’t convince anyone it was serious. At my twelve-week scan there was no heartbeat; they told me that the baby had died at eight weeks.
I was promised by two doctors that I wouldn’t miscarry again; “it’s just bad luck” they said.
Ten months later I miscarried again. By now I was worried; I didn’t want to suffer again but nobody would test me as I hadn’t triggered the magic “three” miscarriages.
My gynaecologist’s theory was simple: “you’re too stressed, that’s why you’re miscarrying,”. We parted company after that but I carried his words in my head.
Was it my fault? Had I jinxed the first pregnancy by telling people? Had my stress about miscarrying again caused the second one?
I found a herbalist willing to help. “We need to make some radical changes to your diet and lifestyle” she said. So it was my fault.
She said that if I did everything I was told I wouldn’t miscarry again. “Great” I thought, “tell me what to do!”
I eliminated wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, chemicals & cardiovascular activities from my life. I went organic and took up yoga, reiki, acupuncture, supplements by the bucket-load, green smoothies and mindfulness.
All this time I felt entrenched with shame, that I had caused these miscarriages and therefore needed to “fix” the problem.
I miscarried another three times over the next nine months – all at about five weeks. One of these pregnancies took twelve weeks to pass naturally.
I decided I obviously hadn’t done things properly enough and ramped up the pressure on myself to be less useless at being pregnant. I took no time off work, in fact I took on a masters module – I numbed myself through being busy.
I lost a few friends as I struggled to process my experiences on a cocktail of hormones and steroids whilst they desperately didn’t want to discuss miscarriage.
The taboo on talking about miscarriage encouraged me to bottle it up, minimising my ability to grieve.
I began to feel devalued and defective – substandard and subhuman, rather than subfertile.
I fought three difficult battles with my local CCG to fund ICSI (I didn’t qualify because I’d been pregnant before despite having no baby) and eventually I collapsed with exhaustion.
My battle paid off and I am now waiting for ICSI to start in a few months. During this time of waiting I’ve come to realise that the shame I generated about my experiences with miscarriage are simply a social construct – a misperception that has come from this “rule” of being silent.
The intention behind the rule is a positive one – it’s a protective mechanism in case we don’t want to talk about it (and many don’t).
But the unfortunate by-product of this was a feeling of inadequacy in both myself and my support network. Actually, I’ve begun to accept myself as a bit of a hero. I’ve fought and lost and I’m still fighting but there’s no shame in my experiences.
It’s cost me a few thousands in therapy to get to this point though.
I truly believe that miscarriage needs to be discussed more and that there should be no judgement on those that want to share their pregnancies early. In this way the culture of shame can hopefully reduce and we can feel better connected with our friends and family as we share our feelings in a supported way.
With the rate of miscarriage being at an all-time high it’s essential that we learn how to talk about it.
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