Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why is Miscarriage so Isolating?

A couple of things on Facebook reminded me of a post that I always intended to write.  Though I had an outpouring of love and support after I lost my baby in January, I was surprised at how isolating a miscarriage is to women who have lost their babies.  Not only is the tragedy isolating, but I found that most women keep quiet about miscarriage unless they pulled my move of blabbing about the pregnancy early on and ended up with a loss.

Why is it that miscarriage is shrouded in painful silence?  We know that around 20% of confirmed pregnancies end with a miscarriage and there is some evidence that it's more like 50% of all pregnancies (not necessarily confirmed pregnancies) end in loss.  Think of the women you know. . .chances are that several of them have lost at least one baby; perhaps you have too.  So why are women so reluctant to talk about it if so many of us have experienced it?

I wonder if the medical establishment view toward miscarriage doesn't help squelch healing discussions after loss.  After all, one miscarriage isn't considered to be a problem and a woman isn't generally going to receive additional care until she's suffered at least two (or more!) losses in a row.  The message that this attitude sends is that your one miscarriage isn't a big deal.  It's not even important enough to warrant any further examination once they've verified that the "products of conception" are out of your womb.

You know what?  Every baby that is lost is a big deal.  It's a big freaking deal to the woman who miscarried and it's a big deal to her family because they also lost a family member.  It's heartless and cruel to suggest or imply that miscarriage doesn't matter.

I also wonder if the standard responses people give to women who have experienced miscarriage doesn't force women to clam up and hold back their feelings.  I heard some things that were so off-the-charts insensitive that I almost couldn't believe that a loved one would ever consider saying them to a grieving mother.  And that's exactly what a woman who lost a baby is - a grieving mother.  It makes no difference that her baby was never born when the fact is that her baby was alive at one time.  I think sometimes people forget that a baby is very real to a woman as soon as she discovers that she's pregnant. . .as soon as she hears that precious heartbeat.

I was contacted by many women who had lost babies after I shared that my pregnancy had ended.  Whether or not they went on to have a perfectly healthy baby later, we are all united in knowing the pain of miscarriage.  A sisterhood of sorrow.  Not surprisingly, none of these women tried to downplay what had happened and their support was particularly comforting.

If any good can be found in losing my baby in January it's that I know the ache of loss and, since I have a big mouth (or, more accurately, an active keyboard), I hope that I make the loneliest of tragedies feel a little less isolating to at least one woman.

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