The M Word: On Unspoken Grief
Okay I promise not all my blog posts are gonna be heavy. But this topic is one that just keeps coming up and it has impacted so many of you, and I feel like we have to talk about it for just a moment: miscarriage.
For most of my life, I had no idea how common miscarriages were. Probably because it’s something people don’t talk about often. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I realized just how many of my friends had lost children (and many of them have lost multiple children) to miscarriage.
What I’ve learned since then is so tragic: not only that many, many more people experience it than I ever realized, but that for many of these people, there is no room for them to grieve as they ought to be able to.
My baby sister had one just a few months ago. She has two baby boys, (ages 1 and 2) and a brand new adopted infant daughter. Shortly after bringing that sweet little one home, my sister started cramping and bleeding. After a few days, she discovered that her fourth child had died at 13 weeks. And she experienced what so many other parents have experienced too… sympathy, love, some shared grief from beloved friends, but also the expectation, whether spoken or simply felt or implied, that she should be “over it” within a few weeks.
So, so many parents have suffered the devastating loss of a child, only to subsequently suffer the pain and confusion of not being allowed to really grieve that loss. Some of it is internally imposed, and some external. I think anyone who has experienced a loss also experiences the aching frustration of seeing that everyone else, even the kind hearted and compassionate, move on with their lives quickly, while the sufferer’s grief lingers. But for parents who suffer miscarriage, this is sometimes amplified. There’s this idea that a child you haven’t met, haven’t breastfed, haven’t cuddled or experienced in certain ways, is less of a loss than one you have, and one that should not break your heart. So a lot of mamas are confused and conflicted when they find that it does… and that there’s a social stigma attached to talking about it. I mean a lot of you ladies have experienced this, right? This feeling that everyone around you doesn’t understand why it still hurts or why you’re not past it yet?
I think it’s not for lack of sympathy, but lack of understanding. And of course, though I know this won’t be a popular thing to say in some circles, we live in a culture that works hard to argue that children in the womb aren’t really children, aren’t really valuable, aren’t worthy of the love and protection of their parents until they are born. So it makes sense, in such an environment, that mamas whose children die in utero find that they don’t have the liberty to grieve them. Many times miscarriage is viewed, subconsciously or otherwise, as more of a missed opportunity than an actual loss; as if you had hoped for a new job and failed to get it.
But the truth that every mama knows is that your little one in your womb is your baby. Your precious little son or daughter that you felt move for the first time, who is connected to you in a way no other human in the world ever could be. And the fact that you never got to see his or her sweet little face or kiss his knees or argue with her about whether she’s going out dressed like that doesn’t mean your grief is less real. It’s just grief of a different kind, with the added weight of not having an outlet for it in so many cases.
As a birth photographer, this can be a difficult area. The clients who book me do so because they are so excited to meet the little one they’ve been loving for so long, they don’t want to forget a moment of it. A lot of times, parents book early on in the pregnancy because they’re already celebrating the new little life. They already know they are mamas and daddys and they are already in love.
One of my first prospective clients, after I started this business, contacted me but never booked. As I thoughtlessly went about my marketing tasks, I realized I hadn’t heard from her, and sent her a quick follow-up email. As soon as I clicked “send” I had a sinking feeling, realizing that there may have been a good reason for the radio silence. Sure enough, I received a brief email back explaining that she had lost the baby.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with following up with prospective clients, it got me thinking and this somewhat clumsy blog post has been on my mind ever since. My job is to provide a valuable service for parents who are celebrating their expanding families. But I also want to provide a safe place for those whose celebrations are cut short, and let them know they have the liberty to grieve, and that they should have an outlet for that.
So I’m not advertising a product here… this isn’t something you can select on my website and pay for. But I want to offer something to those mamas who won’t be able to have the birth photos they booked (or were going to book). Like other birth photographers, I have a clause in my contract that covers the eventuality of miscarriage and what our arrangement will look like in various circumstances.
But I’ve also put together a little grief package, totally free of charge, just so you mamas know you’ve got a friend in this. It’s just a few things that other mamas tell me have brought them comfort: some aromatherapy, some tea, a lovely grief journal (or prayer journal) from Daily Nourish, and a birthstone necklace (according to due date). I would offer this to everyone if I could afford it, but as it is I’m offering it to all clients and prospective clients who suffer a miscarriage at any point in our acquaintance… whether you’ve already signed the contract, or we were just in preliminary pre-consultation talks. I’d love to be there for you either way. Just fill out the form below and I’ll get this in the mail to you with all my love.