Don’t ask, don’t tell

Why is miscarriage such a big secret? One in four women who conceive a child will suffer a miscarriage. 1 in 4 (25%) it’s the same dreaded statistic as the number of people who will get cancer in their lifetime and yet cancer is one of the most discussed illnesses. It features in films, TV dramas, literature, magazine articles. There are numerous charities dedicated to cancer that spend thousands of pounds on advertising their cause. There are events organised across the country every weekend where people share their cancer experiences. They wear t-shirts proclaiming to the world that they survived cancer and this fantastic feat is universally celebrated.

Miscarriage couldn’t be more different. We are made to feel as if we shouldn’t tell anyone. We should spend months trying to hide our first trimester symptoms and if people make comments implying that they have guessed our secret we are supposed to actively deny it. Early pregnant is one of the worlds biggest secrets and all because of the fear of miscarriage.

I didn’t announce my pregnancy to the world but never felt that I should keep it from my close friends and family. I knew the risk of miscarriage and that I would want those people to know if it happened to me. I couldn’t imagine going through the pain of losing a child alone. Yet I still felt guilty when my miscarriage happened. Had I tempted fate by telling people? If I’d just kept it a secret like I should have done I would have spared them the pain of my loss.

I work with a girl who just loves pregnancy spotting and if she identifies a likely candidate she drops so many hints that she knows your secret! Yet she says she would never want to actually know if she is right because she doesn’t want to know about a miscarriage.

It is people like her that made me email all of the women in the office the day that I discovered my second miscarriage. I knew that they knew I was pregnant. I hadn’t been drinking at the office party two weeks before, I’d been drinking decaf tea for months, I regularly left my desk when hit with a wave of nausea and i had so many indications from them that they knew I was pregnant although they seemed to think that if they didn’t actually ask then it was ok to say things like “oh you won’t be coming to the Christmas party this year will you” [smile and wink]. I couldn’t cope with the weeks of looks, comments and whispers as it slowly dawned on them that something had gone wrong with my pregnancy. So to spare them and myself from “bump watch” I told them that yes I had been pregnant but I had lost the baby. I felt like a maverick and that I was somehow doing something wrong but from the moment the email was sent I felt relieved that it was no longer a dark secret.

I really hope that miscarriage stops being so taboo. Why should we have to suffer something as horrid alone and why should we have to hide our mental and physical pain, pretend that everything is ok and cope with comments such as “do you not want a baby”, “are you going to try for a family soon” and “you’ll be next” whilst feeling like we are dying a little inside?

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2 thoughts on “Don’t ask, don’t tell

  1. I agree! This is a really strange phenomenon! It is silly…just as you said. We don’t tell b/c of the fear of miscarriage, but if we miscarry, we are still carrying this secret, now alone. As if ‘not telling’ somehow makes it easier! No way!

    I hope people will start talking more. I wonder if women just feel ashamed about a miscarriage, like somehow they didn’t something wrong or could have prevented it. I know I struggled with feeling like ‘less of a woman’ b/c I couldn’t carry my pregnancy to term.

    I definitely hope more ladies will start opening up about it. For me, it was very therapeutic and cathartic, and it helped SO MUCH to have the support.

  2. Oh this hit my husband just yesterday. He was asked by a guy we went boating with, “Do you have any children?” My husband simply said, “No, not yet.” But later that night he told me that he wanted to say three but he couldn’t do it. That he felt like he was betraying our babies. He actually asked me why society is so messed up and we just can’t tell the truth. I agree with him. I admire your bravery to send an email to everyone in the office. I also told my family and really close friends because I didn’t want to go through it alone. Somedays though I wish I wouldn’t have told them because then when they say something stupid, I wouldn’t take it as personal because they didn’t know. But they do know and sometimes they still say stupid things.

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