I, like most people, am not qualified to write about the pain of a miscarriage. What I can write about, though, is how I’ve seen people and our society respond to women who have experienced such trauma; and I can write of my support for those women.
For weeks now I have been trying to string together the right words to convey the terrible loss and pain of mothers who have lost their baby in the womb. Yet, those strings of words always end up looking like just that – some letters, dangling in the air on a piece of string, with no stick.
I have come to realise that as someone who has never experienced the pain of such great loss, nothing I could write would do justice to the women who have endured such sorrow.
Yet, this is the very issue that has driven me to commit this month to wearing lipstick each day. I have not ever been forced through such a dark, unforgiving journey as miscarriage, but I have been blessed by the strength of women who have shared of their journeys. What I now know is the courage that they must have garnered to share their stories despite the enormous pressure of this world we live in, which would rather they remain quiet. To endure this pain and this heart-breaking loss in silence.
I have heard horror stories of how, after opening up about their loss and the overwhelming pain that ensued, women have been subjected to shame.
Mothers who have just lost their baby are met with scrutiny over their eating and sleeping habits, or hear comments like, ‘You should have taken time off work sooner – stress can cause miscarriages’, or, ‘It’s probably because you were exercising through pregnancy.’
I had a client reduced to tears when recalling her miscarriage, though it was years prior, and how people shamed her for having exercised whilst pregnant (which is completely safe for the first two trimesters; even encouraged by doctors and health professionals).
These are isolated examples of the most extreme ignorance and coldness shown toward these mothers, but it reflects – albeit more loudly – the attitude that our society has toward miscarriages. Rather than receiving heartfelt sympathy, they receive curious ponderings about the death of their child. Rather than being encouraged to mourn appropriately for the loss of a baby, they are expected to pick themselves up and move swiftly on. Instead of embracing them and allowing them the time, space, and love that we give to grieving mothers of babies outside the womb, we offer a sympathetic look, perhaps a soothing coo, and a hug. As if they had just lost their job, rather than the life that was growing inside of them.
Liptember is a very small way for me to stand in solidarity with those mothers, and to open up conversation about this suffering with people who would otherwise remain in ignorance. However, it does not replace the societal attitude adjustment that needs to take place in order to extend the humanity of being allowed to grieve for loss of life – and being able to grieve publicly. The humanity of mourning with them, of comforting them, and of sitting by their side in the darkness of night, simply waiting for the sun to eventually rise, rather than fumbling to turn the light on.
For mothers, and fathers, who have lost their babies recently or years ago, but who were never given the chance to mourn as you wished you could have, I pray that you find the strength to allow yourself that chance. Our society does not understand the notion of holding a funeral for the death of a pre-born infant; but your baby is your baby, no matter how young. Pregnant women are not almost-mothers, they are mothers. If you want to honour the life of your baby that you never got to hold, or held for a such painfully short time; the life that grew inside of you, with whom you shared the closest of bonds that a human can share, I, for one, will stand by you.