October is Pregnancy, Infant, and Child loss awareness month. The topic has been in our social media feeds for the last week after Chrissy Teigen and John Legend shared their painful experience losing a pregnancy. They broke open a taboo topic that we at Birthful have been thinking a lot about: how to talk about miscarriages and pregnancy and infant losses. This week Adriana Lozada takes a few quiet moments to talk directly to you, our mighty listeners, about the realities and misconceptions of an event experienced in isolation by too many.
The powerful article referenced in the episode is by Dr. Altaf Saadi, and is titled “The Silence and Sorrow of Miscarriage.” It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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Wave of Light event on October 15th
Connect with Birthful’s Instagram @birthfulpodcast as we participate in the “Wave of Light” event on October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. We will be lighting a virtual candle at 7 pm EST to honor families who have experienced losses. #WAVEOFLiGHT2020.
If you’d like for us to honor your spirit baby, please write their name in the comments.
Related Birthful episodes:
- Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss, with Jessica Zucker
- Stillbirths and Infant Deaths, with Amy Wright Glenn
- The Silence and Sorrow of Miscarriage, by Dr. Altaf Saadi ( Journal of the American Medical Association)
- Wave of Light event page
Adriana Lozada: Hey, mighty one. It’s Adriana here, and today I’m on my own as I am gonna be every other week, so I can share with you one on one my experiences and my perspectives, and the things that I’ve learned as a birth doula, as an educator, and as a mom. Today, I want to talk to you about loss and miscarriages, which are difficult, but really important topics.
One in four pregnant people will experience a miscarriage, so if you think of three of your friends, statistically one of you has experienced a miscarriage. Have you ever talked about it? Why not? Would you be able to? And the thing is, miscarriages and pregnancy loss are difficult things to talk about because usually they bring more questions than answers and that’s hard to sit with. Questions like, “Why is this happening? Why is this happening to me? Is it my fault? Could I have done something differently?” And feeling that no one understands, and in a way, no one can, because these are experiences of immense grief, where too often people have to grieve in silence instead of being supported and comforted.
So, the more we talk about it, the more we listen to the stories, and to listen to each other’s stories, the more we’ll be able to dispel the stigma and provide those experiencing a loss with the support and compassion that they deserve. And so, today I wanted to talk about miscarriage and pregnancy loss because… Well, frankly it’s been on all of our minds as Chrissy Teigen and John Legend shared their loss experience last week, where they lost their son, Jack, and shared their powerful story, powerful images, and also because October is Pregnancy Infant and Child Loss Awareness Month. And October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
And so, because of that, I wanted to explore these questions and talk about different experiences and maybe talk about the broad commonalities that people experience when they have a miscarriage, or they have a loss. I know this is a really difficult topic to talk about, but we know that in talking about it is how we dispel the stigma. And also, here at Birthful we’re all about information, so I wanted to give you a few definitions of miscarriage. So, there’s the complete miscarriage, which is when all pregnancy tissues have been expelled from your body, and then there’s the incomplete miscarriage, where you’ve passed some tissues or placental material, but some of it still remains in your body, and those are the situations where it can take a longer time, because your body’s gonna continue to try to expel that tissue, and it might even require visiting the hospital to have it manually removed.
There’s the missed miscarriage, where the embryo dies without your knowledge and you don’t even deliver it, and many pregnancies end this way. We just don’t know that it even happened, because the embryo was so small, and the pregnancy frankly was really early on. There’s the threatened miscarriage, which is bleedings and cramps that point to a possible upcoming miscarriage, which may or may not happen. There are situations where during pregnancy you can have some bleeding and it has nothing to do with miscarriage, but if at any point you experience some bright red bleeding during your pregnancy, definitely contact your caregiver.
Lozada: I want to clarify that I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who has not experienced a loss. Someone who has, though, supported clients and friends, and has taken trainings and interviewed professionals about the topic. From the friends and people that I have supported at some point of their experiences, I’ve heard three things. The first is that it is a more physically violent and draining experience than they thought it would be, regardless of it it’s a spontaneous loss, induced with medicine, or through a DNC, and that it can take many hours and even days, and that the physical recovery is also extremely hard.
The other thing that I’ve heard is that in general, medical professionals are not great at explaining what to expect, nor at following up or checking in how you’re doing, and I think that lack of reaching out has to do with an overlapping situation of we are not good at talking about this reality of our lives. It’s we don’t like to be uncomfortable, we don’t like to have awkward conversations, but also they haven’t been trained in trauma. They don’t have proper loss training. They’re trained in the medical aspects of it and have a hard time communicating the experience or what to expect.
And then the third thing that I’ve heard is that it’s immensely isolating and lonely, because… Well, in great part because of the silence and stigma that surrounds it, but also because it’s really hard to ask for help while it’s happening, and that has to do with the fact that there’s too many feelings around it. There’s the ambush of feelings that comes, and those include sadness, and disbelief, and shame, and grief, and self pity, disappointment, and even feeling that you did something wrong, and the loneliness and the isolation from having the world go on around you without you being able to openly share what you’re going through.
Often when people who’ve experienced loss are asked if they’re okay, they reply saying they’re fine, they’re fine, because it’s that stigma around the experience. That means that sharing what they’re going through also requires having to deal with the feelings of navigating the stigma, not just the feelings that come with the actual loss. Neurologist, Dr. Altaf Saadi, recently wrote a powerful article titled The Silence and Sorrow of Miscarriage, and the article is about her miscarriage experience that happened while she was taking part in tours of immigration detention centers in Texas in order to comment on the medical care and human right violations that were happening at the detention centers.
In the article she writes, “”It would have been easier had I had appendicitis,” I told my husband. When people get appendicitis, there’s no stigma in sharing. I had appendicitis. You can share the news with friends, family, and coworkers. You can receive cards that wish, “Get well soon!” Emails are easy to write. Absences are easy to explain. A hiatus for physical and emotional rest need not happen in isolation or secrecy. You say, “I had appendicitis and I need to take it easy for a week or two.” With a miscarriage, you mute your experience. You don’t know what to say. The person who hears the news doesn’t know what to say.” Dr. Saadi also writes how she was afraid that her words could be used as an anti-abortion message.
More recently, Chrissy Teigen shared publicly on her social media feeds that she lost her baby. One of the things that impacted me the most were the comments. She had immense support, but also brutal, brutal attacks. Like Dr. Saadi feared, her message was also used as anti-abortion messages. Why can’t we hold humanity without centering agendas? It’s really a complicated world, but we need more people to share their stories. We need more public people to share their stories, like Chrissy, like Dr. Saadi, who are brave enough to expose themselves and expose their grief because they understand that in sharing these experiences, we do take down the stigma. We can get to a place where then people will support it, just like maybe they support us when you say you had appendicitis.
So, if you know someone who’s had a loss, let them know that you’re thinking about them. Let them know that you’re thinking about their child. And if you know the child’s name, call them by their name. The person might not respond and hey, that’s okay too. Do it without expecting anything in return, because it’s not about you. Now, I have done two previous episodes related to this topic, one on miscarriages with Dr. Jessica Zucker, and another one on stillbirths and infant deaths with Amy Wright Glenn. We will link them in the show notes.
And on October 15th, please consider joining the Wave of Light event that happens at 7:00 PM your local time, where you light a candle for one hour and as people light a candle at 7:00 PM, as that 7:00 PM travels around the world, that wave of light travels around the world remembering all these babies and the parents that have lost them. We will be lighting a virtual candle on our Instagram feed @BirthfulPodcast at 7:00 PM Eastern time on October 15th, and if you have experienced a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, know that I’m thinking of you. If you want us to more directly honor your spirit baby, write their name in the comments for that post.
Birthful was created by me, Adriana Lozada, and is a production of Lantigua Williams & Co. The show’s senior producer is Paulina Velasco. Virginia Lora is the managing producer. Cedric Wilson is our lead producer. And Ronald Young Jr. contributed to this episode. Thank you for listening and sharing Birthful. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, and everywhere you listen. Come back next week for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “Let’s Talk Openly about Pregnancy and Infant Loss” Birthful, Lantigua Williams & Co., September 30, 2020. Birthful.com.
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