Why do people keep their miscarriage a secret?
This is a question I am often asked, and to be honest there could be a thousand different answers to this complex question. I personally speak with hundreds of people each week who have gone through loss, and everyone's story is unique, but there are common threads, and often similar reasons for keeping things private.
To write a post on all the most common reasons I hear would be impossible, as it would need to be a book... but what I can answer here, are the reasons I found it hard to talk about my first miscarriage. Funnily this isn't a question I have ever really considered, and certainly not a question I have publicly dissected, but I am acutely aware that often people assume a loss that has been kept private is not as bad as one publicly discussed, and that could not be further from the truth. Whether someone opens up about their loss, or not, is no measure of the pain they have suffered, and I hope me sharing my reasons for keeping my first loss a secret helps dispel that.
OK here goes.
It was agony. Both physically and emotionally it was traumatising. I didn't have the words or the language to convey the magnitude of the loss or experience. I was scared to minimise what we had gone through by using the wrong words, and I was also deeply afraid that others would minimise it by not 'getting it'. I had enough pain to deal with, without risking carrying more pain if family or friends said the wrong thing.
I wanted to keep the fact that we were trying for children private, and as soon as we told people we had lost a baby they would know we were trying for a child. For me this was a really personal decision and I didn't want to feel forced into telling people we were embarking on a new season in our life of trying to expand our family. The thought of people waiting for a baby announcement was a pressure I didn't feel I wanted to handle.
I had been terrified of losing a baby, in fact it was one of the big reasons we delayed having children (I can only acknowledge this in hindsight). So to then lose our baby was almost like living a nightmare. If I didn't discuss the loss with anyone, it felt less real. If people didn't know, they wouldn't ask me questions about it, and I was scared of questions, as I wasn't even wanting to admit it had happened.
Sex. There I said it. I am just so British, talking about sex is just not in my nature. If I talk about miscarriage I am saying to the world I had sex, I got pregnant and I lost the baby.....I am literally typing this bright red! (adds be less British to my 2017 new year's resolutions). I didn't want my sex life to be discussed by anyone, and in my bereaved state, talking about a miscarriage was talking about something very intimate.
I didn't want to be a statistic. Stupid hey! But it's the truth. I didn't want to be that 1 in 4. I didn't want to be that woman who had lost a baby. I was and still am a person filled with joy and happiness, and am blessed to be an optimist and to love life... I was concerned that loss would change me, and also worried that people would 'expect' me to be changed.
So those are my reasons. That is why I didn't tell anyone we had lost our first baby for quite some time, in fact it wasn't until we lost our third baby that we became much more open about our journey to have children.
I hope this post helps those who have kept their loss a secret and makes them feel less alone. I also hope it helps family members and friends who have possibly been confused or maybe even felt un-trusted, let down, or perhaps confused as to why they were kept out of the loop, if they found out at a later date about a loss.
Losing a baby is a huge bereavement, it has both physical and emotional repercussions and whilst trying to navigate through this black tunnel (with no map) so many decisions also have to be made, and they have to be made when the person / couple are at zero emotional capacity.
So would I encourage people to share their story of baby loss? YES without question, if they feel ready. 99% of the things one fears, i.e. being considered a statistic etc, just doesn't happen. By talking about your experience you allow yourself to heal, you also help others who are going through loss feel less alone. There has never been a single downside to me fully opening up and sharing my journey, so I would 100% encourage anyone who has lost to share without fear.
Please take a look at this powerful short film: https://youtu.be/ayiQQ9DFqnA
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock