Stillbirth, miscarriage. Miscarriage, stillbirth.
The doctors even used the words interchangeably during follow-up consultations after our daughter’s heart stopped at 37 weeks of pregnancy.
After our daughter was stillborn, people would frequently tell me that they knew exactly how I felt because they had experienced a miscarriage.
Did it matter to me that these two life events were grouped together as if the same thing? I pondered this, until I miscarried myself and got to witness first-hand both types of pre-natal child loss.
In some ways the miscarriage was so much harder. No funeral, no burial and no final resting place. I cradled the miscarriage in my hands but ultimately in what other capacity could I demonstrate my love for it? I still shudder at the thought that my miscarriage is somewhere in the London sewer system because I couldn’t think of a better place and I didn’t know the protocol. That I just went back to my desk to work, as if it was just another ordinary day. How I mentioned to a colleague what had just happened while the shock vibrated through my body but then how we both just slipped back into work chatter. Nothing more said, not then and not now.
On the other hand, the ramifications of stillbirth were much more pronounced than miscarriage as it was nine months of work and planning screeching to a halt in an instant. Stillbirth was heartbreaking, heart-wrenching anguish. There is nothing quite like burying your child. Dismantling the cradle and hastily hiding away all the reminders of the life that was to be, but wasn’t. I wouldn’t wish it on an enemy. As I hear people approaching their due date, talking flippantly about their grand plans once their baby is born, I am filled with bittersweet jealousy for that innocence.
In terms of similarity though, both signalled the end of our old life and plunged me into uncharted territory, subtly starting to separate me from loved ones. It was a rude awakening into a world where things don’t always work out as society promises. That although pregnancy books will dedicate copious pages to encouraging more women to breastfeed, the pages on delivering a corpse are unsurprisingly absent.
And I was silenced. It wasn’t that people didn’t want to listen, but for others in the family building stages of life, a protective barrier forms. And suddenly people think the right thing is to bombard with miraculous stories of hope instead.
I found miscarriage and stillbirth to be distinct events. To confuse the two is probably a disservice to those that need their support system to appreciate the nuances and provide appropriate healing and support. But ultimately, aren’t they both just two forms of death? Albeit more socially uncomfortable types of death than the standard loss categorisation of partner/parent/friend etc. But don’t they both just deserve the grief, mourning and remembrance period that the more common death scenarios are graced with?
Yet again, people tell me not to worry about such questions, to forget, that once a live child comes along it is all irrelevant. But what about now?
See Sharon’s previous blog post on her stillbirth experience here.