Monday 22 April 2019

Sinead Moriarty: 'Silence around miscarriage makes feelings of loss much worse'

“We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken,” Michelle Obama said. Photo: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/File
“We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken,” Michelle Obama said. Photo: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/File
Sinead Moriarty

Sinead Moriarty

In a revealing interview, former first lady Michelle Obama has opened up about suffering a miscarriage and her struggles with infertility.

Ms Obama said she felt like a failure because she didn't know how common miscarriages were because we don't talk about them.

"We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we're broken," she said.

It's true we don't talk about miscarriages. In recent years, couples have become much more open about undergoing IVF and seeking fertility treatment, but there is still little conversation around miscarriages and how heart-breaking they can be.

In Ireland, one in five women will miscarry at some point. It's estimated that 14,000 women miscarry spontaneously every year, yet there is still very little support and openness around this subject.

Women still feel ashamed and sometimes even guilty when they have a miscarriage. There is a, 'did I do something wrong?' element to the loss and devastation.

And yes, it is devastating for couples when they miscarry. From the minute you see the blue line on your pregnancy test you begin to dream. No matter how hard you try to tell yourself to be calm and not to get carried away, when you discover you're pregnant you start to imagine your baby and the life it will have.

The problem with the silence around miscarriage is that at a time when women and men who have lost a baby desperately need support, they don't get it.

But even if you are brave enough to talk about your loss, you may not get the reaction you want. The problem is that people don't really know how to react, or what to say.

Like with any loss you will often hear well-meaning platitudes - 'you can try again', 'At least you know you can get pregnant', 'At least it happened early in the pregnancy'… well-meant, but not terribly helpful.

In an interview on 'The Late Late Show' this year, TV presenter Kathryn Thomas opened up about her two miscarriages. She spoke eloquently about how her miscarriages had left her feeling low and defeated.

She said she was speaking about her loss to try to make the subject less 'taboo' in Ireland.

And it's not just women who feel the loss acutely, men do too. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg went public about the three miscarriages he and his wife Priscilla Chan went through.

"Most people don't discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you - as if you're defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own," he revealed.

The important thing for couples to remember is that having a miscarriage does not necessarily mean that there is anything medically wrong with you or your partner and does not mean you cannot have children in the future.

In fact, most couples who have a miscarriage do go on to have healthy babies. It's also important to note that everyone reacts differently to the sudden end of a pregnancy.

Most people find it deeply distressing and it can cause issues within the relationship as you can both grieve differently. The focus is often on the woman as she has to go through the physical pain of miscarrying and the man can feel left out and isolated.

A very painful aspect of the whole situation can be the lack of understanding of others.

Sometimes people who have no experience of miscarriage don't understand how you can grieve a baby that was 'only' six, eight, 12, 14… weeks old. How can you grieve a baby you never knew?

Thankfully there is help for those who wish to seek it.

The Miscarriage Association of Ireland provides support groups and runs a support phone line for people who have suffered a miscarriage.

If you're struggling, pick up the phone. You are not alone.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss