The "M" that must not be named.
September 30, 2015 8:25 AM   Subscribe

 
This post pairs up most interestingly with the recent post about fertility shaming. The differences are clear -- there's a massive difference between a woman bringing up her own fertility/childbirth issues in conversation and others asking her about it unprompted -- but both touch on the weird ways people react to pregnancy and babies.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 8:31 AM on September 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


honestly, I only have one neighbor that wouldn't make me completely uncomfortable if they told me about their miscarriage. I think the reason why is that I often get to smell the delicious food she makes, and so on some level I think I know more about her than my other neighbors?

I'm not saying this is how the world should be, just exploring my emotional reaction in this scenario.
posted by lownote at 8:41 AM on September 30, 2015


Depends on your neighbors. I don't talk to mine more than the casual hand-wave or nod, so even opening up about jobs and families is oversharing for our current relationship. Then I know some folks who are friends with their neighbors, inviting them to events that aren't block parties and such.

But I see that miscarriage is a very personal thing, so by sharing you are opening up in a way someone may not be ready to reciprocate. Sharing information with people who aren't close friends is tricky (see the next thread up), and issues of fertility are verging on "bedroom discussions" that is often treated as TMI by more casual acquaintances (or should be, as discussed in the fertility shaming thread).
posted by filthy light thief at 8:42 AM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Would you talk about your sex life with a neighbor? If not, why talk about miscarriage or abortion or husband cheating, etc?
posted by Postroad at 8:53 AM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


As the author notes, it's also a cultural norm not to tell casual acquaintances (or maybe even good friends) about a pregnancy until somewhere around 12 weeks. If you've informed a neighbor about the pregnancy, then I don't think informing them of a miscarriage would ever seem like oversharing. I mean, what's the alternative?

But if you haven't, then you're not just telling them about a miscarriage, you're telling them about a pregnancy that you'd been keeping private from them. It's not just one whammy, it's two or maybe three -- maybe the neighbor thinks they should have been in the know about the pregnancy, so you're telling them that they're not in your inner circle, at the same time that you're sharing something personal.

Society has hangups about women's health and reproduction, no doubt -- and the norm of not telling about pregnancies is a good indicator of that. And we should talk about miscarriage more. But I don't think it's surprising that it can be jarring to tell a neighbor about one. Sometimes the neighbors need jarring, though, you know?
posted by gurple at 8:54 AM on September 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I would have absolutely no problem hearing about a neighbor's or friend's miscarriage, in that it wouldn't make me uncomfortable. I wonder if women who have experienced miscarriage are more okay with hearing about it than women who haven't, or men.
posted by cooker girl at 8:56 AM on September 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


I had a miscarriage at around 12-14 weeks last year. When I mentioned it to someone after they asked why I was looking so sick lately, she became very tense for two reasons: one, I am unwed; and two, not being able to carry a child to full term meant I was somehow defective. So I was doubly shamed, first as a whore, and then for having a body that failed to birth a child. That to me speaks to our society's insufferable disdain for sexual women and its simultaneous expectation that we always be flawless vessels from which to birth children.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:57 AM on September 30, 2015 [43 favorites]


Hermione, I am sorry for your loss, and I am sorry that you had to endure that woman's incredibly wrong reactions.
posted by cooker girl at 8:59 AM on September 30, 2015 [19 favorites]


That is very true, Harvey Jerkwater; people react very strangely and inappropriately around this stuff - both in the personally invasive and also in a very impersonal, uncaring way.

When my wife suffered a miscarriage, there were two fascinating/horrible/draining aspects to the things that happened:

1. No one knew how to talk about it with us - not my family (including my own mother, who suffered a miscarriage herself), not my wife's family, not the health system which let us flounder for days without any advice or suggestions on what we should do in terms of care and next steps and how to set up the D&C, since the tissue wasn't passing. We felt utterly abandoned and I had a difficult time explaining to others around me (friends, colleagues, etc) what was going on in terms of my emotional state and need to take some time off because the reaction we had gotten so far had me unwilling to talk about it because it seemed to make everyone so goddamn uncomfortable. (Most horrific moment: our family doc sent us for an ultrasound to check on what was happening; ultrasounds are frequently done at clinics that perform a variety of health test functions - blood tests, ultrasounds for other purposes such as soft tissue issues, etc. Anyways, we got the ultrasound, were informed that there was no fetal heartbeat, and sent on our way. On the way out, my wife in tears and me pretty close, the receptionist - who I'm sure had no clue what was going on - yells out "Have a nice day" at us in a rather snarky kind of tone, tired, I'm sure, of people just going in and out and treating her as a minor functionary and ignoring her. My wife snarled back at her, as that was just the capstone to a miserable, tragic day of rushing around to make emergency appointments and difficult conversations and no real support for us. That moment just stands out to me as the horror of it spilling out and taking a toll on someone else who was likely dealing with her own emotional baggage that day).

2. And yet, some colleagues and friends were amazingly supportive when I revealed what had happened, sharing that it had happened to them too and that it was hard. Those little moments of understanding were incredibly important, but were only shared in brief private moments, one on one. Whereas, when my wife was pregnant, the questions and conversation were very public. Miscarriages are not an uncommon thing - 15-20% of the time - but yet we can't talk about it and the loss it represents openly. But conversations about the fertility and reproductive process of a woman is open season.

Anyways. When I can separate out the personal from this, I can see it as part of a societal issue where we have a lot of difficulty in terms of acknowledging loss and grief for the potential human being that someone was carrying. It's both a real loss and an unrealized one, to those not directly involved.

.
(for everyone who has been through this)

Some previous MF threads - 1, 2
posted by nubs at 9:01 AM on September 30, 2015 [18 favorites]


The pull quote is a bit misleading, as the article is not so much about "Why does small talk about my miscarriage make my casual acquaintances uncomfortable?" as it is about the general, unspoken taboo about talking about miscarriages, a perfectly natural occurrence, even with family and friends.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:01 AM on September 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


It would be great if we didn't have the chorus of "whats-da-big-deal" dudes starting off the thread.

Miscarriage is one of the most common major traumas or losses that is weirdly taboo.

I think discussing the roots of that silence and social awkwardness is important and not trivial at all.

I have been on the fatherhood side of miscarriage, both early enough that we didn't have-to/get-to tell anyone and late enough that we did. Suffering in silence because of this stigma is awful. It is not like chatting about my sex life.
posted by French Fry at 9:05 AM on September 30, 2015 [23 favorites]


In addition to the, yes, stunning callousness of some of the comparisons above, I think maybe we're getting too caught up on the "neighbor" part of the pull quote. The essay as a whole, and the issue in general, is about a lot more than just what you share with your neighbor.

It was absolutely stunning to me in my twenties to find out how common miscarriages are and how many people in my life were carrying that loss. Once one or two people started talking, suddenly so many other women I knew were chiming in with support and love and grief and assistance, having been through variants of the same story. Sometimes multiple times. So many people suffering alone who could have had at least some amount of comfort to be found in support and understanding from your loved ones. I had no damn clue until my friends started trying to have babies, and it sounded like most of them had no clue either. It's a huge emotional and mental health issue for people who try to get pregnant, and we just don't talk about it until it's much too late.

I'm glad this article was written and posted - thank you for sharing it.
posted by Stacey at 9:05 AM on September 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


(OK, I imagine gman gets that he was very wrong. Let's not allow it to be a total derail.)

For myself, a guy, I have been told about miscarriages -- mostly by women but rarely by men, now that I think about it -- and it doesn't make me uncomfortable so much as it makes me empathetic. It's a cruel combination of loss upon loss, and I expect that it usually comes as part of a long and difficult process of trying (and possibly failing) to conceive, making it even worse. So my sympathy is redoubled, for whatever it's worth, even though it's long after the fact…and I have only ever heard the news some months or years later.

I wouldn't recoil from the news, but I would feel terrible for them -- and yet not know how to comfort them, which is my first instinctive response. "I am sorry" sounds like pretty weak sauce in this case.

OTOH, if it's like the Next Door Neighbor who I only very casually know, I would be more shocked by the sudden avalanche of confidence & sharing than by the news itself.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:07 AM on September 30, 2015


Stacey: It was absolutely stunning to me in my twenties to find out how common miscarriages are and how many people in my life were carrying that loss.

Me, too. The older I got, the more I heard about them -- and many having happened years previous.

I don't know if it's just that we all had more life experiences piling up, or that we were all learning to share more and be open to talking about loss, but I went from thinking "That'll never happen to anyone I know" to "Oh, no, again? Why, God?"
posted by wenestvedt at 9:15 AM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


[A few comments removed. "I wouldn't tell someone about my balls" is a totally okay personal preference to have but kind of an epically misplaced response to a discussion about miscarriage taboos.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:17 AM on September 30, 2015 [31 favorites]


Sometimes people, even those you don't know more than a casual nod or wave, need to share heavy news with another human. For example, I am the new neighbor on my street, and just learned that my neighbor was recently diagnosed with cancer. Some might recoil at learning such things, or feel uncomfortable; I have also had cancer, so I was able to share with him some of my experience. It's situations like this that can really unite us in a common humanity. Miscarriage is doubly heavy, as others have said, in compounding loss upon loss.

There can be strong societal pushback on such disclosures, as we see in this very thread as well as the recent fertility shaming thread (exempli gratia today is Would you talk about your sex life with a neighbor? If not, why talk about miscarriage or abortion or husband cheating, etc?). A lot of that comes from poisonous Just World thinking, that you must have done something wrong to suffer such a fate. The current political climate around miscarriage and abortion furthers this unpleasantness. We need people to share, to push back against these views, to normalize illness. Illness happens, and it happens to everyone regardless of worthiness or purity or whatever moralistic opinion you hold.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:21 AM on September 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


I used to help run a women's fertility support group and more often than not what was missing from the lives of the people we helped was having someone who would listen to them talk about things many people would be too uncomfortable or even offended to hear about. When women are regularly told by friends, neighbors and even doctors that legitimate medical problems are "all in their heads" I learned first hand how being able to actually sit down and talk to someone about them without judgement is very important.
posted by Poldo at 9:23 AM on September 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Existential Dread: Sometimes people, even those you don't know more than a casual nod or wave, need to share heavy news with another human.

Whether it's because they specifically need to be heard, or because they need something else -- which are two totally different reasons to speak -- I do hear what you're saying about sometimes needing to get into each other's business. :7)

And I very much agree: a friend in need is a friend indeed, and we should be able to call upon our neighbors and communities for support -- and to provide that support in turn when they need us. If my neighbor needs an ear to talk to or a ride somewhere or a meal or a strong back to shovel their driveway, I want to do what I can because everyone's going to get their turn in the barrel sooner or later.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:27 AM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


My loss was at 20 weeks, so all our friends/family/coworkers knew. It was amazing how many people said that they'd been through a miscarriage too. I'd had no idea how common it is. I guess the taboo is broken once you know you're talking to someone who's been through it.
posted by Daily Alice at 9:34 AM on September 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


It was absolutely stunning to me in my twenties to find out how common miscarriages are and how many people in my life were carrying that loss. Once one or two people started talking, suddenly so many other women I knew were chiming in with support and love and grief and assistance, having been through variants of the same story. Sometimes multiple times. So many people suffering alone who could have had at least some amount of comfort to be found in support and understanding from your loved ones. I had no damn clue until my friends started trying to have babies, and it sounded like most of them had no clue either. It's a huge emotional and mental health issue for people who try to get pregnant, and we just don't talk about it until it's much too late.

this. exactly this. i've been thinking about this club no one wants to be a member of, and just how dang common it is, and how we don't share that with women until they've joined us. a relative of mine recently went through it and i realized i had never told her about my miscarriage before - and i wondered why - we're the type to share all sorts of things, things even more painful than that, but i shielded her from it i guess, hoping she wouldn't ever have to know. but now i wonder if i did her a disservice, not letting her know, not telling her how common it is. it's a lot to weigh and consider.
posted by nadawi at 9:36 AM on September 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


My wife and I lost an infant. In a very real respect, my social world is divided between people who know about that and people who don't. Keeping track of who is who can be sort of grimly amusing -- it's the sort of thing that can cause a lot of discomfort, grind a conversation to a halt, if I mention it in the wrong company.

I try to err on the side of telling new people about it early on in our relationship, because it's bound to come up eventually, and if I tell someone about it that I've known closely for a year already, it seems (at least to me) like I've been hiding something big from them.
posted by gurple at 9:38 AM on September 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


When I read this last night my first thought was that it's because it touches on more than one "taboo," more than one area that US culture, for one hasn't dealt well with, female reproductive matters and loss/grief. Witness the few comments here already noted.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:43 AM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have mention this before in a different context.

tl;dr: we're programmed societally to get excited over healthy babies and anything that steps outside that expectation is a serious sabot in the textile looms of our brains and as a person who is giving the news are ashamed to say so and as a listened don't know how to respond.
posted by plinth at 9:49 AM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Gurple, so very sorry.

When you wrote,
"...my social world is divided between people who know about that and people who don't. Keeping track of who is who can be sort of grimly amusing -- it's the sort of thing that can cause a lot of discomfort, grind a conversation to a halt, if I mention it in the wrong company."
I was immediately reminded of the topic of addiction: it isn't something one talks about right away, but once it comes up, it can be surprising how many other folks have the same struggle/pain.

(Not drawing an equivalence between them, just noting a congruence in sharing on the two topics.)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:51 AM on September 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I should have a two week old right now, but I had a miscarriage this past winter. I work in a female-dominated profession, and it was a bit hard to hide it when it happened because I needed to take some time off and everyone inevitably noticed/asked; I just didn't find myself able to lie convincingly. It was actually amazing how many of my co-workers could relate. I truly felt more support from them than I did from my own mother (who never experienced a loss and who encouraged me to keep it a secret from most of my family -- aunts, grandmother, etc.). It's such a fascinating phenomenon to me, how I could be utterly surrounded by women who'd experienced loss -- some of them, truly horrific loss, with multiple late term miscarriages and pain I can't begin to imagine -- and yet there's a code of silence enveloping us all. Still, when my due date passed recently, I had to act like all was normal when it just WASN'T. That was a terrible day, but now I feel some closure. I return to this poem for some comfort. Perhaps there are others who will know what I mean.
posted by katie at 10:00 AM on September 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


Social norms always fail to accommodate some people. Some women who experience a miscarriage would prefer to live as though it never happened, because it's so intimate that having it spoken of feels like an intrusion into their bodily autonomy. Others feel the silence on the topic borders on body-shaming those whose bodies didn't carry a baby to term.

I suspect the former are in the majority, but maybe a study with proper methodology would show me wrong.
posted by ocschwar at 10:06 AM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


> I mean, what's the alternative?

A polite lie and change of subject.

> A lot of that comes from poisonous Just World thinking.

Don't be silly. It comes from essays (called out as "best of the web" by being reposted here) saying in no uncertain terms "people's reproductive and procreative plans and decisions are none of your business. NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS." (With which, I may say, I utterly agree.)

If someone with whom I am not on habitually personal and intimate terms (such as a dear friend or a close family member) suddenly ups and reveals something intensely intimate and personal about themselves that I am perfectly well aware is NONE OF MY BUSINESS and don't need Emily Bingham to tell me so, am I likely to feel uncomfortable?

You bet your booty I am, and that fact has nothing whatever to do with "Just World thinking." The discomfort arises from suddenly and unwillingly getting dragooned into an utterly different sort of relationship from what existed previously with the miscarriage-revealing person, a relationship in which sharing each other's highest happinesses and deepest sadnesses has an expected place and long history. Such a revelation absolutely demands a caring, loving, deeply distressed response. Without that antecedent history, and not being a boddhisatva, I have nowhere to reach to pull out such a response. So, y'know, don't put me in the position of having to whip out what I haven't got if you don't want to see me hideously uncomfortable.
posted by jfuller at 10:19 AM on September 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think avoiding talk about miscarriage is like a lot of other things in life - a lot of stuff and issues rolled into one. Part of the reticence about talking about it just comes down to how reluctant our culture (and I'm just shorthanding US culture here since that's the culture of the article author) is to really be open about loss and death. Talking about your aunt's death may be more accepted but it's also likely to get you very quickly to talk of "better places" and other lets-get-your-suffering-wrapped-up-quick conversation.

I think it's also impossible to separate out the culture war over female fertility from any conversation about a miscarriage. At 45 I have never been alive when there wasn't a pitched battle over choice. We just had a supreme court cause about birth control. "Where does life begin" is a fraught topic and probably factors into people's fear of talking about a miscarriage.

I think you can add onto that the lack of understanding about how common miscarriage is and the skewed view people have garnered from popular media. It's still rare to see a woman on television choose to terminate a pregnancy, so when a show wants to do a pregnancy storyline without having a character bring a child to term there's going to be a miscarriage. I'd wager that I've seen miscarriage portrayed as happening after accidental pregnancy in fiction ten times as often as I've seen it as something that happens in what our traditional-leaning media wants to show as "the right way," a planned pregnancy within a marriage. I'd bet that the majority were shown as result of trauma rather than the more likely spontaneous event.
posted by phearlez at 10:20 AM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, y'know, don't put me in the position of having to whip out what I haven't got if you don't want to see me hideously uncomfortable.

Hopefully you're not thinking this way, but you probably shouldn't be thinking of discussing a miscarriage as comfortable for the sharer, either. In my experience with discussing infant death, I've never once been completely comfortable with sharing my story. When I do choose to share it, I'm making an emotional gamble -- on the part of two people, I realize -- that it's the best thing to do in that circumstance, not the right thing or the comfortable thing.
posted by gurple at 10:27 AM on September 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


The discomfort arises from suddenly and unwillingly getting dragooned into an utterly different sort of relationship from what existed previously with the miscarriage-revealing person, a relationship in which sharing each other's highest happinesses and deepest sadnesses has an expected place and long history. Such a revelation absolutely demands a caring, loving, deeply distressed response. Without that antecedent history, and not being a boddhisatva, I have nowhere to reach to pull out such a response. So, y'know, don't put me in the position of having to whip out what I haven't got if you don't want to see me hideously uncomfortable.

Would you have the same objection to being told "my (grand)parent died"? In a previous job I had to explain to my supervisor that I was less cheerful than usual because my grandfather had just died and he said "I'm so sorry to hear that" and then was especially nice to me for the rest of the week; based on the relationship we had, that was an appropriate response. I was giving him information about my personal state that was necessary for him to interact with me in a healthy way, I wasn't dragging him into an "utterly different sort of relationship". I wasn't asking him to dredge up a "caring, loving, deeply distressed response", just for basic human courtesy which is pretty well covered by "I'm so sorry to hear that." I think if you don't know someone that well, this is an appropriate response.

If you would be uncomfortable with a coworker revealing the death of a family member, fine, that's about your boundaries, but if this is specifically about miscarriages then it's worth reflecting on why.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:27 AM on September 30, 2015 [34 favorites]


Don't be silly. It comes from essays (called out as "best of the web" by being reposted here) saying in no uncertain terms "people's reproductive and procreative plans and decisions are none of your business. NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS." (With which, I may say, I utterly agree.)

If someone with whom I am not on habitually personal and intimate terms (such as a dear friend or a close family member) suddenly ups and reveals something intensely intimate and personal about themselves that I am perfectly well aware is NONE OF MY BUSINESS and don't need Emily Bingham to tell me so, am I likely to feel uncomfortable?


A person's sexuality is none of your business. However, when a male coworker reveals that his husband has cancer, this isn't about his sexuality, this is about his partner's illness.

Similarly, a miscarriage isn't about a person's choices or sex life, or sexuality or preferences. It's a misfortune that's fallen upon them. You can sympathize and console them without evaluating or even thinking about their choices or preferences.

There's a huge difference between "this isn't your business (to ask)" and "this isn't something they should share with you." For example, don't ask people's sexual preferences, but also don't freak out if they decide to share that knowledge with you.
posted by explosion at 10:38 AM on September 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


If someone with whom I am not on habitually personal and intimate terms (such as a dear friend or a close family member) suddenly ups and reveals something intensely intimate and personal about themselves that I am perfectly well aware is NONE OF MY BUSINESS and don't need Emily Bingham to tell me so, am I likely to feel uncomfortable?...The discomfort arises from suddenly and unwillingly getting dragooned into an utterly different sort of relationship

I get where this is coming from, jfuller. But I think the difficulty that miscarriage poses is that it does often provoke a loss & grief response for the people impacted, and while we have plenty of social conventions around dealing with grief and loss in our professional colleagues, non-intimate friends, and acquaintances, we don't have them for this particular form of loss.

So, for example, if you and I were professional colleagues and I'm suddenly cancelling meetings and am out of the office unexpectedly for a few days, and you learn it is a "death in the family" like a parent or brother, I doubt you would struggle with what to do and how to respond. It doesn't change the relationship in terms of the level of intimacy or "dragoon" you into a new one. But when it's a miscarriage, we're suddenly uncomfortable - and so the people suffering through it don't talk about it openly, because we don't want to make other people uncomfortable while we're distressed (and I find that people who are the source of other's discomfort often feel obliged to try to do something to sooth it), and here we go - back to the fact that we can't talk about it because someone might get uncomfortable. So the pain goes on, and the emotional labour of dealing with it and ensuring that everyone else stays free from discomfort remains the property of the people suffering the loss.

For something that impacts so many, why can't we create some social conventions and space to acknowledge the loss, like we have for others? That might help everyone.
posted by nubs at 10:39 AM on September 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


> A lot of that comes from poisonous Just World thinking.

Don't be silly. It comes from essays (called out as "best of the web" by being reposted here) saying in no uncertain terms "people's reproductive and procreative plans and decisions are none of your business. NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS." (With which, I may say, I utterly agree.)


I'd just like to draw a line between interrogating someone about their reproductive plans/status (the topic of the fertility shaming thread) and attempting to forestall someone from discussing the fact that they've had a miscarriage. It's equally wrong to demand that someone disclose their family plans to you in public, and to demand that they keep their miscarriage to themselves. In both cases, you're demanding that they behave in a certain way to (a) satisfy your curiosity or (b) keep you from being uncomfortable.

not you specifically, jfuller, but the general second person you
posted by Existential Dread at 10:40 AM on September 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


In person people seem to trust me for no reason and lean on me as a counselor in these situations. (I have no idea why.)

Generally with this kind of thing the most compassionate thing to do is probably to acknowledge their feelings and make it clear that you are willing to listen to more if they want to supply it.

"Oh that is hard." works really well as a first response because it makes few assumptions about how much they wanted to keep the pregnancy, or what other circumstances surround it. "I'm here if you need to talk" is a good follow up.
posted by poe at 11:21 AM on September 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


My mom had a miscarriage when I was nearly 4. My dad went into something like shock and I was the only person who could help. I don't remember what mom asked of me, but she always praised me for that day.

35 years later my wife had one. I thought I'd wet the bed or something until I realized it was blood. I called into work two hours before anybody was there and left a message.

It was all guys there and I was extremely surprised by who was uncomfortable at the following morning meeting. The guys I expected to be shuddering were the most helpful and the most decent people there were having horrific reactions to my description of the incident.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 11:23 AM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am currently 6 months pregnant, and have shared with TONS of people that I had two early miscarriages, and I think it's a combination of luck and how I viewed my miscarriages (although they were unpleasant from a medical perspective - both missed, etc., I never felt real grief or like I lost a baby) but I have never felt any judgment from anyone for that.

I didn't tell anyone at the time, though, not because of embarrassment but because I didn't want people to know I was trying to get pregnant, especially as a woman working in tech. I told my boss I had some medical issues and needed to take some time off (I actually only needed one day off total between the two, not counting the leaving early for doctor's appointments). But once my current pregnancy became very visible and I started telling people, I don't know that there's anyone I can recall having a conversation about the pregnancy with that I didn't tell about the miscarriages.

I'm telling people (again, people who I have conversations with about the pregnancy) both because it was part of the process and, largely, because I know a lot of people have more emotional problems than I did with miscarriage and I want them to know -- whether they've had one in the past or if they have one in the future -- that they're not alone and that, for my friends, I am someone who they can talk to about the experience as someone who's been through it. And because I'm doing my part to normalize and publicize it. As people said above, I wouldn't feel weird about telling people I had food poisoning or the flu or something even if we weren't close - it's just another medical thing I've been through.
posted by brainmouse at 11:30 AM on September 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


> In both cases, you're demanding that they behave in a certain way to (a) satisfy your curiosity or (b) keep you from being uncomfortable.

In the second case what my heart would feel is the right response would be to hug them, or at the very least hold their hand in both of mine. And tear up.
posted by jfuller at 12:10 PM on September 30, 2015


This hits close to home. Last month, my wife and I found out at the second ultrasound appointment that there was no fetal heartbeat, and there likely hadn't been any growth since somewhere around the first ultrasound. We're pretty introverted types, and we weren't prepared for other people's expressions of a type of grief that we hadn't even really begun to process at the time.
posted by emelenjr at 3:32 PM on September 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


This kind of stuff makes me feel like we should have a course that everyone has to take where they learn the basics of being a reasonably kind and empathetic human being.

I mean, I'm definitely an introverted never want to share personal things type (except on the internet*), and I think more reserved type people are more likely to think it's not "okay" to share these things, mostly because it seems like it's this huge THING and OMG it's going to be so awkward and I won't know what to say. But really, it isn't hard! If someone confides something in you, just react in a way that fits with your already existing relationship. For example:

If it's an acquaintance (like a neighbor), just say, "I'm so sorry to hear that." If they seem to want to talk about it more, then listen, and maybe fill in similarly sympathetic sentiments when appropriate.

If it's a coworker you can say, "I'm so sorry to hear that. Let me know if there's anything I can do to (run interference with nosy coworker/answer phone calls if you need to step out/help fill out annoying bureaucratic paperwork)."

If it's someone who reports to you at work or if you're a teacher and it's a student (which is what I've dealt with most often), say, "I'm so sorry to hear that. I'm happy to give you an extension/time off/etc."

It's not like you have to go hug them and let them cry on your shoulder if you hardly know them. And if you're afraid of saying the wrong thing, just err on the side of listening to them and providing short sympathetic responses. Expressing a little bit of empathy and not being a dick really goes a long way.

*And when I say internet, I really just mean metafilter.
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:23 PM on September 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


I highly recommend a book called Ended Beginnings, by Claudia Panuthos and Catherine Romeo. It addresses pregnancy loss of all types, including miscarriage. Another great book in a related vein is The Tentative Pregnancy: How Amniocentesis Changes the Experience of Motherhood by Barbara Katz Rothman. Both books discuss a tendency for many women who have experienced one or more miscarriage or other loss to take a step back emotionally from embyro(s)/fetus(es) during subsequent pregnancies or IVF procedures. This disconnect from developing maternal bonds - and the complex hormonal dance that is ideally supposed to accompany them - can in turn have developmental consequences for babies in utero.
A woman who has told no one of her pregnancy and loses it may have very little support. However, contemporary American pregnancy/birth culture is so backloaded with expectation and judgment, with often turbulent and contradictory intersections of vectors (career, race/ethnicity, family structure, medical intervention, SEX BAD BABIES GOOD, media landscape & more) it can feel as though there are a lot of disincentives to speaking frankly and openly about an occurrence that is very common though no less painful for its frequency.
posted by sutureselves at 5:30 PM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


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