Founder of Mother Pukka, Anna Whitehouse talks about miscarriage in Stylist Magazine and why it shouldn’t be the great unsaid
It’s the elephant in the room: miscarriage. Pick up a dictionary and it means two things: “a condition in which a pregnancy ends too early and does not result in the birth of a live baby” or “an unjust legal decision”. The latter is arguably easier to palate.
Social media is packed with photos of cupcake-rammed baby showers, impeccably-filtered post-birth pics and triumphant videos of toddlers staggering across the room to be rewarded with a babyccino. Ask every one of the parents behind the lens if they had a miscarriage, knew of someone who had, or feared it might happen to them and the resounding answer would be “yes”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against cupcakes, filters or babycinnos (I’m leading the charge on Instagram) but this polish doesn’t always reflect what’s gone before.
It’s about sisterhood – or parenthood, to be specific.
Having mourned three miscarriages myself before we had our daughter Mae, I know what it is to feel like a pariah in the maternal world.
A Pampers ad on the Tube once left me sobbing uncontrollably, while friendships with mothers became punctuated with irrational jealousy from my side and an inability to know what to say from theirs. A weekly email from babycentre.com showing the size of my now inviable fetus would leave me numb. It was, undoubtedly the loneliest period of my life.
So it was truly refreshing that Facebook oracle Mark Zuckerberg finally pierced this eerie silence with his recent post that has since gathered more than 1.6m likes, 108k comments and 48k shares.
“We want to share one experience to start,” he said in his post last Friday. “We’ve been trying to have a child for a couple of years and have had three miscarriages along the way. You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”
The truth is miscarriage is part of life; it’s part of the terrifying, yet brilliant, road to procreation. Katie Price is one of the few celebrities to speak up on the issue after suffering 10-week miscarriage in 2009.
“It was on the screen and he simply said, ‘No it’s, it’s died, it’s gone,’” she said. “I was confused… I said to him, ‘But the HGC levels have gone up, so surely that means there is a pregnancy?’ And inside I’m thinking, ‘If I wait will it form, will a heartbeat come?’ All this insanity goes through your head. And obviously it didn’t. But I had to accept, it’s part of life. It’s a part of creating life.”
She admitted something hordes of parents haven’t: miscarriage is a part of pregnancy. It happens, it’s awful; the rubbishness of a uterus not working is unquestionable. But it’s common, and perhaps even more Googled than the Zuckerberg name itself.
The slew of mothers I know with their Bugaboos and burgeoning clans may not have had miscarriages, but they have known fear. The fear of losing a part of them. The fear that suddenly the ‘peanut’ or ‘bean’ they’ve grown to love and nurture with a holistic cocktail of chia seeds, babycentre.com and iron tablets might not materialise.
The fear of decorating a nursery too soon. The fear that every scan will reveal a quiet emptiness – a silence that pierces even the hardiest souls.
It’s certainly not about a fear of over-sharing. The women I know are good at writing, talking, crying and expressing their fears (and when that fails, tidying sock drawers with the kind of frenzied dedication of a famished mosquito) to combat life’s injustices. It’s more about the difference between empathy and sympathy when speaking to someone who has just gone through the pain of a miscarriage.
Having cried, raked through emotional Mumsnet forums and truly mourned three children before having our daughter, all I know is, sympathy starts with “at least you can get pregnant”, whereas empathy puts the kettle on, stacks up the Jaffa cakes and says, “it’s shit, I’m here.”
If you know what it is to love someone, you know what it is to lose someone. That elephant shouldn’t still be lurking.