The Silence of Miscarriage

Miscarriage often brings silence. We even call some miscarriages “silent miscarriages”.

From feeling that there are no safe places where they can talk to thoughts that other people are fed up hearing the same story over and over again. Parents experiencing the deep loss of miscarriage often find themselves silencing their stories … yet the pain and grief shouts ever louder – not wanting … or ready … to be silenced.

Over the years I have spoken with mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, other relations and friends … all grieving the loss of a miscarriage in different ways. The losses may be different, but the grief is real. Painfully real.

Time and time again I hear things like “no one understands” … “I can’t speak with them about it – they have their own pain” … “I don’t want to open it up for them again” … “they must be fed up hearing me talk about it” … “it was all so long ago everyone else has forgotten”. And so, they silence their story … for days, weeks, months, years, decades.

But the story is more than a story.

For someone grieving the loss of a pregnancy it is the death of a baby, the death of parenting that child, the death of being able to watch them grow and develop, the death of hopes, the death of dreams and so much more.

The layers of grief are wide, complicated and interwoven.

The pregnancy may have been planned and hoped for … or unexpected and unintended. It would be easy to think that the grief is different … but it isn’t … it just holds different silences.

It may be hard to voice the emotion of relief where you know others are devastated … so you silence that. It may be hard to voice that you didn’t feel ready to be a dad but knew your partner wanted to be a mum … so you silence that. It may be hard to voice that you fear that this was your last hope and you are tired of trying … so you silence that. It may be hard to voice that you feel that you have lost everything that you ever hoped for … so you silence that.

To be an ear to hear some of those silences voiced has been one of the most humbling things in my life. Where someone trusts you to listen and not judge … to hear and not advise … to hear the baby’s name spoken for the first time … to receive a photo on Christmas Day, or due date, of how baby was remembered … these are sacred spaces that it is an honour to share.

Silences can be dangerous … they can push and bury grief deep, deep down – I read this quote recently and found it to ring very true:

“Like trying to submerge a beachball under water, it became almost impossible for me to hold my emotions down. The longer and more forcefully I tried to hold them down the more violently they burst up through me again.”

ALAIN EMERSON – LUMINOUS DARK – 2017

Grief is normal … it is part of our healthy response to loss. By giving ourselves the time, space and permission to grieve well we do ourselves a great kindness.

If you are grieving the loss of a pregnancy there is support available. It might feel difficult to reach out for that and I know that breaking the silence takes courage … but you will be doing yourself a kindness as you make that first connection and start the conversation.

If you know someone who has experienced a miscarriage – be brave and connect with them. That takes courage too. You will not make them feel any worse – the worse thing has already happened. Just a simple “I’m sorry to hear what happened. How are you today?” will help them break the silence.


Support organisations:

Alternatives – Counselling & Listening Rooms – Dundee

Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland

Miscarriage Association


written for Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland – Baby Loss Awareness Week – Facebook Post

Fatty!

Facebook. A picture of a young girl. Eyes twinkling with mischief. A rascal!

Second comment: “Fatty”

For a moment I was almost physically paralysed as I read that comment. Outraged.

But … realisation dawned … the author of the comment was a Facebook friend … the girl herself … now all grown up … years distancing her from the young girl who was looking out at me from the screen.

My outrage subsided. Replaced with anger. Laced with sadness. Thoughts swirling in my mind. Bile catching the back of my throat. Hot tears forming and stinging my eyes.

I couldn’t scroll past. I had no words. My mind was a jumble of thoughts …

What if that was a picture of a completely different young girl …

…would my Facebook friend have penned that same word against her picture? Probably not.

… would she have thought that same word about her? I don’t know.

What if a different young girl … my daughter … her daughter … someone else’s daughter … saw that picture … read that comment below it … compared herself with that young girl … would she see the rascally, mischievous, little girl and allow herself to imagine what fun they could have together … or would she allow that word to take root inside her and begin to define how she saw herself?

I was back to outrage!

I tried to scroll past … but I couldn’t. I was paralysed here … looking at the picture and not able to connect it to the word that jarred in me sitting just lines below.

I penned a response … clumsily … but something to ease that bile in my throat and allow my fingers to scroll on:

“oh my goodness … stop! Don’t go there … for all the young girls we know!”

And Facebook does what Facebook does and attracts other comments and other attention. In the midst of this a glimmer of the why comes out.

This word was a repeat of what my Facebook friend had heard when she was that young girl all those years ago.

She was just repeating what had been cruelly spoken over her.

Only now … here she was, the grown up girl, saying those same cruel words to her younger self.

The bullied becomes a bully … to herself … and those words are all the more powerful because she speaks them over herself … she cannot escape that voice very easily.

So, still, I am outraged!

Outraged … but with a little more understanding … with hotter tears behind my eyes … with anger that those words still carry power because they are still spoken over that young girl who lives inside my grown up friend.

So I revisit my clumsy first comment .. and edit … to a still clumsy comment:

“oh my goodness … stop! Don’t go there … not for all the young girls we know … but for yourself!”

And, yet, I am still drawn back to this conversation with my Facebook friend.

On holiday I read a book … a children’s book … recommended to me by a friend … about a little refugee boy … bullied by the cruel words of other children. And there is a line in that book which has stuck with me:

“Sometimes words hang around longer than people, even when you don’t want them to.”

Isn’t that just so true?

Those children who spoke that “Fatty” word over my Facebook friend are LONG gone … but here we are years later with the word still hanging around … still being repeated … still being reinforced … still landing … still blinding her from the gorgeous, mischievous, cheeky little girl that she actual was!


My Facebook friend isn’t a distant stranger that I have followed through a long chain of someone who knows someone … she is a woman who I know in actual REAL life.

I know her … her sisters … her family … people who love and care for her … people who are for her and want to champion her to be ALL that she can be.

She is a fabulous, gorgeous, woman who I have watched grow up, mature and blossom in lots of different ways. She is an amazing mum, a fun filled wife and a loyal friend to many!

But … she also holds a little girl inside her … her little, younger, self who she calls “Fatty” … and I want to tell that little girl that she can silence the bullies by not repeating their words when she grows up to be the woman that I know she will become.

I want to whisper to that little girl, ‘Always remember that “you are fearfully and wonderfully made” and use your words wisely – they have “the power of life and death” in them.’


I also know that there is a deeper discomfort within me … a reason why I keep coming back to this conversation … a reason why it stings within me … because in hearing her write “Fatty” … my Facebook friend might as well have been shouting it directly at me …

… I recognise the voice … the words may be different … but there are the same echoes of old that I still speak over myself …

So … I need to pull up a chair and have a conversation much closer to home … with the little girl I hold inside of me – to remind her that she is fearfully and wonderfully made and to use her words wisely because they have power!

Lessons from the Garden I

#1 – Shame!

Let’s start with the biggest punch in the guts … no point in building up to a big finale when you don’t know where the journey will take you!

When I say that the garden was transformed “through the skills of a team of guys” … what that actually translated as was: a friend of ours … from Paul’s running club … in the middle of lockdown … started a gardening business.

He was picking up work … filling his diary … growing his team … building his portfolio! As you would expect with a new business some of that that was coming through his existing network of contacts … friends … family … and, yes, running club pals!

You see exactly where this is going, don’t you?!

When Paul suggested that we use them to do the work a little bit inside of me died! Well, actually … if truth be told … probably quite a large part of me died!

Yet a glimmer of hope remained … I knew this guy would only perform quality work … and quality comes at a price … so my hope was that the quote for the work would throw the “let’s help a friend grow his business” plan out the window …

… we could merrily take ourselves off to the “Dundee Trusted Trader” website … and find someone cheaper to tackle the wilderness …

… but more crucially find someone unknown to us … and unknown to anyone we did know!!

But … no … the price came in within budget … and was comparable to the “going rate” for garden work like this … YES … of course I got Paul to check that out!! When bits of you are dying on the inside they don’t go down without a fight!

Typical … where are the big price tickets when you need them??!!

Some people don’t like hanging their underwear on the line … others have taken their phone to the toilet during a Zoom meeting unwittingly with audio and camera still connected … others have fallen face first in front of their boss … others have walked around all day with their skirt tucked into their pants …

… this was my version of humiliation about to land on our doorstep … LITERALLY!

And then on the run up … there was banter in the running club Facebook group … that went like this:

There was no offence intended and none taken at the banter … it was just banter … given and taken … between friends …

… but there was truth in it … there was shame being carried … and that was only too real.

Shame is a destroyer … and it can have very deep roots.

A LONG time ago I once heard someone say that you only needed to look in a christian’s backyard (garden) and it would tell you how well they would look after the things that God had given them to steward.

Ouch!

That thought became like an inner voice of shame within me. Regularly as I passed through, or looked at the garden, I could hear the loud whispers of that voice of shame taunting me.

I do not believe that my lack of gardening prowess (or effort) in any way reflects how I look after other things in my life … but the voice of shame takes no prisoners and accuses nonetheless … and sometimes viciously so!

Shame can bring a disconnect and even cut us off from relationships … in both simple and much deeper ways.

There were friends and family who I would dread the thought of dropping in … rarely (if ever) would I invite them … all much to the applause of my inner voice of shame. They would … after all judge my ability to love and care for them based on the state of my garden … especially the good gardeners … they were the worst and would of course judge me more … or so the voice of shame would tell me anyway.

The voice of shame is a liar … but it is a persuasive one.

Well … voice of shame … the garden is RESET … I’m calling time on your toxic whispers and banishing your company. After all, the voice of Truth tells me a different story …

Take me to: Lessons from the Garden – The Back Story

Lessons from the Garden

#0 – The Back Story

This week we pressed RESET on the garden!

It was LONG overdue … but in a season when everything feels to be in RESET mode, it felt timely.

I am always looking to hear what God is whispering to me in the every day ordinary of life … and I know that there is much in this garden RESET journey that I have to hear! So, it seems I may have myself a wee mini series to play with!

The garden came free with the house back when we bought it in 2003! The previous owners confidently told us “the garden looks after itself” … PERFECT! That is our kind of garden!

Over lockdown I learnt a new phrase … “judicious neglect” … had I known that phrase back in 2003 it would have exactly coined what sort of line we would have looked for in the house particulars:

“The house is boundaried by a sizeable walled garden with ample, relaxed, informal planting. The garden showcases rich, vibrant colour in late Spring into early Summer and will thrive best through judicious neglect.”

Over the 17 years that we have lived in the house, we have attended well to the judicious neglect which the garden demanded from us. Woven into that 17 years there have been moments where we have departed from that neglect and dabbled in some planting and maintenance … mainly at the hands of other people – paid and unpaid!!

This week, through the skills of a team of guys, what had become a rambling wilderness of interwoven trees, shrubs, flowers and weeds was transformed into a low maintenance clean slate (well chuckie actually!) of a garden.

Space for the new … with a few remnants of the old!

So where this mini series will take me I have no idea … I do know that there a few things bubbling about within in me about it all … but this, for now, sets the back story!!

And I guess it needs some before … and after … or perhaps more correctly so far! … pictures to bring that back story to life!