I’ve been stewing on this “change the miscarriage / infertility conversation” idea for a while. This was written several months ago and directed at people who have not experienced miscarriage or infertility. Now I think it is time to take a hard look at how those who have experienced these things are also shaping the conversation.
You want to make a bold statement, a change in perception? You want to shout something from the rooftops that just “needs to be said?” You want a bull in a china shop? I’m not your gal. I don’t like difficult, sensitive topics and I loathe being public about them. I sit in the background. I watch and observe. I think. According to Brene Brown, I “rumble.” And here’s what I’ve been rumbling with on this topic: Yes, the conversation needs to change. Yes, people say insensitive things and don’t understand. But who is at the core of these conversations? Where are the current conversations starting and how are they being perpetuated?
These may be unpopular answers, but here goes…(Yikes!). We are at the core, We are the common denominator. The conversations are being started with and perpetuated by Us. By “We” and “Us,” I mean those of us that have experienced miscarriage and infertility. I truly believe we are steering the show and if we don’t like where it is going, only we can change it. And it is going to be hard, but not in the way you think.
Don’t agree? Who spouts “never give up” more than anyone else? Who sits quietly stewing, while they allow people to believe they are helpful and comforting when they say things like: I have a good feeling this time. Or at least you know you can get pregnant. Or why don’t you just adopt? Who bottles up their feelings so much that only bitterness seeps out when the cutest pregnancy announcement pops up in their news feed? Who silences themselves and numbs their pain keeping everyone in the dark about what they are really feeling?
We can not expect the world to change in the way that we want without changing ourselves and the way we portray a family or a person struggling with the gut-wrenching loss of a child or the dream of one.
These losses are largely misunderstood and misrepresented, that is true. But, who is going to change that? The person who has never experienced it and has no skin in the game? That doesn’t even make sense.
I said some of the very worst things, the things we absolutely crucify others for saying to myself after my miscarriages in an attempt at consolation. Then I repeated them to my friends, family and co-workers in an attempt to appear like I understood the meaning of it all and was moving on…marching forward… I don’t know what came first — did society give me these shitty statements as tools or did I grab them for myself and then hand them off to everyone else? I’m not sure. I know they served as armor though. I know they helped
protect hide me. I know I did the opposite of changing the conversation.
All that being said, the very people I’m asking to ignite, enforce and drive this change are grieving, tired and stretched beyond their limits. I know this because I am right there with you. Some days it is a struggle just to care for ourselves properly much less tend to a higher agenda and try to kindly and lovingly educate people in a way that is palatable for them.
If you are a shout it from the rooftops kind of person — get at it and more power to you. We need you. But, there are so many of us that simply can not, will not do that. So, I propose we start in a way that helps us care for ourselves and get more of the support we need.
One: Let’s be more kind — to everyone (including ourselves) — because, that just never can hurt. Let’s assume everyone is doing the best they can (also including ourselves), for I find it amazing how much you can let go of under this assumption.
Two: Those of you grieving, tired, and stretched beyond your limits — stop trying to make sense of it, stop trying to console yourself into numbness, stop trying to push down all that you are feeling. Feel it all and share — even if it’s nasty, even if it is the worst. Pick one person you can share with (read: unload on). After that goes okay (And it will, because you’ll pick the right person. You’ll pick the most comfortable person, the person who wants the hard truth, not the cotton candy truth), pick the next right person and share some more. You don’t have to be eloquent or educate or be considerate of how your pain is making them feel. You can do the ugly cry. You just have to make your thoughts and feelings be known. Let them listen.
What it takes to let someone see this much of you is not lost on me. I struggle with it too. This is the hard part I was talking about, but, it is an important part of changing the conversation. Letting someone in chips away at the misunderstanding and the misrepresentation of these losses. People can not know, they can not understand unless we tell them.
Three: Those of you who are the chosen people — don’t try to fix it. Don’t try to make sense of it or make the future look brighter. Just listen. This person is grieving and tired and stretched beyond their limits and they have summoned the courage to show up and tell YOU. Right in this moment, you are their person. Respect and honor this. Just be with them.
Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
If you are good with one, two and three, maybe the next time someone says, “At least you weren’t that far along.” You can kindly respond with, “I totally get you are trying to help. Please understand regardless of how far along I was, I lost a baby, and it has been devastating.”
We don’t have to do it alone and the more we try, the less we change the conversation. The more people we let in (and it doesn’t always have to be in a dramatic fashion), the more people there are that will understand. More understanding elicits more compassion and less fear. More compassion and less fear draws more authentic questions…which brings more understanding…