Given the way her mother-in-law had looked at Femi, when she answered that, although this was her first baby, it had resulted from her second pregnancy, in response to a long time friend’s inquiry about her very big baby. One would think she had just killed someone rather than just bringing up the issue of her first pregnancy, which had ended in a miscarriage at 8 weeks,
“O o mope, won ki nso nipa iru nkan ba yen’i? Eyin omode isin yi sa,” (literally meaning, “Don’t you know you don’t talk about such matters. These children of nowadays.”, Femi’s mother-in-law had said as she shook her head.
“Now, everyone will know and they will be helping you to count your pregnancies. Wait sef, where is the baby? Why are you counting it as though it is important?” her mother-in-law continued and Femi was shocked at the level of irritation in the older woman’s voice, at something she (Femi) went through and chose to talk about.
Her attempts to make things lighter, by telling her it was just banter between friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while and that she wouldn’t be the butt of any negative gist, did nothing more than anger the older woman, who told her all the more reasons she should have been careful of what she told her friend, whom she could no longer vouch for, after all they had not seen each other for a long time before then.
Femi was now sufficiently irritated by her mom-in-law’s stand about her discussing her miscarriage, that one of the first things she did when she got to her own house was to call her mom and she tell her everything, and then she got the shock of her life.
“Kilode, to se so fun (why did you tell her)? Is that the type of news, you make conversations with? It has happened and that is it, no need dwelling on it or telling people about it.”
“But mommy, it is Irene, my friend, whom I have not seen in a long time.” Femi had interjected
“All the more reason not to have been telling about your life. What if she has become an amebo, after all these years? See, the miscarriage doesn’t count, it’s the babies that do, and thank God you have one now. Stop living in the past.”
That was how these two older women cowed Femi with their thought pattern. Femi and I have only chatted online, never met, but I could feel her shock at being told to keep her miscarriage on the low burner and it tells me something.
Even if she has a baby already, her emotions are still raw where the issue of her miscarriage is concerned. She needs healing, she needs closure about that chapter in her life. And she isn’t getting it by keeping quiet.
I may not have experienced a miscarriage but my sister has, and my mom’s reaction was something similar to the reactions of Femi’s mom and mom-in-law. Even my sister doesn’t know exactly what she was supposed to feel regarding the incident. But mostly, she behaves as though it never happened…but it did.
I remember that, for her first visit to the hospital for her antenatal class, she said she had answered that it was her first pregnancy, when in fact, it was her second. The first pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage a few weeks before the end of the first trimester.
She corrected the information she had given on her second visit, and that was because I hinted that the doctor might need the information to know how much attention they needed to give her current pregnancy, in order to prevent a reoccurrence.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, up to 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage.
A miscarriage is a death, particularly, if you believe that life begins at conception. And the simple truth is that death at whatever age is awkward. So huge and terrifying and confusing that it renders people silent. They worry so much about the right thing to say that sometimes they say nothing at all. And the silence continues.
Stephanie started having kids early. At the age of 24, she had her daughter and wanted more, but it wasn’t happening, which was quite odd, according to her, for a twenty-something year old lady, and also because her husband too was young.
It was the second year into her TTC journey that she conceived, but lost, a baby in the 7th week. She had felt some menstrual pain like cramps, was rushed to the hospital but by the time she got there, it was already over. She was bleeding and an ultrasound scan showed her uterus was now empty, the same uterus that had showed the presence of a baby less than two weeks earlier.
It did not matter that she already had a daughter; it was a devastating loss and wasn’t helped by the fact that some people who didn’t know what she had gone through kept harassing her with baby talk; how she was supposed to give her girl a sibling to play with, as though siblings were toys.
For some time too, Stephanie blamed herself for her miscarriage and that is nothing new, as a 2015 Obstetrics & Gynecology study showed that over 76 percent of study’s 1000 respondents held erroneous beliefs regarding the causes of miscarriage, believing they were caused by stress, lifting heavy objects, previous abortions or use of birth control, or simply not wanting the pregnancy. And 50 percent thought miscarriages occurred in less than 6 percent of pregnancies.
What pain to add to the burden of losing one’s baby? Often times, this blame game goes on silently and that in itself is a big issue. By sharing the pain and normalizing miscarriages, women are one step closer to ending stigma and gaining support by sharing their stories.
It doesn’t matter if our society says to keep quiet about miscarriages and other losses, it doesn’t remove the fact that these things happen and that they happen a lot more times, than we would all like to admit.
The truth and my reality is this, keeping our health problems secret means they stay mysterious, shameful, and misunderstood.
So let’s keep talking; even about the hard stuff.
That’s the only way it gets better and easier.
Godspeed and healing to every aching heart.
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