Someone close to me suffered a miscarriage recently, and I didn’t know, because she literally disappeared off the surface of the earth. As at the time, I was trying to reach her unsuccessfully, I was thinking how it was possible for someone to be so unreacheable. Phone calls were not going through, messages went unread, and unanswered. Her husband, for his part, had perfected the art of saying, “she’s fine” with that bland look on his face.
All I could do was pray for her and her unborn baby, even though, somewhere at the back of my mind, I suspected her pregnancy had something to do with her disappearance, but I forbade every thought that she had miscarried. I was like, she couldn’t miscarry this one, not after waiting for so long, having scaled through the drama of first trimester, to the trimester where everyone knew she was pregnant and was commenting on her glow. She just couldn’t miscarry, I argued with myself.
When I finally saw her, I was heartbroken. The baby was no longer there, but she was in a positive mental state, so I hugged her tightly and told her how much I had missed her, and filled her in on the different things that had happened while she was away.
Sometime during our conversation, we talked about her loss, but it was a very coded conversation, as she revealed where she had actually gone to and how she pulled through the experience, to be able to give thanks to God, regardless of what happened or didn’t happen.
She also revealed why she didn’t tell anyone about her whereabouts. Apparently, she didn’t want to be the topic of conversation. As she had never told anyone, no one could ask her what happened, except to welcome her back, their eyes got the rest of the story, but she wasn’t open to conversing about it.
Seeing that we were not even speaking openly about the miscarriage, there was only a little I could do to comfort her without overstepping the boundaries of our friendship. But I made it clear I had a listening ear and even shared some success stories from our community with her. That was the least I could do.
As we are still celebrating the month of awareness for pregnancy and baby loss, we will continue to turn the spot light on the silent stealer of joy that most people prefer not to talk about, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, their reasons are personal but often times, it is as result of societal pressures.
Take Dunni, who is an older woman. She experienced miscarriage when she got pregnant the second time. Till date, she recalls the moment in an unreal manner, from the reaction of her husband, who looked dumbfounded to discover that his wife was not going to have the baby, after all to the hush hush attitude of her mother-in-law, who kept saying, “Won kin so fun’yan” (you don’t tell people about it), to the business-like attitude of the doctor.
The doctor had broken the news of their loss nonchalantly. He had been like, “Madam, this your baby has died oh, and we need to do an evacuation as soon as possible.” First and foremost, she found it hard to deal with the fact that, her baby had died in utero, and right there, the doctor was talking about an evacuation. She was filled with anger at the doctor. She hissed and left his office. She was so angry that she passed her husband and stomped to the car. He was the one who got the details of the evacuation, and the stern admonition from the nurses, “Your wife rude sha.” Dunni said her husband didn’t even know response to give to that statement.
Finally, two days after she was told her baby had stopped breathing, she went in for an evacuation, and all she could remember was the fact that she cried buckets and wouldn’t be quietened. She couldn’t even stop herself from crying in front of her daughter. When her mother-in-law came and couldn’t get her to stop crying, she was banished to her bedroom, and no one was allowed to see her. “Dunni is not around” was the response she gave all her neighbours, her friends and even colleagues who came to check on her.
She was thankful for that reprieve on the one hand, but she was also so tempted to want to scream her pain at the top of her voice to the whole world.
Dunni has gone on to have 2 more children, who are all grown now, with her oldest daughter preparing for marriage. It might have been decades ago, but she remembers the ache and the shame she felt at having a miscarriage.
Lots of women who have suffered miscarriages, have passed through her life but she only started sharing her own second term miscarriage recently to comfort them.
As Dunni shared her story, she has found that women refuse to talk about their miscarriage experience simply because of fear. Yes, fear. Fear of being judged. Fear of being the topic of discussion of friends and family. Fear of being pitied. Fear of what people will think; will people think that it serves me right (sad as it may sound, there are people who think this way)?
Interestingly, some women don’t know they have suffered a miscarriage. Some know, but are told it is common place, thus no need to dwell too much on it. You can tell a woman that, but her body and her mind know something is different, and grieve. Better to acknowledge the loss and move on, than to ignore it.
Women don’t talk also because they are overwhelmed with emotions, they simply don’t know what to say or even how to say it. So they keep quiet, and try to find internal peace.
However, when people don’t talk about their pregnancy or baby loss experience, they internalise all of their emotions and that can’t be too good for their psychological health. So, it becomes very important that they feel loved, but not burdened with the need to share how they feel…unless, they come to a mental space where sharing is
Until they do so, it is better to keep a respectable distance, pray for them, make it known they’ve got a listening ear in you, and let time fix the rest.
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