If you were to direct a sentence starting with the words ‘at least’ to anyone within the baby loss community, you would be met with anything from an eye roll to a snotty, mascara-streaked breakdown.
Due to the fact that the topic has been shrouded in mystery and misplaced shame for decades, when it comes to offering support to women and men following baby loss, people are unsure as what to say.
Generally speaking, humans find it incredibly difficult to witness others in pain, it’s not something that can be sat with, instead a solution is searched for, mental resources are scanned for a ‘fix’ or an appropriate response to lessen the heartbreak.
However, unless baby loss has been experienced personally, these resources will be limited and often sentences will begin with ‘at least’ e.g. ‘At least you already have children’ or ‘At least you know you can get pregnant’ The sufferer will be (mis) guided down a path of ‘looking on the bright side’ but when we experience baby loss, there is no bright side. Our world as we knew it, ended when we discovered that our baby would not become a part of it.
When we are not given the opportunity and space to grieve properly, when our pain is suffocated by layers of well meaning ‘at leasts’ we can begin to wonder whether it is in fact, us, who is not dealing with things appropriately.
We can start to worry that our grief is disproportionate to our experience. If no one else recognises the deep-seated pain we feel, perhaps we shouldn’t be feeling it? We wonder if the reason that miscarriage and baby loss isn’t widely spoken about is because it isn’t as bad as we are making it out to be? Are we normal for feeling so sad? Are we failing to cope?
This leads to us feeling completely invalidated and we question ourselves further; Did our baby exist to anyone but us? Was the experience real? Has our baby died? Did they even count?
The toxically positive approach of brushing miscarriage and pregnancy loss under the carpet with forced cheeriness and an ‘oh well’ attitude is not just invalidating in the short term. The mental health implications of it are both far reaching and long lasting.
The widely misunderstood subject of miscarriage and common attitude towards it breeds both the silence that surrounds it and the misplaced shame that is so often felt by its sufferers. The fear of being condemned in our grief can outweigh the desire to vocalise it.
In order to smash this taboo of baby loss, we must first work at dismantling the subject openly and with honesty to give those outside of the community a clearer understanding of how we feel.
While it is true, no one can truly know the heartbreak that lies beyond the smiles of those who have first-hand experienced pregnancy loss, it is also true that much can, and needs to be done to reduce the stigma and allow us to openly grieve our babies without fear of judgment.
If we can share our stories and our suffering to those outside of our community, we can help them understand that all we really need is to be reassured that we are loved, that our baby existed and that our grief is valid.
To do this, we just need to find the volume in our voices and once we have, we need to turn it up.
We talk about the affects of toxic positivity & the importance of setting personal boundaries in our podcast Season 2, episode 5 with Alice Rose (@thisisalicerose)