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Opinion: Miscarriages are part of nature - so why is the subject still such a taboo?

It is difficult going through a miscarriage with all the confused emotions that brings, without being censored too, writes Darragh Quinn.

Darragh Quinn

MY WIFE AND I had a miscarriage a few years back and that was how I first became aware of this taboo.

Previously, I had thought that miscarriages were not that common. I realised then that they are extremely common but just not talked about in our society.

I wanted to know why this life-changing, emotionally devastating event – resulting in a great sense of loss – comes with a huge social pressure to keep it under wraps, almost like it’s an embarrassing secret.

I only ever had one conversation about the miscarriage with a work colleague and that was in order to coordinate time off and other work logistics.

I do not think we would have discussed the topic otherwise and even at that we conversed almost in dark shadows for fear anyone would know the content of our short discussion.

I know men are not great at talking about emotional issues but maybe that is something that needs to change too!

Personally what I felt after our miscarriage was that I wanted, almost needed to talk to people about it.

There was a profound sadness in the loss of our potential son or daughter that was necessary for us to share. There should have been an acknowledgement of what had happened and the anguish in our lives.

Then I was surprised to discover that friends and family members had gone through the same thing previously and I hadn’t known about it.

These were major events in their lives but society had deemed the topic was off-limits.

Perhaps it is understandable that deciding to terminate a pregnancy may well be something that people feel uncomfortable talking openly about it.

But miscarriages are part of nature – they just happen. There is no reason whatsoever to be ashamed or embarrassed. So why is this subject taboo?

Maybe that is an overhang from our past, remember that 50 years ago virtually anything to do with the procreation of our species was a forbidden topic of conversation.

The problem is that miscarriages can provoke feelings of guilt and cause parents to question whether they did something wrong, which of course they didn’t. That is why they need to be talked about.

I believe it is unhealthy to suppress the emotions that come with a miscarriage.

The truth is that miscarriages are completely common. It is estimated that 10% to 25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages with the actual number estimated to exceed these figures. Happily, most women who have miscarriages do go on to become pregnant again and have a healthy child.

I remember a few years ago when Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced that she was expecting a baby. The couple then revealed for the first time that she had previously experienced three miscarriages. They were applauded for their openness in bringing the commonality of miscarriages to the fore.

That made me wonder though – why did this topic need a famous ambassador to tell people that it is ok to talk about it?

The grieving process after a miscarriage can be an uncertain time. People can find it difficult to grieve the loss of someone that they have never seen. A considerable amount of your emotional reaction will depend on your spiritual views on life – when it begins and what constitutes a human loss.

We received a range of different reactions from people. Some people gave me a pat on the back as a ‘hard luck’ gesture and that was it. Others grieved with us openly.

Some people, touchingly, gave us reminders to hang up for the ‘soul’ that didn’t make it but who they felt would be watching over us.

Some others were expecting a funeral service for the life that was lost.

It can be hard to know where exactly to fit in on that spectrum yourself. I found that difficult. Should I have simply moved on? Did I cry enough? Should we perhaps have had a funeral service?

I think the importance of allowing miscarriages to be discussed in an open and honest way cannot be overemphasized.

It is difficult enough that you are going through the experience with all the confused emotions that are aligned with it, the misguided guilt, the loss, the remorse and the misconceptions.

The way to deal with these emotions effectively is not by hiding them or pushing them away, we should not feel ashamed to talk about miscarriages openly.

I still don’t know why the subject of miscarriage is taboo. Do you?

Let’s break the silence.

Darragh Quinn is a freelance writer, see darraghquinn.com

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