“My heart was racing before I posted what I posted,” says Maria Sansone in her Facebook vlog. She’s talking about her Mother’s Day post, in which she announced that she was in the midst of her second miscarriage.
The word miscarriage can make your heart race.
It’s one of the most difficult things that some women go through, and too many of them suffer in silence. Many women conceive, rejoice at a positive test, and mourn a loss all in solitude, sometimes only seeking comfort from their partner.
With our culture’s tradition of announcing a pregnancy only after entering the “safe zone”, most of the time these pregnancies haven’t even been announced.
Why should we even tell anyone? What’s to gain from rehashing something so painful, something that makes other people clearly uncomfortable? Generations upon generations before us have upheld the idea that this just happens sometimes, and is best handled privately.
We all know we’re not supposed to air our dirty laundry, especially if there might be blood on it.
The problem with this tradition is that it’s wrong. It assumes that not talking about a problem makes it go away. The reality is that our hearts remember those babies for years after they’ve been lost, with many women taking their memory to their graves.
Silence doesn’t make a woman forget about the life she lost, or the pain she felt. It doesn’t erase the memories.
All silence does is make us feel like we’re alone, like something is wrong with us for grieving, or for having lost at all. So many women don’t even know the true causes of pregnancy loss, or how common it is.
If we don’t talk about it, how are we ever going to let women know that it’s not their fault?
“For some reason miscarriage is that thing you don’t talk about,” says Maria.
“I don’t know what it is, if its shame or guilt or whatever, it’s a thing that you just privately deal with.”
“I would love to change that, I mean I can’t keep a secret like that inside.”
So how to do tell the world that you’ve lost a baby you’ve never told them existed in the first place?
You start with a racing heart.
Most people are like Maria, and they start on social media. The internet gives us a veil of anonymity even among our friends and family, and provides one final safeguard against our hearts. We can choose when to read the responses, and what to do with them.
My good friend and co-producer, Krista, shared her personal story on our blog last year, and even she felt the racing heart that comes before the word miscarriage.
“It’s amazing how vulnerable I feel after sharing my story. Even after seeing so many others share theirs and knowing how open I've been, the feeling of shame is so ingrained, that I am still nervous after posting my story.”
It takes a bit of bravery to share something so painful with the world, but these women are in growing and good company.
Beyonce, Bethany Frankel, Nicole Kidman, Celine Dion, and Gwyneth Paltrow have all shared their stories of pregnancy loss in the past, and many more continue to open up about struggles with infertility.
Mark Zuckerberg made headlines in 2015 when he announced that he and his wife had suffered three miscarriages before their daughter was born.
These stories are more than just headlines attached to shiny names. These stories are ripples, some of them bigger than others, but they make waves of change nonetheless.
When Mark Zuckerberg tells the world about three lost pregnancies, someone somewhere is reading that and thinking they’re not alone. When the newspapers report that Beyonce had a miscarriage, the word loses a little bit of is power to scare.
The threat of miscarriage won’t lessen or go away, but the prospect of suffering in silence gets a little less likely when the word has less power over us. We take the power away when we show that talking about it won’t break us.
A miscarriage doesn’t need to be a judgement on the mother, and doesn’t need to be a sentence of perpetual silence. It can be an opening, the start of a conversation with other people who have gone through something similar.
Maria Sansone learned this with her post on Mother’s Day.
“I had no idea how many people out there experienced the same exact thing I did,” she says in her vlog, “and many of you shared your personal stories with me.”
When 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in loss, the chances are good that most people have a story of their own to tell. It seems that people are ready, and even anxious to share their own experiences, as long as someone else opens the door first.
A woman has no obligation to talk about her loss with anyone, and doesn’t owe anyone her story if she wants to keep it private. But by taking that scary first step of talking about miscarriage, she’s paving the way for other women to do the same.
What happens when we start to share our stories? That's when we break the cycle of silence, shame and guilt that has been churning for years. Baring ourselves to each other and talking about our losses, is the only way to move forward and take the stigma away.
That's what Maria did on Mother's day. It's what countless other women have done before her, and many more are starting to follow in their steps.
It’s not easy to tell the world about your miscarriage, and it starts with a racing heart.
But it ends with change.
Don't Talk About the Baby is an independent and entirely crowdfunded film dedicated to taking the stigma away from pregnancy loss and infertility. The film launches one last time on May 23rd as part of the #UntoldStories rally. Follow us on Facebook and join our mailing list to follow our journey and help us #ShatterTheStigma.