On the 25th of November, Meghan Markle shared her experience of having a miscarriage earlier this year in a heartfelt Op-ed penned for the New York Times, “The Losses We Share”. In a moment of immense vulnerability, she narrated that on a normal July morning, she “dropped to the floor” in pain. She wrote: “I knew as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.”
She contextualized her loss within the grander scheme of losses that this anomaly of a year has entailed. While acknowledging the public losses due to police brutality and Covid-19, she left a stark reminder of the lack of space to grieve personal losses.
Markle’s article was impactful for several reasons. It did away with stoic royal ways of keeping sensitive health information in the private quarters of the Buckingham Palace. It made Markle appear human and her struggles universal, when she shed light on the “staggering commonality of this pain”, where “in a room of 100 women, 10 to 20 of them will have suffered from miscarriage”. But most importantly, her raw and emotional language insisted on the importance of expressing grief, reminding us of how “the conversation remains taboo, riddled with (unwarranted) shame”.
An article by Forbes highlights that 80% of miscarriages occur within the first trimester of pregnancy. And so most women are encouraged to keep their news private for that time.
Modern technology allows us to find out about pregnancies earlier than most previous generations have. While our grandmothers’ generation waited to miss three periods to realize they were pregnant, we have a drugstore pregnancy test with two hazy lines breaking the news to us. And so we are given that little extra time to bond with a baby we haven’t even held yet. We think of possible names. We begin to grow attached to it before it is even fully formed. And that is what makes a potential loss, so real. But also, so very lonely.
I remember when I first conceived, I much like most women in my culture, was told to stay hush about my pregnancy. Why bother telling the world when you don’t look it yet? And so I evaded Sushi and steak plans with friends without ever giving an explanation for them. I wore loose clothing instead of flaunting the emerging bump. Abiding by those archaic guidelines, I did not realize their implications or the reasons behind them till, well… now.
The reason most women are told to have their lips sewn shut through their first trimester is because of the sheer likelihood of the loss of a pregnancy during that time. But this essentially perpetuates, in Markle’s own words, “a cycle of solitary mourning” for those who do lose an unborn child. For centuries, this “private loss” has been steeped in stigma and taboos.
As a result, the entire experience, including the loss goes by in relative obscurity. Even when talked about, what is profound bereavement to the mother, is only a symbolic and intangible loss to the world. And while the mother, denied by nature the chance to say goodbye to her baby, is also denied a space to grieve by society.
And in a world that has normalized the secrecy of miscarriages, it becomes almost unsettling for the public to accept their favorite celebrities revealing their vulnerabilities.
Case in point: Chrissy Teigen. Teigen, whilst mourning put up a few Instagram posts and received an insane amount of flak: ranging from trolls to straight-up malicious backlash. But what we forget is the amount of bravery it takes to have sensitive information like that up on the Internet. What these public revelations can do is open up a healthy avenue; initiate a much-needed dialogue. These forge a sense of community with as many as one in four women who undergo this trauma. They encourage women to own their narrative and in doing so heal, Markle wrote: “in being invited to share our pain, together we take the first step towards healing.”
In an earlier speech, Markle had critiqued the idea that women need to be “given” a voice. She said: “Women already have a voice. They just need to be empowered to use it. And people need to be encouraged to listen.”
Well, here, Meghan Markle walks the talk. She shows us how our silenced voices can be reclaimed. She shows us how our voices can be used to express grief. And she reminds us that “when one person speaks the truth, it gives license for all of us to do the same.”
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