In Shona culture, women only share their pregnancies when they think that the baby is strong enough to withstand pressure from evil forces. Pregnancy is a personal journey that women hide away from the gawking public. When pregnancy is such a hidden topic, you can only imagine what happens with miscarriages and stillbirths. The truth is that you have to imagine because you’ll most likely never know.
If a woman never shared her pregnancy, she won’t share the miscarriage, and that loss is hers alone. If the baby is stillborn, there is no mourning, and a small selection of women attend the burial. She is then encouraged not to focus on the loss and move on with the rest of her life.
While I was aware of how my culture treats pregnancy loss, I was surprised to learn that many global customs silence and shame women who lose their babies. I was even more surprised at some of the harsh criticism that Chrissy Teigen and Meghan Markle received after sharing their losses. They joined the small number of celebrities who have been open about their pregnancy loss.
Teigen shared how she suffered a pregnancy loss due to excessive bleeding. She shared Twitter and Instagram posts with pictures of her and her family in the emergency room. Chrissy was unjustly accused of posting the images for attention and trying to garner public sympathy. In November 2020, Markle shared an op-ed where she detailed her miscarriage.
These women were brave enough to share their losses, and yet some people still bashed them for it.
According to statistics, for every 100 women who know that they are pregnant, approximately 10 to 15 of them will suffer a miscarriage. Pregnancy loss is a shared tragedy, and yet it remains shrouded in secrecy and shame.
Fortunately, we are finally having important conversations that will make a difference in our future. For Indian women, a few legislators in 1961 had their interests at heart. The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 states that women who suffer a pregnancy loss are entitled to six weeks of paid maternity leave.
This is a significant step forward, but the rule has multiple loopholes, and most women are unaware of their rights.
In March 2019, The Philippines was the following country to see the light. Their policy is more inclusive because the 60 days are allocated to all women, regardless of whether they had a successful delivery or suffered a pregnancy loss. This protects the woman’s privacy and gives her the choice of whether she wants to share the loss with her employer or not.
New Zealand finally joined the party last week. The parliament unanimously voted for a bill that allows women and their partners to take a 3-day leave if they suffer a miscarriage. The bereavement leave was introduced so that women no longer have to use their sick days to mourn their loss.
Ginny Andersen, a Parliamentarian member of the party that introduced the bill, states that the bill aims to give people more time to grieve and stop classifying grief as an illness.
Final reading of my Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage Bill. This is a Bill about workers’ rights and fairness. I hope it gives people time to grieve and promotes greater openness about miscarriage. We should not be fearful of our bodies. pic.twitter.com/dwUWINVjLm
— Ginny Andersen (@ginnyandersen) March 24, 2021
I am happy that we are finally seeing the value of grieving as a community. Mourning your loss does not have to be a solitary experience. We are opening the conversation so that friends and family members can treat women who lose their babies with utmost kindness and respect. We are taking steps to ensure that women feel safe and protected in the workplace as well.
I hope that more countries continue to enact bereavement bills.
The women who suffer detrimental losses need to know that we are here for them and that they can take their time.
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