Is Miscarriage Finally Becoming Less Taboo?

Ann Romney gave an interview two days ago talking about the fact that she has had several miscarriages. She described the impact of one in her forties in this clip here:

Ann Romney Talks About Her Miscarriage

It’s moving and sad. I am very, very glad to see that she has chosen to talk about this topic and the devastation it causes families, regardless of my political affiliation. This was brave of her and I’m happy she did it.

Unfortunately, the coverage of this clip has attracted negative headlines: “TMI?” says the Associated Press. “Oversharing?” asks The Washington Post. Worse, there is mention that this “oversharing” is a cynical attempt to win over women. I don’t think these articles are very different than this reprehensible MacLean’s piece.

Obviously, the Republican party’s stance on infertility in general and personhood in particular scares the heck out of me. But I am going to put that aside a minute to ask a question: Do you think that maybe the taboo on talking about miscarriage is lifting?

There is another development that I find cheering, and that is the the rise of this project, which has quickly gained public support and the endorsement of Nigella Lawson and Jools Oliver. (Wife of Jamie Oliver.)

What’s unique about Saying Goodbye is that they offer non-denominational services for anyone who has lost a child at any gestational age. In a way, it reminds me of the Japanese cultural of Mizuko.

I spoke with the leader of Saying Goodbye via Twitter today and she said that they will be launching their service internationally and in America soon.

I’ve had two miscarriages, one a “chemical pregnancy” (I HATE THAT TERM) during an IVF cycle and one from a spontaneous pregnancy in 2010 at 8 weeks. Both were devastating. To hear from Ann Romney, Nigella Lawson and Jools Oliver that I am not alone in very public ways is comforting to me, I must admit. And I hope that this is the beginning of a cultural acceptance of talking about loss.

Do you think it is?


Filed under Miscarriage

19 responses to “Is Miscarriage Finally Becoming Less Taboo?

  1. I… did not see Ann Romney’s speech in that way.

    I appreciate that it DOES take courage to talk about one’s miscarriage. I am fortunate enough to have not experienced that so far in my life, and I pray that I never do, so I know that I don’t have a clue what having a miscarriage is like or how coping with one feels. I will definitely give her that.


    This wasn’t a coincidence, her talking about her miscarriages. She wasn’t sitting at a fertility clinic sympathizing with the women there who have suffered loss. She was kinda sorta using her story as emotional manipulation to convince us all that she totally “gets us”– she gets reproductive dysfunction and loss, she gets infertility, she gets women’s health and our needs. But she was standing there telling her story as an endorsement for her husband’s campaign, and context is KEY here: he is no friend to us. In one breath she’ll tell us about the pain of her own losses, which maybe a woman who is, say, going through IVF and who has had losses can understand, but what about two years from now, if Mitt Romney is elected? What about the implications for IVF then? Maybe Ann Romney wasn’t really sitting there, metaphorically holding our hands and sharing her brave story with us like she was one of us. Maybe we’re just being duped.

    I DO like that it puts miscarriage out into the mainstream, and again, even if this is all a ploy (which I firmly, firmly believe it is), that doesn’t diminish that she’s talking about her real life experience of a real life lost and real sorrow in her family as a result. This isn’t a black-and-white good-or-bad issue. There is some good here, yes, and I agree with you on that. But I think we need to stay vigilant about the subtext of what she’s saying. Don’t forget to read between the lines.

  2. I’m not sure if it will ever be “acceptable” to talk about loss in the ways those who have experienced it WANT to, but any steps toward that are appreciated.

  3. SM

    I didn’t see Ann Romney’s speech but I’m glad she spoke about her own miscarriage. Whatever the motivation, it still took a little courage to put that out there for scrutiny.

    I also have not heard of the Saying Goodbye organization. That’s a great thing! The one thing I hated about wach of my miscarriages was that no one supported a memorial service. After each one, my husband and I picked out a different color orchid and planted it in our backyard. It was a big part of my healing process to look outside and see those beautiful flowers planted for my babies. It was my own memorial but it bothers me that I had to do it myself. Saying Goodbye and the support that it is getting from celebrities sounds awesome!

  4. I have not watched Ann Romney’s speech (and several ppl have asked if I’m going to write about it – I’m not, b/c I refuse to watch it; ditto this re: her hubby) but I have been reading about it, and I’m so glad you posted something on your blog. To echo a comment on my blog about Timothy Green & its (unrealistic) portrayal of infertility, “Any press is good press” meaning – let’s take what we can get. Every story shared is another tick mark in the “people are opening up about that which has been traditionally silent” column.

    I’m also so glad you mentioned Mizuko. When I was in Japan 2 years ago, I was insistent about visiting Kiyo-mizu dera in Ueno Park in the middle of Tokyo. It’s a shrine often venerated by women who wish to have children. There were hundreds of dolls there, all waiting to be burned in their annual ceremony, representing the souls of babies lost and the souls of babies wanted. It was haunting and very emotional. It’s actually really hard for me to even recall those memories b/c of how much emotion fills this tiny little temple in a corner of what is essentially Tokyo’s Central Park.

    Saying Goodbye sounds like an amazing project.

  5. I hope you are right and that all of this is the beginning of cultural acceptance. The saying goodbye project especially sounds like a big step in the right direction.

  6. May

    How does Ann Romney square talking openly about her loss with supporting a party some of whose candidates would have miscarriages investigated like criminal offences, in case the woman ‘did something’ to make it happen? How does she square the huge sorrow and trauma of losing her fifth pregnancy with voting for a party that would make sure a woman who, say, lost EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HER FIVE PREGNANCIES can’t get PGD IVF to try to ensure the next baby lives?

    That said, all those headlines about ‘oversharing’ and ‘TMI’ made me feel sick. How is this oversharing? It happens to one in, what is it, five? One in four? women. Discussing something that happens to that many people and causes that much sorrow is NOT oversharing. We live in a culture that’s happy to make tv commercials and full-page spreads in magazines about erectile disfunction, damn it. We live in a culture where it’s perfectly acceptable to go on a chat show and talk about prostate cancer and herpes and bondage and serial infidelity and childhood abuse and the loss of (born) loved ones and get applause for courage (quite rightly!), but losing a baby is TMI? Oy vey. So I appreciate Ann Romney’s courage, however cynical her motives may have been, to bring it up in the face of all this hypocritical HOGWASH about it being TMI. It might make it a tiny bit easier for someone else to talk to her friends and family.

  7. I think so, and least in our generation. I just recently had the wife of a friend tell me that she had miscarried last month. I stopped walking and told her that I was so sorry, and she make some quick comments about how it was early and it’s okay. I said that it still must have been very difficult, and then she told me about bleeding for 2 weeks before having to go in for a D&C. I can’t imagine many members of our parents or grandparents generation opening up about these things, but I wonder if it’s because it’s not just about the pain and loss…but also about sex and our lady parts, which makes some people uncomfortable. I don’t know, though, just a thought.

  8. I hope it is becoming more acceptable to talk about it… but I trust the SG folks more than any politicians. I’m a bitter, disillusioned political junkie though, so….

  9. Mixed feeling here too. I didn’t see the speech (most political speeches make me want to vomit, thus I tend to avoid them.) But, I agree that it was used as emotional manipulation. She’s trying to get the woman vote. On the other side of the coin…thank goodness that another high profile type has told her story. I think it does help.

  10. SRB

    My feelings on the motivation for the speech aside (and I have…many despite not being American), the reaction to it indicates that it is perhaps *not* becoming less taboo. Something being talked about more doesn’t lessen the stigma until the ‘backlash’ subsides a little and acceptance and empathy begin.

    I suppose that I don’t see the “something is better than nothing” argument being a good one. Not if it still, ultimately, is perpetuating stereotypes especially regarding “oversharing”. That being said, the Saying Goodbye project *is* a HUGE step in the right direction for women and their partners who have suffered a loss. That is the kind of discussion that will lessen the taboo. Quiet, compassionate, and brave wins out over big and bold in the long run. At least, in my books.

  11. Mmmmm, I don’t really think so because at the root of all the “backlash” as you refer to it is the fear of death. (And sexism has something to do with it as well re: women`s issues being seen as not as imperative.) Do you think the views on death and dying in North America have evolved?

    • This is a fascinating point. Mormons (Ann Romney’s religion) believe that after death ALL members of their family will be reunited: “Families are forever” is the great adage. So maybe this belief is why she’s more open to sharing her story? And any Mormons who are reading this, please jump in and correct me here: I’m basing this on a few books I have read, both books about the religion and books written by Mormons, but I am not a Mormon, and don’t know the ins and outs all that well…

      • Jjiraffe – I am not LDS, and my knowledge is secondhand, but my man is/was, and he explained that they do believe that. The children that were miscarried would be reunited with the family.

        I haven’t watched the video, but I’m not sure the taboo is lifted. It can be talked about in interviews, as long as the topic doesn’t get too graphic, or emotional. It has to be tasteful. You can mention it, but don’t dwell, or cry or fall apart. I feel like we as a society still expect women to bounce back to a degree. Those who “know” or have lived through it know differently, but it’s still spoken about in whispered tones. To me, that alone makes it feel taboo.

  12. I certainly hope it is becoming less taboo to talk about miscarriage. And, I’m with you…I have a passionate hatred for the term chemical pregnancy.

  13. Not sure the answer to your question…I still feel it is very taboo, although I talk about it pretty openly (except at work where I’m more cautious.) Just wanted to say though thank you though for classifying your chemical pregnancy as a miscarriage. I had 2 chemical pregnancies (one very drawn out) and a miscarriage at the end of my first trimester (11 weeks) and even with doctors I’m never sure how to answer the questions “How many times have you been pregnant” or “How many miscarriages have you had.” I tend to say “Depends on how you count,” but the truth is my chemical pregnancies were absolutely devastating, as much as the child I lost at 11 weeks, although there was support when that happened and NOBODY, not even my husband, thought the chemical pregnancies were any big deal. So in a way the chemical pregnancies were even harder…

  14. What’s interesting about this clip to me is that Ann doesn’t talk about HER reactions to the miscarriage. She talks about her youngest son, and about how he doesn’t understand what’s going on, and how it’s her job to reassure him that everything is going to be OK, and how everything DOES turn out OK in the end. Which, I think, is what the public wants to hear about loss, if it has to hear anything at all.

    Not to be all Debbie Downer, but what about the stories where it doesn’t work out in the end? Those are the stories I think more people need to hear … because it will prevent them from being able to dismiss miscarriage so quickly, and pat people on the shoulder, saying “it’s OK” or “it’s God’s plan” or “you’ll have another” or any of the three thousand and two god-awful things people say to people who are losing a baby.

    I do think it’s good that she says the word in public. Yes, in some respects, any publicity is good publicity. But in other respects, if this is the narrative that becomes the most common in the media, I think we risk shortchanging the mental and emotional health of women who suffer through pregnancy loss.

  15. Pingback: Episode 2 is Live! « Bitter Infertiles

  16. I was sorry to hear that Ann Romney too is a member of the club that nobody ever wants to join. And I do think it takes a certain amount of bravery to speak out on these difficult subjects, when we know we’ll be accused of “oversharing” (even if it’s really just the tiniest bit of information on the subject).

    On the other hand, as some have already pointed out, let’s not forget that she had a very good reason for coming forward publicly when & how she did; i.e., to try to gain sympathy & support for her husband. I for one would also like to see her & her husband explain their views on assisted reproduction and whether they agree with the opposition many GOP members have to these technologies — given that they owe the existence of several of their grandchildren to it.

    I had not heard of the Saying Goodbye movement. Wonderful!! I am so glad we had a funeral for Katie; only wish I had felt strong enough to invite more of our family members & friends. I have attended many memorial events over the years put on by our pg loss support group, and while they can be highly emotional, they are also very comforting and healing.

  17. Chris

    The Romney’s have at least one son that has twins and another child using IVF and the same surrogate. The son posted a picture on the internet and thanked the surrogate.
    Romney and his VP pick Paul Ryan are supporting a bill is called Personhood. It would ban all abortions, no exceptions. It would also ban/restrict IVF Treatment. The bill if passed would give legal rights to a fertilized egg and embryo.
    In my opinion the Romney’s are not supportive of women’s reproductive rights. Even if it is OK for their family.
    Only a person and maybe her hubby and mother can understand the pain of a woman doing IVF treatment and it fails. It’s heartbreaking. Restrictions on IVF treatment would make a difficult situration even worst.
    Unfortunately the IVF community know to well that not every embryo results in a pregnancy.

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