Good Grief. An Oxymoron surely. I want to state right now that we can’t be ‘good at’ grief. It is difficult though because when tend to talk and think in terms of ‘doing well’. Goodness me, I even said it recently to my friend who is grieving for her ex-husband; ‘you are doing really well’. We smiled and recognised the irony. The point is that this whole thing takes on a different level of complexity when it comes to anything baby related.
First, there is the whole matter of who is entitled to grieve? ‘I had a miscarriage / stillbirth. No-one met or knows my baby. I was only XX weeks pregnant .. Some people don’t seem to fully recognise that this is grief … am I allowed to ‘grieve’?! Then there is all the pressure that women of our generation have heaped upon them to ‘be successful’ at things. Tied into this is the notion of women ‘having it all’. I have a career and I also have children and therefore I am trying to ‘have it all’. Where does that leave ME I wonder? Do I, ‘have it all’, despite the fact that my daughter has died? I don’t know – what is ‘it all’?! Does that include Liberty’s Death? I’ve certainly feel like I’ve experienced ‘it all’ at this point.. well, a lot anyway …
I also want to bring into the conversation the whole range of experiences of baby loss. I feel equally open to every conversation about loss and do not think we need too much distinction between the labels of ‘miscarriage’, ‘late miscarriage’ and ‘stillbirth’ when it comes to feelings about loss. I understand that they are different experiences and realities but it’s just not that simple. Is there a league table of difficult experiences, trauma and loss? – I don’t think so. Friends of mine have had multiple miscarriages and suffered in very different ways to me. Maybe you have had one miscarriage and it was your only pregnancy – how heart breaking. Are you more, or less devastated than someone who had a stillbirth and three other children? Does it matter? There is no comparison with any of this. Just an open, honest, respectful conversation and shared loss.
What I do know, is that there is great pressure on women to get pregnant quickly, effortlessly and cheerfully and then to give birth in the same way. All whilst looking good and doing whatever else we happen to be doing alongside this, without complaint. Because we CHOSE to have a baby. (.. how does the human race carry on if we don’t, I wonder? …). And we maybe CHOSE to do it later in life than our parents did. What nonsense.
I feel fortunate to live in a time where we can start to challenge these ideas in the way that great TV like ‘Fleabag’ is starting to do. Elizabeth’s Day’s book called ‘How To Fail’ is great. My friend ‘The Anchoress’ forthcoming record ‘The Art Of Losing’ is wonderful. The conversations are starting to open up and times are juststarting to change. Different already to 2011 when Liberty died.
In truth, the pressure to always ‘be successful’ affects us all, whatever we do, and in my view we should reject it. However, it is felt very keenly by women when they are trying to get pregnant, when they are trying to ‘be good at’ being pregnant and ‘be good at’ giving birth and then, in my case, ‘be good at’ grieving for their baby. Or perhaps, as the character in Fleabag experiences, to be cheerful and dismissive about having a miscarriage. We don’t need that pressure at all and it is ridiculous. Let’s reject it.