They didn’t show it to me in the movies.
What I saw on the big screen up until then was, “Here’s how happy parents look when they have their babies,” not “Here’s how you grieve when you find out you’re carrying life in your womb before you suddenly find out that life couldn’t survive inside of you.”
I didn’t know anyone who had a miscarriage at the time. I didn’t understand how common it was.
So after making my boss aware of my mid-day doctor’s appointment after which I assumed I’d come back with a shinier, pregnant-mom glow—I instead found myself in a cloud of shock and despair in the medical building’s parking garage.
Despite my doctor’s assurance that losses like mine were more common than many thought, I couldn’t help but wonder if something was wrong with me. If I had done something to cause my baby to not be able to survive. If I wasn’t going to be able to have children with my husband.
If I’d ever be a mom.
That’s a lot of heavy. That’s a lot of grief. That’s a lot of fear. And that’s a combination no handbook exists to help you navigate.
At the time, I thought miscarriage was something you shouldn’t talk about.
So, I selected a very small group of people at work in whom to confide so they knew why I was gone. Those people? They couldn’t have been more incredible to me. They couldn’t have been kinder or more supportive.
But still, while my uterus cramped as the miscarriage continued on its inevitable path, I was worried about work. Worried about letting people down. Worried about how long it would take me to recover and what that would mean for my vacation time and my pay. Worried about having to explain to people why I was gone. Worried that I wasn’t far enough along in my pregnancy to be in so much emotional pain over the loss.
Worried about my job . . . while I should have been taking care of my body and my grieving spirit.
How different would I have felt if a policy for people experiencing pregnancy loss was already in place?
How much less pressure would I have felt to determine when I could go back if I knew I had paid time to allow my body to heal and my grief to play out?
How much less isolated would I have felt if miscarriage was so widely talked about that it was put into HR policies so I didn’t have to feel bad about taking time off?
How much less conflict would my husband have had when he had to decide between saving a precious vacation day and helping his recovering wife?
This week, New Zealand approved paid leave after miscarriage. The legislation would apply to couples losing a pregnancy at ANY point—a detail not to be overlooked because I know so many mothers who have lost pregnancies in the early stages who are told, “Well, at least you weren’t THAT far along.” Imagine being told your grief didn’t qualify for time off because your baby didn’t live longer inside of you.
Also not to be overlooked? This isn’t just for the mothers, it’s for the partners, too.
Because it is THEIR loss, too. Their grief. Their pain. Their child, too.
While I can’t imagine this new legislation taking the pain completely away for grieving parents, it does take away one unnecessary barrier on the path to healing. It does tell a mom that her grief is REAL, no matter if that baby was lost before you could see a heartbeat or if that baby made it to the third trimester. It does allow a partner to be there for the mother of their unborn child while also grieving themselves.
Parents should not have to “plow through” their grief because their loss doesn’t fall into the same benefits category it would if they lost a grandparent.
They lost a child.
And New Zealand legislators stepping up and acknowledging that is forging a path.
Here’s to seeing what countries will take note—and follow.
Here’s to the parents of pregnancy loss being seen.