The quiet injustice of miscarriage

I can’t stand listening to self-righteous small-talkers go on about how the point of men and women is to make children. Some say it’s selfish not to have kids, despite the world’s overpopulation. Really, the choice is personal, not something you ever need to explain.

On a personal note, my mother, who had six of us, gave us no peace about how much she wanted grandchildren. Yet we rebelled by having no children – what are the odds! – a fact she brought up in conversation ad nauseum.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed another reason why I hate it when someone comments about your not having kids: just because someone doesn’t have children doesn’t mean they haven’t tried.

When I did communications work for a population health research group, I learned about maternal mental health and post-partum depression. On top of this, I became acutely aware of the difficulties around miscarriages. I have one friend and former colleague who is married with a family now, but she has spoken openly about how heart-breaking it was.

Sometimes things turn out worse. One of my closest friends was trying to have a second child with his wife. They were in their 40s, and after some difficulty, it looked like it was going to happen. But it didn’t. His wife went into a post-partum depression spiral, left one day and was found in the water a week later – on their daughter’s birthday. I went east to the funeral and arrived at their apartment to see the “Happy Birthday” decorations still hanging. Perhaps the saddest moment was over-hearing my friend’s daughter express a little relief the death certificate would list the day her mom disappeared as the date of death, and not the day she was found.

Oct. 15 was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in Canada, which recognizes the difficulties for parents who have experienced miscarriages or the loss of an infant, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

I can attest. When I said none of us had kids, again that doesn’t imply none of us tried. I was married for 12 years to a wonderful woman, and we weren’t sure either way about children, then started too late. After the second miscarriage, we stopped trying. For me, it meant sadness. For her, it was something far more complex. She’d always battled depression, but she started obsessing about things and we began to drift apart. By the time I woke up to all this five years later, it was too late. We separated amicably, and when she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer with bone metastases in 2012, I, along with her family and friends, helped look after her through her last days.

We never divorced, but I was a better ex than actual husband because, while together, I had been oblivious to how the miscarriage had affected her more deeply than I could’ve imagined. I wish I’d known better.

So if you’re a man and your partner miscarries, you need to do a hell of a lot better job of working through things with your partner than I did.

And if you happen to be making small talk with someone about children, maybe think long and hard about how you should respond if they tell you they don’t have any.

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