If you have ever used a little app called Instagram, chances are you’ve come across the hashtag #IHadAMiscarriage created by Dr. Jessica Zucker, a Los Angeles-based psychologist and writer specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health.
After experiencing her own devastating second-trimester pregnancy loss, Zucker created the now well-recognized #IHadAMiscarriage campaign and website to raise awareness about the topic of pregnancy and infant loss, as well as offer resources and support for women who experienced a miscarriage or loss — which included a line of empathy cards in 2015 as well as a later collection of T-shirts and totes honoring rainbow babies.
Every year, during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month in October, her campaign chooses a theme centered around miscarriage and infant loss. This year, the theme highlights Rites, Rituals and Representation.
As Zucker explains in a video for the campaign, she feels it is important that we start a conversation about how, as a society, we can help women honor who they were before experiencing loss — and who they become after.
She notes that even though the culture of silence surrounding pregnancy and infant loss has thankfully shifted, there still needs to be a framework to honor and memorialize losses in a concrete way.
“Reflexively, we know what to do for our loved ones, whether that’s sending a card or food, attending a funeral, or providing support,” she points out. “But when it comes to the loss of an imagined family, there’s nothing tangible that we can turn to, no standardized rituals to rely on amidst the mourning process.”
Zucker says having such rituals could help create healing and facilitate closure for many would-be mothers.
“I continue to yearn for ritual and this is in part why, this year, I attempted to create it for the women who participated in my campaign, and for myself,” says Zucker.
It was that yearning for a ritual that led Zucker to collaborate with Mexico City poet and artist Jessica Lakritz, whose Instagram account Skin on Sundays “turns people into poetry” by adorning women’s bodies with words inspired by their own reproductive stories.
The result, says Zucker, was a “seamless, spectacular experience.” The images, captured by LA photographer Rebecca Coursey-Rugh, are powerful, arresting, and incredibly moving.
Lakritz tells Babble that she happened to come across the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign randomly on Instagram and was immediately captivated by the raw emotion of the women sharing their stories. She felt drawn to ask Zucker to collaborate so that she could create more allies and voices against the silencing and shaming of women after loss.
She also explained how the experience has opened her eyes to the realities of miscarriage and infant loss.
“You don’t realize it is a trauma,” Lakritz says. “After talking intimately with all these women about their personal experiences, I see how complex the emotions that go along with it are. It isn’t just sadness. It’s anger, guilt, isolation, fear, jealousy, shame, loneliness. It’s wondering if there is something wrong with your body. It’s feeling you have let your partner down. It’s coming to terms with the fact that you may not ever be able to have a baby. It’s feeling ashamed to mourn the loss because society belittles it. It’s fear during the next pregnancy that it may happen again.”
Lakritz adds that working on the campaign also changed her on a deeply personal level, when her mother revealed that she was actually a rainbow baby.
“I believe she never would have told me about that experience if I hadn’t been involved with the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign,” Lakritz says. “It isn’t like she was hiding it per se, but that’s exactly the thing. You don’t feel like you’re ‘hiding’ it, because it just seems normal not to share your experience, because that is what you are taught to do.”
In the end, Zucker says that her ultimate goal through the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign, no matter what time of the year it is, is to provide women with a sense of comfort and connection.
“With the statistics being what they are and the fact that pregnancy/infant loss is not a disease and is therefore not going anywhere, we need a community that accurately reflects back to us the feelings we feel, but may be too afraid to say out loud,” she describes. “I want women to feel, not just intellectually know, they are not alone and that there is absolutely no shame in loss.”
Because this year’s #IHadAMiscarriage campaign is highlighting the lack of rituals surrounding miscarriage, pregnancy, and infant loss, Zucker and Lakritz hope that their work is able to inspire women to find a way to represent their own stories of loss in ways that are meaningful and healing to them. Zucker also has signs representing loss that are free to download on her website, for those who want to join the campaign by taking their own photos.
“We need a framework for grieving and for honoring ourselves and the babies we’ve lost,” Zucker notes.