“Everything happens for a reason.”
“You know, you can always try again.”
“At least you weren’t that far along.”
If you’ve suffered pregnancy loss, you know the only thing worse than misguided “support” is silence.
Yet, even as someone who’s suffered two miscarriages, I, too, find myself struggling to find the right words when it comes to miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal loss.
I worry about coming off too strong, too weak, too sensitive, or not sensitive enough. I doubt everything from my timing to my tone. The thing is, I’m not alone.
Dr. Jessica Zucker recognizes these uncertainties. As a clinical psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health, Zucker knows all too well how delicate the script of compassion can be. As a miscarriage survivor, she shares an intimate understanding of a mother’s grieving heart.
Believing conversation begets support, Zucker created a line of pregnancy loss and stillbirth empathy cards for when words so often fail.
I sat down to talk with Dr. Jessica about her mission, along with her #IHadAMiscarriage campaign to learn more about her efforts to bring awareness and support to the loss that affects so many.
Tell us a little about your inspiration behind the #IHadAMiscarriage hashtag campaign.
The inspiration behind going public with my piece was threefold. No. 1, I was trying to illustrate the numbers. If 20 percent of known pregnancies end in loss — and that’s just what we know — maybe one in four, one in five women who are pregnant are losing their pregnancies. So it’s sort of this way to — at least through social media — show the sheer numbers, in that I’m trying to suggest, Look, you’re not alone. This was happening to all of us. It was a way to get away from the silence. Get away from the hush-hush around uncomfortable topics such as these. And because so much of the research shows that a majority of women report feeling a sense of shame, self-blame, and guilt after experiencing a miscarriage, I also wanted to initiate this hashtag because it was sort of like, Let’s own this. Questioning the shame. So that was my hope to help normalize this, to help people feel less isolated and less alone. Because most people, until it actually impacts them, have no idea how frequently this happens.
When did you first recognize the need for cards specific to pregnancy, stillbirth, and neonatal loss?
Traditional sympathy cards that are currently in the marketplace really don’t resonate for me, for my cohorts, or for my patients, and these cards speak to what’s really going on. I love the idea of reaching people who I’ll clearly never get a chance to meet, and I’ll relay a message that, I hope, makes them feel seen, understood, connected.
What’s your personal hope for this line of empathy cards?
My hope with these cards is that at some point we live in a culture where talking about grief and talking about pregnancy loss is as normal and integrated as is talking about what you’re going to have for dinner tonight. It doesn’t have to be some taboo, stigmatized thing. If we endeavor to create life, we are then, of course at risk for losing life, and so there’s so much vulnerability there. And I guess we just don’t want to think too much about that, because it is a little too much to think about. And yet we do a disservice, I think, to ourselves and women in general by eschewing the topic altogether trying not to deal with it. I hear so much from women in my practice about how isolated they feel and how alone they feel despite all the efforts their loved ones are making.
What should we, as a society, be doing to support grieving parents through pregnancy loss and stillbirth?
The only answer I have for that is more conversation. I want these cards, these images shared. Even let’s say women aren’t buying these cards, but pinning them and sharing them through social media, saying “This is what I wish I said to you yesterday when I saw you and you told me you had a miscarriage and I put my foot in my mouth because I didn’t know what else to say.” Here, it says it perfectly, I love you. I’m hoping that the cards generate this connectivity in a time of total rawness, a time when people are at a loss of words and that that hopefully does spur more discussion.
The baby loss/stillbirth announcement is powerful. Can you share a little bit about how the announcement of loss helps grieving parents?
We live in a world where we are absolutely inundated with birth announcements, so they’re everywhere. I think it’s incredibly important for us to have in our culture this message that is the same thing, just different. If you wanted to share with the community or loved ones, this could be a really nice option. All of our cards are sold individually except these. These are sold in boxes of 10, and they’re blank inside so people can share a photo of the baby if they wanted to or they could include funeral arrangements or say their own thing as a way to honor and memorialize.