A sultry Bank Holiday weekend and six adults and two small children sit down for an al fresco dinner.
At the bottom of our garden, under the magnolia tree, a table with salads and piles of bread moans. The prosecco is popped. My husband Dan, wearing an apron decorated with Barbecue King, brings the burgers over. It's perfect. There is only one small, unusual detail. I am sitting on a shabby beach towel, in case I go over the new patio furniture.
Because, you see, and as a host of a barbecue on a bank holiday, I happen to be in the middle of a miscarriage. We laugh, we clink glasses, we talk a bit about the sausages. And all the while Dan and I know we're losing our baby. The tiny new life we were hoping for ebbs away and there is nothing we can do about it.
It is the second time in five months that this has happened to us.
Jennie Agg (photo) who has had four miscarriages in two years, investigated why women instinctively continue their daily tasks while they misbehave
The miscarriage was diagnosed that morning. I was eight weeks pregnant and started spotting – although only lightly. But a quick ultrasound & # 39; just to make sure & # 39; still came black and so we were sent home to let nature take its course. Dan and I got out of the maternity ward in the blinding spring sun but for us the world felt very gray.
So why did we play diners that same evening as if nothing had happened?
I know how weird it seems. Macabre, even. But the reality is that things like this happen much more often than you might think.
This week, focusing on the absence of maternity rights for MPs, MP Stella Creasy described how she felt she had no choice but to continue to handle two miscarriages.
& # 39; During my first miscarriage, pain and bleeding, I joined a protest for the extradition of a man who raped and killed a voter, & # 39; she wrote. & # 39; The day after I found that another baby's heartbeat had stopped, I led a public meeting about gang murder.
& # 39; I even planned the procedure to remove the body on a day that I had no voting rights advice. & # 39;
Earlier this year, The One Show presenter Alex Jones revealed in an interview in a magazine that she was back on TV after being told that she had had a miscarriage (where the baby dies, but for some reason a miscarriage begins not immediately).
None of this seems strange or surprising to me at a distance. When I hear such a & # 39; n story, I just think: & # 39; Yes, that's exactly how it is. That's what you do. & # 39;
Jess Evans, 36, (photo) from Llangollen, North Wales, who is a high school teacher, talks about a two-hour meeting at work while experiencing a miscarriage
I have had four miscarriages in two years. And while I can't say I could have appeared on national television for millions, like Alex, or a crowd like Stella, I recognize that instinct to go on, anyway.
Accordingly, Dan and I went to the cinema while I was training incorrectly (enough to say that neither of them thought much of La La Land). I baked an elaborate birthday cake and then, while still bleeding, I sat down at a chic restaurant for dinner.
The next day I did the John Lewis sale with my mother (and stood dazed in the dressing rooms, stitched into the mirror by the stranger – her face was pale and bloodless, the stomach still swollen and sore).
I had surgery for a missed miscarriage on a Friday and went back to the office on Monday. After my fourth loss, I held a long-term appointment to participate in a government investigation into early pregnancy loss care. The irony was not lost to me.
The proportion of women who have had recurrent miscarriages (three or more in a row) who have a successful pregnancy
I say nothing about this to show how & # 39; brave & # 39; I am – the exact opposite. I tell you precisely because none of this is exceptional. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it happens every day, up and down the entire country. It probably happened right under your nose – and you wouldn't necessarily have an idea.
It is estimated that one in five pregnancies will end in miscarriage and one in four women will have at least one during their lifetime.
But I bet you haven't had a conversation with one in four women you know, along the lines of: & I'm sorry, I can't let the party / dinner / meeting / school play because I wrong. "In fact, have you ever had such a conversation?
When the last series of BBC shows Fleabag showed a character miscarriage in a fancy restaurant toilet and then went back to the table as if nothing had happened, some viewers complained that it was rude and that no one would really behave that way.
But after I posted on social media and said the scene was right for me, I was flooded with answers from other women.
Laura Mason (photo), 29, who lives near Derby, chose not to tell anyone else except her mother when she had a miscarriage
They told me how they had sat down at their desks and told no souls. How they organized school trips, visited ancient ruins during a vacation, completed charity cycling tours for 50 miles, visited new babies & cuddly friends, attended meetings, children's birthday parties, job interviews. . .
Women even entrusted me with a miscarriage on their own wedding day.
There is no doubt that women are made of strict things. And, admittedly, a miscarriage is an intense intimate loss that not everyone will talk about. But you have to ask yourself if such a strict omerta is healthy.
& # 39; Miscarriage can be an unbelievably painful experience, & says Jane Brewin, chief executive of charity Tommy & # 39; s, who funds research into miscarriage and stillbirth.
& # 39; It can be physically painful, but more than that, there is really good evidence now that the psychological impact can be incredibly serious – and persistent. The facts show that miscarriage is something that we have to take incredibly seriously. & # 39;
Numerous studies have shown that elevated levels of stress, anxiety and depression are common after a miscarriage, including a 2016 study by Imperial College London that four out of ten women who had an early miscarriage showed signs of PTSD, such as flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and nightmares at least three months later. Another, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2011, found that symptoms such as depression and anxiety can persist for years.
Jess (photo) who has had more than five miscarriages, says she struggled with her mental health a few months after her first miscarriage.
I was sitting through a 2-hour meeting as the pain got worse
Jess Evans, 36, is a subordinate school teacher. She lives in Llangollen, North Wales, with her husband Paul, 40, a leisure center manager and their son William, three. She says:
Just like TV presenter Alex Jones, I had a miscarriage and the scan immediately returned to work. It was my first pregnancy, in 2014, and I had some slight bleeding, so I had an early scan after six weeks, but that had shown that there was a heartbeat. Another scan two weeks later told me that there was no heartbeat anymore.
The doctors just tell you that it is very common, so you think it should not be a big deal; that everyone just does it and handles it and that's why you have to. When the miscarriage started, I was working. I sat in a meeting for two hours with the feeling that the pain was getting worse and I had to continue immediately to do my duty in one of the school's boarding schools. I was there until eleven o'clock & noon, still in pain.
The emotional side was the most difficult. I don't think I've processed the things that first time well, and I really struggled with my mental health a few months later. I have had five miscarriages since then and I know it is better to take some time to recover. After my last two losses, I have had a week off and my workplace has been so supportive. When you tell people, they are really sympathetic. I wish I had known that before.
So why do we feel so sworn by secrecy that we are reluctant to take even a single morning off? Why don't we feel able to pause, even for a day, to handle the grief we feel?
& # 39; I think women continue as if nothing has happened largely as a result of a shock & # 39 ;, says Julia Bueno, a psychotherapist and author of a new book, The Brink Of Being: Talking About Miscarriage, and who herself therapy session followed with a client while he is not feeling well.
& # 39; We are entering that combat-or-flight survival mode – and we are incredibly able to do things in the face of adversity. & # 39;
Then there is an agreement that you only reveal a pregnancy after the first three months when the risk of a miscarriage is greatest.
& # 39; Unlike a later loss, where people already knew you were pregnant, you have to decide whether to make that private experience public – and thereby mark your card as someone trying to conceive & # 39 ;, says Julia.
Publication is twice as difficult in the workplace. Even now it is a naive person who thinks having children has no influence on a woman's career and as a result few women are broadcasting that they are trying to conceive.
Jennie (photo) says that she does not want her miscarriage to ruin her plans and that, despite her destruction, she still spends time with friends
& # 39; I think there is a fear that other people will react badly or, in the worst case, you will be discriminated against if you are open about it & # 39 ;, Jane Brewin agrees. & # 39; But if more people were to say something, it would help employers to become better at managing what is a common – but disturbing – experience. & # 39;
Katy Schnitzler, a researcher and business advisor writing a PhD on miscarriages and the workplace, adds: & # 39; In the workplace there can also be a reluctance to admit something that makes you appear unpredictable and unreliable. & # 39;
A dormant sense of failure around a miscarriage also makes it difficult to admit, and an odd resistance can begin.
That weekend of the Bank Holiday, I remember that, no matter how devastated I was, I wouldn't let it ruin all my plans: I might not have a baby, but I'm damn good with this barbecue.
We told our friends – who stayed at the weekend – the truth. In what felt like a cruel turn, the night before we broke the news that I was pregnant, knowing that they would have guessed if I had not joined a glass of wine.
They offered to give us privacy, but we insisted that they stay. As Alex Jones put it so sadly: & # 39; There is nothing to say. It is ready. & # 39;
However, there is another crucial factor: why do so many women take a & # 39; the show must on & # 39; approach. Very simply, if you have a miscarriage, you don't know what is normal, because we don't talk about it.
Laura (photo) who organized a friend's baby shower around the time of her miscarriage, remembers a lump in her throat as she watched as her friend opened presents
I painted with a smile, but I cried inside
Laura Mason, 29, lives near Derby, with her husband James, 38 years old. They are both teachers. She says:
I didn't tell anyone that I had a miscarriage the first time.
It was three years ago just before Christmas and I didn't even let my family know, although we received everyone that year.
After the scan confirmed that my baby had died, I remember feeling so empty. I just felt like a failure. We threw a Christmas dinner a few days later. My mother knew it, but none of the others. I didn't want to ruin everyone's Christmas, and thought that if I just went on, I would hurt less.
Mom and I just smiled, laughed and ate dinner, but I was constantly crying on the inside. Looking back, however, I think it would have been easier if I had told people and not & # 39; normal & # 39; had to act.
A friend of mine had a baby shower around that time, which I had helped organize, so I didn't feel like I could retire. However, I can still remember those knots in my throat as I watched as my girlfriend joyfully opened her presents. Since then I have had another early miscarriage and then our son Oliver died shortly after he was born prematurely after 24 weeks.
After losing Oliver, many people would tell me about their miscarriages, but they would say: & # 39; It's nothing like what you've been through. & # 39;
But for me it's the same pain – it's still the loss of a child you thought you'd have, and all those hopes and dreams.
For this reason, I am extremely grateful to women like Stella Creasy and Alex Jones because they are so candid about their experiences. Because without these conversations, all our calmness and bearing risks give the impression to other women that miscarriage is not a problem.
There are signs that are slowly changing. In New Zealand, a bill is made by parliament, so that miscarriage is clearly included under laws that relate to leave on death.
If the amendment continues, a mother and her partner are entitled to three days' leave after a miscarriage – at every stage of pregnancy.
Jane Brewin says: “What I would like to see is a time when people can say to their employer," I have had a miscarriage, I cannot come in today, "and the employer would automatically say," Please take everything give us the time you need and let us know if we can do something to help. "That should be the standard response. There is no one-size-fits-all.
& # 39; For some people it may be good to get back to normal as quickly as possible, others may need several weeks – or longer.
& # 39; But above all we have to change people's perceptions about a miscarriage. At the root of all of this – the reason women think they should continue normally – is that it is still seen as a trivial thing.
& # 39; And that's the headline here: it may happen often, but it's not trivial. & # 39;
I can vouch for that.
You can follow Jennie's story on uterusmonologues.com
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