This article was updated on 1 December, 2022. It discusses miscarriage with Tahyna McManus.
by Sandra Moon
Did you or someone you know wait until after twelve-weeks to share news of a pregnancy? I did and the reason was in case I lost my baby. I wanted to avoid those painful conversations. I didn’t think twice about the decision not sharing could have on early pregnancy loss until recently watching Misunderstandings of Miscarriage (MuM), a documentary film by Australian Tahyna MacManus.
MuM was made over two years and documents Tahyna and her partner’s five pregnancies including three miscarriages. Released late last year, MuM raises Australian women’s stories of miscarriage and still births joining them with voices across the globe such as Chrissy Teigen’s, Katy Lindemann’s and Julia Bueno’s that are acknowledging and discussing the vast experiences of pregnancy loss.
In the film Tahyna makes the point that the gestation of the baby doesn’t determine the validity of the grief or reduce the loss. I asked Tahyna should we share pregnancy news from the get-go?
“The whole idea of the twelve-week rule is weirdly ingrained in us because of our own uncomfortable feeling. So, we carry that burden around. But we need so much support and should anything go wrong we should be able to lean on family,” she replied.
And if family don’t know, they simply can’t be there.
The film discusses miscarriage with Tahyna McManus and features interviews with other women and covers some practices hindering parental grief and some that are assisting. Some of the negative experiences were from medical practitioners who were largely unsympathetic to pregnancy loss.
“The majority felt dismissed by health practitioners particularly in early loss,” Tahyna said.
The medical terminology and language used by health professionals such as “products of pregnancy”, “non-viable pregnancies” and referring to a lesbian couple as “socially infertile” can undoubtedly exacerbate grief.
“I encourage health practitioners to understand the effects of clinical language,” Tahyna said.
In MuM she interviews Manny Mangat, Clinical Director of IVF Australia’s Sydney Clinic who advocated for practitioners to improve their language around pregnancy loss.
According to Tahyna “We need to separate the difference between medical terminology and women’s experiences because for women, pregnancy is a dream come true. It is our baby. In general, being able to talk about the medical aspects while showing a bit more empathy with women especially with family planning means a lot of that grief would, not go away, but feel validated.”
While Tahyna had great empathy from her own GP she said “There was a greater sense of being dismissed with comments such as “You should try again” as if what I felt wasn’t real.”
Tahyna is not alone in the feeling of disenfranchised grief around pregnancy loss but thankfully things are shifting and women are feeling better supported by changes to historical practices around pregnancy loss which further compounded grief. Nowadays practices such as holding a baby/babies, dressing them and photographing them is more and more common and can assist parents to grieve. Some parents decide to commemorate and remember their child by planting trees, getting specialised jewellery made or getting a tattoo.
Tahyna also vouches for the work of not for profit organisation Pink Elephants to help women feel supported and validate their loss and grief. As more and more women share and speak about pregnancy loss there are greater shifts, greater acknowledgements, greater conversations and greater hope that things will continue to change for the better.
In Tahyna’s words “The conversation is ready to be had.”
Learn about the documentary at https://www.mumdocumentary.com/
Find out about Pink Elephants and connect with other women at https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/partners/pink-elephants-support-network/
Read Katy Lindemann’s blog on the club no one wants to join at the Uber Barren Club. https://uberbarrens.club/blog
Julia Bueno’s book “The brink of being” gets reviewed in The Guardian here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/apr/21/brink-of-being-julia-bueno-review-miscarriage-pregnancy-loss-grief
Allyson Chiu in The Washington Post on Chrissy Teigen’s baby loss is well worth a read https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/baby-loss-chrissy-teigen-support/2020/10/01/4ca71760-03f4-11eb-897d-3a6201d6643f_story.html
And lastly to talk to your child about loss lean on Play School and revisit one of our earlier articles https://good-grief.com.au/play-school-helps-with-stories-about-beginnings-and-endings/