Sevim and Bilgin (experienced several miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy)
Sevim: I had some bleeding and I knew it wouldn’t be normal. So we ended up at the hospital and it failed and...
Bilgin: Turned out to be a miscarriage.
Sevim: Miscarriage, yeah.
Bilgin: And then we were devastated at the time, but then talking to friends and family it turned out to be quite common. I think that was a revelation to us where it happens more often than you think, but it doesn’t come out unless you’re sharing a common experience.
Yasna Meldrum (midwife, counsellor): When you have one miscarriage, and it’s not about minimising one miscarriage, the hope is so much greater because miscarriage is a common thing that happens in pregnancy, it’s just the way of life, and you’re not going to be telling the person ‘Well that’s just a way of life and you’ve just lost a baby’, however multiple miscarriages do create their own set of problems in terms of ‘Well physically can I actually carry a baby, what is wrong with me?’ and each time the anxiety increases even further so that each time you get just to that date when you miscarried last time, the anxiety is really, really high.
Sevim: With the first pregnancy we moved on quickly. The second we were still okay because we were told, even at the hospital, that it’s very common. From third and the fourth ectopic, then we started feeling the desperation; the recovery period was longer and emotionally felt quite down didn’t we?
Bilgin: It was very draining, yeah.
Sevim: It actually indirectly started affecting our relationship as well at the time.
Yasna Meldrum: Anxiety levels will often increase with each subsequent pregnancy, and the support that’s required is actually quite great and often not recognised by friends and family because there is nothing to show for a miscarriage, you’re experiencing the loss but you don’t have anything to show.
Sevim: As a friend I think you can be supportive in many ways and especially I guess listening, being there without criticising or making them feel desperate or...
Bilgin: And also at times we felt guilty that we were putting them in a position where they were having to help us all the time. But yeah, having them make us feel like that’s not the case, that they’re more than willing to help us.
Yasna Meldrum: People will often come forth with platitudes to try and make you feel better, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be able to get pregnant again and have another baby’ is a common one. Now that just really adds to the whole grief experience because you will never have another baby like the one that you’ve just lost, that baby was an individual. So a practical way to support somebody through grief would be to offer the help that might be useful for them at the time. It might be offering to do things with other children, it might be cooking meals, it might be looking after children so that the couple have time on their own to actually go out and spend some time together.
Bilgin: In terms of the support network, we were kind of in an unfortunate situation because all our family is back in Turkey. So we have a couple of family friends that we could rely on, they were actually great.
Yasna Meldrum: With men they often see themselves as the protectors, the people that need to be strong in these situations and yet they’re very much grieving underneath all of that as well and it’s like how do we help men in families grieve in healthy ways too? It’s really important that the couple, wherever possible, really make a point of checking in with each other about how they’re actually feeling, how they’re doing, and if there’s a reluctance it generally means we need to do more of it because there’s some discomfort around it. so sometimes early in the piece it’s about like ‘Let’s schedule some time together, let’s actually really ask each other how are we doing, where are we at, how are we really feeling?’
There are organisations in pretty much every state in Australia that are set up to support parents and families that have gone through a miscarriage and they can access telephone support through these organisations, they can access educational perhaps seminars that they can all go to. There are actually support groups that some of the hospitals as well that hold bereavement support groups where parents get together where there’s an avenue for them to talk about their loss.