‘I Hope I’mhelping Women’
Ahead of Baby Loss Awareness Week, we chatted to Dr Jessica Zucker, founder of the #Ihadamiscarriage campaigné
Asister, a friend, a mother, an aunt. Most of us have witnessed the pain of miscarriage – even if we haven’t physically experienced loss ourselves. But despite how common it is (as many as one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage), the stigma associated with loss is a growing concern. In a 2015 study, 70 per cent of women admitted to having feelings of guilt following a miscarriage, with 35 per cent revealing that they were too ashamed to talk to their partners.
Enter Dr Jessica Zucker, a Los Angelesbased psychologist specialising in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health. After experiencing a miscarriage at 16 weeks, Jessica launched the campaign #Ihadamiscarriage, to end the stigma associated with
loss. What followed was not only a powerful and poignant Instagram page, @Ihadamiscarriage, but a global community of women. Here, ahead of Baby Loss Awareness Week (9-15 October), Jessica shares her story about the pain of loss and the crucial importance of ending what she refers to as ‘the three Ss’ – shame, stigma and silence: shame, because you can feel as if it’s something you did or it’s your fault; stigma because sometimes people shun you when they don’t know what to say to you; and silence, because we can be bad at opening up and sharing when we’ve been through something terrible.
‘Because of the nature of my work – and because I was so far along, my patients could easily see I was pregnant – I felt it was important I shared what had happened,’ explains Jessica.
‘Consider the complexity of that. I had been sitting with these women for years, hearing about their reproductive loss, their trauma, their post-partum issues. All of a sudden, here I was, in this position myself but also being responsible for helping my patients. It was very complex and impacted my work in a very profound and meaningful way. Suddenly, I was able to understand from such a different perspective.
‘Four months later, I became pregnant with my now three-year-old daughter. I sat there hearing these troubling and difficult stories, all the while being very concerned about staying pregnant myself.
‘In 2014. I officially launched the hashtag campaign #Ihadamiscarriage with the goal of showing women around the world that there’s absolutely no shame in loss. Psychologists like myself don’t usually share details of their lives and I realised what a unique opportunity I had. Shortly afterwards, I launched my Instagram page and quickly realised what a powerful community it was.’
The account currently has over 19.5k followers, while #Ihadamiscarriage has garnered nearly 9,000 posts by women sharing their experiences in an open, honest and supportive way.
‘It has been a wonderful vehicle for destigmatising something so important,’ says Dr Jessica. ‘Regardless of race, class, culture, religion – miscarriage can impact you. We need to be more comfortable talking about these really uncomfortable topics.
‘Women around the world share their stories with me – right now I have hundreds of emails I need to go through! They can submit photo options if they want to, or I can send them photos to choose from. The campaign has helped me deal with my own loss personally – I find it so healing and life changing. Women across the globe are getting together and supporting each other around this issue, it’s incredible and also much-needed.
‘What more can be done? We need to think about the three Ss – shame, stigma and silence. What comes first? Is it the silence that creates the shame and the stigma, or the stigma that creates the silence and the shame? I’m very keen on shifting these. Not every woman has to share her story publicly, it’s about making it normative.
‘Every October, I usually build on my campaign. In 2015, I created a line of pregnancy and infant-loss cards, and in 2016 I created a range of T-shirts and pins that are all about rainbow babies (babies that follow loss). This year, I’m releasing a limited-edition illustrated book.
‘I want women to start being gentle with themselves. You did nothing wrong. I’m obsessed with this – I want women to understand that blaming themselves is not going to bring the baby back. Grief knows no timeline.’
Acknowledge It: An Illustrated Recognition Of Reproductive Health Outcomes is available throughout October at drjessicazucker.com
Women around the world are sharing their stories
Dr Jessica helps women talk about their experience of loss
Miscarriage can affect anyone, regardless of race, class or culture Dr Jessica went on to give birth to a daughter Awareness-raising T-shirts help break the taboo