CN: miscarriage and pregnancy loss
The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle has spoken publicly about the miscarriage she experienced in July. Writing in the New York Times, she said she felt “an unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few.”
And, although she was careful to include the other hardships her fellow Americans have endured this year –coronavirus and police brutality among them – she has still had to weather the backlash for speaking out in the first place.
Hundreds of thousands of comments have popped up on social media, condemning Markle for sharing her grief and accusing her of little more than attention seeking.
When Angelina Jolie wrote about having a mastectomy in the New York Times in 2013, few condemned her. But the rules are different for Markle. As a former royal she is expected to stay silent on personal matters, unless they contain good news. The problem is, though the rules might not have changed, the world has.
I can only imagine the number of women – and men - who are comforted by Markle’s essay today.
Miscarriage and pregnancy loss, as Markle mentioned in her essay, are common and unforgettable events in a woman’s life. Wading through the bile on Facebook last night, I noticed that every so often there would be a comment from an older woman, writing for the first time about her own loss; a miscarriage or stillborn birth that occurred sometimes 20 or 30 years ago – along with the message that the grief has never left her.
These are the people who need to read about Markle. It may be that because of brave women like Chrissy Teigen who shared her miscarriage journey on social media earlier this year, and Markle, pregnancy loss will slowly become normalised. And for those women who have lived by the rules of the royals for so many years, it presents a breath of fresh air. A chance, at last, to be seen.
Like millions of other women, I’ve suffered a miscarriage. It was only eight years ago but, given the taboo around it, you’d think a century had passed. I remember telling my husband and a couple of close friends, but not wanting to tell anyone else. When I think about it now, I realise that what stopped me from telling other people was not just the idea that something like this was not worth grieving over. It was more about the lingering sense that I had failed – failed at that most “womanly” of tasks.
Eight years ago, I had no idea how common miscarriage was. I didn’t know that one in five women experience it. I didn’t know that pregnancy loss would hurt physically as much as it did either. The pain, depending on how far along a woman is, can be excruciating – and scary.
By opening up, Markle and Prince Harry have given the public...what every grieving person longs for: knowledge that they aren’t alone.
I’m grateful to Markle for expressing that the pain was sharp enough for her to collapse while holding her then one-year-old baby, Archie.
But it would have been beyond comforting– it would have been validating back then - to read about someone with a profile as high as Markle; to witness Teigen’s incredible grief. It would have conveyed that there was nothing wrong with me; that such tragedies can strike any woman, no matter her wealth or fame or privilege.
I can only imagine the number of women – and men - who are comforted by Markle’s essay today. She writes that when she held her husband, the Duke of Sussex's hand she felt “the clamminess of his palm and kissed his knuckles, wet from both our tears.” Later, she adds that she watched his heart break.
That is important information for other men to know. And, as spokesman of a mental health initiative, it’s courageous and necessary of Prince Harry to share that men have a right to grieve also.
Anyone who has watched The Crown knows how destructive the idea of duty can be when taken too far. But duty, and a commitment to service, though sometimes considered old fashioned, are virtues.
What could be more dutiful than modelling what grief looks like so that others can find comfort? Isn’t this the real work of someone as high profile as Markle? Anyone can cut a ribbon, pose for a photo op or shake a hand.
These days, people want more – they want connection; vulnerability. By opening up, Markle and Prince Harry have given the public those things, along with what every grieving person longs for: knowledge that they aren’t alone.
Natalie Reilly is a freelance writer. You can follow Natalie on Twitter at @thatnatreilly.
If this story has raised issues for you or anyone you know needs help, you can contact: SANDS (miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death support) on 1300 072 637 or the Stillbirth Foundation on (02) 9557 9070