Strauss had read an essay by actress Ashley Williams about her miscarriage and the silence surrounding it (an excellent read itself). She agrees with Williams that we need to end the silence that surrounds miscarriage -- that speaking out will help to normalize an experience that 25% of all women go through:
These were questions I asked myself after miscarrying an 8-week-old embryo last spring. I was aware of how common miscarriage was, but had heard little about what it would actually feel like. As such, I was not prepared for two weeks of bleeding, nor did I anticipate going into labor and giving birth to two softball-sized blood clots halfway through. Knowing this was possible beforehand would not have relieved the immediate discomfort, but it would have helped prevent much of the debilitating shock I felt for the following weeks.
(Hmmm, sounds a bit like something I wrote a few weeks ago. ;) )
However, she objects to Williams' use of the word "survivor" to describe herself.
I understand the instinct to frame women who have had miscarriages as survivors; it’s a way to find meaning, even redemption, in chaos. Still, it’s wrong, in both logical and emotional terms.
When we call someone a survivor we are emphasizing the unacceptability, or unnaturalness, of the situation they were forced to endure. We don’t survive what is normal, we survive what is exceptional or repugnant. If the goal is to make miscarriage feel normal, then the survivor label is counterproductive.
She notes that others have objected to the survivor narrative, including Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon (who has dealt with stage 4 cancer) and Parul Sehgal in the New York Times Magazine, writing about women who have experienced sexual violence. (Both are great articles too.) "It’s not enough for a woman to deal with something crappy, but we’ve got to make a hero narrative out of it, too," Strauss points out.
I understand that. It's why so many of us tell people that we're fine, just fine, even when we (still) feel like crap sometimes. It's why so many women living without children after infertility & loss feel like they can't just live an ordinary life -- if their life is going to be so different from other women's because they're not having children, then they need to do something REALLY different, and grand and bold and adventurous and fabulous -- because they can!! Right??
I understand the point that Strauss and the others are making, and it's a valid one. But there's no getting around the fact that, right now, at least, miscarriage and stillbirth and infertility are NOT normal experiences. OK, miscarriage might be a normal experience from a biological perspective -- but it doesn't feel that way. The silence and shame and stigma that surround it are not normal, and certainly not acceptable. Until we do normalize miscarriage and other kinds of pregnancy loss, and until those of us who have been through these traumatic experiences begin to feel supported and heard and not so "other," I would not deny those who feel like they have survived something and want to call themselves "survivors" the right to do so.
What do you think? Do you consider yourself a survivor of pregnancy loss &/or infertility? Is there a term that you would prefer instead? (Or do we need to label ourselves in this way at all?)
(Do I feel like a survivor? Sometimes, yes.)
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And now, just because the earworm has been planted ;) and because it's one of dh's all-time favourite songs: