Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Friday, 8 October 2021) . . Page.. 2991 ..
devastating loss. But it is an important step by this Assembly, by the people who are privileged to be the voices of our community, to acknowledge and formally recognise, to empathise, to understand and to stand with families who, for so long, have felt alone.
In June 2018 my partner, Nathan, and I experienced a miscarriage before we were fortunate to fall pregnant with our daughter, Mia, born one year after our loss. We were lucky, as other families are, to go on to have what are referred to as “rainbow babies”—babies born after families experience loss. I also know that there are many other families who remain childless, not by choice. One constituent of mine who has reached out to me about her experiences has spoken about the pain of not being seen or heard—that couples who remain childless, not by choice, are not included in conversations about families. I know that it is not because people do not care; it is because of the longstanding stigma attached to speaking about loss, grief and death. What do you say to someone who has experienced a loss that is so painful?
In many countries around the world pregnancy loss has long been blamed on women. Not only are these women not able to grieve over their loss but they are shamed into thinking that it was something they did or something they did not do that led to the loss of their baby. In many of our multicultural communities, even to this day, I know that there are many families grieving in silence and alone. Whilst much effort is being made to break down this stigma, it is not easy to change the culture and attitudes of generations overnight.
This year, Nathan and I experienced two more miscarriages, for both of which I was required to undergo a dilation and curettage. As medical procedures go, it is a fairly minor one. I was extremely fortunate to have the support of a professional and caring medical team. Whilst the physical recovery is pretty straightforward, the emotional recovery is not so easy. Every family experiences pregnancy loss differently. For me, the emotional response comes in waves, sometimes when I least expect it—sorry, like today. I have almost forgotten all about it, then a Facebook memory comes up with one of Mia’s ultrasound scans, and the hazy outline of that little face is enough to make my breath catch in my throat and my heart skip a beat, with an overwhelming sense of grief.
I have almost forgotten all about it when I am updating my health insurance policy and they innocently ask, “Is there a reason that you need top-tier hospital cover?” This is enough for me to stop, and my mind goes straight back to that dark room and the sonographer saying those most painful words, “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”
Even though I know there is nothing that I could have done—in fact, tests confirmed this—I could not help thinking, and even now, about whether there was anything I could have done to prevent it. Was it the glass of wine or the cured meat that I had before I realised I was pregnant? Was it the high-impact exercise class that I did when I was six weeks pregnant? Was it the significant work stresses I was under at the time? I know that it was none of these things, but I also know that there are many families who cannot help thinking like this. The stigma, silence and shame add to the pain of grief, loss and guilt.