The Wall of Silence: why we should be talking more about pregnancy loss

Welcome to the Clandestine’s column, Children of the Patriarchy! Every other Wednesday we will post a column on anything and everything patriarchy related. Whilst most of us are already painfully aware of the patriarchal structure surrounding us, we often do not realise how deeply rooted its effects are. That’s why we are here! Every week we will be calling out the patriarchy left and right, whether that is at KCL, in the UK or in the wider world. Because whether we want to or not, we are all Children of the Patriarchy and the responsibility of cleaning this mess up, falls upon us.

[Featured Image: Chrissy Teigen on the red carpet. Source]

Content warning: this article discusses pregnancy loss and contains stillborn photography which may be sensitive or triggering to some readers.

After a month of bedrest, Chrissy Teigen gave birth to a stillborn baby boy she and husband, John Legend, named Jack. In a heart-breaking post on social media the author, model and mother to Luna and Miles described the intense pain she and her family felt losing Jack.

In her initial post, Teigen described the deep pain she and her family are in following the loss of baby Jack, along with five heart-breaking photos [1]  of her in hospital. In the weeks since, she wrote a personal essay [2] about the experience, and about the judgement she has faced since choosing to share the pictures.

Teigen and Legend holding baby Jack. This photo is from the series posted by Teigen on Instagram addressing the loss of baby Jack.

Whilst many praised Chrissy for her openness and were supportive about her decision to share this traumatic event with the world, others criticised her, in particular for sharing pictures taken by her husband and mother during their time in hospital. Her critics believed that a moment like this should remain private and discreet. What they fail to understand, is the immense societal importance of handling a situation like this publicly. Talking about pregnancy loss and removing the taboo around it is in fact a step towards womxn’s liberation.

When I first read her post, I was shocked at her willingness and desire to be so open about something that must have been so scarring to both her and her family. Reading Teigen’s account of her devastating experience, I realised I myself had very little knowledge on the topic, not knowing whether something like this is common or what it can do to womxn who experience it. It seems we have a silent agreement as a society not to speak of such things. As a result, we knowingly isolate womxn who experience pregnancy loss, out of a misplaced desire to avoid painful topics such as this.

Whether we realise it or not, the wall of silence surrounding pregnancy loss is hindering womxn’s liberation. By urging womxn to keep experiences like this private, we are telling them it is something to be ashamed of, something that must be swept under the rug. The opposite is true, these womxn deserve our support, however they may choose to grieve. Whilst Teigen’s only job right now is to deal with her own loss and grieve, it is hard to ignore the impact her brave decision has on our society. By opening up about her experience, in a way that felt right to her, she is helping to lift the taboo surrounding pregnancy loss.

Womxn’s bodies are already heavily policed. The way we dress, the way we move, our body type, whether we have autonomy over our own uterus – it all seems to be decided for us. By passing judgement on the way someone grieves, we are then also policing their behaviour after a traumatic event. If she shares her experience, she is too open. If she does not share it, she is too guarded. Whichever path a womxn chooses, she can never escape judgement. 

In some ways, Teigen’s ability to document and share her experience is a testament to how far we have already come. Only in 2010 did Sands, the leading stillbirth and neonatal death charity in the UK, successfully campaign for NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) to change their guidelines in order to give parents the option to spend time with their stillborn child[3]. Before this campaign, their guidance actively discouraged parents from holding their stillborn baby, with many midwives therefore taking away the baby before the parents even had the opportunity to see them, let alone take pictures. While we still have a long road to go, Teigen’s ability to take pictures with Jack signifies not only the road ahead, but also the steps we have already taken.

However, as with all things that are patriarchy related, the road ahead is long and arduous. What we need now, is to start an honest and non-judgemental conversation about pregnancy loss. Womxn who experience it should know they are not alone. They need to opportunity to grieve in whichever way helps them most. Instead of judging womxn like Teigen for the way in which they grieve, we should applaud them for their bravery in making a decision that feels right for them and their families. Whether a woman chooses to share her experience or to keep it private is up to her. Our judgement is completely irrelevant. After all, going through such an experience is already traumatic and harrowing enough in itself. We should not be adding to that trauma.

Column written by Milou Klein, Column Editor of the Clandestine




Featured image source:

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