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“Thank you for agreeing to speak with us on your deep and personal loss”, I wrote and scratched for the hundredth time. I was preparing for my conversation with four women who had faced the deepest grief known to human – the loss of a child, without even getting the opportunity to create memories with them.
And I was awkward about it, despite my personal experience with the loss.
A 2015 study published in The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of India, said that 32% of the representative sample in India had suffered a spontaneous miscarriage. The corresponding global number is 10%. When I did a search for support groups for the parents of the angel children, none came up for India. Not a single one! So, grieving parents in the country are silently suffering the torment of a miscarriage without sharing the grief with others. This article is a minute effort towards breaking the radio silence.
The Brave Mothers
A quick introduction to the mothers who braved miscarriage:
Madhumita Mookherjea is a dedicated mother of two, bright, young girls. The fashionista gave up her career in banking to be a hands-on mother to her children, a decision which was as difficult as it has been rewarding. Madhumita had two miscarriages before her daughters were born.
Dhara Merchant, a mother to a little boy and a baby girl, is a freelance HR professional. She lost her first baby very early in the pregnancy.
Durgamma, a household maid in Bangalore, had three miscarriages before adopting a baby girl from a neighbor in her village.
Ridhima S (name changed) is a techie in a global MNC. She had difficulty conceiving for four years. She was considering IVF treatment when she conceived naturally. On the 11th week of her pregnancy, she miscarried. She now lives in France with her husband.
When I broached the topic meekly to them, they were not half as uncomfortable as I. Madhumita was the one who gave me the confidence to continue,
“I have no issues speaking about what I went through. I have spoken about it to my children and we have accepted our loss as a family. If my sharing can help others who are dealing with the loss, I am glad to help.”
“I guess it is way easier to talk about it after so many years and with your babies in your arms”, said Dhara.
For Durgamma, her miscarriages were not just a matter of grief, they were a matter of public castigation. “My own parents disowned me, my neighbors wouldn’t invite me to any celebrations. I stopped talking to everyone. But time heals everything”, she told me in her broken Hindi.
Ridhima was hesitant, though, “I have never spoken about this to anyone before. I am still dealing with it really. But, I will try to talk through. Excuse me if I don’t want to answer everything.”
The First Few Days
“To be honest, the first time it happened, we were disappointed, but not as emotionally scarred. We just concentrated on our health, post the trauma. The second time it happened, I was 9 weeks into my pregnancy and things were looking very stable till then. So the rainy Bangalore morning, that I bled heavily and lost my second one, I was absolutely devastated. I felt like I was letting the family down”, recalled Madhumita.
“One Saturday I got the happy news and the next Saturday I lost the baby. [The baby] had no heart beat and yet, it made me angry when people said that I didn’t get emotionally attached. Of course I did. It still hurts, even though I have two beautiful babies today.”
Durgamma had her three miscarriages back to back in the span of one and a half years. She remembers the time as one of a guilty rush to breed. “By the time I had my third miscarriage, I was physically too exhausted to care. But before that, I was worried more about what my in-laws were thinking than my own grief.”
Ridhima struggled, “I blamed myself, completely. I was angry beyond reason – at my body, at happy families, at doctors. I couldn’t handle sympathy; I couldn’t live with nonchalance. I was a mess.”
How did they cope?
“It was a difficult process, but my family made it smoother than I had imagined. My Mother, who I thought would be most affected, was in fact my biggest strength. I am incredibly fortunate to have been born and wedded in families that see a woman beyond a child bearing object,” said Madhumita.
Durgamma, with unconditional support from her husband, decided to leave the negativity of her immediate surrounding behind her. They shifted to Bangalore, found jobs in the city and peace in each other.
“I did get sad from time to time, when I saw other mothers with their children. But we got busy making a living in a large city and life sort of went on. I feel very lucky that I married my husband, because not another man in that village would have stuck by me at that time.”
Dhara mentioned that it was difficult to see people getting pregnant at the drop of a hat around her and being unmoved by their gift. Much like the other two, she had tremendous support from her husband, “He let me cry, he let me curse the world but he didn’t allow me to blame myself. I got obsessed with wanting a baby, but got nasal polyps that delayed the process medically. Life happened, moved back to Mumbai with the family, got a job and got busy. The change helped with the coping.” Ridhima is not sure that she has picked all the broken pieces yet,
Ridhima is not sure that she has picked all the broken pieces yet, “I took an assignment and stayed alone in the States for a few months, I couldn’t even bear to be around my husband at that time. Seeing him would remind me what I couldn’t give him – and that made me angry at him. But, he came down to the States, dragged me to a counselor and we have been working on it since. We have settled in a different country and I feel a little more in control now.”
All the four women found the strength from their families and significant others, to overcome the trauma and pick up the thread of life
Did they ever consider alternate parenthood?
“Yes. We had, in fact, just gotten a response to our adoption application, when I conceived naturally. I was elated and a bit sad at the same time. It felt like I lost a third child, when the authorities refused to grant adoption on account of my pregnancy,” recalled Madhumita, reminiscing fondly about the child that was born of her heart!
Durgamma’s neighbor from her village paid her a visit in the city when she was pregnant with her fifth child. “She asked us if we wanted to keep the child. They were in need of some financial help at the time. We were ecstatic, we hadn’t thought we would ever be blessed with a child.”
Ridhima became emotional,
“It is too soon, I don’t know yet. Once I start feeling better, maybe”, she said as she welled up.
Advice for Others in Pain
“Keep calm, go for a holiday, enjoy the love. Once the stress is out of the process, the cortisol levels would smoothen out. In retrospect, that’s probably what helped us the most,” said Madhumita.
“I actually talked to a lot of people and shared the grief. It wasn’t a secret inside me – I felt liberated. Talk to someone you trust,” said Dhara.
Ridhima said she wasn’t best positioned to give advice, “Just don’t hesitate to ask for help.”
Durgamma smiled shyly and gave possibly the most profound advice,
“Just keep living, one day at a time”.
If you have ever overcome a similar loss or know a dear one who has, do write to us with your story at email@example.com
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