If Men Had Miscarriages

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 | 1 Comment(s)

Disclaimer: For those who have gone through the trials of losing a pregnancy, and I know that may be many of you, some of the content of this post may be difficult to read (though, i assure you, it is dealt with sensitively).  Please be forewarned.

In all honesty, I have been thinking about writing this post for a good long while.  Years even.  I have always been tripped up because I have an inner dissonance when writing about the subject matter of women's bodies.  I feel, on the whole, that I am under qualified to about half the population when it comes to the real in's and out's of having female reproductive organs.  And I'm right on this.

Unfortunately, more and more recently, old and not-so-old white guy politicians who apparently do not share my inner turmoil on this subject matter have begun making increasingly ridiculous and offensive claims regarding rape and reproduction.  In all honesty, it's as if guys like these (I'm looking at you Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Roger Rivard,  John Koster, Joe Walsh,  and Steve King -- why is this such a long list!) were just faking it til they made it in their home polling districts, and now that they are there, when asked to speak on a real subject, we all realize they failed 7th grade biology.  They all make me sick with their stupidity and entitlement.

Despite this, I am writing this piece because I have failed to see it elsewhere.  This is not an attempt to redeem my gender or even to be political, but rather to lend a voice on a subject matter that has been left hidden by society as a whole.

Recently, another friend of mine lost her (wanted) pregnancy to miscarriage.  I say another, because the list of women I know personally who have gone through this horrific set of events is a long one.  So long, in fact, that I eventually went online to see if this tragic circumstance was happening to others as much as it seemed to be happening around me.   It is.  Depending on which numbers you believe, between 1 in 4 pregnancies to as many as 1 in 3 pregnancies result in the loss of the child.  And those numbers are excluding any losses that may occur before a pregnancy test has been taken.

THAT IS 33% PEOPLE.  That, to me, says that miscarrying a child is what I would deem "fairly common."  But, when my well-educated, intelligent, deeply loved friends have lost pregnancies in the past, I can tell you that the experience for them was anything but routine.

In my experience, and again, this is the morally tricky part for me, women who lose their  (wanted) pregnancies are subjected to a variety of different physical and emotional assaults.  First, there is the physical.  While I can not speak directly to the level of pain, reports are that the procedures involved are as ghastily unpleasant as they are invasive.

And then there is the bleeding.   The constant reminder of what is no longer there.   And that begins the psychological trauma.   The loss, and even more so the unbelievable shame that gets attached to miscarriages.  And this is where we as a society are doing a horrible job for the reproductive women of the world.

There should be no shame attached to miscarriage.  None.  Zero.  Remember the whole one in four pregnancies result in miscarriage?  That is a shitload of shame.  And we are dumping it right atop women who deserve none of it.  Because miscarriage is common, but we don't talk about it at all.  We hide it in the crying bedrooms of women or couples who all feel they are going through this traumatic cycle alone.  For the first time ever.  Women who were moments ago in the throws of the excitement of bringing a new life into the world are thrust into the impossible position of apologizing to partners and family members for their feelings of letting everyone down.  Not to mention themselves.  But they haven't let anyone down.  Because miscarriage is common.   So very common.

So I ask myself, if miscarriage is so common, and it is, why don't we ever hear about it.  Ever.  Why is the collective understanding regarding pregnancy loss hovering at the level of 'almost zero,' as one in three women walk around with invisible wounds left from keeping a secret that feels dirtier in its covertness.  And the only honest answer to, "Why is this happening?" is because miscarriage only happens to women.

If only men miscarried, this whole situation would look different.  First of all, there would be a department in the hospital solely for helping men recover from such a traumatic experience.  There would be doctors as well as social workers there, assuring these traumatized men that what was happening to them was normal and there was nothing to be ashamed of.  There would also be amazing drugs that help you block out the trauma and most likely a revolutionary new cauterizing procedure (or the invention of a remarkably absorbent pad) to minimize the post-operative bleeding.  No man needs a messy reminder.

There would also be ad campaigns designed specifically to target the 33% of men who go through this.  I'm not sure exactly what the products would be, but they would make men feel better about themselves after such a procedure, pump up their self-confidence, and make them feel safe enough to spend their disposable income on their products.  Maybe some more cool drugs.

If men had miscarriages, they would get paid time off work when it happened.  If 1 in 3 men miscarried, the stigma would be lifted almost immediately.  Which means you could solicit the support of all your friends and co-workers (as opposed to just your very closest family and friends), and they could help bare the burden of your circumstances with well wishes and feelings of good cheer.  There would be "The More You Know" public service messages about being sympathetic to pregnancy loss.

If men had miscarriages, they may still be physically painful, but I assure you the psychological barriers that are born from sweeping the uncomfortable situations of "others" into the margins of what is considered polite societal discourse, would be removed post-haste.  If miscarriages happened to men, I wouldn't have to write about it.

But men don't miscarry.  And the subject of pregnancy loss is tucked away in the back of our cultural basement, where, in the USA, we send one million women a year, to suffer their personal shame alone in silence.  It is unconscionable.

Medical science still is not able to make every pregnancy a successful one, but we certainly have the societal resources and responsibility to protect these unsuspecting women from a stigma that should never have existed in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. What a fresh perspective and an insightful look at such a tricky issue - I see many couples in this situation in my practice and it is always so hard to see women try to not to make it awkward for other people, as if that mattered more than their own process and emotions around the loss. I have learned professionally and personally that the process of trying to bring children into this world with both child and mother alive and healthy is harder than most realize...