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The “Silent Sadness”… While Black

Perinatal loss is challenging both for the people directly experiencing it and for the people closest to them.  For others, though it’s sad, it’s also awkward. People often seem to struggle with what to say and when to say it or what to do and when to do it. Sure, there are your exceptions. Those people who just “get it” – they show up to your house with food, they check on you everyday, they send flowers or cards, they just come to give you hugs, they ask you about your baby(ies) and are happy to listen and look at pictures if you want to show them.

Then you have the others. Those who avoid you like the damn plague when they know you’ve had a loss. They clam up, barely speak or make eye contact, wait for you to bring it up or worse, just move on like nothing happened. These people don’t mean any harm most of the time but they seem to not know what to say so they just don’t say or do anything. Maybe they’re doing what their momma told them, “if you ain’t got nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all”. Ultimately everyone has different needs and for some people (I’m not sure who they are), you’d prefer no one said anything to you about your loss.

Welp, that’s not me! I’ve heard perinatal loss and more specifically, miscarriage when you’re not yet showing, just starting to show or carrying small still, referred to as the “silent sadness”.  The phrase basically refers to this topic being something mom’s tend to be really sad about but they either don’t talk about it or people in general don’t acknowledge it. So why is that? Here are some of my theories…

  1. You may not have even told people you were pregnant yet
  2. You may not really be showing yet
  3. You feel like your loss isn’t as significant to discuss because your little one wasn’t a fully formed human yet
  4. People think it’s your business so they don’t say anything
  5. People don’t know what to say so they go mute
  6. There’s an assumption that you’ll just get pregnant again or have other children so no need to worry about this loss
  7. People (including you sometimes) expect you to just get over it or get over it more quickly than you would another loss

All these things amount to you suffering in silence.  I was determined to not do that. Sure I had and continue to have my reclusive moments where I really don’t want to see or talk to anyone but my partner or my mom.  But then I have other moments where I’m longing to talk about my girls or have someone ask me how I’m doing and actually be willing to listen! Shocker. You’d be surprised how people react when you say anything other than “fine” or “good” in response to “how are you?”

I don’t want to be sad in silence. Especially not about something that is SO common. One in four women experience miscarriage for various reasons. ONE IN FOUR y’all! Why are we not talking about this? Why are we suffering in silence and why are black women often absent from the conversations that are happening?  I’m part of a few online support groups and my partner and I attend two in person support groups. I have encountered TWO other black women since giving birth to Aviva & Jora on 6/7/17. TWO.  How is that possible with all the sistahs in the world, fertility challenges are not being chatted about over brunch or something?! Bougie black girls go to brunch so it’s only natural that conversations about fertility stuff should come up too. We talk about everything else… The last thing BAE did, why you don’t have a BAE, what’s the deal with the f-boy/f-girl you’re dealing with, work stressors, vacations, sex, etc. I’m going to give you a list of a few things to talk w/ your peeps about to avoid this “silent sadness” nonsense:

  1. Fertility goals – are people trying to get pregnant and if so, what are their timelines? Have they been to their docs to talk about the process?
  2. Gynecological concerns – have people been having challenges? Fibroids and cysts y’all? Black women get the former more than any other ethnic group so keeping an eye on those is important to number 1.
  3. Challenges with fertility – related to number 1 also, have your girls been having difficulty getting pregnant?  What processes are people going through?
  4. Support your homies – what do your friends needs need from you? How can you help? What do you need from them? If you can’t talk about baby making with your girls, who can you talk about it with?!
  5. Identify which friends want to support your family goals – let’s face it, some people don’t like kids and that’s ok. Other people love kids and will be mega invested in your plans to start & expand your family. ID those people fairly early on and include them more in your conversations & plans. Who knows, they might end up being a god-parent or spirit parent (idk if that’s a thing but I made it up because everyone doesn’t subscribe to the god concept).
  6. Talk about money – having kids and trying to have kids can be hella expensive so if you have experience with costs, share this info with your friends. Talk about savings and planning for the future even if it’s just a side savings account where you stash a few dollars a month. Anything can help and you’ll be grateful for it later.
  7. Talk about your grief – have you lost a baby before? Have you had an abortion and regretted it? Have you had an abortion and don’t regret it but now you want to have kids and you’re dealing with feelings around that? Have you given up a child for adoption? Have you found out you can’t have children or it would be a significant struggle to do so?

All these things are important and intimate. True friends are intimate and vulnerable with each other because they trust each other not to hurt them. Get you some friends you can do this with and stop suffering in silence.  

3 thoughts on “The “Silent Sadness”… While Black”

  1. Wow this was great. Very insightful. Quite honestly, it’s a hard subject to discuss for both people who have never experienced such a loss and those who have not. I appreciate this blog and any others will too.

  2. Dear Janae, I struggled last year after two perinatal losses and felt very alone. I am glad that you choose to create a space to have safe conversation about this, as it is so common, yet no one ever talks about it. Several professors opened up to me about their personal experiences which meant so much for me as I navigated the process alone. I had to sit through weekend classes, as if everything was normal, all while my body was going through the process, that for me, was also physically lengthy. I believe it is important not to suffer in silence as I did, and I therefore appreciate you sharing your story and this space.

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