Parents around the world are opening up about their “unbearable grief”, inspired by a powerful personal essay written by the Duchess of Sussex.
Meghan revealed on Wednesday night that she and Prince Harry had been expecting a second child but had suffered a miscarriage.
“Watching my husband’s heart break as he tried to hold the shattered pieces of mine, I realised that the only way to begin to heal is to first ask, ‘Are you OK?’ she wrote.
“Are we? This year has brought so many of us to our breaking points.”
In a deeply personal opinion piece in The New York Times, the Duchess wrote how the day of her miscarriage “began as ordinarily as any other”.
The first sign something was wrong came as she picked up her son from his cot. Meghan said she sung Archie a lullaby to keep them both calm after dropping to the floor in pain.
“Make breakfast. Feed the dogs. Take vitamins. Find that missing sock. Pick up the rogue crayon that rolled under the table. Throw my hair in a ponytail before getting my son from his crib,” she wrote of that day.
“After changing his diaper, I felt a sharp cramp.
I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.’’
Rumours circulated in gossip magazines and tabloids mid-year about whether the couple were planning to expand their family.
Royal watchers had noted that Meghan had been spotted re-wearing some of the clothing she had worn during the early stages of her first pregnancy.
The rumour mill went into overdrive when the Duchess requested a nine-month delay for her impending court date for the trial over The Mail’s decision to publish private letters between Meghan and her father.
But Meghan and Harry, who live in California, had made no comments about their family plans and had rarely been seen in public recently. Their latest public appearance was last week when they were pictured laying flowers at a cemetery ahead of Remembrance Day.
In the opinion piece, which carried a byline referring to Meghan as “mother, feminist, and advocate”, the royal did not reveal how far along in her pregnancy she was or whether the couple knew the sex of the baby.
Though other royals, including Harry’s cousin Zara Tindall, have suffered miscarriages in recent years, it is highly unusual for a member of the British royal family would speak so openly.
Reflecting that policy, spokesmen for Clarence House and Kensington Palace declined to comment on the “private matter”.
Prince Harry’s uncle Charles Spencer, who is the brother Princess Diana, said it was “so very, very sad” to hear about the miscarriage.
Speaking as a guest on the British talk show Lorraine hosted by Lorraine Kelly, the earl said: “I can’t imagine the agony for any couple of losing a child in this way.”
Meghan lamented how parents suffer in silence despite the death of an unborn baby impacting so many families. In Australia, one in four pregnancies will result in a miscarriage.
“Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few,” she wrote.
“In the pain of our loss, my husband and I discovered that in a room of 100 women, 10 to 20 of them will have suffered from miscarriage.
She said that despite the “staggering commonality of this pain”, the conversation remains “taboo, riddled with (unwarranted) shame, and perpetuating a cycle of solitary mourning”.
We have learned that when people ask how any of us are doing, and when they really listen to the answer, with an open heart and mind, the load of grief often becomes lighter.’’
The Times later reported that charities that offer support to parents after miscarriages confirmed they see significant spikes in people seeking help whenever a public figure speaks out.
“People suddenly admit to themselves and others that they’re hurting and they’re in pain,” said Zoe Clark-Coates, chief executive of the Mariposa Trust, a London-based charity.
Clea Harmer, chief executive of London-based charity Sands, said the coronavirus pandemic had magnified the effects of miscarriage because sufferers were isolated from supportive friends and family.
“It’s made a really sad and devastating experience even worse and even more difficult,” Ms Harmer said.
Ruth Bender Atik, national director of the UK’s Miscarriage Association, said that Meghan was “generous” to share her experience.
The resulting discussion would help many people, Ms Bender explained.
“It can be very validating for people to hear the kind of feelings they’ve experienced are experienced by other people, too — no matter what their status is,” she said.
Overnight, women and men around the world shared stories of losing their unborn babies.
Like Meghan, I encourage our sisters and brothers to share their stories. I had a miscarriage and went to the hospital for a D&C. The doctor did a scan and realised there were twins. One baby lost, one still very alive/ viable. You guys know our Hazel. 7 years old now. #Areyouok pic.twitter.com/Rl9wRlQZF5
— FredsMommy (@mom_freds) November 25, 2020
Meghan’s essay was not just about the heartbreak experienced by her and Prince Harry, but a wider comment on pain caused by division in the US.
It read as a call for unity and empathy following a year of tension of the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, deaths by police and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests – plus political polarisation as Donald Trump continues to make false claims about the election result.
“We are adjusting to a new normal where faces are concealed by masks, but it’s forcing us to look into one another’s eyes — sometimes filled with warmth, other times with tears. For the first time, in a long time, as human beings, we are really seeing one another.”
“Are we OK? We will be.”