Friday, February 22, 2008

Miscarriages are not tragedies, they are a hellish natural event

Photo by central
sadness at loss, miscarriage"LILY ALLEN LOSES BABY"

So shrieked The Sun this month at the distressing news the nation's number one ska-pop favourite had suffered a miscarriage. The reaction in my mind, as a woman who's had two miscarriages in the past two years, was three-fold.

One: Noooo! What a terrible shame, she probably had no idea this was even possible, at 22.

Two: Lily will be absolutely fine, she's 22.
And Three: Shame on you, The Sun "news"paper, for announcing to the planet that Lily was pregnant in the first place.

When the news arrived, on December 19 (her spokesman forced to confirm the pregnancy was at "a very, very early stage"), we can safely assume it wasn't Lily herself who made the call to their ever-throbbing showbiz bat-phone: "Alright mate, guess what?! I'm two months pregnant and I've only been going out with my boyfriend for three months but I'm all excited anyway and I just wanted you to be the first to know!"

There's a reason why you don't make a pregnancy official until you've passed the generally-accepted first three months all-clear and that's because finding out you're pregnant is not the same thing as "going to have a baby". And if you do have a miscarriage, which is staggeringly common, seeing the falling faces of your family and friends as they struggle to find words to console you is almost as harrowing as hearing the bad news in the first place.

Imagine, then, being Lily Allen, who not only had to tell her close friends and family but know the news of her miscarriage was now being reported across at least 24 separate countries worldwide (which it was), including the not-particularly ska-pop-fixated Azerbaijan. Until you become pregnant (which goes for dads too) you have no idea how little you know about being pregnant. Like walking through the back of a secret wardrobe, here's a kaleidoscopic new world of infinite possibilities, unbound joy and pan-dimensional terror.

Here, in this mysteriously hidden landscape, are millions and millions of other women doing exactly as you now are, grasping outwards for tendrils of information (mostly via websites) on just what the hell is suddenly going on; why you're so tired, what the repercussions of the wine-fuelled birthday party dance-floor knees-up the weekend before you knew you were pregnant might be and why has your chest gone all "Jordan" (the FF years) and you're only five weeks in?

Here, too, you learn a new and vital statistic - that one in four pregnancies will end in the inexplicable early miscarriage, anywhere up until week 12. One in four. Which means "the miracle of life" is a great deal more miraculous than any of us even know. And it also means the generally perceived "tragedy" of miscarriage is actually far more of a hellish natural phenomenon that everyone should be aware of and one we should be far less hysterical about and considerably more realistic.

And if we need the comfort of perspective, there's a million stories "out there" that almost defy belief. Glaswegian actress Claire Grogan suffered six miscarriages before adopting a baby two years ago. Former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis-Bextor, mother to several children, also endured 10 miscarriages in-between.

Judy from Richard n' Judy (a mother of four) had her first pregnancy with Richard end in early miscarriage and the second at five months, after which Judy endured the horror of having her dead baby induced. A friend of mine, meanwhile (before finally having a healthy baby girl last year), saw her first pregnancy end at six months (the baby had severe deformities) and the following year had a full-term pregnancy end in a second stillbirth.

These are the real tragedies, the real "losing the baby" experiences and those of us who've had an early miscarriage are not in the same position; we've never seen a child, heard a heartbeat, or giggled in the baby clothes section at the cut of a comedy bobble-hat.

What we've lost, in those early months, is the chance of having a child, a hope that has filled your every daydream for what suddenly seems an eternity, to the exclusion of everything else. And with that lost chance comes a paralysing emptiness, where everything else seems pointless, but the emptiness, eventually, begins to once again fill up with hope. You now know, for certain, you can become pregnant, where so many women can't, like another two friends who discovered their infertility in their late 30s and have both now adopted with inspirationally tremendous results.

For those who've been through the worst, too, it's a mighty testament to the strength of ordinary women that they live through these extraordinary traumas with far less display of weeping devastation than the heroic courage it takes to keep on trying for that highly elusive miracle.

The Sun, meanwhile, is following the fortunes of newly-named "Sad Lily" with its customary concern, reporting this week that rehearsals are now under way for her imminent chat-show, Lily Allen And Friends, "just days after her devastating miscarriage". The subtext being: "How dare she lift her head off the pillow! The heartless strumpet is probably back on the fags and booze and everything!"

And if she is, I heartily sympathise, as someone who twice walked out of a hospital distraught and twice went straight to the pub. Good luck to you, Lily Allen; you're 22 and you'll almost certainly be alright, still.


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