Why These Moms Decided To Share Their Pregnancy Losses On Social Media
“It is with great sadness and heartache that we have said goodbye to our little baby.” Raw with grief, Melanie Black posted these painful words to her Facebook page last December.
The 33 year old had just returned home from an emergency ultrasound and the devastating moment when the technician confirmed Black’s baby no longer had a heartbeat. She had miscarried at 10 weeks.
“I bawled. It’s just so tough,” says Black, who had struggled to get pregnant for five years. “When you want something so badly… and then to have that taken away.”
But the couple wasn’t sure what to expect after sharing the news of Black’s miscarriage. Social media streams are flooded with carefully filtered highlight reels of people’s lives—not a devastating revelation still shrouded by stigma. Steve was hesitant to post about their loss, but Black felt they had to since they’d already made their pregnancy announcement.
“There’s nothing to hide,” she reassured him. “It’s common to have miscarriages, unfortunately.”
And she’s right. According to The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, 15 to 20 per cent of pregnancies end in miscarriage—most often in the first eight weeks. (The risk of stillbirth, which is pregnancy loss after 20 weeks, is much lower.)
“Why wait? Yeah, 12 weeks might mean you’re over that first hump. To me, that doesn’t matter,” says Black of the tradition to share pregnancy news only after the first trimester. “When you’re carrying a child, you’re carrying a child.”
The doctor also discussed options with Cho and her husband, one being termination. They opted to have more tests and to meet with genetic counsellors instead. While the diagnosis didn’t change, they decided not to end the pregnancy. “We firmly made the choice that for who we were that we would continue with the pregnancy and let Zachary decide when his body no longer could go on,” says Cho.
She also didn’t want to face people’s judgment around choosing not to terminate. “Things like questioning whether we really understood his condition,” she says, “or whether we were ‘crazy’ Christians who lived with our heads buried in the ground.”
Nearly four months later, Cho was 39 weeks along when she gave birth to her baby boy. “He was so angelically cute,” remembers Cho of the moment she met her son, who weighed 5.5 pounds. “I couldn’t stop kissing him and telling him how much I loved him and thanking God for his life.”
By its very name, social media is about connecting through digital interactions. We often judge how well our posts resonate with our network by the number of “likes” or comments they attract. But when sharing deeply personal information, like a stillbirth or miscarriage, not all of the interactions are helpful.
In her role at PAIL, La Fontaine—who herself lost twins at 24 weeks—works with families who receive some incredibly painful messages in response to revealing a pregnancy loss. With the best of intentions, someone might comment: “everything happens for a reason,” or “something must have been wrong with the baby” or “be grateful for the child you have.”
Words like these feed into the shame parents can feel after a miscarriage or stillbirth: that they were unable to protect their child. They also dismiss the grief moms and dads could be experiencing.
“Imagine filling the room with 300 people and you giving a speech at the front,” says La Fontaine. “And now it’s question period and everyone can weigh in on what you’ve put out there.”
On the positive side, Black was comforted by her social network, especially the responses she received from people she least expected to hear from, such as her husband’s coworkers and her soccer teammates. Many revealed their own pregnancy losses, which helped Black stop blaming herself.
“It’s surprising to see ‘that happened to us’ and ‘we’re sorry, we’ve been there,’” remembers Black. “It’s just something people don’t talk about.”
La Fontaine tells families they can ignore messages they aren’t ready to respond to. They can also delete comments causing them unnecessary hurt. And if they need to take a break from social media in their time of grieving, that’s OK, too.
“If we’re blessed to conceive again… I would do it exactly the same way,” says Black of sharing their news on social media. “Knowing we have that support just makes it a little more okay and I know I’d get through it again, as tough as it would be, I wouldn’t have changed anything about it, other than not losing the baby. That I would have changed.”