Today's newsletter will probably be one of the most vulnerable and difficult newsletters for me to write. I know I have said that on several occasions, but seriously, this is a hard topic to write about. So hard that I have put it off for a few years. However, something in my soul will not rest until I talk about this on a deeper level. This is something my community needs to read, and it is something those of you working with my community need to read. I was not sure where to start when I decided to write this newsletter, so I decided to simply write. Not because I don't want to have structure, but because this is a topic that is not structured. Miscarriages don't fit nicely in a box and they don't make sense. Because of that, I felt there was no point in me writing like that today.
Today, I will probably be more raw and unapologetic than I have ever been, and this will also be a pretty lengthy newsletter. But I think the combination of rawness and length is needed with such a heavy topic. I want you to try your best to sit through the reading this month, because it will be difficult at points, but please try and really take in what I am saying. Don't take it in for me and my experience, rather take it in for the many Black women who you may encounter on a daily basis who've experienced this. And truth be told, while I am focusing on Black women today, let's not forget that this is an issue affecting all women. So please remember those women as well. This topic is near and dear to my heart and I want to bring awareness to something that is so taboo to talk about in society, but a particularly taboo discussion in the African-American community. So let's jump right in.
Did you know that African-American women are 2 times more likely to have a miscarriage, still birth, or infant death than our White counterparts? Did you know that socioeconomic status doesn't influence these results? Actually, there is not a clear reason as to what makes Black women experience miscarriages more often than White women, but it is a known and researched fact that we do. The sad thing is that these results most likely add to the already higher results of depression and anxiety we experience as Black women.
As if depression and anxiety aren't enough to deal with, adding the loss of a child into the mix makes things much more difficult for the Black woman. It doesn't matter if you were 2 weeks pregnant or if your child was 20 years old, losing a child is traumatic regardless of that child's age. I will never forget my traumatic experience of losing my 2nd pregnancy in a row. The trauma hit me hard as I cried in the arms of my OBGyn. I didn't understand what she meant by a "missed pregnancy" but I knew that it wouldn't result in a baby. . . again. The blessing in that moment of my traumatic experience was that my OBGyn is a highly respected African-American doctor. I point that out because I don't know if I would have received the same level of love and support in that moment if my doctor wasn't a Black woman.
The hug my doctor gave me was authentic and heart felt. It was not done because it was "culturally appropriate" and what I "needed." She hugged me because she truly felt my pain and truly cared about me as a person, not a chart. Because of her care, I was able to have my feelings in that moment before I headed out to society putting on my "strong Black woman" face. Her holding me and allowing me to cry, gave me the gumption to see the one client that day who I didn't have time to cancel. Her holding me gave me the strength to call my clients and cancel my sessions for the next 2 weeks, without breaking down and needing my clients to take care of me. Why am I sharing this story?
#1 - Because Black women need to be held after experiencing a miscarriage.
We may say we don't, we may even push you away. But we need to be held during this time of loss. And not just in the initial moments and days after losing a baby, we need to be held weeks, months, and even years after our loss. There were several times my husband just held me because he knew I was angry, hopeless, and down right sad at the fact that I was not a mother. When others hold our experiences as Black women, it makes a world of difference. And keep in mind, holding doesn't always mean a physical hold. Sometimes Black women need to be held emotionally. Our emotions may not be pretty all the time. Our emotions may be loud, bold, or even a quiet storm waiting to unleash. But our emotions are true to us however they show up, so make sure to hold the Black woman in your life whose experienced pregnancy loss, it matters to her.
I had several family and friends hold me during my journey to parenthood. They asked me how I was doing repeatedly, and regardless of my response, there was no judgement. When I avoided the conversation, or brushed off my true feelings of being on the heals of miscarriage number two I wasn't judged. My loved ones continued being judgement free when I randomly cried about other "stressors" in my life, or if I became moody and withdrawn from them. It didn't matter how I showed up, my family and friends held me emotionally. . . For a loooonnnnngggggg time.
This was important to me, because if God hadn't placed those people in my life to hold me, I'm quiet sure I would have had a complete breakdown. But because I was held and allowed the space to grieve in my own way, I not only avoided a break down, I found the courage to talk about something that is so taboo. And although it's still really hard to talk about my miscarriages, I do so because of the responses I get when I do open up.
So many women have shared that they have experienced multiple miscarriages and how alone they felt during the process. Regardless if they had a husband (or partner) and family that were in their corner, they still felt hopeless and alone because this is something no one can understand unless they have been through it. Many women expressed confusion as to why no one talks about it, although it is so common. Keep in mind that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, that may not seem like a lot, but it is. Think about it, if a woman has 3 kids the odds are very strong that she may have had at least one miscarriage.
Almost every woman I talked to about my experience had also experienced a miscarriage. And every woman I talked to knew at least one woman who had a miscarriage! This baffled me, I became angry knowing that so many women suffered in silence and I decided I would no longer keep my mouth shut about this. But what baffled me even more was how Black women respond to miscarriage, rather they experienced one or were supporting me through my experience. It was the lack of staying with the feelings around pregnancy loss that blew my mind. I was often told to "keep going" and instructed to believe that things will happen in "due time." Now this is not a knock to the Black women who supported me, not even a little bit, because there were times I needed to have that mentality while I grieved. However, staying in that mentality is where it can become dangerous real quick.
As Black women we hold our feelings so close to our heart we almost seem cold hearted, because we don't share with people what has happened to us, so people don't know. Just like I mentioned in my May newsletter, Black women have fallen into the myth that we have to "keep it together." But like I said in May, and I will say again, there is danger in this mentality. Danger in the mentality to "keep moving" or "in due time" or to "press through." Again, this isn't a diss to these phrases, they can be helpful sometimes. This is more so a call to pay attention to the fact that these phrases may end up being unhelpful. These phrases may promote the internalization and stuffing down of our feelings, because ultimately "it will happen one day" right? Or if we just keep our head up and not focus on the loss too much we will be okay right? Wrong! When we don't allow ourselves to sit with our feelings and to share those feelings associated with miscarriage, we become isolated. And isolation turns into hopelessness. And hopelessness turns into depression. If you don't remember anything else from this newsletter, please remember this:
#2 - Experiencing a miscarriage is not a "keep it together" situation.
Black women I repeat, MISCARRIAGE IS NOT A KEEP IT TOGETHER SITUATION!!! I remember moving through life feeling like I had made it through the loss of two pregnancies, or at least accepted these loses. However, the moment I thought I had reached a point of acceptance, I experienced my 3rd miscarriage in a row. On the outside I "kept it together" (so I thought), but internally I fell into this place of hopelessness, anger, hope, excitement, fear, and the cycle of feelings repeated themselves again and again.
I didn't want to share in the hope my husband, family, and friends had for me to be able to conceive and eventually be a mother. I would simply nod my head in agreement with them, pretending I shared in their hope, but silently I had given up. My spirit was broken and I was unsure how I would internally bounce back from this, because remember I'm keeping it together right? WRONG!!!
There was a point in which I couldn't find comfort from anyone else but God. This is not to try and turn anyone in a religious direction, it is to share my story in hopes to help you understand how most Black women cope. Most of the time, a Black woman will turn to God when she is completely lost. And that's what I did. HE was the only one who could hold me when I was too fragile to be held by others. HE listened to my many cries when I was tormented by seeing a mother with a new baby, or finding out another friend or family member was pregnant. God held me when I felt that my soul was slowly being chewed away. BUT GOD, with time my soul began to heal when I found the Association of Black Psychologist. Although this was more of a group geared towards academic and clinical growth, I truly believe that this was literally a God send to my healing and pregnancy loss.
Now you may be thinking: What is going on Narissa? You are on a tangent that has nothing to do with miscarriage. Please get to the point! But I promise you I am not, and if you hang with me a bit longer, you will see how this all connects. And maybe, just maybe, you will be able to find healing in your own struggle with miscarriage or find a way to encourage a Black woman (or any woman) who has experienced a miscarriage. So I say again, stick with me, there is a point.
If you remember, last year I wrote a newsletter entitled "The Beauty of Black Psychology." And THAT is where I went off on a tangent. I wrote about Black psychology, but I really didn't. I was very protective of it and didn't want to share what the Association of Black Psychology meant to me. . . Until now. You see, I found Black Psychology at the very beginning of my 3rd pregnancy, I then loss that pregnancy, ended up attending a very moving conference, and ended up pregnant with my current blessing of joy.
It was during the attending of Black Psychology events where my soul found refreshment. My husband calls it being surrounded by people that are strongly tapped into the African spirit. I call it being around my people, which is deeply healing and cleansing to the soul. Whatever we decide to call it, there is no denying that being a part of this group has been deeply healing.
#3 - And deep healing is what is needed when a Black woman experiences a miscarriage
We need different forms of expression. We don't always need to talk. Sometimes we just need to be in the presence of like-minded people. In the presence of peace and positive energy. We sometimes need to be in the presence of people who express things cathartically. This is what Black psychology did for me during my loss and healing. I have so many memories of how Black psychology touched my soul and helped me heal, but one sticks out more than others.
I will never forget a particular man, who had a quiet but strong spirit. He was a drummer, occasionally playing an African drum at some of the events. There was something peculiarly interesting about this Drummer, it scared me in a way. You see, the first time we attended Black psychology, at the end of the event the Drummer said that he sensed someone was pregnant, that "a mother is in the room." This freaked me out because my husband and I didn't know anyone at Black psychology. The fact that he sensed this freaked me out, and from that point I was leery to the man. But little did I know that this Drummer, a man whose name I will never know, would be the key to my healing months later.
My husband and I were at the end of our first Black Psychology conference. It was 3 days of pure bliss, being engulfed in Africanness and Black Excellence. We had never experienced anything like this. Being on this emotional high, we saw the Drummer throughout the event. My husband talked with him, and I slightly avoided him. Later that night, my husband began to encourage me. Pushing my outside of my comfort zone, he began to express what he felt was important for our healing through the loss of three pregnancies.
"We should tell him what happened," My husband encouraged "he's really connected to the spirit."
"I don't know," I said as I pondered on sharing this vulnerable moment with a stranger, "he creeps me out a bit." I protested.
"He's a wise man, he's tapped in with the spirit." My husband continued.
As we stood in the lobby trying to make a decision, we both admitted that we secretly hoped the Drummer would come down the escalator, and almost in that moment the decision was made for us. There he was, the Drummer who I felt nervous around, the Drummer who was a stranger, but not really a stranger. He wasn't a stranger because he was part of our Black psychology group. But more importantly, he wasn't a stranger because in that moment he became part of the healing my husband and I needed.
My husband shared with the Drummer how months prior he sensed my pregnancy. My husband also had the strength, which I did not have in the moment, to share that the pregnancy ended in our 3rd miscarriage. When my husband shared this story with the Drummer, letting him know that his intuition ran deep, the words the Drummer said back to us will always penetrate my soul in a deep and profound way. The Drummer encouraged us to continue trying to have a baby and to not give up, the man said the following:
"Go to the river" he said "not the ocean, because nothing ever grows at the ocean. But everything grows at the river."
That stuck with me because it is so true. When you think about it, there is no life at the ocean, just the beach or rocks. But at the river, there you are surrounded by endless forms of life. But it wasn't just this analogy that stuck with me. It was the peacefulness in the way the message was delivered. It was the peace that was being offered. The healing being offered. Because regardless of what outcome my husband and I had regarding becoming parents, being told to go to a place where life exist is healing in and of itself.
And that's what my husband and I did, we healed. But more importantly, that's what I did. I healed and found true solace in the fact that the miscarriages I had experienced were my story and my truth. I was able to get to that place because I had been being held, I allowed myself to have my honest feelings, and I did some deep healing work.
So as I intentionally hit send on this newsletter, a few minutes after 6:20pm, it marks nearly the exact time my daughter was born 4 months ago to this date. Hitting send also marks the feelings I have of fear, sadness, but also hope. Fear that I have said too much and that my newsletter is too vulnerable, too long, and too scattered. Sadness that I dug these feelings back up, and also the pain that might be brought up for a woman who has experienced pregnancy loss. But I also feel hope that this newsletter will help someone who reads it.
I pray that my told story will help you think of the many untold stories of pregnancy loss. And if you are reading this, and still waiting on your blessing, I will not say that you will get your blessing because the sad truth is that you may not. But I will say that regardless of your outcome, you can make it through, because you will get through this. Until August. . .