In my twenties, I attended an academic conference devoted to the topic of motherhood. I had not yet become a parent, but I was fascinated by the subject matter. Each speaker shared their research on what life was really like for those raising kids, tackling a diverse range of topics, from a lack of affordable childcare to the relationships between parents and their adult children. It was at this conference that I learned a statistic I’d never heard: 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss. The math prompted a realization: Pregnancy and infant loss is extremely common, but a societal taboo meant no one I knew was talking about it.
There’s a conspiracy of silence surrounding pregnancy loss. After all, the social norm says a person should keep news of their pregnancy quiet throughout the first trimester. The first trimester also happens to be the time when the risk of miscarriage is highest. But who benefits from this secrecy? The custom suggests people who miscarry should suffer alone, as though sparing others from their pain is the polite and proper thing to do. All that isolation compounds the guilt and shame 41% of parents report feeling after such a loss, because we don’t realize how many others have similar stories. However, a new initiative from Toronto’s Sunnybrook’s Hospital wants to normalize talking about pregnancy loss.
Sunnybrook’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network (PAIL Network) supports parents who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss, guiding them through the bereavement process. Now, PAIL is introducing #UnsilenceTheConversation, a new initiative aimed at starting a dialogue around pregnancy loss. Available on its website, the campaign features two free and easy to use tools designed to start dialogue on this topic.
One of the tools is the The Baby Ad Opt-Out, created to spare bereaved parents from seeing triggering images. The browser plugin educates users about the steps they can take to shield themselves from ads that might be triggering. We all know our search histories inform which ads we are shown, and that means a grieving parent could see ads for baby products for up to 540 days.
The second tool is called “The Unbirth Announcement,” a beautiful video that can be downloaded and shared on social media. It is designed to share the news of a pregnancy loss for those who are having difficulty finding their own words.
“Through a unique and innovative set of online tools, we hope to normalize the conversation for all and create a true sense of community and support,” says Michelle La Fontaine, Program Manager, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network at Sunnybrook.
Pregnancy loss is always sad, but it need not be isolating. For more information, visit the Unsilence The Conversation website.