TIM HAMMOND MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSUMER AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER ASSISTING FOR RESOURCES
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR PERTH
WE SHOULD LIFT THE SHROUD OF SECRECY ON MISCARRIAGE
Dealing with unexpected events on a daily basis is part and parcel of life as a Federal MP. But those events went to a whole new level of unexpected when I received a text message from my wife Lindsay a couple of weeks ago when I was out at dinner in my electorate. Her text came with a photo. The photo was of two vertical lines. On a pregnancy test. The test revealed that she was pregnant with our third child (we already have two healthy little girls).
Except it isn’t our third child. It is actually our sixth child.
Upon receipt of the message, I raced home. We looked incredulously at the pregnancy test. Like about a thousand times. And then I went and bought a second test just to make sure it wasn’t a false reading.
It was wonderful news, but we weren’t emphatically jubilant. Because we had been here before. Five times before to be precise. And we lost three babies along the way. In between the blessing of our first daughter, and what felt like the miracle of our second daughter, we experienced three early miscarriages in a row.
Three times in a row we felt the excitement and joy of that positive test. Three times in a row we felt the nerves of the days and weeks in which Lindsay remained pregnant. And three times in a row we felt the sorrow, grief and loss - when her dreaded cramping came and we lost our babies in the first trimester. And we know that we were not alone in that grief, and by no means did we feel like ‘that couple’. But grief is grief, and loss is loss. And it always hurts. A lot. And we felt pretty lonely. And to the extent it was tough for me, I reckon it was a thousand times tougher for Lindsay.
And the statistics are stark – on a good day, one in four women will miscarry before twelve weeks, on a bad day, perhaps one in three. And we know that after twelve weeks, the odds get much, much better. The loss of a child is beyond awful, on any measure. But there is something about the shroud of secrecy surrounding miscarriage in the first trimester that I find troubling.
I understand and respect those who wish to keep their grief surrounding a miscarriage private. But what I don’t get is the fact that so many parents suffer such grief in secrecy, under the cover of some arbitrary non disclosure period of seeing out the first trimester.
The reality is that for a huge number of pregnant women and couples, they will suffer a heartbreaking loss. And for as long as we perpetuate a convention that the ‘right’ time for disclosure of pregnancy is at twelve weeks, thousands of women and couples face the prospect of having to endure the grief of miscarriage in an unnecessarily private way, creating an increased risk of loneliness, isolation and depression.
Perhaps it’s time to make being open about early miscarriage ok.
And I reckon it’s also time to make sure that women who have lost babies through miscarriage know that they are not alone.
Life as a Federal Member of Parliament seems to me to be a little bit like a FIFO job – it means being away from home much more than I would otherwise prefer. But being away from home is made much easier in the knowledge that even though we are only at the ten week mark, our family and friends know that Lindsay is pregnant, and she has all the support around her that we could possibly hope for - just in case something goes wrong.
If we are prepared to be more honest with ourselves and each other about what might hurt, and what might be really hard to do, then perhaps making our way through the grief and loss brought about by miscarriage becomes more bearable.
I’m hoping that we get to a point where women and couples feel as if they can publicly embrace the uncertainty of the first trimester – if they want to – in the knowledge that whatever happens, it will all be ok. Eventually.
This piece was first published in the West Australian on Thursday 30 March 2017.