I’ve had an ectopic pregnancy and a miscarriage.
There I’ve said it. Pregnancy loss is something, which happens to a lot of women. It’s a taboo we need to break to be able to talk about it.
I finally feel comfortable talking about my pregnancy loss thanks to Don’t Talk About the Baby project. I came across the project and it’s creator – Ann Zamudio – on Twitter. I rarely click on film links, but the curiosity was irresistible. I am glad I did click and watch the short video of women talking about their loss. The project also made me realise how many women are touched by pregnancy loss – 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.
At the heart of the Don’t Talk About the Baby project are women’s stories of loss. Before I move on to Ann explaining more about the project I’d like to share my story.
I’ve had an ectopic pregnancy 4 years ago and I had one of my fallopian tubes removed. It sounds like a big experience, but because we were not planning a baby and I only realised I was pregnant a few days before I had ectopic pregnancy symptoms, this wasn’t a traumatic experience. We didn’t get to the stage of day dreaming what the life with baby would be like, we barely had enough time to register that I was pregnant. The surgery meant a month off work, but experience of pregnancy loss did not make me sad.
A couple of years after the ectopic pregnancy I gave birth to Little F. A healthy little boy. It was an easy pregnancy and we had no problems getting pregnant, something I was worried about because of losing one of he tubes.
Once Little F started reliably sleeping through the night, which wasn’t until he was about 1, we started thinking of a sibling for him. This time it wasn’t so easy to get pregnant. When I finally did have a positive test we were overjoyed. I started browsing my pregnancy books and think where have I stashed away baby clothes.
A week later, a couple of weeks before Christmas, I miscarried at 6 weeks. A chemical pregnancy they call it, as the embryo was too small to see on a scan and the pregnancy was only manifested through hormonal/chemical changes in the body.
This loss was more distressing than ectopic pregnancy, though there was no dramatic surgical procedures. It hurt because we wanted this baby. In the space of a short week I have thought about this baby a lot. I have planned. I have dreamt. And then it was all taken away from us. And of course the miscarriage altered my cycle for a few months, which meant it was difficult to try again. The delay was frustrating.
I didn’t feel like there is something wrong with me, that I failed as a woman. I knew that early miscarriages usually happen because there are chromosomal issues with the embryo, that it would not have been a healthy baby. But I was sad and I didn’t feel like I could talk about it with other women. Women who knew we were trying for another baby and who occasionally asked ‘how’s it going?’.
Being able to talk about it would’ve taken away part of the sadness, and made me feel like it’s a normal part of the journey to a healthy baby. Sharing my experiences, would’ve most likely meant hearing a similar story from other women.
INTERVIEW WITH ANN ZAMUDIO
Please, tell me a little about yourself.
My name is Ann and I’m an independent filmmaker just outside of Washington, DC. My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 7 weeks, which is when I became involved with online forums about pregnancy loss support. I saw that there was really a need for women to tell their stories, and since I’m a filmmaker, I wanted to do that in a really visual way, which led to the short film Baby Dance. It took us around a year to conceive our daughter, and that gave me just a small taste of what an infertility journey was like. I felt like there are so many stories in these communities that need to be told, and that’s what led to Don’t Talk About the Baby.
What is the DTATB project?
Don’t Talk About the Baby is the first feature length documentary to fully explore the culture of shame and silence surrounding pregnancy loss and infertility in a really comprehensive way. We’re going to be filming men and women and families telling their stories of loss and their journeys to build families in an effort to encourage others to be more open in their communities. It can’t be a taboo if we all start talking about it.
We’re taking it a step further, though. We’ll be interviewing doctors and specialists who can educate people on what pregnancy loss and infertility are, who it affects and really dispel some harmful myths out there. We’ll be hearing from therapists who will tell us how helpful it is to grieve and share our stories. We’ll also interview scholars who can shed some light on how we got to this point of discomfort as a society with discussing these issues.
Our goal is to shatter the taboo surrounding pregnancy loss and infertility, and we’re going to do that by thoroughly exploring how we got to this point. That’s the best way to see how we’re going to get away from it.
Why have you started it? What is the aim?
We started this project because there’s a very real need in our society to stop treating these topics like dirty secrets. Men and women who struggle through IVF treatments often feel isolated and embarrassed. Women who lose a pregnancy might blame themselves, or their friends and family might mistakenly place blame on them.
As a society, we often just don’t know what to say when these things happen. And that’s okay. It’s okay to not know, but we need to have something to show people to teach them how to be there for their loved ones.
How has your environment (family, friends) reacted when you said you wanted to create a documentary about pregnancy loss?
I’m very lucky to have an incredible support system in my life. Independent filmmaking is a constant battle of labor and love, and I don’t think I could do it without my family.
My husband shares my belief that these things shouldn’t be a secret, and that there needs to be a drastic societal shift in how we deal with these issues. I’m very lucky that he’s willing to talk with me at such length about these things!
It’s true that some of my friends think this is the only thing I think about, and to some degree that’s true since this is the project I’m focused on, but really no one has been anything but totally supportive.
We also have an amazing production team assembled and we’ve been able to accomplish some really great things so far.
How do you find women wanting to participate in your project?
This project is unique in that we’re basing our interviews solely on social media participation. Everyone who has found us so far has done so through organic social media reach, and to us that’s amazing.
Anyone can share their story through our website by writing their story or recording a video, and that’s one way that we’re adding voices to the project. We’re also choosing the people that we’ll interview for the film through these submissions.
Once we have a few women in one area of the country that we plan to interview, we’ll travel to their city to get their stories. While we’re there, we’ll hold a public filming event in each city to gather as many voices as possible for the project.
It’s so important to us that we send a clear message to the world– these issues affect so many more people than you think, and these are their stories.
We are currently in pre-production and, as is the case with most independent films, funding is the name of the game. The more funds we can raise, the more cities we can visit and the more stories we can add to the project. If we raise a small portion of our budget, we’ll only be able to visit a few cities. If we raise the whole thing (or gracious, even more!) we’ll be visiting many different places and even overseas. These issues don’t affect just one place or just one culture. We’d really like this to be as inclusive as possible.
What have you learnt from the project so far?
It’s been an incredibly humbling experience to have so many people trust us with their stories so far. These people aren’t writing in to talk about their lunch—they’re telling us about their lost children, the dreams they had that were ripped away and the hardest part of their lives. We do the best we can to treat each story and each loss with dignity and respect and compassion.
After reading so many stories, and being immersed in this world for so many years, I can say that I’ve learned a couple things. The first is that there is an undeniable need for most people to talk about their loss in their communities. It’s often a need that isn’t currently being met. Too many people say that they want to tell their stories, but they feel like they won’t be met with love or understanding.
Another thing that I’ve learned is that most people have the desire to turn their story into something good, and to help others. So many people have said that they hope their story can help someone else feel less alone, or feel like there’s hope at the end of the line. I’m constantly amazed at the selfless impulse of these people who are willing to bare their souls in the hope that it might help someone else.
Is there a recurring thing women tend to say to you when recalling their stories?
I’ve definitely seen a running theme through several of the stories that women were surprised when it first happened to them because they had no idea it was so common. A lot of women have this idea in their heads of who pregnancy loss affects and it often isn’t them.
This plays into the culture of misinformation out there concerning pregnancy loss and infertility. How many of us thought that we’d get pregnant immediately after we started trying? How many of us actually knew that one in four pregnancies ends in a loss? I know I didn’t.
I think a lot of women would have felt more prepared if they’d known the reality of the situation ahead of time.
What would you like to say to all the women who have experienced a pregnancy, but don’t have a baby to show for it?
No one knows your particular loss or your particular grief. No two losses are the same, but please reach out and connect with others who are going through something similar. There’s great power in knowing that you’re not alone in what you’re feeling, and it will definitely help you heal to talk about it to people who understand.
It’s time to tell our stories. It’s time to stand up and be brave and start talking about our babies or our journeys to have one.
I understand the lure of anonymity and the comfort of staying silent. I truly do know how much easier it is to keep these things private and deal with it on your own. But I also know that we are never going to bring about change if we keep our stories to ourselves. Each and every one of us needs to be a part of these conversations.
People need to know that it’s their sisters and mothers and bosses and teachers and friends who are losing babies and struggling to build families. They need to put a face to these hard topics, and know that it affects someone they love. If people knew how many of us are out there, they’d realize that it’s not some rare and unspeakable thing that happens. It’s common and it’s incredibly hard, but it’s something we all need to deal with together.
That’s how we’re going to bring about change.