Miscarriage comics – talking about it

Last week, The Miscarriage Association began a campaign – It’s time to talk about miscarriage. Of course, not everyone wants to talk about it and that’s fine – either they find it too difficult or prefer to keep that part of their lives private. However, the taboos surrounding miscarriage mean that many women who do want to be open about it feel that they can’t. Perhaps they are afraid of upsetting others or making people feel uncomfortable. This further compounds their isolation and grief.

I’ve been making comics on the subject for a couple of years now, based on my own experiences of repeated unexplained early miscarriage. I also wrote a post about the language and euphemisms used to refer to miscarriage. As well as a natural urge to express myself through creativity, my hope has been to express something that others can’t, and to help break taboos. Comics can do this because pictures replace the need for words which are hard to say – or it seems that the symbiosis of words and pictures can speak louder than words alone and the impact is more immediate. And perhaps this could help in breaking the silence surrounding miscarriage. Here is most of the work I’ve done on the subject so far:

Or does it have a positive affect? I’m not sure. The response to sharing this work has been varied: From supportive other creatives doing similar to befuddled relatives telling me I just need to ‘get counselling’. The funniest response was at Comica Comiket last autumn when a guy did a double-take at my comic Spooky Womb: he pointed at it, looked at me, pulled a ‘scary’ face, then ran away! I guess he wasn’t ready to come face to face with anthropomorphic female reproductive parts at a comics fair. Poor chap!

It has been very connecting in that women I barely know have spoken to me about their own experiences of miscarriage and not having children. Not that I’m offering myself as a comics creator-counsellor by any means – not equipped! But I appreciated these connections.

However, I often worry about offending people who’d probably rather not know or upsetting others who’ve had similar experiences. Of course this reflects some of the reasons women in general don’t/ can’t talk about it. In fact, I’ve read articles about comics mentioning that comics should be all about cheering people up and the lighter side of life. But a couple of years ago I was excited to find that there’s a whole website about the intersection of comics and medicine/ illness (Graphic Medicine) where it’s accepted that comics can play an important role in empathy, understanding and education. Hello! I thought.

I’ve started writing warning messages on posts recently. But perhaps that’s me pandering to the taboo – just another way to steer it off the radar. Though I feel it’s mainly out of respect. I’ve discussed these issues with Mita Mahato and Katie Green recently (comics creators also sharing emotive work). On conclusion, I’m inclined to think that people have a choice as to whether or not they look, and this recent campaign by The Miscarriage Association has given me cause to believe that perhaps it’s OK. After all – not all my social networking updates are about this subject – there’s a peppering of other interests too – music, wildlife, politics, goats shouting like humans etc.

Here’s an interesting post by artist Lily Mae Martin, about sharing intimate, honest and often difficult details of her life as a mother. I met Lily when she spoke about her work at Laydeez do Comics.

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18 thoughts on “Miscarriage comics – talking about it

  1. I think it’s important that people who can talk about taboo subjects such as this do talk about it…and there will be those who silently watch/listen/read who gain some comfort/knowledge. Maybe they’re not ready to talk yet (or ever) but I think it helps…it’s all part of the human experience, why shouldn’t you talk about it?

    • Thanks Sasha. Yes maybe it helps to put not-so-nice human experiences out there so that others who’ve had the same not-so-nice thing happen can feel they are not alone. I certainly don’t think that people should feel pressured to talk about it though. I’ve been on that side of the coin too!

  2. I agree it’s important to talk about miscarriages as women haven’t done anything wrong, in life sometimes things just happen. I also think it’s important to talk to our children about things like this so that it will become less of a taboo subject and in the coming years people will feel comfortable about sitting down and talking about it. I recently spoke to two of mine about miscarriages (9 & 6) as it had come up in the news, they were asking questions so I answered them as honestly as I could in a way that would not scare them. They listened and now understand that as cruel as it is, it is part of life. Of course I understand that it is painful (having had one myself) and I respect people’s right to not want to talk about it as well.

    • I think there used to be a lot more blame going around in the ‘olden days’ – although there still is some out there – maybe historically that has put women off talking about it. I don’t have children but I imagine it’s important to discuss with them – and I have friends who have spoken to their children about it. It’s hard to grasp – I can vaguely remember a hushed conversation my parents had when I was a child in the 70s – about a friend ‘losing a baby’. It made it seem very grave and mysterious – something you speak about in whispers and I had no idea what they meant by ‘lose’. Thanks for comment.

    • Thanks Audrey – and sorry to hear you’re having trouble. And glad this helps a little bit. I’ve got a lot more drawing to do – about one third of a book, in fact! But after that I imagine I might give myself a break and draw some other things. Maybe… x

  3. The message in your words and images are always so incisive and honest. Keep talking about it. And keep talking about the difficulties encountered in talking about it. x

  4. Goodness, your work is wonderful. Thank you for the art and for sharing it here.

    I have not had a miscarriage. I have held a lot of hands, though. It’s a terribly difficult thing, made worse by the culture of secrecy. My small contribution has been to chip away at the cultural norm here (in New Zealand) that you don’t announce a pregnancy until after the first trimester, ‘in case’. It means, of course, that just when you most need support, you don’t have it, because no one knows.

    All the very best with publication.

  5. Have written and deleted this post too many times. I have had lots of miscarriages and can honestly say there is no right or wrong thing to say to a woman in that situation I went through a million different emotions each time. Your cartoons are so beautifully accurate especially “It wasn’t meant to be”.

  6. I am so sadly excited to find you, Paula. Your comics are beautiful and razor sharp. I hope you are doing well, and I’m looking forward to following along / reading about your journey. Thank you times a million for sharing. I’m so sorry that you have such difficult things to share.

    • Thanks for your comment – really appreciate it – and also sorry to read about your difficult things to share, too. Expressing things creatively some way seems to help just a little.

  7. HI,
    I found your work in a small comic shop in London and what got my attention was the subject you reflect in your comics. I think women (and men) need artist like you. Another friend and me have realised how difficult is, for women who haven´t had any problems having children, to understand the difficulties to conceive a baby. And also how delicate is to bring this subject up. We usually try to hide it.
    Sorry for my spelling and grammar mistakes! I am Spanish and I am still dealing with English language :-)

    • Hi,
      Thanks for commenting and glad you found the comic – I’m guessing that was Orbital. It certainly is a delicate subject – that’s why I’m trying to draw about it – sometimes things like that are better said in pictures, which help to depict the unsayable, I guess!
      And don’t worry – your English is totally understandable :-)

      Thank you.

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