Words can be tricky, in panels

Before I got stuck into writing my graphic memoir, I did a few one-off pages exploring ideas from the story to help get me started. I’m interested in euphemisms and phrases regarding miscarriage and their possible impact.

The word ‘miscarriage’ is already a euphemism or sorts – a lay-term for the medical ‘spontaneous abortion’. I find the word ‘miscarriage’ fairly acceptable although it does have a ‘whoops’ quality to it, as if one had carried something carelessly and dropped it!

Words probably affect people in different ways depending on their personality, life experience and background. For someone who has high expectations of themselves, or who has been trying to conceive for a long time, the term ‘failed pregnancy’ might seem calculating or too reminiscent of exam results!

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The term ‘lost a baby’ (verb) causes problems because it could seem blaming, although the idea of ‘loss’ (noun) as something one feels after a miscarriage is more fitting. Any suggestion of blame is best avoided when talking about miscarriage – it’s all too easy for a woman to search for reasons among things she has supposedly done wrong. It’s rarely the case (or so I was told) that it’s the woman’s fault.

I hope to do more work around this based on further inadvisable things to say to a woman who has had a miscarriage:

  • not meant to be (or any mention of fate)
  • just a cluster of cells
  • it was only early
  • maybe you subconsciously caused your miscarriage

Perhaps I’m just being pedantic or oversensitive here, but some seemingly benign words can sting if used in certain contexts; therefore they need to be chosen carefully. I found this quote on the internet:

“The language we use to communicate with one another is like a knife. In the hands of a careful and skilled surgeon, a knife can work to do great good. But in the hands of a careless or ignorant person, a knife can cause great harm. Exactly as it is with our words.”
Source Unknown

The images used here are collected in my self-published comic, X Utero, available here in my shop, or from Orbital Comics, London.