One of the few conversations I can pantomime fairly well here in Morocco goes something like, “How many children do you have? I have five. Mine are this and that many years. How old are yours? Mine are so and so and so and so. What are their names? ” When I first came to Morocco in 2002 I was surprised, the first few times, that women would include how many children they “lost.” It is still unclear to me if the women mean specifically stillborn and/or miscarriages. I have asked my Moroccan friend and she is not entirely sure either. It may vary from woman to woman. But each woman who has told me, has done so matter-of-factly, almost with a sense of not quite pride, but defiantly not the kind of near whispered remorseful tones in which we discuss these things in the US.
Americans generally do not discuss these things with near strangers. Many of us don’t even share the news of our pregnancy until we feel secure that it will “take” and still don’t readily discuss if it didn’t. There seem to be a societal taboo around talking about miscarriage, infant mortality and maybe even the loss of older children. When I was a teen a friend in my circle died and his mother actually lost friends during the first year of her bereavement. People just couldn’t “deal with her.” She ended up spending a lot of time with her son’s friends because we were able to openly grieve and accept each other’s bereavement.
And many, many women throughout the world experience miscarriage, yet it is still so taboo to talk about in the states that many women don’t even know that it has happened to them. I now know that I have had at least one early miscarriage, but at the time had no idea what that was. I have often wondered about the mothers who so easily shared their losses with me, why do they tell people? What is it in this culture that makes it so acceptable, even encouraged to discuss? I’m not sure, but in Islam it is believed that children or babies who have died may assist their parent(s) in their own path to paradise:
Anas Ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) quotes the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying, “If any Muslim has three children and they die prior to the age of puberty, Allah will cause him to enter Paradise on account of his being patient over them.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari) *read more here*
So, again, I’m not sure if these are almost like bragging rights, but I do know that when my fourth child was born I was thankful to have had several women so openly tell me about their losses. I prefer to homebirth my children and was very upset to have to have a cesarean. I went through a myriad of emotions, but the one thing that kept coming to the forefront of my mind was all the women I knew who had lost children and how I would, of course, do anything to prevent that as well as to prevent my own children from losing their mama. I am also thankful to those mamas who in someway have helped to expand my ability to view and discuss mamahood and womanhood.
I have five kids, plus two who I miscarried.