Vicki Renz talks to workingmums.co.uk about the taboos still surrounding miscarriage and how she is trying to provide support to women like her.
More than one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage, according to the Miscarriage Association who say there are probably around a quarter of a million miscarriages in the UK each year. Most happen in the first three months of pregnancy – but they can happen up to the 24th week. Many women – and men – don’t talk about them. More and more employers are enabling employees to set up networks and forums at work to support them through miscarriage, IVF and other reproductive challenges. A webinar by the Workplace Fertility Community yesterday heard from those running such networks about how to set them up. You can read about this later this week. But before tackling the problem at work, employees need to feel comfortable to talk about their experiences.
Vicki Renz, founder of Oh My Mama Body, a platform supporting pregnancy, postpartum and miscarriage topics who has herself suffered five miscarriages, says half of women she has surveyed say they prefer not to mention their miscarriage and all say that the words (or lack of words) of others can do a lot of damage. Vicki has just published a book of poems, Healing After Miscarriage, for those who can’t find the words for the situation. She has also recorded two episodes of the Trying Again podcast and has created an online course and coaching programme for women who have experienced miscarriage. Here she talks about the support she offers and about how the taboo around miscarriage needs to be broken.
workingmums.co.uk: When did you set up On My Mama Body and what are its aims?
Vicki Renz: I set up Oh My Mama Body in late 2019 with the aim of supporting women with pregnancy questions and fertility challenges based on my personal experiences. I initially set up a blogging website to cover each topic. My YouTube channel launched in December 2019 and has turned into a fantastic platform for reaching women and answering their questions. Oh My Mama Body has grown into a platform offering coaching for healing after miscarriage and a community for pregnant women with webinars and live support from midwives.
wms: Why do you think miscarriage is still such a taboo subject given so many women experience it?
VR: I believe miscarriage is taboo because women (and men) feel incredibly ashamed and blame themselves for their loss. Many women feel like they are not worthy enough to be a mother or that they are not fulfilling their role as a wife, causing them to hold silence. It remains a norm in our society to only announce a pregnancy after three months because after the first trimester a pregnancy is deemed “safe”. Thousands of women suffering miscarriage before 12 weeks therefore haven’t talked about it and their loss is kept hushed up.
Furthermore, speaking up about miscarriage often leads to insensitive words of others which is even more distressing, resulting in women deciding to not speak about their miscarriage further. We only need to look at the backlash received by Chrissy Teigen and Meghan Markle to understand why so many women prefer to keep quiet.
wms: How can we generate a wider discussion about it so that people generally understand it more and have more empathy?
VR: There is so much that can be done to create a wider discussion. Getting miscarriage talked about regularly in women’s wellbeing magazines, family magazines and websites, radio programmes and television documentaries. The more coverage miscarriage receives, the more it will be seen and this will help so many women and families to feel that they can talk about their experiences more without feeling scared, judged or others feeling awkward and not knowing what to say.
Society needs educating about miscarriage right from a young age. Miscarriage needs to be talked about in schools when learning about sex education. The earlier we learn that the road to having children may have lots of ups and downs, the more acceptable it will be (this also applies to Polycystic ovary syndrome and infertility treatment).
The more public figures going through miscarriage speak out, the more they are being a voice for hundreds of thousands of women suffering alone. Is there a card available on the shelf in your local news agency offering consolation after miscarriage? These can be found if you know where to look on etsy, for example, so let’s get these cards into the regular assortment on the shelves. It should be normalised to recognise miscarriage by giving a card or a gift.
wms: How has Covid impacted women who are suffering from miscarriage? Has the social isolation made things worse? Have fears of going to hospital put women more at risk?
VR: Covid has had a huge impact on mental health in general. Where women have contacted me because they are feeling pains, cramping or are bleeding, I have advised them to consult their doctor or go straight to hospital. Hospitals have been incredibly supportive of women experiencing miscarriage (from the experiences I hear about) and there have been no delays in admitting them. However, it is worrying when women look for answers on the internet first instead of contacting a medical expert immediately, which could be putting them more at risk.
wms: What is next for your podcasts and how are they being received?
VR: I am really excited to be recording for the Love and Loss podcast at the moment. Talking about my miscarriages and the healing techniques that have helped me to grow and feel whole again after loss.
Additionally we are recording a special episode around my Healing After Miscarriage book of poems which is a healing channel in its own way, created to give that special gift of empathy when it is needed the most.
I recently recorded for the Trying Again podcast where we recorded a healing meditation to help women to really fill up their cup when they are feeling low. The podcast was replayed by Podbean during their Wellness Week end November 2020.
I really love the collaborations that continue to grow between many very passionate women who are working to release the taboo around miscarriage.
wms: Why a poetry book?
VR: I find poetry nourishing for the soul. It is a healing outlet. I have always enjoyed writing and expressing feelings through poetry touches the heart. Finding the perfect illustrator who really understood the depth of feeling and emotion in my words has really helped to ensure my book is well-rounded.
wms: Did you get any external support after your miscarriages or did you have to create the support you needed?
VR: After two counselling sessions I realised that it wasn’t working for me. Counselling seemed like a cold set of questions from someone who had not experienced miscarriage and therefore could not empathise.
I found the support I needed through energetic healing methods such as Reiki, Theta and Shamanic healing. I studied authors from Hay House and worked in-depth, learning an array of techniques concentrating on body, mind and soul healing.
The powerful combination of techniques helped me to grow and feel empowered again, something that every woman deserves to feel.
I am passionate about helping other women to grow and feel whole again, so much so that I created my own healing courses. I offer an online self-study healing course and a one-to-one deep healing programme. Women coming to me work through their emotions and it is a joy to be part of their transformation to finding their wholeness again.
wms: How much do you think women sharing their stories helps, acknowledging what has happened and what it meant for them?
VR: Women sharing their stories is a crucial part of healing after miscarriage. Talking heals. Talking with others and sharing heals. It is so important for women to feel safe and able to find others with whom they can share. I have created a private Facebook group “Healing After Miscarriage Group” as a place for women to share.