Why Minorities Who Experience Miscarriage Need Better Access to Mental Health Care
I have constantly harped on the need for mental health professionals to undertake training for minority cultures, or at the very least have an overview of how to best help. Based on my discussions with social workers, community psychiatric nurses and even psychologists, the current system has little to offer. I think this needs to change. It can be harmful when others don’t understand symptoms, making the chances of misdiagnosis higher.
I have found talk therapy to be helpful, but there are times when my psychologist says, “You have gone through a lot of emotional trauma,” and I just stare back at her blankly. What did she mean trauma? I hadn’t been in a terrible accident that damaged me physically, so I couldn’t understand what she was talking about. The more we talked about it, the more frustrated I got. I finally told her that unless we spoke about the symptoms, I would never understand what she meant.
In my myriad of stressors, my biggest was the loss of my first child and being told I’d never have children. To me, grieving and mourning are different. Grieving is the initial pain one feels. On the other hand, I think mourning is a longer process because you often must unpack the pain and remember.
Caleb, my son, would have been 23 years old this year — I miscarried a little under four months. I never spoke about it and bottled it up for over 20 years. Then, like a footballer who is suddenly side swept by an invisible opponent, I learned I couldn’t have children. I didn’t even get asked if that was OK — I had no choice.
I always wanted a little girl and had even started buying clothes, earrings and reading books of African princesses. It made me feel like I was burying another child. Lord knows I wept, the deep cries from the soul of a mother. I couldn’t take it anymore, I felt like my heart and every organ was being ripped out as the mourning continued.
Many people might not understand that even when a baby is growing, a mother is often unconsciously making plans for her baby. Who will be godmother? Where will he or she go to school? How can I set my child up for success? What will they look like? All that is lost to the imagination when the words “you cannot have children” were spoken to me. My dreams died!
The situation was not helped by the hallelujah chorus that told me to have more faith, as if faith is something that can be bought. Even worse were the friends and family who quietly whispered that society would never see me as whole and why didn’t I just adopt, as if I hadn’t thought of that. The rejection was horrible.
I miss Caleb a lot. I knew exactly what he would look like. I imagined him having the crinkled smile of his father and the quiet, wise and watchful brown eyes of his mother.
I think better mental health care would help others in my situation.
If you or a loved one is affected by infant loss, you can find grieving resources at The Grief Toolbox.
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