The Duchess of Sussex has revealed her grief after suffering a miscarriage, in an article that speaks to loss and the importance of asking about others’ welfare in times of pandemic and polarisation.
Meghan shared the devastation that she and Prince Harry felt after she lost a baby in July and was admitted to hospital.
Writing in the New York Times, she described the moment, as she was changing the couple’s son Archie’s nappy at their home in Los Angeles, that she “dropped to the floor” in pain.
“I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child that I was losing my second,” she wrote. “Hours later, I lay in a hospital bed, holding my husband’s hand. I felt the clamminess of his palm and kissed his knuckles, wet from both our tears. Staring at the cold white walls, my eyes glazed over. I tried to imagine how we’d heal.”
She added that “watching her husband’s heart break as he tried to hold the shattered pieces of mine”, she realised that the only way to begin to heal “is to first ask: ‘Are you OK.’”
Addressing the stigma surrounding miscarriage, Meghan continued: “Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few.”
In the pain of their loss, the couple had discovered that “in a room of 100 women, 10 to 20 of them will have suffered from miscarriage,” she wrote. “Yet despite the staggering commonality of this pain, the conversation remains taboo, riddled with (unwarranted) shame, and perpetuating a cycle of solitary mourning.”
Those who had bravely shared their stories had given licence for others to do the same. It was important to ask other women how they were doing. “In being invited to share our pain, together we take the first steps toward healing,” she wrote.
She referred to her TV interview in South Africa, given when she was “exhausted” and breastfeeding and “trying to keep a brave face” in the public eye. The ITN journalist Tom Bradby asked if she was OK, and she answered him honestly, she recalled. “‘Thank you for asking,’ I said, ‘Not many people have asked if I’m OK.’”
Her off-the cuff remark, she said, “seemed to give people permission to speak their truth”. But it was not her answering honestly “that helped me most, it was the question itself”.
In the New York Times article, headlined “The Losses We Share – Perhaps the path to healing begins with three simple words: Are You OK?” she wrote that loss and pain had plagued many in 2020.
The world had become polarised – over facts, over science, “over whether an election has been lost or won”, she wrote. “That polarization, coupled with the social isolation required to fight this pandemic, has left us feeling more alone than ever.”
At Thanksgiving, with the pandemic separating many from their loved ones, “alone, sick, scared, divided and perhaps struggling to find something, anything, to be grateful for,” she wrote, “let us commit to asking others: ‘Are you OK?’”
The new normal, with masks concealing faces, was forcing people to look into each other’s eyes “sometimes filled with warmth, other times with tears”, she added. “For the first time, in a long time, as human beings, we are really seeing one another. Are we OK? We will be.”
Responding to Meghan’s article, Dr Christine Ekechi, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said miscarriage remained a taboo subject.
She said: “Sadly, early miscarriages are very common and they can be a devastating loss for parents and their families. Up to one in five women may experience a miscarriage in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
“In many circumstances, the reason for the miscarriage is unknown. We are improving our understanding of why miscarriages occur and who may be at risk, but the topic is still largely under-researched and the care for women and their partners under-resourced.
“Currently, many miscarriages cannot be prevented, however. A warning sign of miscarriage occurring may be bleeding and/or pain in early pregnancy. Pregnant women are advised to seek medical advice if they have any of these symptoms.
“Miscarriage remains a taboo subject, despite how common it is. It is important that we remove any stigma or shame surrounding this issue and adequately support families during this time.”
Zara Tindall, the daughter of the princess royal, and married to the former England rugby captain Mike Tindall, lost two babies to miscarriage before giving birth to the couple’s second daughter, Lena.
The first miscarriage occurred after the couple had publicly announced the pregnancy. She said she received so many letters saying “‘we’ve been through the same thing,’, which was incredible, it just showed how often it does happen,” she said in 2018. She also spoke about the effect on fathers, who felt helpless, saying “it’s hard for those guys, too”. It was a “horrible road”.
The Countess of Wessex spoke of her sadness at losing an unborn baby after having an ectopic pregnancy and collapsing at home in 2001. She and Prince Edward went on to have a daughter and a son.
At the time, Sophie, who required hospital treatment, said: “I’m obviously very sad – but it was just not meant to be. But there will be other chances.” Edward said at the time losing the baby in such a way “was about the most painful thing anyone can undergo”.