Stories Of Pregnancy And Infant Loss Are Turned Into Poetry In Powerful Photos

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day is October 15.

Despite the fact that nearly one out of every four pregnancies results in loss, primarily due to chromosomal abnormalities and other such factors beyond the mother's control, our society has yet to normalize this truth. But for Jessica Zucker, Ph.D., fighting this stigma has become a years-long effort, as she launched the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign in 2014 to encourage women to share and discuss the emotional strain of their grief. Now, as part of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, Zucker has launched the latest chapter of her campaign, which addresses the lack of rites, rituals, and representation with regard to these personal tragedies in order to "eschew the antiquated silence" and "memorialize our experiences."

For this installment, Zucker partnered with Skin On Sundays. Jessica Lakritz, creator of the physiopoetry project, reached out to Zucker after randomly discovering the #IHadAMiscarriage Instagram account. Lakritz was both moved and shocked by the stories these women had to tell and, because she often gravitates toward topics that are hard to talk about and that society silences, she knew her art could bring these women's loss to light in a poignant way that adequate reflects their sadness.

"In the visual society we live in, I wanted to find a way for poetry to reach more people, as it is such a meaningful art to me and I want to share it," Lakritz told A Plus as she explained her creative process. "Dr. Zucker found women who wanted to participate in this ritualization of their loss. They each told me their heart-wrenching story that so often left me sobbing. From that, I crafted poems based on their individual experiences of pregnancy loss."

"Dr. Zucker turns silence into storytelling when it comes to pregnancy loss, helping to provide a world that does not stigmatize it. The art I do, and art in general, often has a similar purpose, expressing what is inside, making emotions visible," the poet added. "The message is one of creating empathy in that talking about pregnancy loss — as opposed to hiding it, as opposed to letting society silence women who go through it, effectively minimizing their trauma — will help more people understand how to talk about it." 

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Jessica Lakritz / Skin on Sundays
Jessica Lakritz / Skin on Sundays

As Zucker told A Plus, for this chapter of the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign, she wanted to bring a group of women together to create and represent the very thing culture lacks: rites, rituals, and representation surrounding pregnancy and infant loss. 

"The way we honor, for example, the loss of a parent or grandparent, we are well-versed in this culturally. Reflexively, we know what to do for our loved ones, whether that's sending a card or food, attending a funeral, providing support," Zucker explained. "But when it comes to the loss of an imagined family, there's nothing tangible that we can turn to, no standardized rituals to rely on amidst the mourning process. There isn't anything in place that honors the would-be mother that creates healing or facilitates closure. I continue to yearn for ritual and this is, in part, why this year I attempted to create it for the women who participated in my campaign and for myself."

"The point was that in representing our stories of heartbreak and hope we galvanize community while squashing the silence and stigma associated with this topic. There should be no shame in pregnancy and infant loss and the sooner women feel free to share in whatever way they choose, the sooner we will shift the cultural attitudes and prevailing conversation," she added. 

Jessica Lakritz / Skin on Sundays
Jessica Lakritz / Skin on Sundays

While the Los Angeles-based psychologist specialized in women's reproductive and maternal mental health for years prior to launching the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign, she was especially motivated to defy and destroy the stigma of these tragedies once she experienced her own second-trimester miscarriage. 'If this many pregnancies end,' she asked herself, 'why would women feel inclined to think they did something wrong, rather than viewing this as a natural (albeit incredibly sad) part of the pregnancy process?'

"After my 16-week miscarriage, I became that much more interested in the recent research which has found that a majority of women report experiencing feelings of shame, self-blame and guilt following pregnancy loss," Zucker noted. "Patients had reported these feelings during our sessions together, but after undergoing this profound loss myself, I became incensed by these unfortunate research findings. Why do women feel so alone, isolated, and badly about themselves when the science clearly states that pregnancy loss is not a fault of their own?"

Jessica Lakritz / Skin on Sundays
Jessica Lakritz / Skin on Sundays

Lakritz hopes that, by seeing these images, other women who've also experienced pregnancy or infant loss will feel connected to one another and find some relief from their pain. Working with these women opened Lakritz's eyes, she explained, helping her to realize that there are a million little things going on under the surface of people's lives every single day that we know nothing about. For those who've never experienced this loss, Lakritz believes these photos will help them realize how traumatic pregnancy and infant loss can be and inspire them to be more sensitive around women who have suffered such grief, as "understanding is a bridge to true empathy."

"Most of the women didn't read their poems until the day of the shoot," Lakritz said. "Because this is a deeply personal thing I was writing about, translating each woman's experience into a poem, I was anxious wondering how they would feel about their poems. One woman cried and hugged me so tight when she read her poem, and whispered a thank you in my ear. I started to cry as well. I was floored with emotion in that moment, and grateful that the universe had brought us all together to do this."

Jessica Lakritz / Skin on Sundays
Jessica Lakritz / Skin on Sundays

Ultimately, Zucker hope to galvanize community around this all too common topic. She hopes women feel a sense of comfort and connection upon learning about the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign. 

"With the statistics being what they are and the fact that pregnancy and infant loss are not a disease and are therefore not going anywhere, we need a community that accurately reflects back to us the feelings we feel but may be too afraid to say out loud," she said. "I want women to feel, not just intellectually know, they are not alone and that there is absolutely no shame in loss. My hope is that future generations won't struggle with the silence, stigma, and shame that is currently so prevalent in our society. If I can help make a dent in that through this campaign, all this hard work will have paid off.

But, after years as an advocate for these marginalized mothers, Zucker does think the tide has really begun to change. 

"The more we share our stories of heartache and hope, the sooner we normalize the pain of grief," she said. "With this shift in our cultural narrative, we begin to witness women feeling connected rather than isolated during these life-changing experiences. This is the goal. Death is part of life and the more readily we integrate these concepts, the better off we are at conversing about them and doing right by each other. There is no shame in loss and without secrecy; shame continues to get pulled back. Shame will eventually get disbanded if we keep at these efforts long enough."

Jessica Lakritz / Skin on Sundays
Jessica Lakritz / Skin on Sundays

Cover image by Jessica Lakritz / Skin on Sundays

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