I am thrilled to round out my series on loss today with an incredibly thoughtful guest post by my dear friend and colleague Dr. Julie Bindeman. Dr. Bindeman writes eloquently about navigating the “cliques” in the baby loss community. Take it away Julie!
Most women are intimately familiar with cliques—either they were part of one or longed to be part of one that they weren’t in. Sometimes, you happen upon your clique accidentally and things fall into place (or not). As you leave adolescence behind for adulthood, there is the notion that you have survived life with cliques and have lived to tell the tale! What most grown women don’t realize (or talk about) is how cliques persist into adulthood. Even in the most unlikely scenarios, such as “clubs” that no one seeks out membership to (such as pregnancy loss) there is a hierarchy and rules.
When you are newly initiated into the “Babyloss community” there are sweeping forums on Facebook, BabyCenter and Reddit that claim to be your place. Looking at the sub-categories starts to illustrate the point that there is no “general” club, but lots of smaller groups or cliques. Some might have inclusive members within their ranks, while others are very specific about who is allowed to join. For example, a woman who had a first trimester miscarriage at 6 weeks may or may not be welcomed with open arms by those that have had full-term losses, as the concreteness of birthing a full-term baby is a very different experience than either having a D&C or what seems to be a heavy menstrual cycle. These differences may only come out with certain people and perhaps aren’t the norm in terms of cliquishness.
A more startling example for how people are excluded (again, from a club that NO ONE wants to join) is when you look at women who have had second trimester losses. Often, these losses are unexpected in the form of a miscarriage (if occurring before 20 weeks) or as a stillbirth (if after 20 weeks). However, there is a subcategory of women who lose a pregnancy at the 20 week+ point, but they didn’t have a miscarriage or a stillbirth, but instead, terminated their wanted pregnancy for medical reasons. If a woman “comes out” and acknowledges in a larger loss group that she had an abortion (because yes, that is the medical terminology given), often times, she is shunned with the scarlett letter “A” as if her loss is not as consequential as the others that were spontaneous. Once again, cliques rear their ugly heads in the form of exclusion, shaming and derision. So women who terminate are forced to either find a community made up of their own or to selectively share the full nature of their loss.
It is incredible that at a time when women need other women that have encountered similar situations and emotions, there is a hierarchy enacted. It says (either overtly or not) that only certain kinds of pregnancy losses are “OK” or “permissible” as if there is a “right” way to have a loss. It perpetuates that grief for these losses can only be understood by those in your own silo, and inhibits one from stretching their capacity to empathize. Losing a pregnancy, no matter what week or for what reason is one of the most heartbreaking things that can occur for a woman. The least that we can do is stand in solidarity of one another.
Dr. Julie Bindeman graduated from the George Washington University and is the co-owner of the practice Integrative Therapy of Greater Washington located in Rockville, Maryland. As a result of her own reproductive story, she pursued post-graduate training in the field of Reproductive Psychology, where she actively writes, lectures, and presents on the topic. She has been on several committees for the Mental Health Professional Group of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine including serving as Chair of the Continuing Education Committee and on the Social Media committee; she served as a Board Member of the Maryland Psychological Association for 8 years, and was the first Early Career Psychologist Committee Chair; and has been on other boards such as Uprooted and JCADA. Additionally, Dr. Bindeman is a member of a variety of organizations that are focused on Maternal Mental Health. She was appointed by the Governor of Maryland to serve on the Maternal Mental Health Task Force representing psychologists in the state. In 2014, Dr. Bindeman was honored to receive both the Woman Who Dared Award conferred to her by the National Council of Jewish Women and the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Maryland Psychological Association.
For more info on Dr. Bindeman check out