Author Frieda Hoffman Covers Grief, Womanhood & Body Politics In New Book About Pregnancy Loss

Pregnancy loss can be one of the most difficult and isolating parts of the journey to motherhood. About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to the Mayo Clinic. Miscarriage is a relatively common experience — but that doesn’t make it any easier. For Frieda Hoffman, her second miscarriage brought an onslaught of emotions with very little literature or support available on the subject. So, she took matters into her own hands, creating the resource she knew she needed: real stories from real women about pregnancy loss that offer comfort and wisdom without the off-putting lens of religion, academia or medical jargon so typical of the books on this topic. 

In her tender and highly accessible debut ‘Carry Me: Stories of Pregnancy Loss‘ (She Writes Press, June 7), Hoffman dives into a broad range of narratives and personal stories in the hope that they bring comfort to others who will experience pregnancy loss.

Through Frieda’s own journey and those of nineteen women she interviewed, ‘Carry Me’ explores universal themes of grief, bearing witness, transforming adversity into opportunity, and the paradox of feeling alone while sharing a common experience. The diverse women and narratives unpack the physical, emotional, and financial challenges of loss; notions of womanhood and motherhood; and the intersections of public health, body politics, and patient care. Readers are called to action to share their own stories in order to heal themselves and support others. 

Throughout the book we learn about: 

  • the Dagara people of Burkina Faso, whose grief rituals play an integral role in community connection and healing;
  • the LGBTQ community, in particular the challenges experienced by queer women trying to conceive;
  • a Black woman who builds on the connection between abortion and miscarriage, both physically and mentally, after she discovers she’s pregnant while on birth control;
  • a Jewish woman’s reconciliation between her Jewish faith and a cultural expectation that she’ll have children, who chooses to be childfree;
  • and more broadly, infertility and other support groups and communities for those suffering from pregnancy loss.

We had the chance to speak with Frieda on the eve of the book’s release, to learn more about her own story, why there is still so much taboo around miscarriage and pregnancy loss, and what she learned from her interviewees along the way.

‘Carry Me’ author Frieda Hoffman

This book is clearly a much-needed resource for so many who have experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss. How does it feel to hear that type of feedback from your storytellers as well as readers so far?

It’s so gratifying to hear that others have found it useful–that’s my number one goal with this book. 

There is a growing acknowledgement of how the medical system at large dismisses women’s pain. How do you hope books like yours will be a tool they can turn to for comfort in dark moments? 

I decided to write this book precisely because so many systems have failed women – and not just women, frankly – in their reproductive grief, from Western medicine and health insurance to public health and sex education. We do a great disservice to women, in both their physical and emotional pain, by not availing society at large with more and better information, support, and candid conversations about pregnancy loss.

As one woman in my book put it, “Make it a conversation because, right now, there is no conversation,” which means that women and their families continue to suffer in silence. If everyone understood both the high rate of pregnancy loss and the depth of its trauma, then we would prioritize women’s reproductive health and overall wellbeing.  

How have you been comforted and shaped personally by speaking to all the storytellers in your book? 

Hearing other women’s stories and writing about our respective journeys of loss have been deeply cathartic for me as well as for many of those who so courageously opened up to me. I didn’t realize how much I was still unpacking months, if not years, after these conversations as I wrote and wove these stories together to reveal my own narrative arc. Knowing that others had similarly jarring, isolating, and even ambiguous experiences gave me solace and strength to continue wading through the grief and ultimately find peace. 

We love the nuance shared in each of the stories, from LGBTQ couples, to those who hold various faith traditions, and people of various ethnic backgrounds. Why was it important to show a variety of people sharing their miscarriage stories? 

I wanted to show a range of experiences so that readers could relate and find comfort in particular voices and pregnancy journeys that resonate with their own. While I’m not a Black woman in Baltimore nor a Filipino-American flying to Brazil for its affordable IVF nor a white Catholic in Kentucky, personally I still connect with their narratives as well as the paradox of feeling alone while sharing this incredibly common experience.

By some estimates, one in three pregnancies end in loss. Until we understand the varied nature of this kind of loss, we won’t be able to adequately offer comprehensive support services to those suffering miscarriage and stillbirth. That’s why these stories and conversations are so important.

We live in a time where there are an increasing number of political actions being taken to strip women of their bodily autonomy and reproductive freedoms. Yet personal storytelling has been a powerful force pushing back against this wave in many ways. Why is it important that more people share their stories of miscarriage and break the silence and taboo? 

With the imminent overturning of Roe, we must bring awareness and compassion to the overlapping experiences of pregnancy release that do not end in a happy birth – miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion – and normalize the dialogue around these experiences to better care for ourselves and our sisters. Personal storytelling is a powerful way to humanize the experience and elicit compassion.

Why IS there still such a taboo around something so common as pregnancy loss? And what societal expectations about women do we still need to dismantle? 

Besides death and money, women’s bodies—really, any non-male cis hetero bodies—seem to be the last great taboos in our culture. Our bodies and our experiences of trauma are shrouded in shame, mystery, and silence. Because pregnancy loss touches on at least two of those taboos, and more often than not comes with its own financial burdens, it’s not all that surprising that it remains hush hush. There’s still so much to unlearn and reframe about women and our expectations of them, from the wildly outdated and sexist belief that women who experience miscarriage should somehow be blamed or castigated to the very notion that every pregnancy or even attempt to conceive has a Hollywood ending. Sadly, the list is quite long!

What were some of the most eye-opening things you learned about miscarriage from the people you interviewed? 

I’d never really made the connection between infertility and pregnancy loss before–although I’d experienced it firsthand! Not only did I not grasp how common miscarriage is, I completely underestimated rates of infertility (10-15%) and the shockingly high rates of recurrent miscarriage for those of us considered infertile and trying to conceive. Add to that the financial strain, if not outright impossibility, of IVF treatments, which average around $15,000 with meds in the US.

An interviewee who suffered four miscarriages had to weigh borrowing against her 401(k) to afford trying for a third child. These are decisions nobody wants nor should have to make.

What are some important support groups and resources you recommend people look into? 

In recent years, social media has seeded richly supportive communities for those struggling with infertility (@pregnantish, #infertility, #infertilitylookslike) and pregnancy loss (#ihadamiscarriage, @sistersinloss, #miscarriage). Several national organizations have local chapters offering support groups, such as PALS and HAND. I had no idea this existed before my book, but there are miscarriage doulas for hire as well as licensed therapists who specialize in reproductive grief. Some other great resources include Modern Loss, Zoe Clarke-Coates’ Saying Goodbye organization, @thegriefpractice and RTZ Hope, amongst many others.

Lastly, WE are our greatest resource. It’s up to us to continue the work of uplifting one another by bearing witness to our grief, sharing our stories and insights, and redefining outdated notions of womanhood. 

You can get a copy of Frieda Hoffman’s book ‘Carry Me’ by clicking HERE.

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