“They suffered less”

by Claudia Ravaldi

When I started dealing with perinatal bereavement in 2006, many people, including insiders, tried to dissuade me.

According to them, the problem I intended to deal with was not a REAL problem. First of all, because, according to them, it is too rare to be a problem. “It happens to very few people, and almost always by chance.”

Then, because “the children are rebuilt” and therefore we cannot speak of true mourning, indeed, the less we think about it, what happened, the better it is for everyone.

Finally, it was bizarre for many that I, after my child died, wanted to hear more stories of perinatal bereavement and share my story with other women. “So you risk wallowing in pain! – they told me – you have to look ahead, put a stone on it. These things happen, and that’s it.”

Naturally, I continued to deal with perinatal bereavement despite the contrary opinions of many Italian colleagues (while in the rest of the world, hundreds of professionals, researchers and parents supported me with competence and interest); I started collecting data and carrying it around for conferences and trainings.

It happened several times during these courses for “insiders” that someone raised their hand to share their version of the “perinatal bereavement” problem.

Today’s women are desperate about perinatal death, because now it doesn’t happen anymore: not like before, that women knew it well, many died, it happened before and after birth, even worse happened (the death of the same mother ed. ): the former women were used to it, they suffered less“.

As you can imagine, this explanation struck me a lot.

So do we suffer for something extraordinary , do we stop suffering if it becomes ordinary?

Do we suffer only from exceptions, while we accept the rules with joy?

So, is it possible to happily get used to that pain that women (and fathers, too) describe as a claw planted in the heart day and night, for months, if not years?

After three or four times that I received this explanation of the “perinatal bereavement phenomenon”, I began to retrace my ten years of “practicum” as a doctor in training and then as a specialist in training. I started thinking and remembering the women I met on my way: the things I asked, the things they answered. How they answered me.

During my studies I have met many women, of all ages. Women in their eighties with many children and women in their eighties without children alive. Women in a spasmodic search for a child when infertility treatments were in their infancy, women with destructive outcomes of the first emergency caesarean section. I have met women with chronic or incurable physical illnesses, women with mental illnesses, and women with severe dementia. In my experience of meeting and countless anamnestic collections, it has never happened that one of these women of forty, fifty, sixty years “forgot” to tell me how many children she had carried in her womb, how many she had with her, and how many had lost. And why, they were dead. And at what age.

It has never happened, in ten years of warding, that any of these women appeared relieved to tell me that she had lost a child, or that she was infertile, or a carrier of a genetic pathology incompatible with the life of her children. I have never seen indifference, in the emotional color that accompanied their responses.

Yet the cliché, paints them different from me, and from the thirties of today. He paints them “accustomed”, “resigned” to fate, resolved and imperturbable.

My mother lost my brother before me. His pain is not unlike mine.

Sure, two women don’t do a search. Of course, it would be interesting to collect the stories of women who today are almost grandmothers or great-grandmothers.

To offer them a space “beyond the myth” that wants them to be indifferent and “accustomed”; to offer an authentic space for reflection and narration.

When Claudia talked to me about her project, I was enlightened by the immense.

What a wonderful opportunity to study perinatal bereavement and the loss of our mothers and grandmothers, to see if it is true, that they “suffered less”.

To understand if it is really true, that losing many is like losing none.

Grateful for the possibility that Claudia has offered CiaoLapo to collaborate in her studio, here is the brief presentation and the email contact available for those who want to help us clarify this topic.

“I am a cultural anthropologist who works at the University of Milano-Bicocca. I am conducting research to understand the changes in representations, practices relating to death in pregnancy and the experience of those who have suffered a loss. The research is carried out through in-depth interviews with women and / or couples who have experienced one or more experiences of abortion and / or perinatal death.

I am very interested in meeting women and couples who experienced these events before the commercialization of modern contraceptives, the legalization of voluntary termination of pregnancy and the spread of ultrasound (in short, before the late 1970s). Anyone who has experienced one or more experiences of abortion or perinatal death, especially during this period, is invited to participate because their ideas and experiences are important. This is my e-mail address: I am waiting for you claudia.mattalucci@unimib.it

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