Jessica Zucker Honors Pregnancy Loss
When no greeting card expressed the tragedy Dr. Zucker felt in the aftermath of miscarriage, she created her own.
Jessica Zucker, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who specializes in maternal mental health, realized how poorly our culture deals with pregnancy loss after she suffered her own miscarriage. With approximately 20% of pregnancies ending in miscarriage and 1% in stillbirth, Zucker decided to fill a gap she saw in our culture, conversations and marketplace by creating a line of cards that specifically addresses pregnancy loss. Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and we can think of no better way to honor this occasion than by talking to Dr. Zucker.
Every Mother Counts: Dr. Zucker, tell us how these cards came to be.
Dr. Zucker: I made these cards as a public health effort because I saw firsthand the need for cards that related to an experience many women and families have. I hope they’ll be conversation changers. These cards are timely because so many people are sharing theirs stories and as a society we seem to be shifting away from silence. My hope is that eventually there will be less shame.
EMC: You’ve mentioned this idea started in your private practice with patients who needed support but also from your own miscarriage. Tell us about that.
Dr. Zucker: I work with women experiencing issues like fertility, terminations, miscarriage, perinatal and postpartum depression and anxiety. I was in this specialty long before my own miscarriage, which occurred at 16 weeks. Afterwards, I struggled with the idea of coming out with my own story because psychology professionals don’t generally share their own lives. I was so visibly pregnant though, that all my patients knew so I decided to try and make an impact in the conversation surrounding miscarriage. Research shows that the majority of women experience shame, blame and guilt after their losses. I wrote a New York Times piece about it and initiated the #Ihadamiscarriage campaign as a call to action for people to own their stories. I wanted people to ask, ‘why do women feel ashamed?’ Is it because our culture is uncomfortable with loss, grief and mourning? Or, is it because we think blaming our selves steals us away from being present with how awful the loss feels?
EMC: When it happened to you, were there any cards like this?
Dr. Zucker: There were sympathy cards in stores and some specific to pregnancy loss but I wasn’t aware they existed. The majority of cards I found had religious undertones. I wanted to create a wider variety. Some are soft, gentle and to the point. Others are more irreverent and get into the complexity of the experience.
EMC: “Irreverent” is a good way to put it. One card drops a few f-bombs, right?
Dr. Zucker: Right! I feel like with my generation and patients, it’s about saying it like it is. I also created a card for the pregnancy a woman has after she’s experienced a pregnancy loss. It takes a lot of courage to get pregnant again. This card recognizes that.
EMC: And then there’s a very poignant birth announcement.
Dr. Zucker: It’s a stillbirth announcement that fills what I see as a hole in the marketplace and starts conversations that honor the baby who died. What are people supposed to do when they lose a 38-week pregnancy? Maybe they’ll want to share this tragedy through social media and maybe they wont. Sending this card shares the sad news with people who knew they were pregnant, but may not immediately know about the loss.
EMC: What should people do when someone experiences a loss like this?
Dr. Zucker: As I state in one of the cards, grief knows no timeline. For some, grief is long and complicated. Other people may not need a lot of support. I think it’s about knowing the person and their story. Simply ask how they’re doing. Tell them you’ve been thinking about them. These kinds of sentiments mean a lot to people who are suffering and feeling scared and isolated. I’m hoping my cards provide an antidote to “Oops, I didn’t know what to say so I just didn’t say anything.”
You can purchase Dr. Zucker’s Pregnancy Loss Cards through her website here.