The Lion’s Den – An analogy of pregnancy and Miscarriage

Picture this . . . . .

Imagine a large enclosure surrounded by a high chain-link fence. This is the home of a full-grown lion.

The lion spends most of his days at one end of this enclosure – sleeping and eating and generally hanging out. It’s where the park keeper feeds him his daily ration of meat – and where the public can view this big cat going about his daily life.

At the far end of this long enclosure are two gates. The one on the left side is the entrance into the lion’s den and on the opposite side is another gate leading out.

This image represents the nine months of pregnancy.

For most women who get pregnant, all they do (metaphorically speaking) is open the first gate and walk casually and happily across the width of the enclosure, posting photos of their scan pictures on Facebook, deciding on possible names for their baby, arranging their baby shower, buying all the necessary and lovely things for their soon-to-arrive new born – and, when they get to the other side, they simply open the gate and pick up the lovely baby waiting for them there. And off they go to enjoy motherhood.

Then, when these women want another baby, all they do is go back round to the first gate, open it up again, walk blithely and optimistically across the compound and, once again pick up their next baby who is waiting for them on the other side of the far gate.

For some women, however, the journey across this lion’s den is nothing like this.

She too opens the first gate and starts to walk across the enclosure, but, unbeknown to her, the lion has decided to take a stroll around his domain that day, to stretch his legs and see how the land lies. To her horror, she sees the lion notice her in his territory and instantly he attacks.

Mauled and scratched and badly hurt the woman runs towards the first gate and thankfully escapes. But bleeding and maimed and utterly traumatised by this shocking event, she finds herself right back where she started – on the outside of the compound . . . with no baby.

What is more, her husband or partner watches this with horror from the other side of the fence, completely helpless and powerless to do anything to save his loved one from such suffering. This vicarious trauma is as distressing for him as it is for her, but he feels the need to be strong for her – after all, he was not the one who has been clawed and injured, it was not his body this has happened to. But he feels the shock and he feels the loss too.

So, imagine how keen the woman will be to consider entering that lion’s enclosure again. This time she knows a dangerous animal lives there and that he poses a severe risk to her emotional and physical wellbeing. It can take a great deal of courage and strength for a woman who has suffered a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, or a medical termination, to contemplate facing such a threat again.

When, finally, she does feel strong enough to take that risk again, she enters the compound full of fear and trepidation. Gingerly she tiptoes across the vast space – day by interminable knicker-checking day, week by endless week, month by testing month, never being able to relax fully – especially when she gets close to the place where the attack happened previously. And even beyond this point she can never be fully sure the lion will not appear again to maul her.

And what’s more, she realises to her sorrow, that she has been robbed of the joy, the delight, the celebration and the pleasure of pregnancy that other women take so much for granted. Instead, she is nervous and anxious and worries at every little sign, twinge and bodily sensation that alerts her, unbidden, and reminds her of what happened before.

Gradually, as she gets closer and closer to the other side and she can see the exit gate in sight (and no lion in her vision so far), she may begin to allow herself to trust that this baby might just be hers.

Sadly though, some very unfortunate women may have to experience this traumatic event several times before they finally get to leave the compound and attain the baby for which they have been yearning for such a very long time.

Women who have lost a pregnancy, in whatever way, need a huge amount of love, empathy, support and understanding. No amount of saying things like ‘Well at least you know you can get pregnant’ or ‘It will be fine this time, just be positive’ or ‘You mustn’t be so stressed and anxious - it’s not good for the pregnancy’ will make it easier for her. In fact, such comments can be counterproductive as she’ll feel misunderstood or think you think it was her fault that it happened.

Allowing her to be worried, recognising her understandable fears, and acknowledging her sadness at not being able to enjoy her pregnancy as she would have loved, may genuinely help her.

Ask her what she needs. Listen to her. Check out with her what does help. Let her be upset - even weeks or months after it happened. Let her cry. Let her talk - without being afraid that broaching the subject will 'upset her'. Hold back on the well-meant comments about how she needs to stay positive. In this way, you may be able to ease – if only a little - the distress that such a challenging and dreadful time is bringing her.