Farhana works as a volunteer with the Muslim Bereavement Support Service, an organisation with which Child Bereavement UK collaborates in training partnerships and information sharing. She writes about her experience of multiple miscarriages and how her Islamic faith has helped her. 

When I had my first child - a daughter - I had a great pregnancy and everything went smoothly. However, I was told that because of my blood type A Rh D negative, if I had another baby I would have to have injections of anti-D immunoglobulin during my pregnancy and immediately after giving birth, especially if the baby’s blood type was different to mine. I was told that even the slightest mixing of different blood types could cause problems although I didn’t understand the impact of that until later on.

I had my first miscarriage when I was seven weeks pregnant. I called 111 and they said there was no point in me coming to see a doctor as there was nothing anyone could do. There was no help or advice – I just had to ride it out. I made an appointment afterwards to see a GP and they said ‘It was really early – it was just one of those things’. There was no support, and I was left feeling numb and confused. As a Muslim I didn’t have much knowledge and wasn’t really aware of the importance that Islam gives to such a loss so I navigated my way through the experience as best as I could.

A few months later I fell pregnant again and, this time, I miscarried at 11 weeks and 2 days. At the scan they told me ‘There’s nothing there,’ which was awful – so clinical and cold, there was no sympathy. Two miscarriages within six months was a lot for me not just emotionally but physically too and I felt I didn’t want to think about having any more children. I buried myself into my work; I guess keeping busy was a way of coping with the grief, not having to think about what had happened or even what could happen in the future.

My next pregnancy with my son went well but I did suffer from a lot of anxiety until the second scan at about 20 weeks which is when I knew he was alive and well. Four years later I was pregnant again and miscarried at around 11 weeks and 5 days. The hospital said that now I had had three miscarriages they could send me for investigations. Again, there wasn’t much sympathy and I was told ‘It was just one of those things,’ and that ‘it was common - one in four women miscarry’.

I didn’t want to go down the investigation route though as I felt I didn’t want to know. I just accepted that it was something that was written for me – like destiny.  I was also concerned that it would become a bit of a blame game between my husband and me and I didn’t want it to be something that came between us.

Because they were early miscarriages, I hadn’t told that many people. The few that knew tried to be helpful with comforting words but someone who has never been through it will never understand. Someone called me and said ‘Look it’s God’s will’; as Muslims we believe very strongly in God’s will and God’s plan. I was crying down the phone and she was telling me not to cry, almost as though she were saying ‘If you cry, you’re going against God’s plan for you’. But I’m a human being and I have emotions so at the time I felt really upset and angry that she was telling me not to cry when all I wanted to do was cry.  

After the birth of my son, I attended an Islamic event at the Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery where the chairman said he wanted to start a befriending service for women who have lost children and pregnancies. I remember him saying how every week they were burying 5-6 children and the mothers were just inconsolable and really needed someone to support them.

This was the beginning of the Muslim Bereavement Support Service and I joined and received training in how to support someone who has been through pregnancy loss, stillbirth and child loss. It was amazing not just in terms of being able to help and support others but also in terms of understanding my own loss and grief. For the first time in a long time I felt grateful for my losses because I understood that my babies were my keys to Paradise.

Being a part of the Muslim Bereavement Support Service has helped me to learn a lot of Islamic knowledge that I wasn’t aware of previously. This knowledge refers to specific rewards that are waiting for a mother and parents in Paradise who have suffered the loss of children as well as pregnancies. One of the rewards includes how a miscarried baby will refuse to enter Paradise without its mother and so God will give permission for both to enter.

As Muslims, we believe that God is seventy times more merciful than a loving mother and understands the loss we have been through. Of course some people might question: ‘Why did you have to go through it in the first place?’ but as Muslims we believe it’s all part of a bigger plan.

People often confuse culture with religion. Islam actually encourages us to talk about our grief and share our emotions and experiences. However, in South Asian culture there are many barriers.

People often confuse culture with religion. Islam actually encourages us to talk about our grief and share our emotions and experiences. However, in South Asian culture there are many barriers. As a volunteer for the Muslim Bereavement Support Service I’ve met so many women who feel that they were not encouraged to talk about their loss and sometimes the loss isn’t even acknowledged. Culturally, you mustn’t even tell people you’re pregnant - you must hide your pregnant belly as it’s sometimes seen as embarrassing or shameful.

If you have a miscarriage, it’s a taboo subject – you’re told not to tell anyone you’re pregnant in the first place - so how on earth do you get support? Now that I have experience volunteering for the Muslim Bereavement Support Service and I am aware about the rewards associated with pregnancy loss, I am able to talk openly about my experiences because I know talking raises awareness and encourage others to do the same. Even so, people often still get uncomfortable if anything is even mentioned.

The important thing is to remember to communicate your needs to your loved ones. They won’t always know what to say or do – and it may not always be appropriate - but it can help if we let them know by saying ‘I need some space,’, ‘I need some help’, ‘I need some time’, ‘I need someone to cook some food for me’ etc. We sometimes expect people to know what to do and what to say and when they don’t it tramples our expectations, so just sharing our needs can really help our loved ones to help us.

Finally, I’d say that if you feel uncomfortable speaking about your grief and loss to someone you know then there are services that can help where you can talk and share freely. After my first two miscarriages, I felt I couldn’t talk to anyone and it made me feel lonely and sad to the point of being depressed. It is so important to talk and share your feelings.

Culturally, seeking support is seen to be embarrassing and a sign of weakness but in Islam it is recommended as looking after our mental and physical health is a duty upon each Muslim and I do hope that by sharing my own experiences it encourages others to seek help too.

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