The Brink of Being: Talking about Miscarriage
Written by Julie Bueno
The Brink of Being begins with a tragic look back into Bueno’s personal ordeal with miscarriage and the agony that she went through. Her writing is pain ridden and emphatic, taking the reader down the vortex of her deeply bruised emotions. It is almost impossible to put the book down once you start reading it; it feels disdainful to do so. Bueno explains the lack of resources available to women struggling as she did and the vigor with which she wanted to build a network to support these women.
The book outlines multiple stories of fearless women who had to go through ‘trials by fire’ to be able to bring life into this world. She outlines stories that seemed to have a wonderful start and those that were traumatic to begin with, all the while emphasizing the lack of support provided by society and sometimes even unintentional loved ones. Bueno ties every woman’s testimony back to distinct issues within the umbrella of miscarriage. One of the hardships that stuck with me was the insensitivity medical practitioners displayed towards women who delivered stillborn premature babies. Many didn’t allow the mother to even see the child describing them as a “monster” (pg.96). I wonder how people find it in themselves to describe someone’s child in that manner. Just because they are not alive anymore does that not make them a child? She explains the lack of awareness in the medical profession of miscarriage being not just a physical condition but an emotional, mental and psychological one as well. What we call “bedside manner” is sometimes so lacking in this profession due to their obligatory focus on the number of people serviced rather than the quality of service being provided.
The Brink of Being highlights a mother’s intuition, relating how professionals sometimes turn a deaf ear to a mother’s pleas when she says something is wrong, choosing instead to place their faith in science and medicine. Progress in science seems like a double-edged sword sometimes, you rely on it because you know it works but other times its booming presence drowns out the little voice in your head alerting you to danger. An example of this is Lucy’s story where she attempts to alert the nurse to her premonition but is instantly mollified without being heard. Lucy ends up losing her child much to her and her partner’s dismay; her story being one of thousands.
The book ends on a hopeful note. Bueno talks about the movements and changes taking place in miscarriage care in the U.K and the provisions that are being made for mothers and families that have lived through this loss. One of the most exciting and joyous changes is the formulation of a comprehensive set of recommendations for healthcare professionals “who deal with a patient (a woman, a mother) losing a baby- or pregnancy- under their care as well as her partner and family” (pg.250). These recommendations include topics such as compassionate communication, the appropriate use of language, delivering difficult news, decisions around postmortems, emotional after care and the like. This will hopefully ensure that not only the mother’s physical needs but her emotional ones are met as well.
The Brink of Being arouses deep empathy not just for the author but for the countless women whose stories are left untold. It attempts to explain each struggle that a women and/or couple goes through during this period and offers suggestions on how to begin a dialogue amongst ourselves about the same. Bueno encourages people to not shy away from the topic of miscarriages, brushing it under the carpet like a dirty secret, but to instead ask questions and more importantly acknowledge: the child’s existence, the parent’s pain and finally that there is still more to learn.
Julie Bueno is a psychotherapist who specializes in working with women who have experienced pregnancy loss or struggled to conceive. Her writing has been published in The Times (London), Express, Therapy Today and welldoing.org, among others.
Akanksha Anand is an international student from India who received her Masters in Forensic Mental Health Counseling from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is also a recipient of the Pinkerton Graduate Community Fellowship through which she had the opportunity to work closely in a therapeutic capacity with individuals struggling with severe mental illnesses, substance use and the unfairness of the criminal justice system.
Bueno, J. (2019). The Brink of Being: Talking about Miscarriage.
New York, NY: Penguin Books, ISBN: 9780143133230
Paperback, ebook: Includes references and index