Making Miscarriage Matter After A Coffee Date – The Pink Elephant Support Network
It started with a response to a Facebook post about miscarriage, a private message and a request to meet for coffee. By the end of that coffee date, the concept for Pink Elephants was created.
The Pink Elephant Support Network addresses an unmet need in our community by providing personalised peer support and online support groups to women who experience miscarriage. Co-Founders Gabbi Armstrong and Samantha Payne decided to create a platform to reach and help as many women as they can after having a conversation over coffee.
C: What was said during that coffee date, which made you realise that women need to access support after a miscarriage?
SP: It was still a couple of weeks past my loss when I met Gabbi for the first time. I found someone who showed empathy and understanding of a situation that I found myself in. She’d been through a miscarriage too. I found a connection with another woman outside of my immediate friends and family, who truly understood what I was going through and all of the crazy thoughts that were running through my mind. It was like a first date, we got along so well. This is what every woman going through a miscarriage deserves access to – a meaningful connection with another woman who has also been through loss. That coffee provided validation that my loss mattered and I felt that it was ok to be feeling the way I was at the time.
C: Tell me more about the actions you took after that first coffee date.
SP: From there, we had the idea of setting up a support network. We did more research into the numbers of women that were going through miscarriages and quickly found out that it is a 1,300 couples a year that report loss. Nearly 300 women a day experience what I did and there are so many different ways to experience a miscarriage. While there are individual experiences of miscarriage, no woman should have to go through it alone.
C: How did you feel before the conversation you had with Gabbi?
SP: I felt alone and afraid of what was going to happen next. I desperately wanted a second child and felt there was nowhere for me to turn. It’s almost like a trapdoor opened up beneath me and you fell down it, with no one there to catch me. People said well-meaning things to me like ‘Oh it wasn’t meant to be’ or ‘at least it happened now and not later on.’ It is important not to start with ‘at least’ because it completely invalidates the experience of miscarriage.
C: What did Gabbi say to you that validated your loss during your coffee date?
SP: With Gabbi, there were none of those well-meaning but wrong sentences said to me. It was “this is really bad, I am really sorry you are having this conversation over coffee for this reason.” The tone was ‘I understand, I’ve been there, it’s ok to feel this way.’ All of a sudden, I felt a weight come off my shoulders. Someone else was validating that the way I felt was ok and it’s normal, it’s part of the grieving process.
C: Can you tell me about the grieving process?
SP: What has resonated with people is that grief isn’t linear, grief is something that consumes you when you are in it and you can’t see your way out of it. Everything feels like darkness and it is really difficult. Gradually that ball gets smaller and then you grow around that ball, you will be changed because of your experience but less things trigger you.
Three weeks after a loss, I was forever seeing pregnant women and forever seeing little babies. It was everything I wanted and it was so hard to deal with. Other women I knew who were pregnant at the same age and at the same time, had their pregnancy journey continue while mine didn’t. That in itself was a huge trigger and there were so many different facets to it.
C: Is this why The Pink Elephant Support Network is able to provide emotional support to women experiencing miscarriage?
SP: We have lived experience, we’ve been there and I will never forget those days and I will never forget the moments that followed after. We will always remember the way we felt and we are we consistently are tapping back into the community.
After you are told that you have lost everything that you have been dreaming of in one quick appointment, you are sent home and that’s it. We are translating that into action and meaningful service delivery, which will hopefully leave a legacy and change the way support is offered in Australia.