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thesoundofsilencelargeAs today is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day it seems appropriate to repost this interview Rhiza Press did with me about The Sound of Silence and my experience of editing the anthology.

The Sound of Silence is an anthology of 22 women’s stories of miscarriage. Described by Parenting Express as an ‘achingly beautiful collection’, the anthology has garnered praise from organisations like SIDS and Kids and TLC Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Australia. Even Birth Psychology, the journal of the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, USA, had this to say: This book is recommended for anyone who has experienced a miscarriage, but more importantly, for anyone working with childbearing families and others in society who have not experienced a miscarriage. No one can read this book and not gain a deeper understanding the impact an early pregnancy loss can have. It is seldom ‘just a miscarriage’…The Sound of Silence takes the reader through what can often be the shadow parts of this journey in a deeply moving and honest way. We all can benefit from the wisdom and experience of the stories captured and shared here. This book is a very good addition to the library of anyone drawn to the field of prenatal and perinatal psychology.

As the book continues to help men and women through their experiences of pregnancy loss, we spoke with The Sound of Silence’s Editor, Irma Gold.

What was your original inspiration behind bringing this book together?
When I was 12 weeks pregnant with my third baby I miscarried. The loss felt huge, and in processing my grief I wanted to talk and talk and talk. But I quickly realised that it wasn’t a subject most people felt comfortable discussing. Because I’m a writer and editor, an anthology of miscarriage stories seemed like an obvious thing to do. I wanted to break the silence that surrounds miscarriage. And I wanted to offer other women some support in the only way I knew how. But something else happened, too.


As I immersed myself in this project, as I surrounded myself with others’ heartbreaking stories, I found myself letting go. My miscarriage was over four years ago now. I had to look back at an old diary to work that out. It’s a marker of how I no longer feel sadness. But I know this is also partly because since then I have had another baby. That fourth pregnancy was tough. There was so much love and so much worry. I remember reading submissions for The Sound of Silence — so many of them — while I was pregnant with him. I was grateful to be far enough along that I could feel him kicking. Otherwise I think fear may have consumed me.

That baby is now a gorgeous three year old and I can’t imagine life without him. Without my miscarriage, he would never have been. That’s a strange thought. I find that Clare McHugh’s words in her story ‘Unexpected’ now resonate more fully: ‘There is no use fighting losses, not even fighting to understand them. Only acceptance and gratitude for the rest.’ And I do feel that. Enormous gratitude for the family I have. And also gratitude for all those strong women and men that I have met through The Sound of Silence. That’s a gift that our lost baby gave me.

What has been the most encouraging moment since the release of the book?
There have been so many; every time someone takes the time to email me or comes up to tell me why the book has been important to them or someone they know. Many readers have shared their own stories with me which has been both moving and humbling. And comments like this one from reader Charmain mean everything: ‘I have just sat and read this book from cover to cover! As a mum of two (six, including my angel babies) these stories touched my heart and soul in a way that no other books about pregnancy loss have.’

Perhaps I can share one of the many stories that was related to me. One lady gave a copy to her son and daughter-in-law who had had several miscarriages and no children yet. This couple talked to no one about their miscarriages. On receiving The Sound of Silence the daughter-in-law put it on a shelf and didn’t look at it. It wasn’t until two months later that she opened the book and read every story. She then thanked her mother-in-law for the gift — no easy acknowledgment — and asked her to pass on her thanks to all the writers. She felt unable to discuss her miscarriages with those around her, but the women in The Sound of Silence spoke to her from the page, offering comfort.

What has surprised you the most about the book’s reception?
I was both surprised and delighted when The Sound of Silence won the ACT Writing and Publishing Award for Non Fiction. I didn’t expect that at all. A book about miscarriage seemed such an unlikely winner. But it was the judges’ comments that I found most heartening. They wrote: The Sound of Silence was the stand-out winner on every level. This book proved to be compellingly readable, boasted good production design and evidenced careful, respectful editing. Although neither of the judges initially expected to be taken by this volume, both ultimately found it absorbing and uplifting. The writing was of the highest quality and deserves a readership well beyond its niche market. In short: An inspirational book and a clear winner.

It wasn’t the praise that struck me most, though of course that was gratifying, it was the fact that both judges shied away from the idea of a miscarriage anthology (one of the judges later told me that they deliberately left it until last because they couldn’t face reading about such a sad subject) and yet when they finally picked it up they found it ‘absorbing and uplifting’. That was the real win.

I have since discovered that others have had a similar reaction. Those who have experienced miscarriage have sometimes approached the book with reservations about the way it might potentially affect them. As one reader wrote: ‘I have just finished reading The Sound of Silence. I must admit it sat on my bedside table for a couple of days before I found the courage to open it. I was anxious about the emotions it might stir up within me. It is a brilliant book, it allowed me to realise I am not alone in my grief and the feelings I experienced are so normal.’

So my hope for this book is that both women and men will continue to find The Sound of Silence when they need it and have the courage to dive in.

This interview was originally published by Rhiza Press here. The Sound of Silence can be purchased online here (e-book also available).

Sing, and Don’t Cry

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In the middle of the Serengeti the scrubby land is flat, stretching into the unbroken distance on all sides. We set up camp — a motley group of Americans, Germans, Brits and Aussies — and begin preparing the evening meal. The area is seemingly uninhabited, but suddenly children are emerging from everywhere. We peel vegetables, cut off the unwanted sections, and remove the fat from a pile of chicken. Discard the bits we don’t want. The children can’t believe how wasteful we are, are wide-eyed over it. We bag up our ‘rubbish’ — feeling a mix of emotions, the most prominent being multi-layered guilt — and hand it to the children, along with a bunch of much-coveted pens. They will take these stubs of carrot and onion and chicken fat to their mothers who will no doubt cook it into stews and laugh about the crazy foreigners who throw good food away. The following morning they will return with a branch of bananas and sticks of sugar cane as thanks for our generosity. The guilt is never-ending.

Kenya_Meanjin blog postI am remembering this moment reading Cate Kennedy’s travelogue, Sing, and Don’t Cry, about her two years in Mexico. A different culture with the same Third World problems. For eight years I have wanted to read this book. When it was first released I stood in Borders and read the first paragraph of the first chapter:

Our plane descends into Mexico City and we are ejected from it like goldfish out of a bowl, our mouths opening and closing as we try to gulp in enough oxygen in the high-altitude air. Stumbling jetlagged from the airport, we’re still trying to breathe as we take a taxi into a city where, legend has it, the pollution is so bad sparrows fall dead from the air.

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I was hooked. I stood there, holding its embossed cover in my hands, agonising over whether I could afford to buy it. I couldn’t. At the time we were — by First World standards — totally broke. I put it back, picked it up again. Could our budget stretch by thirty dollars just this once? I debated with myself. I placed it back, left the shop, returned. A ridiculous dance I hoped no one was observing. Eventually I left again, empty-handed.

Years later I regretted my decision when, no longer broke, I couldn’t find the book anywhere, even online where it seemed to be permanently out of stock. Every now and again, in my trawling of second-hand bookstores, I’d search for it without any luck. Until recently when I was in my local independent and asked, on the off-chance, if they had it in stock. No, they didn’t, but they could order it in. Bingo! Why hadn’t I done this before?

In Sing, and Don’t Cry Cate writes about the poverty and beauty of Mexico so vividly. She finds herself in this particular place, assisting with a rural microcredit project, after signing up for Australian Volunteers Abroad. Like all Cate’s writing (disclosure: I am a massive fan) Sing, and Don’t Cry is evocative and beautifully crafted. Every sentence is a pleasure to read.

But if you’re looking for a conventional travel account, this is not it. Sing, and Don’t Cry is as much, if not more, about Cate’s interior landscape as it is about the Mexican landscape, a place where her privileged Western value system is called into question. We are prompted to ponder ‘who is truly poor’ and, on her return to Australia, we witness Cate’s frustration and disillusionment with the superficiality of her own society.

Perhaps it seems odd that a book about Mexico has made me yearn for Africa — a place I fell desperately in love with many years ago — but I felt an affinity with her interior experience. As in Cate’s Mexico, in the two African countries I spent time in people had little but never complained, were always laughing. Every day I experienced the true meaning of the phrase joie de vivre. As much as I love my home, I can’t say the same about life in Australia. Cate reflects on the ugly self-absorption of our resource-rich Western world where we feel justified in complaining about the smallest of irritations. First World Problems, we say, and laugh, recognising how ridiculous we are. And yet we continue.

I remember returning from Tanzania to London, where I was living at the time. The complete disorientation of it. A country where people have everything and yet laugh sparingly. Where even the weather is incapable of enjoying itself. On my second day back I went into a corner shop and handed the woman behind the counter a 33p chocolate bar. Before I caught myself, I tried to barter the price down. An instinctive habit. ‘Sorry,’ I said, laughing. ‘I’m just back from Tanzania.’ She frowned, said nothing.

And so you unravel. At first you feel you will never again take what you have for granted, complain about matters of inconsequence. But you slip — slowly, barely noticing, until you forget. You moan about a delayed train or a lukewarm coffee or the lack of shopping trolleys with unbroken child restraints.

Sing, and Don’t Cry reminded me. It was discomforting, and I am grateful.

This post was first published by Meanjin here as part of its What I’m Reading series.