Síle Seoige: There is still this veil of secrecy that surrounds miscarriage  

Broadcaster's personal experience of miscarriage inspired her new documentary, which features Rosanna Davison and a Cork support group
Síle Seoige: There is still this veil of secrecy that surrounds miscarriage  

Síle Seoige: Deireadh Tochta airs tonight, April 7, at 9:30pm on TG4.

The next 24 hours will be “surreal” for broadcaster Síle Seoige ahead of the airing of her TG4 documentary on miscarriage tonight. 

Síle Seoige: Deireadh Tochta has been two years in the making, arising from a sit-down with her production team when the mother-of-one was grieving her own 2019 miscarriage.

"I'm nervous about it. It's because it's so personal and I feel it's so important. Fair play to TG4 for being brave enough to broadcast it because it's the first time a broadcaster in Ireland has ever devoted a full television hour to the topic,” Síle says.

"It's been covered on shows in other ways but never in a documentary style like this, which I think says a lot about us as a people and where we're at and how we feel about topics like miscarriage.

“Even though it's 2021 there is still this veil of secrecy that surrounds it. It doesn't help anyone. This silence and secrecy are actually really destructive and damaging."

During the hour-long programme, Síle will meet with other women and couples who have experienced miscarriages, as well as doctors and service providers, in an effort to investigate and open up the conversation around the topic.

It’s estimated that around 14k Irish women miscarry every year, a figure which Síle believes isn’t accurate.

“The figures are one in four but the experts say it's higher than that because so many women miscarry at home and never report it. It's very common and we need to talk about things that affect people in real life," she says.

"It really helps to talk about it. I know a lot of people struggle with that but honestly, I know from experience, and I would just say that it really is tough to open up but my god, the support and the feeling of being less alone when you do is so worth it."

Cork Miscarriage Support Group

Síle chatting with friend Rosanna Davison for the programme.
Síle chatting with friend Rosanna Davison for the programme.

One couple Síle spoke to for the documentary knows all about how talking can help. Jennifer and Paudie Ó Dubhgáin set up the Cork Miscarriage Support Group in 2018 after their own experiences with miscarriage left them looking for help that wasn't available in their locality.

"They're a brilliant couple. They had a number of miscarriages and they felt when they were going through it that there were no supports available,” Síle says.

“They really felt like they were in a vacuum. So, they took it into their own hands and they set up a support group themselves in Cork. Even now through the pandemic, they're linking up with people on Zoom. It just shows the power of talking. Hearing about other people's experiences can help you to process your own grief."

The parents of three children have experienced six miscarriages and are passionate about making sure anyone affected by experiences like theirs is heard.

"It's women and men in their group as well and that's important. It obviously impacts the woman but it also impacts men. It's a pain and a loss from a perspective we don't often hear about. I think they're doing really important work and it's really selfless of them. They did it so they didn't feel alone but I suppose the domino effect of that is they've helped so many couples process their own pain. It's a safe space for people."

Síle also spoke to Professor Keelin O’ Donoghue, who leads the multi-disciplinary Pregnancy Loss Research Group in Cork University Maternity Hospital that investigates the effects of miscarriages. 

Some high-profile mothers, including RTÉ meteorologist Joanna Donnelly and former Miss World Rosanna Davison, also chatted to Síle about their own experiences.

“I've gotten to know Rosie very well over the years and I consider her a good friend. She didn't hesitate when I asked her how she felt about being a part of it. Like me, she's very passionate about speaking about the topic because she's gone through the pain of it. She knows how damaging the silence is and how deafening it can be," Síle says.

'Watching it was very uncomfortable'

The three-strong production team behind the documentary “poured their heart and soul” into the programme, which Síle says is a difficult watch, but one she hopes will resonate with viewers.

"Watching it was very uncomfortable at times for me but that's okay. It's a tough topic but I think it's really important to be as real as you can be." Working on the programme has helped her to deal with her own loss. 

"When I started I realised that I hadn't really dealt with my grief but meeting people and talking to people really helped me.

"I hope others will find a comfort in it. I know some people might find it to be a difficult watch, depending on where they are in their journey. But I also hope that it will educate people who haven't gone through it or maybe know people who have gone through it and don't know what to say,” Síle says.

“We want to fix things but sometimes the best thing to do is to just sit with somebody and ask how they are. Just allow them to be however they're going to be. 

"Sitting in silence with somebody is just as powerful too. Sometimes people feel they have to fill the space with words but those words might not be the right words and you might do more damage, even if it's well intentioned. Sometimes less is more, as long as you lead from the heart.” 

 Working on the programme for the past two years has helped Síle with her own grief. Picture: Leon Farrell /Photocall Ireland
Working on the programme for the past two years has helped Síle with her own grief. Picture: Leon Farrell /Photocall Ireland

Síle also hopes that the documentary will lead to more programmes on the topic, saying that the team could have easily made a series with the material they gathered.

“There was such a huge outpouring of people. We would have easily filled a two-hour slot. I still think an hour on television, especially for a documentary that is the first of its kind, is something to be very proud of. It's been very different from any of my previous work. It's definitely tested me and I found it challenging but so rewarding and hopefully it will benefit the public," she says.

"We talk about public service broadcasting, well this is it at its very best.

"It will impact so many people. I'm sure there will be parts of it that some people will find upsetting but there might be other bits that they can really connect with. We're just trying to give different perspectives and do it justice and hopefully, it will be the first of many."

Síle Seoige: Deireadh Tochta airs at 9.30pm tonight (Wednesday, April 7), on TG4

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