Monday, March 26, 2012
About a month ago, I happily announced my pregnancy on this blog. I also announced it on Facebook, Twitter, to countless friends, family, "kinda knows" and even strangers. I was excited! Some probably think that was an unwise decision, and they are right because, unfortunately, I ended up miscarrying at almost 3 months along. I knew this was a possibility before I made the announcement because I have a history of miscarriages, but my line of thinking was that if the unthinkable should happen, at least my friends and family and others who care could help me get through it. There are some flaws to this thinking, however, that comes in the form of people, who in their effort to comfort you, really don't know the "right" things to say to someone in my situation.
Are there "right" things to say to someone who has experienced the loss of their child, either due to miscarriage or stillbirth? Maybe not really, but there are definitely some wrong things to say. I took to a wonderful miscarriage and pregnancy loss forum I belong to and asked the ladies to post some of the things that were said to them in the name of comfort that really stood out as the wrong thing to say at the time. Below is the list I compiled from our experiences. The list is actually much, much longer than this, but I picked out ten of the ones that we all seemed to get told in common. Please keep in mind, many of us are not ungrateful for the efforts people make to comfort us. In fact, many of us choose to keep quiet about our hurt feelings because we know that the speaker meant well and was just trying to ease our pain. This list was not written to be snarky, but to give insight. Please take it as such.
The Top 10 Things Not to Say to a Woman Who Has Suffered Pregnancy Loss
#1: "The baby was probably sick, so it's probably better this way. You wouldn't have wanted a sick baby."
Yes! Yes we would have! Of course we all want a healthy baby free of health issues, but if we were destined to have a child with disabilities or illnesses, we wouldn't love it any less, or wish for different. We'd welcome the child and love him or her with all our hearts and be grateful for the chance.
#2: "It's in a better place" or "God must have needed another angel".
This is tricky. Yes, most of us who are Christian appreciate the fact that our child is with Our Father, however, at this moment in time we are feeling a little selfish and we really want our baby with us. Plus, for Christians like me, I don't want to believe that my loving God gave me the miracle of a baby only to take it away from me and cause me such pain and grief.
#3: "Well, at least you know you can get pregnant!"
Yes...but how does that ease the worry about whether I can ever stay pregnant? Or carry out a healthy birth?
#4: "At least you already have children" or "You already have # children, so you should feel blessed" or "You already have # children, isn't that enough?"
All those statements imply that I'm greedy, that I don't appreciate the living children I have, that I don't deserve to mourn losing a baby because I'm already a mother. They don't ease the pain but they actually bring on feelings of guilt that I'm mourning my dead one when I should be feeling blessed and satisfied with my living one(s).
#5: To those who have had miscarriages early in pregnancy , ectopic pregnancies, or blighted ovums: "It wasn't a real baby yet" or "At least you didn't have a chance to get attached".
For most women, the love starts as soon as they see a positive pregnancy test. Your brain starts thinking and planning, your imagination about your child is immense. So why wouldn't I feel attached or feel a loss or feel that my baby was "real"?
#6 "It'll happen if it's meant to be" or "Maybe it's not in God's plan for you to have children".
Our bodies were meant to have babies but, sadly, sometimes there is a glitch. God created us to procreate and populate the earth, so how could it not be in His plan? He blessed the hands of those who found methods to cure infertility! To say these words you are pretty much saying that I'm not in God's plan, and that hurts.
#7 "You are too young to have children anyway" or "You were probably too old to be trying to have children".
I shouldn't have to explain this one. Pointing out my age does not ease my grief.
#8 "You can always try again!" or "You're young, you have plenty of time to try again".
True, we can, but we're not baking a cake, we were holding onto a life that we thought was precious. It's not like something we could just do-over, we lost something substantial to us and telling us to "get back on the horse" offers little in the way of comfort. Besides, unless we are really close, you might not know that we've tried for ages to get pregnant to finally have a success, so trying again may not be as easy as you make it sound.
#9 "I know how you feel. I felt the same way when my Mother/Grandmother/Cat died".
No, no you didn't. Loss of a relative or family pet or even a spouse is extremely hard and painful, but it's a different pain than the loss of a child. Not saying that you didn't hurt as badly, but they are different types of grief and they cannot be compared.
Finally #10: "Life goes on" or "You have to move forward" or "Don't dwell on the sorrow".
I loved this baby from day one. I gave it life and a future and a place in my family and in my heart immediately. I cannot just forget it. It was and will always be a part of me. I will eventually move forward in my own time, but the sorrow will be there forever.
By the way, this list applies to the expectant fathers as well. They are usually suffering this loss as much as their partners.
So, you might ask, what is the right thing to say? Maybe it's not the right thing, but the safest thing to say?
"I'm so sorry."
Knowing that you are genuinely sorry for our loss is comfort enough. Feel free to add "I'll pray for you" or "If you want to talk, I'm here to listen" but "I'm sorry" is kind enough. Sometimes, as humans, we feel that we have to go all out to show our sincerity and caring, but at times of grief I think less is more. When we need more, we'll reach out for more, and if you can handle it, be there to be a shoulder to cry on or a sounding board to whom we can simply talk through our grief. We appreciate and feel comfort in just knowing that you are there.^^