Let me start with some numbers.
According to the Pregnancy Loss Directory website, in the United States in 2006 there were nearly 26,000 stillbirths and about 19,000 babies died in their first month. In total, 1 out of 60 births resulted in stillbirth or neonatal death. When one takes into account the number of miscarriages, that number skyrockets to 1 out of 4 pregnancies.
In my circle of friends, we have had more losses than is fair. We have talked over the years about our separate situations and I felt that it was important to share some things that I have discovered or experienced with those that haven’t lost a child or pregnancy, but may know someone that has. I’ve had some uncomfortable moments since I’ve come back to work. I hated having this conversation. I’ve had it more times than I can count and it doesn’t get easier or more comfortable.
Her: Hey! How’s your baby?
Me: Well, he passed away when he was 2 weeks old. (Her face paled, mouth open)
This is when it goes one of two ways.
Her: I’m so sorry. (This is okay. Wait for it)
Me: Thank you.
Her: Oh…Well, you can have another baby. (Insert my fury)
Me: No, actually I can’t. (I had my tubes tied during Heath’s c-section)
Her: Oh. Well, you have your other two.
Me: Yes I do.
There are DEFINITELY things you DON’T say to a grieving parent, whether it was a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss.
- You can have another baby. NOT okay! My baby counted. He was not disposable. He can never be replaced. You don’t know if they have they ability to have another baby. Maybe they can’t. Maybe they don’t want to go through it again.
- Maybe it was for the best. There is never a feeling that it was for the “best.” Even if there was a choice because of health, it may not feel like a good or easy decision. The best situation would have been to have a healthy pregnancy that brought a beautiful baby into the world, then they go home 2 days later where they grow up happy and amazing. That is not always our reality.
- You have your other children. Yes, I do have my other two beautifully perfect kids. I would do anything in the world for them. BUT, they do not replace him. They are all valued and wanted and loved.
- It was God’s plan. When I am drowning in the grief of losing my baby, planning his funeral, struggling with the medical bills, trying not to cry when Noah and Avery talk about him or ask questions, DO NOT tell me it was God’s plan. I am struggling with my faith and in my relationship with God in the first place. I was battling with my feelings that God took my son (sometimes this still pushes into my head, and I’m working on it). Don’t push your beliefs into my mess.
- I know how you feel, I lost my _____ (insert mother, father, brother etc.) Have you ever lost your child? Have you ever had to choose a gravestone for them? I have lost a parent, grandparents, aunts, uncles, close friends. NONE of that compares to the pain of my children. It is not the same. It is not in the same universe.
So what do you say?
If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Silence is okay. It’s okay to just say I’m so sorry for your loss. It is completely okay to leave it at that.
It’s okay to mention them. It’s okay to say his name. It’s okay to bring him up if the conversation is appropriate. For me, it validates that he was here.
“If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention
them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that
they died–you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What
you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and
…that is a great gift.”
― Elizabeth Edwards
He’s not forgotten. He is mine and I am his. I will always think about him, his sister and my other lost pregnancies. I wonder who they would have become. Would they look like their older siblings? Would they be really chill like Noah or wild open like Avery? Would they all have had my blue eyes? Maybe tan easily like Jimmy?
Everyone feels different about their loss. I am not claiming to speak for every mother or father that has lost their beautiful, sweet son or daughter. Every parent feels something different and even that can vary from minute to minute. I just wanted to shed some light on a subject that no one seems to talk about, for whatever the reason. Just trying to bring some awareness.