If someone you know and love has experienced a miscarriage or hasn’t been able to become pregnant, they are undoubtedly in your thoughts, and you will want to say something, anything, that will make them feel better. However, saying “the right thing” can be a minefield. This person you love is grieving over a loss (either a pregnancy or the loss of the dream they have of becoming a parent), their emotions are already raw, and sensitive. Things you might think would be comforting can be taken the wrong way.
I know, because when I was struggling with infertility for years, and then had three miscarriages in a row, my friends and family were all grasping at the right thing to say. And even when they thought they were saying something that would comfort me, I heard something entirely different. When you are in tremendous pain over the loss of a child, even the most well-meaning things can be misconstrued. Here are a few of the most common things that were said to me during those years, vs. how I twisted them because I was so sensitive and depressed.
My friends and family said: “It wasn’t meant to be.”
I heard: “You aren’t supposed to be a mom.”
This may not be logical, but when you are struggling with infertility for years and the doctors can’t tell you why, or your body betrays you with a miscarriage, you begin to doubt everything about the way your body is working, including whether or not you are being kept from being a mom for some cosmic reason you cannot possibly understand.
My friends and family said: “It was God’s will.”
I heard: “God doesn’t want you to be happy.”
All that did was make me even angrier with God (and God and I were on shaky ground already). Why would God’s will be for me to be so sad and frustrated? What had I done that would make God want to punish me this way?
My friends and family said: “It was natures way of taking care of things.”
I heard: “Your baby was defective.”
All parents think that their baby is perfect. Even babies born with birth defects are perfect in their own ways. Given the choice between having a baby with extra struggles ahead, or no baby at all, I would have taken the challenge of a birth defect any day of the week. Everyone hopes for a healthy baby, but everyone one knows there is no such guarantee.
My friends and family said: “Well, you get to try again!”
I heard: ”What you’ve just gone through is trivial. Get over it, and go have more sex!”
When you lose a baby, what dies is more than the fetus: it is the hopes and dreams that get pinned on that pregnancy, the late night talks about what the baby might look like, if they’ll be an athlete or a scholar (or both!), the first lost tooth, all the things that you imagine for your growing family all disappear in one instant. That is a powerful thing to loose. “Trying again” isn’t even on your radar when you are grieving that kind of disappointment.
So, what DO you say that won’t be taken the wrong way? Stay tuned for my next post...