Thursday, July 16, 2015

What Not to Say...

  There seem to be a lot of those "What not to say to/when/how..." posts being shared around these days. The response seems to be one of two things much of the time. Either, "OH MY GOODNESS, YES!!!" or "OH MY GOODNESS, YOU OVERLY-SENSITIVE, POLITICALLY-CORRECT LITTLE NINNIES! GET OVER YOURSELVES!" Very rarely do I ever see responses of people who considered the words and their actions, making note of how unknowingly hurtful they could be, and shared with a vow to try and care for others' hearts. It happens, but it's rare. But in the past few months I have been given the  incredible privilege of having scores of women come to me after reading my story of Asher's life, death, birth, and the grieving process, and express their own similar hurts and experiences, thanking me for being vocal about our common hurt. In the sharing I have noticed we have all had a few things in common, and one horribly painful thing is this: the comments, meant to be some kind of comfort or pain-relief, that actually stabbed us deeply in the heart, because the speakers had not been through such a loss therefore could not relate and had no idea what they were actually saying.
The two most common:
"You can always have another!"
Yes, most people can have another baby after a loss. And many do. But what you are suggesting is a replacement child. Like having another baby will make ANYTHING about the loss of this child better. I assure you, it will not. Pick one of your kids. Or a parent. A sibling. A best friend. A spouse. Any one close to you. Now imagine them dead. Don't worry! Don't cry or be sad. Just go make another human replacement! Yeah.
"Just focus on the child/children you DO have!"
 Let's make something really clear here: It is absolutely okay and normal for a parent to grieve their dead child, and it in no way makes them ungrateful for any living children they have, nor does it make them ungrateful for their fertility. Their grief is not insensitive to those experiencing infertility. Their heartache is normal and okay, and it is absolute cruelty to infer that their daring to grieve is insensitive or ungrateful. Say your spouse dies, very young and unexpectedly. Your world is crashing down around you, and you're suddenly chastised for your grief, and told that you're being insensitive to those who have never found a spouse. Does that seem in ANY way right?

It's interesting to me that I have been mulling over this topic in my head since my last post, Think About It, and just as I got children busy and sat down with my laptop for some time to write, my sister re-posted this poem her cousin(also a mother of Heaven-born babies) shared. Perfect. So perfect. 

Nobody Knew You
By: Jan Cosby
Nobody knew you
"Sorry about the miscarriage, dear, but you couldn't have been very far along."
... existed.
Nobody knew you
"It's not as though you lost an actual person."
... were real.
Nobody knew you
"Well it probably wasn't a viable fetus. It's all for the best." 
... were perfect.
Nobody knew you
"You can always have another!"
... were unique.
Nobody knew you
"You already have a beautiful child! Be happy!"
... were loved for yourself.
Nobody knew you
... but us.
And we will always remember
... You.  


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Think About It

   Why don't we treat a miscarriage like a birth? Why don't we treat a miscarriage like a death? Scientifically, it is both. The baby has died. The baby must be born. Why does death and birth by miscarriage get dropped into an enormous void in which we treat it as neither? Is it something about the 20th week of pregnancy that suddenly makes a baby's death and birth more qualifying for those terms?
   Science validates both the death and the birth, so why do we as humans invalidate them? For the family it is both. Why is it different for others? Because nobody calls Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep for photos of the birth of a dead baby in your bathroom, or because the photos hold far less romantic and memorial appeal when Mama is unconscious and strapped to a table? Or is it because it's really easy to turn a blind eye to what they never saw? A bump rounding out a shirt is not as precious and memorable as tiny, wrinkly fingers and toes.
    Physically, the birth is very, very real. The mother's body does everything exactly the same, but the baby is smaller. The recovery is the same, but the belly has less mass to shrink down. If, God forbid, the mother's body cannot give birth naturally and a surgical birth is required, the physical trauma is exponentially more, and the recovery is often longer than full term birth. I can tell you from experience that the surgical birth of my tiny Asher in January was exponentially harder than any of my 4 full term live births. By 8-10 weeks post-partum with my live births, I was completely recovered and there were no signs of my recent pregnancy aside from the babe in my arms. My tiny Asher was born five and half months ago and I am still not only not physically recovered, but under medical treatment for things resulting from his birth.
   Emotionally? Let's think about that. I had severe post-partum depression with three of my four live births. I know the difficulty of those newborn weeks and the intensity of adding the very dark cloud of PPD to it, and I can tell you with certainty that the experience of empty arms, empty womb, and grief are exponentially worse than anything I dealt with during the emotional ups and downs or post-partum depression of my live births.
   It's cruel the way much of society drops the families affected by miscarriage into some void that everyone knows is there but tiptoes around hoping to avoid the awkwardness of not knowing how to respond. The only people who seem to get it are the ones who have been there. Most of us don't talk about it much because of this- because for some reason we want to protect others from feeling awkward and uncomfortable. We have a code where, "How are you?" and gentle hugs hold much more than they seem to, and unspoken undercurrent tells one another what we mean. Why on Earth are those of us experiencing the loss and pain protecting everyone else?! Why isn't everyone else trying to help US with our burdens?! THIS IS ALL SO BACKWARD!
   I don't think people  realize all of this- the cruelty and backwardness of it all. I think it's a societal norm we've been groomed into, so we don't give it a second thought. Until it's us. Until we're the ones on the table hearing the words, "I'm sorry. There's no heartbeat," kicking us off the beaten path to a much rockier, more painful, lonely one. If you're one of the blessed ones who have never touched this path, I beg you to empathize. When's the last time you took a meal to a friend or a meal train was organized for a family experiencing a loss by miscarriage the way they're organized for live births? Is it because we don't have a live baby to keep our hands full so surely we can prepare our own food? I assure you, the shock and grief had me stuck in a huddling ball on the couch much longer than a sleepless, breastfeeding newborn ever did. When's the last time you took flowers or sent a card to some one experiencing loss by miscarriage the way society says is proper etiquette to do for some one who experiences the loss of a family member? We received a couple cards in the months following Asher's birth, and those moments of thoughtfulness, those gestures of, "I'm truly hurting for you. Please know you're in my thoughts/prayers," triggered tears every time, but they were a different kind of tears, and a welcome change from the oceans I'd been crying for my son, and those cards are all in his tiny box of keepsake memories in my bedroom.
   I dare you to change the way you think. I dare you to empathize. I dare you to reach out. It doesn't matter that you don't know what to say. Just let them know you know and you care. Say their child's name, if you know it. Send them a card on his/her birthday- because it IS a birthday. Start a meal train. Send a card. Give hugs. Be a visible source of love and support, because there literally is almost NONE for those suffering. Dare to care. Awkward or not, your effort will mean so much more than words can say.