I didn't plan to write anything about yesterday... in case you haven't seen it from scrolling through your news-feed, it was Miscarriage and Infant Loss Awareness Day. In fact, all of October is the awareness month for it. I've been silent about it this year. Which is out of character, seeing as I've always been one who will speak up about the unborn babies deserving to be acknowledged and seen. I think this time I saw all these women who lost babies farther along in pregnancies, or more recently, and felt like I shouldn't. My subconscious thoughts were "My miscarriage was over two years ago, and I was only 6 weeks along. I'm okay most of the time. I should should leave the posts about miscarriage to the women whose hurt is more significant right now.". This is exactly the trap I encourage other women to not fall into! My baby is no less important than anyone else's. Just because she (we say "she" because in our hearts it always felt like it was a girl, and when we lost the baby, it felt like God confirmed that) was smaller when we lost her, doesn't mean the hole she left in our hearts wasn't huge. And just because we've worked through our grief doesn't mean we have to stop talking about her. Eventually, I decided to write just a short post on Instagram. That turned into almost a blog-length post.
I know a lot of people don't know how to handle it when someone they know has a miscarriage, stillbirth, or loses a young baby. So I want to give a little advice to those who aren't sure what to do or say.
Please note that this is from personal experience, and that grief is different for everybody, but I believe this to be the case for many women, and have heard some of these tips being given by others as well.
1. Treat the loss the same way as if the couple lost an adult, or an older child in the family. The grief cuts the same way. They still lost a child that they loved and cherished.
2. If you want to help in some way, do the same things for the family as you would have if they lost any other family member, or if the mom had brought a healthy baby home from the hospital. You may not see the baby, but her body still knows she gave birth and needs the same amount of recovery time depending on how far along she was, but it's the case in MANY situations). If you would have brought them a casserole, definitely do that now! Likely, mom won't feel like cooking, but they still need to eat whether or not the urge to do so is there. If you would have done some dishes or laundry for her, there's no reason why you couldn't offer now. If you would have taken her other kids to the park so mom can take a nap or take a bath, by all means you should still do that!
3. Please, choose your words carefully. Well meaning words can sound helpful and comforting in your head, but in many circumstances they end up hurting in a way that you won't understand and we can't explain. Try to resist the urge to say the pretty words. We know that God has a plan that we can't see right now. We know our baby is in heaven, and deep down we know that it's the best place. To a mom who is experiencing fresh, raw grief, and just wants her baby... who she's only ever carried inside her... the best place for that baby feels like her now ever-so-empty arms. In the deepest, darkest time of sorrow, those words that you mean to be uplifting, feels like "you were not worthy". Most times, there is nothing anyone can say to make us feel better. The only thing to feel better, would be holding our perfect little bundle of joy. Just let her know that you are there. Keep showing up for her. Maybe bring a pizza and a tissue box... you really can't go wrong that way.
4. Acknowledge that the baby's life ... no matter how short (even 6 weeks in the womb *ahem*)... MATTERS! Let mom talk about her baby even if you have nothing to add to the conservation. Don't demean her pain, or her love by brushing off the subject of this lost child. She will always love that baby. Do not suggest "trying again" or that any future babies can possibly make up for, or heal the loss of this baby. We wanted THIS baby, and nothing will change that. My daughter that is with me here on earth would not have been born if I had given birth to my angel baby. That doesn't mean she replaced her in my heart, or in our home. We still feel the loss.
5. We... that's right. Dads grieve unborn babies too. Don't forget that this baby (likely) had TWO parents who wanted him or her, and are probably both mourning right now. Dads usually don't know how to express the loss of an unborn child very well, because they haven't had the firsthand attachment that moms have. That doesn't make them exempt from the hurt though. If there is something you can do to make their lives a little easier during this time, it would help more than you know. If you can't think of something, just pray. Prayer is a good idea no matter what. Many men tend to bottle up this kind of pain, because they just don't know how to process or talk about it. Sometimes it can come out during a following pregnancy in detachment to that baby, so they do not let themselves get too excited in case it happens again. The one sure thing you can do to help dad, is to pray that he gives himself the permission to work through his feelings to heal.
To the women who have gone through this, or are in the thick of it right now: I see you. You are strong. You will survive this. You are not broken. You are not less than the women who are holding their babies. Allow yourself to grieve, because YOUR BABY MATTERS! You are allowed to be sad, angry, or both. You are allowed to feel, and you are allowed to talk about it. Most importantly, you ARE a mom. No matter how many times you get asked when you are going to start having children and finally become a mom, by nosy old ladies at the grocery store, or that second cousin at the family reunion who somehow seemed to pop out five kids in two years... you know that you are already a mom. They might not know, but don't let anyone take that knowledge away from you.