Monday, August 17, 2009

only because Missy has a good idea, not because i'm dying to discuss it.

Missy is doing a carnival today on what to say (and what not to say) to someone who is struggling with infertility.

I should say first, I'm not infertile. Silas was conceived when we were avoiding pregnancy, for Pete's sake. And I was pregnant four times in three years, so I know nothing of the years of emotional and financial strain that some of you have endured. But two of those pregnancies were miscarriages, and there was a year between the first miscarriage and Asher's pregnancy, and that makes me an expert on Stupid Things People Say in Personal and Hard Moments. So. I'm speaking up now, not because I am AT ALL interested in dredging this up, but because Missy is on to something with her question, and maybe I have something to contribute.

After the first miscarriage, far and away the worst, most awful, most hurtful, most too-bad-I-don't-have-something-to-throw-at-you thing someone said came from a very well-meaning, sweet natured guy my age at church, whose wife oozed babies just by thinking about it too hard. It was the week we'd found out the pregnancy wasn't viable, though I hadn't even miscarried yet, and he said, "Well, maybe you can try again."

As though I'd broken my grandmother's vase.

Or bounced a check.


I never felt like I'd failed at anything until he said it this way. Also, I couldn't imagine another baby. That was my first pregnancy, and I'd been in no way prepared for a miscarriage. I'd already started buying little yellow onesies, ya'll. It was really, really the wrong thing to say.

Fast forward. It took us a year to get pregnant with Asher. Then he was born, and I was completely, overwhelmingly HAPPY. When Asher was six months old, I was surprised to find I was pregnant again. That pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Again.

And that time, the worst, most awful thing people said was - nothing. Nothing. Nobody asked how I was, nobody brought us dinner. We were not any more discreet than we'd ever been with pregnancy (we've always figured, either we'll be telling you we're miscarrying or telling you we're pregnant, but either way we'll be telling you something), but there was no response. Maybe because I already had a baby? Maybe because I'd already had a miscarriage? It seemed - ordinary to other people? I don't know. It didn't feel ordinary to me.

I don't recommend silence either, to those who are trying to figure out what to say or do. It was more hurtful than it was ever intended to be, mostly because the second miscarriage was harder on me emotionally than the first (though I would have never thought that possible after the first). Life just kept going, and nobody noticed that there was one less life in the world. Except me.

So what can you do?

Honestly, the most comfort I've ever found in anybody came in a phone call. Two actually - once during each miscarriage, an older, wiser mother called me to say she was sorry, and rather than being able to say anything, she burst into tears when I answered the phone. Both women kept apologizing, saying they'd been there and they knew how sad it was, and that they were praying for me. That's it. And it was the very most helpful thing anybody could have done. To cry, to be sad - BECAUSE IT IS SAD, and like any death, words don't matter as much as presence. That's what was helpful.

Other friends who had not been there were helpful though, just by remembering and asking. By not expecting me to be interested in play dates or nap schedules. By saying they don't know what to say, and asking how they can help. Honesty and concern is good. Knowing your friends care about you is good. That's about all anyone can do.

I'm out of time. But thanks for asking, Missy. I hope that helps.


Deirdre said...


Sunni-Nichole' said...

Sending my hugs, too. Thanks for being open with those of us in blogland.

I love the name Asher, by the way.

Becky at "Cheese My Head" said...

..."And it was the very most helpful thing anybody could have done. To cry, to be sad - BECAUSE IT IS SAD, and like any death, words don't matter as much as presence"...

perfect. you wrote the perfect words. thank you.

my sister struggled with infertility and I did not. that journey was terrible. but crying and being sad with her seemed to bridge that huge gap between us.

Lisa said...

Thank you for this. People do say some stupid things, and though I've never been on the miscarriage end of things, I can relate to the stupid things people say when they don't really understand the situation of infertility or miscarriage.

Marci @Finding Joy in the Journey said...

First, I totally love both boys names!

Second, your words made me cry. Thank you. I have lost 6 babies. 4 misacarriages and 2 ectopics. With the ectopics people were kind and concerned about my health, but nobody really seemed to see them as a loss, the death of a child, except my closest family. As for the miscarriages, people seem to just simply not acknowledge them. I'm not sure if this is because they don't know what to say or they are just afraid of upsetting you.

And yes, it seems the more kids you have the less the loss seems to count to others.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

Oh, Steph, I had a feeling you would make me cry and I was right.

Thank you.

pippasmum said...

This is very well said. We are struggling with secondary infertility right now which really hit us out of the blue because we got pregnant with our daughter the first month two years ago. I don't think it is the same blow as a miscarriage but it can be pretty wounding. It's nice to know that people are there for us and that they aren't avoiding us because the subject is uncomfortable. Thank you for sharing such personal feelings and experiences.