Thursday, August 28, 2008

All time clangers...

Or what not to say to somebody who has suffered a miscarriage.

OK, this one has been festering in my head for some time, so here goes:

Don't say:

1) Nothing. A miscarriage is a bereavement, albeit a silent one for many. If a friend or colleague lost any other family member would you fail to offer your sympathies? So why say nothing when they have lost a child?

2) At least you can get pregnant, or at least you can try again. One some levels this might seem like a comfort, but babies are not objects. It's not like I broke my favourite vase and I'm going to pop to the shop and replace it. It's not like my goldfish died and I can just go and pop another one in the tank and forget about the first one. This is a particularly hollow comfort to someone who has miscarried a number of times. It's one thing being able to get pregnant relatively easily, but when you repeatedly lose your babies in the first trimester, you're no closer to taking home a live baby than any other infertile person.

3) Same for At least you're fertile. Women who recurrently miscarry are a sub group of the infertility club, end of.

4) For someone who miscarries early: at seven weeks that was hardly even there, it's not worth getting upset about. A family member actually said this to us. What's more this came from the type of person who would ordinarily be in the pro-life camp. I'm not going to get into a pro-life/pro choice debate here, but we saw our baby's heart beating on a scan and it was very definitely there, and very definitely worth getting upset about when it was no longer there. Nobody should tell another that they have no right to grieve.

5) It wasn't a real baby. Similar to point 4 above. It was very real to the parents who suffered the loss. That loss represents so much more, the loss of dreams about the future.

6) You just have to forget about it and move on. If anyone lost a child after they were born would they be told to forget about it and move on? I don't think so.

7) You have an angel in heaven now. Ok, I do refer to my lost babies as my little angels sometimes, but saying this to someone who has just miscarried is just twee and of little comfort. I'd prefer a baby on earth, thanks.

8) Your troubles are small really, or at least you have your health. Relative to someone having a terminal disease, yes, a miscarriage or two might seem minor in the great scale of things, but relative to mass genocide then one person with a terminal illness seems like a small tragedy. It's all relative, and to trivialise someone else's grief really isn't helpful.

What you can say is

I'm sorry for your loss (or as one of my friends texted me when I told her by text about our third miscarriage, God Jane, that's really shit. Yes it is, and thanks for having the guts to say it in those terms).

How are you?

I'm here if you need to talk.

Other gestures I appreciated were people coming around to my house, bringing food, sending flowers, cards and plants to sow in the garden. These things I will always remember and appreciate greatly.

It was good to get that out of my system. Rant over.


Sarah said...

I cant even begin to imagine the pain of losing a child. Be it early on or otherwise.
I'm so sorry for the pain you've been through, and I'll keep you in my thoughts.


Xbox4NappyRash said...

You know what, for a 'rant' that was very informed.

Genuinely good advice for someone who's not sure how to try and comfort someone in that situation.

Nice one.

fertility challenged said...

I heard a lot of these when I miscarried. I'm sorry people are so insensitive. We have every right to be upset and to deal with it in our way. I think your list is very appropriate.

Isn't it pretty to think so said...

I'd like to add, do NOT say, "I know you're disappointed." Excuse me, I get disappointed over my DVR not recording American Idol, not when my baby dies.

andnotbysight said...

Amen! It still bugs me that some people have said nothing. One of my friends just burst into tears when I told her, and then apologized for crying. Not that I'd recommend that as a response (make yourself cry!), but seeing her genuine reaction really made me feel like she cared and understood.

womb for improvement said...

God, you've had to put up with so much. I really hope you never have to go through hearing these comments again.

nutsinmay said...

I hear you on the 'nothing'. I have been thoroughly, utterly, nothinged this summer. And every single teeny weeny, itsy once-off remark along hte lines of 'So sorry,' was so soothing to my heart.

I am so sorry people have said all those other things to you. Argh.

As for point 5, my pregnancy really really wasn't a real baby, it was anembryonic. But if anyone said that to me I would hit them.

Jane G said...

I wasn't on the receiving end of every one of these comments, but I did get most of them. I think it's just down to people not really getting it unless they have been through it themselves.

I'm not going to jinx myself by saying that hopefully it's a situation we won't find ourselves in again in the future, but I pray that we won't.

Feebee said...

Great list, have had all of them at one time or another. Don't forget "It was probably for the best" and "There was obviously something wrong with the baby".

Jane G said...

You're right, Fee Bee, I forgot those two. And I got them off friends and family at the time. What gets to me a lot is the fact that there is a strong likelihood that was nothing wrong with any of the babies I lost, it was just my body's inability to carry them.

Chelsea Lietz said...

Amen! I wish the world would read your advice.