I’m writing this on Saturday and posting on Sunday. Today (Saturday) marks the four year anniversary of our first miscarriage. Over these last four years, I’ve had a lot of conversations with family, friends, and strangers about pregnancy loss, children, infertility, etc. In fact, three years ago, I wrote a blog post about some of the awkward conversations I had after my first miscarriage. While I have seen more compassion and understanding in the community than I did that first year, I have a few more things to add to that list.
So here is what not to say to a woman without kids during Mother’s Day (or any time of the year for that matter).
1. Do you have kids? I understand I live in suburbia, and 9 times out of 10, she will probably have kids, but if you ask me, the answer will always be “yes, I have two daughters that have passed away”. And then there is that awkward pause, or the I’m sorry, or usually, lately, it comes back that they have a sister or friend who went through the same thing. I don’t hate the question, don’t get me wrong. But I know that women with infertility or pregnancy loss struggle with it because, frankly, it’s kind of a downer to talk about children who have passed away. As much as I love my daughters, it’s a sad story (even though I know where they are and that gives me hope).
But even if the person does have kids, I think it can be a bit of a boring question. And that’s because I was asked the most fabulous question a few years ago. It has stuck in my brain as a brilliant conversation starter. And that question is “What drives you? What is your passion? What gets you up in the morning?” For a mom, that could be her kids, but it also gives a mom another option. I know moms that love their kids, but their passion in life, what drives them, is something different. And that’s okay. And it’s okay to be passionate about your kids too! And for someone like me, who isn’t raising any kids right now, I can share the other things in my life that get me out of bed in the morning. Particularly this face, because he whines every morning at 7 a.m. to go out. Every. Morning. He is my alarm clock.
2. Have you thought about IVF? Clomid? These are drugs and procedures more for people dealing with infertility. I don’t actually have infertility, although I may have it in the future. Infertility can happen after pregnancy, pregnancy loss, or a number of situations. But there is no indication that has happened to me, yet. The medical research that has positively affected infertility has been amazing. Even so, none of these are quick fixes or absolutes, and unless you are willing to go deep into that conversation, you might want to be careful bringing up things that may have worked for someone you know but may not have worked for the person standing in front of you.
And a lot of the time, I get the sense that people assume my OB or any of the doctors I have spoken to would not have talked about these things with me already. Especially since my particular case has been unexplained. I have amazing doctors who are passionate and knowledgeable in their field. They are blunt with me and talk me through whatever questions I have. I have been tested so much, had sit-down meetings with a genetics counselor and with my high-risk OB (perinatologist).
My body didn’t malfunction when I carried or gave birth to my daughters. Neither of my daughters was in distress on their ultrasound, just days before passing. Our first daughter was autopsied. How far down the testing do we need to go? I’m not saying this because I’m angry. I’m willing to have the conversation. But for most parents, this is a painful conversation, and I would caution assumptions and comments in this area, especially with strangers or acquaintances.
3. Have you thought about adoption? I want to make clear that not everyone who has talked to me about adoption has been inappropriate. I’m thinking of the conversation I had back in January with a complete stranger who asked if I was cleaned out after my miscarriages (not realizing that my pregnancy loss was stillbirth). The next thing on her lips was “have you thought about adoption” as if adoption was some quick fix.
First of all, adoption can be a long and very expensive process. And it comes with its own set of emotional rollarcoasters. You aren’t guaranteed a baby in a certain timeline. I’ve heard of situations from friends trying to adopt who had a baby and then the birth mother decided to keep it. It’s heart-breaking.
Second, adoption is not a replacement or a quick fix to my loss. I still have three children. One precious child lost way too early and two precious daughters. And any child we have in our family is not a replacement or a consolation prize, but one that God placed in our lives with purpose.
I know that this is complicated and heartbreaking. It happens to one out of four women. And something I would say to women who are going through this Mother’s day without her children with her is this:
You are not a fluke. Your children were not a fluke. You are beautiful. Your children are beautiful. You have purpose and worth, and so do they. You are an honored mother, loved by her children. No matter where you are in the journey – take just that next step, breathe the next breath, live in that next moment. Love others fiercely and with compassion. God loves you as his daughter. And I love you as my sister in the trenches. Hang in there. God’s got you.