What to Say To Someone Going Through Pregnancy Loss (Stranger Edition)

what to say

I would love to change the conversation surrounding pregnancy loss and infertility.  So many of the women in my life have been affected by one or the other, and there are so many assumptions made about pregnancy loss that manifest in strange comments or bad advice.  My theory is that as a society (whether in sex ed classes or in youth group) we stress so much that if you have sex, you will get pregnant.  While that is definitely an outcome, it’s not the only one.  And since the other outcomes are never addressed, when we get married and are ready to have kids, and then can’t or struggle to, it’s easy to feel ostracized and no one else is really prepared for it either.  Assumptions are made, and hence, comments and advice are doled out.

But the good news is that it’s becoming more of a conversation.  More celebrities are speaking out about their experiences, as are more women in general.  There are so many articles about pregnancy loss, that it’s easy to educate oneself.  And just about everyone I know knows someone who has been through one or the other or both.

I was in a forum recently, and someone asked me what do you tell someone who is going through pregnancy loss, specifically someone you don’t know well.  Maybe someone at work or church.  And honestly, it’s better to go simple than to try to find those perfect words that will make them feel better (which DO NOT exist).

I am sorry for your loss.

I know it sounds cliche, but this simple statement does two things.  First, it acknowledges that there was a loss.  I have read about and known women who have people in their lives that refuse to acknowledge their pregnancy loss as anything more than a setback.  But to many of these women this is a loss of a child, and just having that validation can mean so much.  Second, by not saying anything else, this gives the woman the space to grieve and process how they need to grieve and process.  Maybe they end the conversation right there.  That is absolutely fine.  Maybe they will go into the details.  But it is up to them.

Sometimes people might add, “I’ve been there” or “My (family member/friend) has   experienced pregnancy loss.”  Adding this can be helpful as it can help this person feel less alone, but I wouldn’t recommend going into any of the details.  You don’t know what may trigger the woman in front of you, or even if they are prepared to have that conversation.

And finally, don’t take it personally if they don’t react in a way you expected.  They might lash out or brush you off.  Remember, they are grieving.  Even if it’s been a while since the loss, you never know what milestone or anniversary might be coming up for them.  It could be a due date or the day they found out they were pregnant.  Grace and space are such key terms when approaching this topic, especially with someone you don’t know.

It makes me so happy and encouraged that there are so many people who are willing to ask questions like these.  And, of course, this conversation might be different with someone you know better, someone that you have a closer relationship with.  I’m hopeful that the conversation and the stigma around pregnancy loss will change.  And I’m so grateful to have you all as my community because I know you all want to be a part of that positive change.

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Upcoming Anniversary Reflections

Upon reflection of the upcoming anniversaries in my life, I have realized how differently I have viewed each of my pregnancies, based on a number of factors.

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For instance, when my first daughter died, I was in shock for quite a long time.  I didn’t feel the same way other women seemed to feel.  It took me three months at least to name her.  And it took me well over a year to really realize that I was already a mother.  And even longer to finally buy her urn.  I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that I never learned how to live in this limbo, how to process this limbo.

It was about a month after I had accepted my own motherhood that I became pregnant again.  And this time, I got to spend a little more time with this daughter.  Because of my first daughter’s death, I was now a high-risk pregnancy, which came with more ultrasounds, including a DVD of a 3-D ultrasound at 20 weeks.  I felt her move more.  I danced with her to the songs on the radio, while waiting in traffic.  When I found out she died, she had a name before her stillbirth.  Her urn was bought immediately.

And I guess that’s why last year’s holidays were so hard.  Everything I lost became so real.  I wasn’t in shock anymore.  I was supposed to be celebrating Christmas with my two girls, and I wasn’t.  No matter how many traditions I participated in, no matter how many cheesy movies watched or presents purchased, the holiday felt empty without them.  It hurt so bad to see everyone else celebrating with their kids, making memories when all I had left of my daughters were memories.

But this year, it’s different.  Now, I’m carrying a new life, a new hope of future Christmases and traditions. Some people celebrate the child’s birth, but the fact that I have this little, precious heartbeat within me during this holiday season for the first time in five years of waiting…this is my true gift this year.  And I thank God every day I get to spend with this little one.

Life is so precious.  Every breath, every heartbeat, every moment.  I’ve never really understood that until now.  So, in the midst of the sadness of remembering and the heartache of those I miss terribly, I find strength in joy and hope.  It will probably always be bittersweet, and this child will always know the sisters that came before.  We will take time each year around this season to remember them.  But in remembering them, we will make strides to embrace every moment as a wonderful gift.  And to always be thankful.

A Brief Comment on This Month

A Brief Comment

Amidst the excitement that my family has currently been experiencing, November is also a time of sad anniversaries as well.  At the end of this month, I will be remembering my first daughter on the 3 year anniversary of her stillbirth.  But at the same time, celebrating the holiday season pregnant.

Which makes this month really weird.

Grief, in fact, can be weird and unpredictable.  I remember the year after my first daughter’s stillbirth that the weeks leading up to that date were a lot harder than the day itself.  And last year, I was mourning not only her death but the death of my second daughter as well.  My second daughter’s due date was just days before the stillbirth date of my first.  Which put me into a depression that covered the entire holiday season.

This year, not only will I be remembering my two precious little girls, I will also be experiencing the joy of the beginning of the second trimester – the renewed energy, the complete lack of nausea, the increased appetite, feeling somewhat normal again.  It’s this happy but sad but happy but sad feeling that leaves everything unpredictable.

But that’s okay.  If I’ve learned anything on this pregnancy journey, I’ve learned that it’s okay to not completely know what’s going to happen next.  To trust that God has a clear vision of the road ahead.  That He’s not going to leave me, but instead, he will guide me safely down this path.

Hope Moms Balloon Release

This weekend, Michael and I attended our second Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day Balloon Release.  Last year, it was connected with a walk, but this year they just did the balloon release, which was still pretty special.

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It was extremely windy, so I had Michael in charge of the balloons.  We had two pink balloons for each of our daughters.  They had pink, blue, and yellow available.  Yellow balloons were generally for the babies who passed before the gender was known.

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Of course, as they were flying away, I was just overwhelmed.  So many little, loved ones were being celebrated in that park.  It means so much to me to know that I have a community of families who have been there.  I’m also thankful for my own community, all of you, who have been through this journey with us.

Anniversaries

Anniversaries

One year ago today, my second daughter was stillborn.

There isn’t really much I want to say today, but I wanted to share with you three songs that popped up consecutively on YouTube on Monday that I really needed to hear.

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how you can lay this down
‘Cause you’re not alone

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain, I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!

Memories

memories.jpgToday, Facebook will remind me of when I went to the hospital to confirm that our daughter had passed.  Facebook will remind me of how I numbly pulled out my laptop and typed words on a screen.  Facebook will remind me of how I got back onto the familiar road of grief one year ago.

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I know that you can remove memory reminders on Facebook.  You can remove whole chunks of time if you want to.  But I don’t want to.  I want to remember the sweet nurse that kept hope for us as each medical device came back negative for a heartbeat.  I want to remember how the moment the ultrasound confirmed our worst fears, my OB turned around and created a new game plan.  If her sleeves weren’t already rolled up, I know she would have in that moment.  I want to remember my talk with Jesus, how I re-engaged my stubborn and desperate love in the middle of chaotic grief.

I thought I would be pregnant by now, though.  I hoped I would be, that maybe a new pregnancy would lessen the blow of grief that this week will bring.  But I do have my husband, God, friends, family.  And I’m so thankful that God has created these hedges of protection during one of the dark moments in my history.

God is good.  All the time.  Even in the darkened sad moments.  Especially then.

Friday Ramble: Connection

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Several weeks ago, in another post, I can’t remember which one, I removed two paragraphs because I realized it didn’t fit with the rest of what I was writing.  I held onto those two paragraphs until I had another day to dig deeper into it.  And when I opened up the Word document to jog my memory on this topic, this is what I read:

It’s really, really easy to barrier yourself in this life.  All of our houses have garages that close, doors that lock, fences that border.  Our phones come with a do not disturb function on it and caller id, but before that, we were using voicemail to screen our calls (or was that just me?).  We have been moving towards isolation with furious speed for decades.  We blame the tools of this world – smart phones, social media, the internet – for all of it, but we, mankind, created those tools.

This is not a declaration against social media or cell phones or even the internet.  God is in every connection.  We can’t encrypt against his omnipresence.  We can’t go incognito from his omniscience.  And I believe he works as much in the virtual world as he does in the physical one.  You can’t block God.

This month has been particularly hard for me.  The end of this month will bring the one year anniversary of losing our second daughter.  And just like with our first, the weeks leading up to it have been hard.  Like I said earlier this week, I feel drained by any social interaction, so I’ve chosen to take some time to myself.

Then, I read these two paragraphs and realize how appropriate they are as a reminder. Even when I’m feeling the need to distance myself to work through grief, it is such good news that God remains connected.  And he has made himself known to me – through nature, my dogs, even conversations online with friends and strangers.  It’s so amazing to have people check in at random, but perfectly timed, moments.

So, thank you, friends.  Thank you to those of you who have commented on my blog recently.  You have made my heart smile.  Thank you to those who have sent private messages or small reminders to let us know that you are praying for us this month.  It has meant so much more than you will ever know.  In the midst of pain and grief, I can look to my Heavenly Father who provides for me, and I know that I am blessed.