I know that a lot of people who have gone through infertility or miscarriages have written blog posts about Mother’s Day in recent years. I appreciate their strong words of encouragement and understanding, and I thought I would add to the list a few thoughts of my own.
First of all, I want to celebrate the mothers in my life. This day is a day to honor all of their hard work and sacrifice. My mommy friends are all excellent examples of the kind of mother I hope to be if and when I have children of my own. My own mother has been an amazing example of a wife, and I hope to be even a fraction of who she is as a mother. She has instilled a strong character in me to stand up for what I believe in and to embrace the beauty found in everyone including myself.
That said, last year, Mother’s Day was something very different for me. The Monday before Mother’s Day was when my miscarriage began. It began at 1:00 AM that morning and lasted for a little more than a week, including that Mother’s Day Sunday. My amazing in-laws came down for support, and I even went to church that morning, though I didn’t make it very far into the first video on the screen before leaving the auditorium in tears (I held it together until I got to the foyer). My church family was absolutely amazing and supportive, even the bulletin that morning had a poem that honored every woman, including those who have dealt with the death of a child, miscarriage, infertility, or a wide range of other issues that women go through more often than we realize.
In the following months, I had several conversations with friends, family and acquaintances that are prompting me to share this list with you. This is not in any way nullifying the relationships that I have with anyone who made a comment similar to this to me, or in any way truly affecting the relationship I have with them. I know that every person I have come into contact about this has had only the best intentions and excitement for me regarding family and children. I love, love, love you all for this.
However, please realize that even the best, well-meaning comments can be painful. The below list are things actually said to me over the past year. While some hurt more than others, they are in no particular order of affect or importance, as everyone is affected differently by this issue. I just ask that we think before we speak, and avoid saying the below altogether (unless given explicit instructions, prompts or approval by the friend in question – they know what is best for them to hear).
1. “When are we going to celebrate Mother’s Day with you/When are you guys going to start a family/Are you trying to start a family/Etc?”
This was said to me on Mother’s Day. I honestly didn’t know what to say, and I smiled, mumbled something incoherent to even me, and walked out of the room. I know that there are some people who believe that you should start a family right away after marriage, and can’t fathom waiting for any length of time. Please remember that this decision is one that is not made lightly. Michael and I made the decision to wait five years for a number of reasons, and we were blessed to have the love and support from both sides of the family on that decision. Other people have other reasons to wait, while still others are struggling with infertility. Bluntly, if they haven’t volunteered that information to you, you probably don’t have the kind of relationship with that person to say such things to them. I know that this comes from a place of excitement and encouragement, but really, it’s best left unsaid.
2. “You look pregnant in your most recent picture/Are you pregnant?/Etc”
That first one was actually told to me privately (which I truly appreciated the private manner it was done). If you have read any of these types of lists, then you should know by now to never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never say that to any woman. I know that it’s exciting to be the first to figure out or know some big piece of news. I hate to be the last to know something. However, there is never a time that this is appropriate. Not even if she is in the maternity ward, with her legs in stirrups, screaming to the top of her lungs. This is a pretty important piece of news, and when the woman wants to share it, she will the way she wants, when she wants, to who she wants. If she’s not pregnant, it could very well mean that she ends up crumpled on the floor, crying her eyes out. The only thing that should ever be said to another woman is that she is beautiful, inside and out. That’s it.
3. “Maybe you and your husband should get tested/Maybe you should lose weight/Maybe it’s because of birth control/GMOs/Cow’s Milk/Etc”
I am a theory kind of girl. As I said above, I love to figure things out. And to a certain extent, I had no problem talking about the latest trend theories of why there are so many miscarriages happening in the world. And there are, by the way. Just in my experience alone, when I came out about my miscarriage, almost every woman in my life had dealt with one at some point in their life (some with multiple ones). However, be careful when discussing the possible causes of a miscarriage with the one who went through it. We are fighting a voice inside of us that tells us that this is all our fault. Granted, this one probably didn’t bother me as much when I miscarried as these comments have resurfaced in my memory these last few months every time I knew I wasn’t pregnant. I had a wonderful doctor who took hold me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye and repeated over and over that this wasn’t my fault when we didn’t hear the heartbeat. And I don’t think anyone who said the above theories believed that they were blaming me in any way for what happened, but sometimes those words get twisted in our brains and planted in our hearts, and it’s hard to shake them after a while. Instead, just be there for her. Just listen to her cry, buy her a Sonic drink, and let her love on your little ones. It can be the best remedy for a long day of second guessing myself.
4. “It’s harder to get pregnant after [insert age here].”
This is similar to #3 in that it can come as unwanted advice or comment, and it can have a similar effect. We know all about the biological clock. We also have memorized what age will be considered at risk, and we know the days are going faster than we want them to. However, ultimately, this is in God’s hands. There are young women who go through miscarriages and troubles conceiving for a variety of reasons, just like there are several women out there who don’t start having kids until their thirties and they have wonderful families. Again, Michael and I made a conscious decision to wait, and we don’t regret that decision. I cannot live in fear that I’m not living up to a societal timetable when it comes to my family. The only timetable I can truly depend on is God’s, and I’m positive he will make my purpose clear in his timing.
5. “It will be so easy to get pregnant again/You will have no trouble conceiving/Etc”
This comment was actually somewhat of an encouragement to me when I was going through the miscarriage. However, one of my friends wisely knew that this might cause problems later. You see, when we started trying again, it hasn’t been as easy as the first time. I know stress has been a huge factor, but as each month ticks by, it becomes more difficult to fight the fear. It turned out that it is harder for me to get pregnant than I originally thought. And because of that, there are times when I feel like I’m letting those people down. I’m not guaranteed another pregnancy, and I have to face that with a patience and peace that comes from God. Again, instead of this kind of encouragement, just listen to the relationship and the woman. Be there for her at the time of miscarriage as well as the highs and lows that will come afterward.
Finally, I don’t want to include this as a number because this is different for even me depending on the relationship, but I have to say something. Pregnancy announcements. I’m not really talking about online or Facebook ones. I’m talking about ones announced face to face, especially if the person has recently gone through a loss. I know that that is a celebration-worthy announcement, and I want to celebrate with you, but I don’t know how to do so through my pain. I may hold the tears back or try my best to remain calm, but inside my heart is pounding, and my soul is screaming out (and trust me, the crying happens as soon as I get alone).
Something I learned to do before I was ever pregnant (thanks to the awesome advice of mommy friends who went through infertility issues and miscarriages) was to email a person who has dealt with infertility or miscarriage the announcement to give them a heads up. That way, they can have the nasty reaction that they don’t want to have in front of you, because you don’t deserve it. It’s not about you, it’s about their pain. I know it’s selfish, but it’s also honest, and a quick email would save a bunch of future heartache and extend some awesome understanding as well. Trust me, I want to be stronger than this, but unfortunately, I’m not there. God is working on me, and continues to do so. Acknowledging their pain and making the attempt to understand should only make you grow closer.
I hope this sheds some light on the subject, at least from my perspective. I know that other women are going through different things and making different choices according to their calling. So I know that this isn’t an exhaustive list, just the ones that affected me and I know have affected others. Regardless of your position and perspective on this topic, I love all of the women in my life. I am blessed to have so many Godly examples in my life. You have definitely helped me grow and continue to grow in my daily walk, whether you know it or not. Love you all!