Well Rounded Birth Prep

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why I haven't written about my miscarriage

Tomorrow is October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. I feel obligated to write something about this, either about pregnancy and infant loss in general, or about healing, or about how things have changed for me over time, or even just in memory as my due date approaches. October 21, 2010, would/could/should have been Evan Michael DeGroff's 3rd birthday. Yes, I realize that due dates are worthless, but it's the only date I have.

I blogged about my miscarriage extensively in the weeks following my loss in 2007. At first, family and friends were supportive, but it didn't take long for a select, vocal few to make me feel like I needed to crawl into a protective shell. They made me sorry that I had made myself vulnerable and had expressed my true feelings.

Why haven't I written about Evan since then, or about loss? It's largely still self-protective and defensive. I'm apprehensive to write anything at all for a fear that people will say something stupid and cruel in response. I still feel betrayed by people who hurt me when this first happened.

The biggest issue I have been avoiding is the "define baby" argument. You are welcome to your own opinion. If you would like to write a few paragraphs about why you think I'm wrong, I suggest that you start your own blog and post it there, instead of littering the comment box with insensitive remarks on how I don't have the right to grieve a baby that "didn't exist." That's what much of this issue boils down to. I lost my BABY in 2007. My real CHILD. Not my "almost-child" or "imaginary child" or "potential to be a child." Not my *shudder* "product of conception," as the ER staff called him. (Even saying the term "product of conception" triggers PTSD in me, or nearly so.) Not just "tissue" or "blob" or "lump of cells." I'll say it very clearly: my baby died.

I know that this isn't the case for everyone, but some people who are "pro-choice" have made it their mission to invalidate my pain and my right to grieve my baby's death, because if they acknowledge my mourning my dead baby as legitimate, with a real source, then what does that say about their stance on stopping that beating heart willingly and purposefully? One pro-choice friend admitted to me that this was the case for her.

I'm also not in the mood to hear any of the following:

"Be thankful. At least you have (insert number here) healthy children."

I am thankful for my healthy children, as well as for God who holds my baby in Heaven and will get me through this, for my loving husband, for the roof over my head, and for the fact that we have enough to eat. One can be thankful for any number of things and still mourn a loss. Grief doesn't diminish or negate thankfulness. Would you say the same thing to me if I were mourning the loss of my grandmother?

"At least you can try again/have more children."

That's really insensitive for a number of reasons, and inaccurate, too. Children are not disposable and replaceable. I cannot go get another one like replacing a 29-cent goldfish. I wanted *that* baby. If any more babies come in the future, I will want them, too. Not only that, but it's not true that just because someone is young and apparently healthy, that they can automatically have more children. You don't know what struggles some people have with trying to conceive, infertility, and the challenges of gestating with joy after a previous loss.

"Your baby isn't 'lost', he's in Heaven now."

Yes, I'm aware of that. I just use the euphemism "lost" to make people feel more comfortable in conversation, but if you prefer that I say "My baby died," I can do that.

"At least it happened early before you got to know him/ got attached."

Um, no. My baby died. I love him. I loved him from the minute I got the positive pregnancy test. I was attached and still am attached. If anything, I envy the time that mothers have with their babies who got more time with them than I did. At least the rest of the world acknowledges the existence of those babies.

"It's better that it happened this way because something would have been wrong with him if he would have lived."

You might feel that way, but I don't. I will love my babies even if they are not "perfect." Maybe you will only accept a perfect baby, and would abort or give a baby up for adoption if they didn't meet your criteria for "perfect," i.e. no Down Syndrome, no birth defects, no cleft lip/palate, no heart defect, boy/girl of your preference, etc. This is America and that's your legal right; I cannot change your mind and will not try to. Keep in mind, however, that nobody is guaranteed a "perfect," "healthy" child, even if they appear so at birth. We are not guaranteed that our children will not get cancer, have heart problems, or be challenged or differently abled in any number of ways.

"It must have been God's will."

Well, to a certain degree, but maybe not the way it's worded here. Without turning my business blog into a religious pulpit, I'd like to at least point out that we live in an imperfect, fallen world. This is not the world that God made; it was perfect when he made it, without sin and without disease or hurt. It was man's sin which brought death and problems into this world. The whole of creation suffers as a result, even the innocent. This is within God's permissive will (meaning He allows it to occur) but I don't believe that God *wants* for babies to die (or be sick or hurt, etc.).

"Just trust God."

Again, yes, but not as it's worded. This is invariably the trite phrase people say when they see that I'm on the verge of tears and they don't know what to say, so they say this. I *do* trust God, thanks. I have from the beginning. And it still hurts. It's called grief, and it's normal to grieve when someone you love dies.

"Don't be angry at God!"

I'm not angry at God. I'm not trying to put down anyone who has this struggle, but personally, it was something I did not experience. So please quit telling me that I did.

"Nobody grieves like this. There must be something wrong with you. You need to seek a therapist and get on medication."

I'd like to throw in a caveat. Some parents do need medical/professional/pharmaceutical help. I'm not arguing that. I would, however, like to say that it's not fair to tell *me* that there's something WRONG with me when there's not, just because the person is uncomfortable with my grief. That's not fair. If you're uncomfortable with seeing or hearing me grieve, that's fine. Walk off.

"You're just trying to make me feel as though I didn't grieve enough/correctly when I had my miscarriage."

No, I'm not.

"Maybe God was trying to teach you a lesson about your life when He allowed this to happen to you."

I heard this from a family member. When I told him that I realized that he didn't mean for it to come across the way that it sounded, but that it was hurtful to me, he clarified that he *did* in fact mean it the way it sounded, and proceeded to give me an hour's worth of earful about his perceptions of my character flaws. I did not feel that it was constructive criticism.

"Maybe the baby you're pregnant with now is really the baby you lost reincarnated!"

This came from someone of a different religion than myself, who *knew* for a fact that I am Christian. Maybe she didn't know much about biblical teachings, but the Bible says that it is appointed to people ONCE to die (not many multiple times) (Heb. 9:27). I'm not trying to belittle anyone who has different beliefs, but if reincarnation were true, then I wasted a HEAP of time crying over my dead baby. All I needed to do was hurry up and get pregnant again as quickly as possible so that I could get my dead baby back. The only inconvenience therein would be an estimated due date about a month or two later. Not only that, but we felt that our dead baby was a boy and named him Evan. Our next baby was a girl.

This is but a small sampling of the unbelieveable (believable) things people say to mothers whose babies have died. Other grieving mothers have told me they have heard the same things. It's not fair that I should feel silenced because it makes other people uncomfortable. Sometimes I feel strong enough to speak out so that I can encourage other mothers that they are not alone, and other times I just want to put up that wall to protect my heart.

Maybe this post is TMI. Maybe this is too personal to share, especially on my business page. But with loss, I feel that you either have to get honest and personal or don't bring it up at all. What good is it to write about loss in terms of platitudes and generalities?

I feel like this had to be said before I could say anything else about loss.


  1. Oh, Sarah. I heard some of these myself, and I would agree with you on all of them. I wouldn't mind if someone said, "Maybe you should see a therapist to work out your feelings," as long as they didn't imply something was wrong with me. I did have to talk to my pastor at the time to move past the depression I felt. That doesn't mean I forget - in fact, I named my baby Bridgette, and I have this lovely, bright-eyed girl this semester who's named Bridgette. Sometimes, when I call her name to answer, my heart hurts. And SHAME on the family member who took it upon himself to be God's messenger of doom.

  2. Sarah,

    Thank you for posting this. I have heard many of those myself, after losing my son to SIDS. I wish there was an bleep button for people in life, and not just on television. It would be a blessing to a select group of people, like us for one.

    Yesterday would have be his 1st birthday. I miss him more than I can say.

    My thoughts and prayers will include you.

  3. (((Hugs))) Kristi. My best encouragement and support has been from other moms who have been there--yourself included. I pray I can be used to comfort, support, and encourage other families who are hurting.

  4. Sidsmom2mickey, I can only imagine how much you must miss your son and how it must hurt. Thank you for sharing your story. We can be a blessing to each other, even if other people choose not to be. I'll pray for your peace and comfort as well.

  5. I'm so glad that you wrote this and I am so sorry for your loss. "I'm sorry" was all we needed to hear as well, but it seems like those were the most difficult words for others to say. Instead, I was flooded with remarks like:

    "We are so lucky that we have healthy children."
    "I am so glad that never happened to me."
    "God meant for it to be this way."
    "You have a few more years to try again."

    ...and my personal favorite (pardon my sarcasm):

    "It's happened 3 times now. Are they going to sterilize you?"

    It is so incredibly difficult to mourn and grieve for your baby when surrounded by so much insensitivity. I wish you and your beautiful family peace tomorrow. When we are burning our candles, Evan will be in our thoughts as well.

  6. I loved this post! Proof that every baby that is lost is loved from the moment of conception. When I asked for my 6 week scan picture, the ultrasound tech said, "Oh you want a picture of the gestational sac?" No, I want a picture of my BABY. It's personal, not scientific.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this again Sarah. It breaks my heart to hear how moms who have lost little ones can be treated when all they need is love and understanding to grieve in their own way.

  8. Thank you for sharing this honest post Sarah.I had a 21 week loss and heard many of this things and also that "someone else needed that spirit more than me." I felt like my loss wasn't legitimate because my baby girl wasn't "viable". I really appreciate you willingness to share your experience.

  9. well said, sarah, well said.

  10. Thanks for sharing, Sarah. I was lucky, in that I never really had to deal with insensitive comments, but I think that's mostly because I very carefully kept myself and my pain away from people who I thought might make them.

    Tomorrow is actually the anniversary of the conception of my little one who's no longer here...maybe I might blog about it, too.

  11. Ah, my friend...thank you for sharing. It's incredibly sad to me that you have to write about the pain caused by your pain, instead of being able to deal solely with the grief of your loss. I don't care if your pregnancy ends at 4 weeks or 40, it's still a baby...it's still *your* baby. Just because the outside can't see that little life does not mean it is not valid. Maybe one day you can share (repost?) about Evan's short little life so that we can love him, too. One day you will be safe.

    Love you...

  12. Sarah, it baffles me to hear/read the comments that people say to a grieving person. I have to wonder if they're actually thinking before those words come out of their mouths.

    I have not yet had a miscarriage, but it is mainly these kinds of comments that have caused me to not announce pregnancy early on in case I miscarry: I don't want just anyone to know--I want only people I can trust to know. But in reality, I know that there would likely still be these terribly insensitive "comforts" given.

    Recently, I had the sad privilege of caring for a woman who was having a miscarriage. I was witness to a heaping of horrid comments by well-meaning people in a very short time, that made me feel like fighting off anyone who wanted to get near her. (Who says to a woman who is miscarrying, "I'm sure [person's name] will tell you that a baby is not viable before 20 weeks"?!?) I was internally livid (but I bet my eyeballs were bulging). One woman came to see her, and knowing this woman, I cringed at the liklihood that she would say something insensitive. She did. She told the mom how fortunate she was to not have ever had a miscarriage before. No matter how many children this woman had, and how grateful she may be that she hadn't ever miscarried before, THIS WAS NOT THE THING TO SAY!!!

    Counter-intuitively, sometimes it is the woman who has had great loss who belittles the most. It seems to become a comparison thing for some.

    Thank you for the gift of your vulnerability. I am sorry for your loss.

    (Sarah from prodromal birth)

  13. HUGS! I don't understand the insensitivity that some people exhibit during times like these. My own husband was the worst for me. After my second miscarriage, whenever he talked about it to anyone (including me), he would always add something about how at least we know I can get pregnant. Not comforting. The thought of getting pregnant over and over and never carrying to term was terrifying to me. Then after my third miscarriage, he decided that meant I was just too old to have any more and I should have stopped after 2 healthy babies. I wanted more. I still want more. But I'm done trying. I just couldn't handle the pain of another loss, so I quit trying. It hurts. No matter how long the pregnancy lasts, no matter how many kids you have, it just hurts to lose a baby.

  14. I think the hardest thing for me, was when my mom told me (after telling her we were having Mia cremated), "Why? It isn't like this was a real baby. If you had been like 32 weeks along, then I could understand." This from a woman who also had a miscarriage between my sister and I. She apologized profusely later, saying she was just caught off guard. Fortunately, I must have still had some anesthesia in my system from the d&c, because I didn't completely lose my mind when she said that. It hurt then and still hurts now.

  15. Thank you for your post, Sarah.

  16. I'm sorry you've had to deal with such insensitive remarks, Sarah. Thank you for sharing your story. (((hugs)))

  17. I forgot to say that I am also sorry you've had to deal with the pain of losing a baby. I will be holding you in my heart on Oct 21.

  18. God bless you and your willingness to write out what so many of us feel and think. Including myself. I lost my son in 2009 and yes he was a real baby. I appreciate your blog so much and again thank you for writing this. It has given me the courage to stand up to my own family who has chosen to "forget" that my child even existed. Thank You and god Bless

  19. Thank you so much for sharing. It is important that others would realize that no matter the stage of pregnancy with miscarriage, that a real baby is lost. I too had hurtful words spoken to me w/ my loss. It took me several years to truly allow myself to grieve in the way that I needed. And I realize now that I don't have to hestiate grieving for my loss anymore. Every year my baby deserves to be remembered, though only part of my life a short time, her memory will always be part of my living. Thank you again. <3

  20. Whether you hold them inside you for a day or in your arms for years, a mother will hold her child in her heart until the day she dies.

  21. Beautifully written. Love to you, mama. <3

  22. Just wanted to say Thank You for allowing yourself to walk through this to share with us! You are not alone! I know that you "know" that but I pray that you've truely felt it. (((HUGS)))

  23. Sarah, I appreciate your words. I am less than a week out from miscarrying and the pain is very fresh. I haven't told church family or friends yet about it since the process isn't completely over. How long did you wait before you openly shared it with church friends or coworkers? I don't want to have a sympathy party but I do feel that I need the support and love of Christ's body right now and understanding of those I work with. I also plan to blog about my experience but again, I don't want to do it too soon and regret that I shared it publicly when I wasn't ready. I was 8 weeks along and the baby was 7. It was our first child and an unplanned pregnancy. Thanksgiving was difficult and I know the upcoming holiday season with family and an infant baptism scheduled will be as well. Thoughts?

  24. Anony, I'm sorry for your loss and pain. I plan on writing a blog soon on coping with holidays. There's so much variation as to what brings each person comfort. The best advice I could give is go with your gut. Some families share their loss immediately for reasons you mentioned, having family support and understanding as to why they are having a hard time. For others, having privacy to mourn in their own way is more helpful. If you find blogging helpful but aren't sure you are ready to share your loss with friends and family yet, would setting up a new anonymous blog be helpful to you? I'm sorry that Thanksgiving was difficult. If the thought of the upcoming holiday is difficult, could you (and your significant other/spouse) compromise with a different arrangement from the norm? Maybe a shorter visit? If it's just too hard for you to attend the baptism, is it possible to pull the parents of the baby aside to explain? Or send your significant other with a gift and card and your apologies that you had really wanted to be there to support them and congratulate them, but you couldn't make it. It's truthful.
    In the meanwhile, I'm sorry you are hurting. I pray for peace, comfort, and healing for you. <3

  25. Yep... heard WAY too many of those comments from people "trying" to help. I grieved a VERY long time for my lost Lily. My husband was up for being an elder in the church and was not voted in because I was having such a difficult time grieving the loss of our first child.
    Just because I had her for 11 weeks doesn't make her any less loved or important to me, yet most others did not seem to agree.
    I am so very sorry for your loss and so very sorry for the way people treated you in your grieving process... saddly people just don't seem to understand. <3


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