Today, my husband and I received a card. It was from someone reaching out to us, letting us know that though they didn’t know what we were going through, they cared. I must have read that card over 1,000 times today, and matched each neatly penned word with a tear.
What a priceless treasure that card was to me; not because someone extended sympathy to us, but because in the sea of hundreds of people that knew we lost a tiny life, there was someone out there that recognized this child… this little life… my tiny little baby’s death was important enough to acknowledge… important enough to go out and buy a card. How full my heart felt as I read each word!
Believing in the significance of our little child’s life, however diminutive he or she was, has felt like a lonely stand in the recent weeks. All around there are people that will never consider that little one to be one of my children. Instead society will say our first child was a “disappointment,” “inconvenience” or “bump in the road.” They will compare my little baby that only grew to 6 week gestational maturity to a 21 week gestational maturity and paint a picture that mine was less important, less devastating, less tragic than theirs. They will write off the little baby’s existence.
As I type this my fingers keep retreating from the keyboard. A gloomy fear lingers in my mind that people will misunderstand what I am trying to say. Maybe they will think we were offended by how they responded to the sad news. We were not. We were humbled by those who extended their condolences, and understanding of those who did not.
But I have made an observation, not only in the last couple of weeks, but over the course of the last several months, that has been twisting at my heart and I can no longer hold that perplexity inside.
I want to take a little bit of time and make a confession.
Like so many others, before babies were “relevant” to me… I was clueless about miscarriage.
For the handful of miscarriages I remember occurring in the lives of other people prior to wanting a baby of my own, I probably did a lot of what I saw in the last few days. I probably got curious about the status of their pregnancy or heard something went awry and did a little bit of online “verification” (snooping). When the news was verified, I probably went on my way without offering any condolences, because I most likely did not understand you were grieving. Maybe I wasn’t sure what to say. Maybe I didn’t realize it was a big deal. Maybe if I did realize you were indeed hurting, I didn’t feel qualified to offer a clumsy, awkward condolence and though I may have considered it, ultimately decided I should leave that to the “professionals.”
I remember on one occasion feeling really stupid because I asked a pregnant acquaintance in person:
“So how far along are you now?” Only to be countered with, “Oh, I miscarried at 4 months.”
I don’t recall my own response. It was probably something cringe-worthy. It probably sounded hollow, because in all honesty, it more than likely was. Looking back I think… “4 months? What a tragedy!”
I used to think a lot of the stupid things people think. Of course, I never realized I thought them until… like I said, it was a relevant issue to me.
- A miscarriage is a “disappointment” more than a loss. Grieving was probably more for babies of later term, like the ones that were potentially big enough to survive.
- Miscarriage is “nature’s way” of taking care of damaged goods. God’s probably sparing them from something they couldn’t have handled like a “special needs” child. Almost like most people would be glad they wouldn’t have to worry about a lifelong journey of assisting a child with some limitations.
- God has His “reasons.” (His reasons may or may not have been subject to my opinion.)
- God withholds children for petty reasons. One time as I sat and listened to a young lady who was having trouble conceiving, as she told us the outlandish names she had picked out for her future children, I actually thought “and that is why God has not given her any children… He is sparing them from lifelong humiliation.”
- It was a “false alarm.” Almost like they were never really pregnant to begin with. For some that had repeated miscarriages I thought “I will believe you are pregnant when you are delivering a baby.” I actually got annoyed with some people for their “false alarms.”
I hope the world will forgive me for my idiocy. I was young and stupid, and I’m sorry.
I am utterly ashamed of the way I didn’t realize I thought.
Because people are people, there are probably some reading this now thinking, “that’s why God is putting her through this. He’s teaching her a well-deserved lesson!”
He may or may not be teaching me the lesson you presume He is.
In all reality, God’s a lot higher than us, so our feeble and trite hypotheses and explanations in situations like these really amount to very little down here on earth… except for the fact that they are incredibly unfeeling, inconsistent… and usually wrong.
Oh. So. Very. Wrong.
You see… I know now, that a miscarriage is a loss. It’s a death.
Most of the people that bother to read my blog will agree that “life begins at conception.” We agree that there is a life within the womb…
But there’s an irony that I’m grappling with. That somehow… when a person miscarries… it’s not a death. It’s just a “disappointment.”
It’s not even enough for most people- even people very close to you– to take a minute to shoot a text that says “Hey, I just want you to know we prayed for you today.” Or to even walk up and say, “I’m sorry for your loss” and give a loving hug. It’s almost regarded as nothing. It’s a “hush hush” scenario and I cannot understand why.
When a woman loses her little baby there is a life that is lost, but it is not treated as a mother who tragically lost a baby… Most people would not consider the mother who lost her first baby to be a mother at all… but she is. Even if she never has another baby ever, she is a mother to a child. You have to agree with that if you believe life begins at conception. Just because her child was never as tangible as the typical bundle of joy, does not mean it did not exist. Just because it had not matured to a specific point does not mean it wasn’t there.
Can I be very honest? When we lost our baby, I was actually tempted by the typical societal outlook on miscarriage. My mind wrestled with fundamental concepts of where life begins, when babies get souls, if cells really constituted life, and if I really lost a baby… That probably raised a few eyebrows, but the reason for it was the primary reaction of people in all the scenarios I knew of.
Miscarriage is downplayed. Miscarriage is a baby that “never existed.”
It would have been so much easier to get through the process of grief if I could actually believe the way you are pressured to believe in this society… that:
My “pregnancy” (masked term) was just a “false alarm” (masked term), and we were “disappointed” (masked term) with the outcome.
Her child (uncomfortable truth) died (uncomfortable truth) and they are devastated (uncomfortable truth).
In the past few days hundreds of people poured onto my blog. Most people never said a word to me, but the ones that spoke up were mostly mothers who had been there. I was actually stunned by how many out there have experienced this, and even more astonished by how many experienced it repeatedly. In the hospital the doctor told us that statistically 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. That’s a huge percentage… and yet, you hear almost nothing about them even when they are happening all around you.
Do you know what most of the women who contacted me said?
“We were disappointed, but man, am I glad God spared me from a child with special needs!”
“Well, it’s just a bump in the road. No big deal.”
It was always something to the effect of
“there is still part of me missing after all of this time” and “Even after all of these years I still think about them” and “I feel like a part of me left with each one I lost”.
That sounds kind of like a mother who lost her child.
Do you know why?
Because it was her child.
She lost her child.
Four weeks gestation… 4 months along… 4 months old, 4 years old… 40 years old…
No matter how old that child is, a mother loves her child and she grieves when she loses her child.
I think if more people understood that, they would understand that it’s natural for moms to feel true, honest-to-goodness grief and that grief is 100% VALID… and it’s valid for her to grieve longer than a handful of days, and just because she grieves doesn’t mean she isn’t victorious.
It is therefore perfectly acceptable to treat the situation like you would any other situation involving grief.
It’s ok for you to ask someone grieving, “how are you doing?”
It’s ok for you to give them a hug and let them know you care.
It’s ok to write a little note or send a card, or even give them a little trinket or token that memorializes the life that was lost.
It’s ok (and advisable) to avoid giving explanations and reasons.
It’s ok to give them space, but let them know you are there…
It’s ok to acknowledge the validity of their loss, that the baby existed, that the baby was an important life.
Because you’re not dealing with just a shattered dream or some sad news, or a nothing…
A mother who miscarried, is a mother who lost her child.
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