I remember the moment I called my parents as if it were this morning. We were supposed to have found out the sex of the baby, but instead we learned he had died. It was the hardest moment of all, I think, because when you tell someone else what has happened, it becomes real.
In these conversations, I think you have to be as straightforward as possible. They will have lots of questions that you may or may not be able to deal with right now. I would keep the conversation brief if possible and let the details work themselves out over the next few days. Once the grandparents know, then you can move on to others. You may find it easier to tell a close friend or sibling first and let them tell the grandparents. This depends on your family make up.
If no one knew you were pregnant, you may be tempted to remain silent. I don’t recommend you keep this all to yourself. Most of your friends and family would want to be there for you during this difficult time. You are denying them an opportunity to help you. You don’t have to pretend this was no big deal, or that the baby wasn’t real. You were pregnant, you were expecting great joy, and you lost it. This is not a small thing.
We sent out an email to all our friends once our parents and closest friends had been called. The text of it is included below.
To our friends,
This is a difficult e-mail to write.
On Tuesday, April 28, we learned that the baby whose September arrival we had so anxiously anticipated, had died. The cause is as yet unknown; we will probably never know why.
We have named the baby Casey Shay. Casey will be delivered on Thursday and cremated.
We know that you feel for us. We ask that you send your sympathy and condolences to us by writing instead of calling, if you don’t mind. It is difficult to find words to say anyway, and it is hard for us to relive the entire experience over and over again. We would cherish any cards or notes you would care to send.
We also know that you will have a hard time knowing how to act around us for a while, especially those of you who are expecting a child. While this will be hard for us to handle for a little while, we will eventually be all right. In a couple of weeks, you may certainly give us a call to go out for dinner or drinks, or a movie. We are strong people and have a very strong relationship with each other. We will be fine and will, sometime later this year, be ready to try again.
Our lives are going to be a little different now. Deanna, of course, had already resigned her teaching position and has no intention of going back. She will be looking for a new job in June, in a new career. Once the delivery and recovery are behind us, we will be traveling for a week or so and visiting some of our favorite places, so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from us for a while. When we were first married, one of our favorite places to visit was the seawall at Galveston. We will most likely stay there a few days.
Keep the three of us in your thoughts and prayers.
John and Deanna
Many, many women write me and say that no one will let them talk about their baby, and even their close friends, church members, and family shy away from the topic. This is so common that it has become the number one comment I get in emails.
What is really happening? Your friends, your coworkers, your church acquaintances know you are hurting, and hurting deeply. They do not know what to say. They want you to feel better, so they think somehow, if they ignore what happened, you will forget about it sooner. There are a lot of people who honestly believe that the more you talk about something, the worse you feel. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Unfortunately, unless you feel comfortable bringing it up (and you SHOULD; it is perfectly okay), no one else will. Would you want to be talking on the phone with someone, having a perfectly normal conversation, and then suddenly say something that makes the other person burst into tears? This is what your friends believe will happen (and they are probably right), and they don’t want to put you through that. They don’t understand that this is exactly what you need to do.
I forced the issue on my friends for a while, refusing to talk about anything else. All the while, however, I got on the internet, in chat rooms and bulletin boards, talking to other women in my situation who were interested in every detail. When you can’t get the support you need in your current circle of friends, reach out to those of us who have been there. I have made countless friends through our shared experiences, and these are people you can count on to understand and not to say anything stupid. They have been there, and for a while, they are the best friends you will have.
Find an online forum for women who have experienced a loss. Visit it and get the support you need outside your normal circles, for a while. When you are used to talking about your baby, then you may be ready to bring up the subject with your family and friends. I think you will find that many of them really want to know what happened. Deanna runs one on Facebook, which is private and friends cannot see your posts.
Most people don’t really know what to say, so they make something up on the spot or repeat old-fashioned sayings that don’t really apply. I think that they feel the need to say something, and they want somehow to make it all better. While many of the stupid things that people will say to you upon learning you have lost a baby seem thoughtless and even cruel, do realize that it is difficult to find the right thing to say to you. You will probably be upset no matter what they say. This is okay, you can always just walk away from the conversation.
For those of you who want to retort, here are some replies to the most common comments you will hear.
Comment: “This was probably a blessing in disguise.”
Reply: “I don’t see it that way; this is actually very hard for me
Comment: “At least you weren’t farther along.”
Reply: “I think a baby is a baby no matter how big he or she is
Comment: “Now you have an angel in heaven.”
Reply: “Yes, but I’m sure I’d rather have a baby here
Comment: “This was God’s will.”
Reply: “I don’t think I or anyone really knows what God’s will is exactly
Comment: “Be glad you didn’t get attached to it.”
Reply: “Actually, we were quite attached to our little baby
Comment: “Stop worrying. My cousin had four miscarriages and she had a baby just fine.”
Reply: “I am very sorry for your cousin. I know how hard those four miscarriages must have been.”
Comment: “If you stop thinking about it, you’ll feel better.”
Reply: “Actually, thinking about the baby is important to me.”
Comment: “You can always have another one.”
Reply: “Yes, but I still lost this one, and one child can never replace another
Sometimes the best way to handle difficult people is to simply avoid them until you are up to it. If the problem is a mother-in-law (and it often is), ask your husband to handle her calls and keep yourself busy in the kitchen or elsewhere when she visits. Don’t take her or anyone else’s comments as being critical of you. Even when they seem that way; they are rarely meant to be.
We all know they are out there. People who are thoughtless, crude, or mean. Who knows why they are like they are. Maybe life was too harsh for them. Maybe they are socially inept. But they have the power to really really upset you.
It’s best to avoid these people, but sometimes their meanness seeps into your life, and sometimes they are your family. Here are some examples of terrible, horrible things people have said to women on the bulletin boards. Maybe the people you know will seem like angels in comparison.
- From a woman who had just had a baby to a woman who had just lost one: “Thank God I didn’t follow your pregnancy advice!” (Did she think this was a joke?)
- From a mother-in-law when both her daughter and the daughter-in-law were pregnant and the daughter-in-law lost her baby: “Well at least my daughter knows how to take care of herself and give me a grandchild.”
- From a “friend” after hearing about the loss of a baby during a vacation: “I told you not to go on that plane trip. Everyone knows it causes miscarriage.” (It does not.)
- From another friend, who was also pregnant. “God, I hope it’s not catching.”
- From a mother to her daughter. “You shouldn’t have had a baby with that creep anyway. Thank God it died.”
How did you handle this difficult moment?
Leave a note in the comments about what you did as you told others about what happened.