In the February 2012 issue of Good Housekeeping, the magazine printed this pop quiz written by Peggy Post, now the head of Emily Post’s etiquette institute:
Your coworker shared her good news that she was pregnant. Later, you learn that she has miscarried, so you:
A. Say nothing, some things are private
B. Leave flowers on her desk with a note
C. Tell her you are there if she wants to talk.
As Baby Loss Moms, we are confused by this quiz. Can we pick B and C? How thoughtful for someone to acknowledge the real pain of returning to work after something so devastating with the offer to talk. And what a keepsake to treasure in the baby’s memory box, a note and perhaps some flowers to dry out and save.
I myself couldn’t decide which answer was better. “A” was obviously the throw away option.
But then I read Peggy Post’s answer:
A. With a good friend you would be more personal, but saying nothing is the best approach–until she shares the news with you. Then, offer your support.
So, I’m picturing this scenario. Your coworker, coming in after a few days off, all she was allowed in many cases because there isn’t a funeral, sits at her desk. She knows everyone knows she was pregnant. (According to the quizlet, she “shared her good news.”) She’s got a staff meeting in a few hours, and she’s barely holding it together. Last time she sat at her desk, she was expecting a baby.
How does she “untell” her pregnancy? How will she even keep from falling apart? So far the only person who knows is her boss and one friend she had handling her phone calls and mail.
She walks down the line of cubes to get her mail from the friend and notices no one looks her way, as though she is train wreck it isn’t polite to stare at. She turns back around, rattled. Everyone must know. Should she send an email out? Ask her boss to? Will this make it worse?
Peggy Post, supported by Good Housekeeping, thinks that because this coworker doesn’t stand by the break room door and announce, “I’m not pregnant anymore! Be nice to me!” that she doesn’t want or need anyone’s cards, flowers, or even kind words. According to this magazine, you are to say nothing.
This is not common sense, and surely not common decency. If this woman’s mother had died, or her husband, you would hug her or offer condolences. Peggy Post, and by extension, Good Housekeeping, has just told thousands of subscribers that unborn babies are different. It’s best not to talk about it.
Baby Loss leaders have worked hard to make miscarriage less of a silent pain, something we are allowed to feel, to be upset about, to mourn. Good Housekeeping has just set us back immensely. Imagine the outcry if Peggy Post had told readers never to bring up breast cancer, or divorce, topics that once were taboo but now can be openly discussed.
Many Baby Loss Moms have written Letters to the Editor, which may or may not see print, and even if so, will be long after the damage is done to the casual reader who might remember this advice for years. Still, we can try. Write Good Housekeeping at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many Baby Loss Moms have expressed their outrage on the magazine’s Facebook page. Feel free to continue to remind them that we are here, and we are not going to say nothing.
When the Facebook comments hit a zenith thanks to the work of Nikki on her blog, Good Housekeeping did respond within the thread. The answer was hard to find and even though I knew it was there, I had to read for 20 minutes to locate their response:
We talked to Peggy Post about your comments and here is what she wanted us to share with you: “Thank you for your feedback – a powerful reminder of the power of emotions and the importance of empathy. You, our readers, are so correct; I totally agree with you that reaching out to this grieving mother – regardless of a concern to respect her privacy – is truly the correct answer. Even if her miscarriage had not yet been general knowledge among her co-workers, a one-on-one heartfelt “I’m so sorry” would have been better than waiting to express condolences. This Pop Quiz is misleading and caused hurt and concern for our readers. For this, I sincerely apologize.” — Peggy Post
I can respect an apology, even though it has a jab in it (“regardless of a concern”).
Now let’s help Good Housekeeping correct its error. They need to write something longer, something their subscribers will actually read and learn from, to erase this terrible error from the minds of the readers, and impart good and useful information for a tragedy that is so common, 1 out of every 4 women will experience it.
So to suggest a full-length article on helping friends, family, and coworkers after a miscarriage, write email@example.com
You can also write Peggy Post, who wrote the quizlet, directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
[NOTE: Peggy’s email is bouncing for some reason–but this is the one Good Housekeeping lists. There are some addresses when you go to the Emily Post Etiquette web site, but I doubt any of those will go to Peggy.]
But please, whatever you do, don’t say nothing. This misinformation must end now.