How Good Housekeeping failed the Baby Loss community

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.

What?

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 ghletters@goodhousekeeping.com

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 ghletters@goodhousekeeping.com

You can also write Peggy Post, who wrote the quizlet, directly at peggypost@goodhousekeeping.com
[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.

 

 

11 thoughts on “How Good Housekeeping failed the Baby Loss community

  1. My letter. Hope it does some good.

    To whom it may concern (Should be everyone!),

    I am writing in response to a pop quiz in your February 2012 issue of Good House Keeping under Grief. There is a question about a woman who has shared the good news that she was pregnant. Later you learn that she has miscarried. What do you do? The options are A. Say nothing B. Leave flowers on her desk with a note. C. Tell her you are there if she wants to talk. I was torn between B. And C. And really thought both would be nice. Imagine my shock and surprise to read the “correct” response was A. Say nothing.

    1 in 4 women will go through this very emotional, hurtful, heart wrenching loss! The baby loss community has been fighting and working for years so that these mothers, fathers and families do not have to suffer in silence. To have their babies recognized. To be allowed to grieve the loss of their child’s life. This pop quiz has set all the efforts back in a HUGE way.

    My name is Kelly (last name). July 8th 2004 I “miscarried” my only son at 16.5 weeks gestation. His name, and he did have one, is ~Zen William~. One of the things that got me through was the sympathy and support from my family and friends and the physical things I could touch that I felt connected me to him and the proof that he lived. Even then it took me two years to re join life. To this day I cherish the condolence cards and gifts I was given after loosing him and the people who remember him and bring up his name and don’t mind hearing me talk about him are my favorite people.

    I am aware that your magazine did respond to this. The answer was hard to find and took me some time to locate the response. I appreciate the apology though not the insult to injury “regardless of a concern to respect her privacy”. However I feel it would be nice, and I believe as a member of the baby loss community and the efforts to help families grief and recognize these babies and to help in there endeavor a fuller more complete article not only would be appropriate but is a must!

    Thank you.
    Sincerely,
    Kelly

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I sent the email below to Good Housekeeping and Peggy Post, although I received a notice that the latter’s email address does not exist. Let’s hope they correct the damage they have done.

    In your current issue of Good Housekeeping, you feature a Pop Quiz on the the topic of Miscarriage (photo of page below).

    In the scenario described, you recommend that the best way to handle a coworker’s miscarriage is to say nothing, as some matters are just too private.

    While I am certain that the writer and editors of GH had nothing but the best of intentions, I would like to inform you that having lost my son to a miscarriage on November 21, 2011, I personally found it to be very emotionally upsetting to realize that people around me kept quiet and said nothing about my loss. It felt like no one acknowledged that my baby DID exist.

    Equally horrifying was hearing good-intentioned but uninformed people say things like, “it was not meant to be”, “get over it”, and my favorite, “be strong for your living children; show them how to be tough and how to act with grace in times of pain and loss”.

    My children lost a brother…I lost a son. He was real, not imagined. His name was Rafael Martin (Rafa), and he was my son. My children, my husband and I will always remember him, and his memory shall never fade. That’s how I want it to be. I choose to remember. I choose to honor my son.

    Mothers of angels in heaven NEED to know and feel that their babies are remembered, and honored. It is an essential part of healing.

    When I lost Rafa, my husband’s officemates chipped in to buy me a vase of flowers that came with a card that said they were with me in my time of loss. They were strangers to me, but they did something my friends and family failed to do. How wonderful it felt to know that someone who knew ABOUT my pain, did something to HONOR my loss. I kept those flowers on a temporary “altar” I made for my son, and then dried the flowers to bury with him.

    I am saddened that a reputable publication such as yours, did not seem to have taken the time to ask some moms who have lost their babies, how they would have wanted to be treated and related to, in their time of deep loss.

    I am a part of several Baby Loss communities, and I can tell you that not one of those moms wanted not to be spoken to about their loss. Not one of them thought it was right to “sweep the grief under the rug”, or to treat the subject matter as if it was taboo. This is why there is a prevalence of Pregnancy And Infant Loss communities online. All you had to do was click on a forum to find out the best way Moms wanted to be dealt with. They are even on Facebook. In 5 minutes, you would have had your answer.

    The online baby loss communities are enraged. And I would have to say that I understand.

    They are requesting for a full length article on how to deal with friends, coworkers, family, who have lost babies to miscarriage and stillbirth. I support their stand.

    1 in 4 women lose a baby to miscarriage or stillbirth. It is more common than most people think. Yet the pain and deep sense of loss is something no woman will ever wish on their worst enemy.

    Please help women around the world by educating your readers the proper way to support them in their time of grief and loss. Doing so is one step closer to healing them.

    Sincerely,

    Irene C. Vertucio

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. How sure are we that that is Peggy’s email address? I only ask because my email delivery to that address failed. Thanks!

  4. I’m confused by this. If its a miscarriage, why would there be a funeral. There’s usually not one for a miscarriage. If she has only told a coworker and her boss, how does everyone know. I would handle it exactly as if I had accidentally found out she was pregnant and hand’t told me: I would say nothing until she decided to say something. Same as if her mother died or she was getting a divorce. If she wanted EVERYONE to know, she would have emailed EVERYONE. she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t want to make a big deal of it and is trying to figure out how to handle it. Not all people want to talk about their babyloss.

  5. Beth,

    This question specifically addressed a situation where the pregnancy is known, not accidentally, but after she had shared her good news. The mother always has the option of telling no one about either the pregnancy or the miscarriage.

    But the people in our example did what Good Housekeeping said, saying nothing, and added to the distress and alone feeling of the coworker when she realized they did know, and were uncomfortably silent rather than caring and sympathetic.

  6. Beth,
    last I knew losing a baby up to 20 weeks is a miscarriage. I lost my first at 17 weeks. We had a naming ceremony but not a funeral. Even though this was 19 years ago, the memory still brings tears to my eyes.Aaron had 10 little fingers and 10 little toes and we did not find out why he died. At the time my baby died, everyone knew I was pregneant and we had received some gifts for the baby at Christmas time. the baby was well acknowledged and the loss should also have been acknowledged. I was and still am very thankful to have a stuffed dragon in memory of Aaron. It’s still in my room and I still hug it every now and then to think of Aaron.

  7. when I lost my mary in august….I at first didn’t want to go back to work was afraid of the obvious everyone knowing and not knowing what to say..the gossip the losing it feeling.. the thing that i have found is that unless you’ve been through it you don’t know what its like..but the thing that amazes me is the fact that people sometimes aviod you like you;re a parriah…the best words that i got from a coworker that meant more to me on the day that i returned to work were..I don’t know what you are going through but i’m sorry and i’m here if you need me…when you go back to work you want to try and stay busy to just go through the motions…so to ask like it didn’t i guess could go either way..the only thing that i can say is that those simple words said by that coworker and that hug that she gave me meant more than anything else on an already stressful day…the silence wasn’t good…

  8. I worked in a department of ALL women (7) and only ONE gave me a sympathy card. They all expressed condolences, but only the one went the extra step to say, “I’m here if you need me.” This woman happened to have just had recurring cervical cancer and an elective hysterectomy…without yet starting her family (only in her early 30s). When corresponding with her about this, I told her that I remember her especially for being so empathetic, and how much it meant to me at the time. Nobody else really treated it as a loss, especially because the pregnancy was first-trimester. But the hope of a child is rooted so deep in a woman’s soul, that having it ripped away is truly like losing a part of yourself. People need to understand that it is not a benign pain; it leaves a noticeable, life-changing scar.

  9. I can not belive that you tell everyone to say nothing this is the timewe need someone to say something if is only I am here we know she was going to have a baby and now she is not so we just set here and act like life just goes on as a mom that lost a baby life does not go on with you it feels like it stops for you and now everyone you know is acting like you have something they can get thanx for nothing on this one good housekeeping how about you just keep your info I am vary sad that I know get yourmag I will be calling to stop it someone that is this bad with info does not need to be in my home

  10. I am shocked by this quiz! But I can’t say I’m surprised. Her answer was exactly what I experienced at my office after BOTH of my miscarriages. I miscarried at 10 weeks and then at 12. Both times I was severely ill so the majority of my co-workers were aware of what was going on. Also both times I didn’t find out I had lost the baby until I went in for my regularly scheduled doctor’s appointment and a heart beat could not be found. Each time I left work for my appointment with the well wishers of co-workers and each time I went home in tears and did not return to work for several days. Upon return I had expected flowers at least, or kind words or a card. Instead I received nothing. It was very hard for me since I am the administrative assistant and responsible for ordering and sending flowers to just about everyone else for every little thing. I think there is much that can be done in educating those about social etiquette!

  11. I recently lost a child in sept. I lost my baby girl at six months pregnant. I often find at times that when family and friends hear of my loss they don’t know what to say or do. Many people wrote my cards, but I was never sent flowers. Strangers always say im so sorry for your lost. I think many people don’t know what to say or how to react when a mother loses her child. It’s just so painful. But, it would have been nice to recieve flowers for a small cheer up.

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