by Elizabeth Soutter Schwarzer
When women experience the loss of a child, one of the first things they discover they have in common is a list of things they wish no one had ever said to them. The lists tend to be remarkably similar. The comments are rarely malicious -- just misguided attempts to soothe. This list was compiled as a way of helping other people understand pregnancy loss. While generated by mothers for mothers, it may also apply similarly to the fathers who have endured this loss.
To help a woman who has lost a baby, the best rule of thumb is a matter of manners. Don't offer your personal opinion of her life, her choices, and her prospects for children. No woman is looking to poll her acquaintances for their opinions on why it happened or how she should cope.
• Don't say "it's God's will." Even if we are members of the same congregation, unless you are a cleric and I am seeking your spiritual counseling, please don't presume to tell me what God wants for me. Besides, many terrible things are God's will, that doesn't make them less terrible.
• Don't say "it was for the best -- there was probably something wrong with your baby." The fact that something was wrong with the baby is what is making me so sad. My poor baby never had a chance. Please don't try to comfort me by pointing that out.
• Don't say "you can always have another one." This baby was never disposable. If had been given the choice between loosing this child or stabbing my eye out with a fork, I would have said, "Where's the fork?" I would have died for this baby, just as you would die for your children.
• Don't say "be grateful for the children you have." If your mother died in a terrible wreck and you grieved, would that make you less grateful to have your father?
• Don't say "thank God you lost the baby before you really loved it." I loved my son or daughter. Whether I lost the baby after two weeks of pregnancy or just after birth, I loved him or her.
• Don't say "isn't it time you got over this and moved on?" It's not something I enjoy -- being grief-stricken. I wish it had never happened. But it did and it's a part of me forever. The grief will ease on its own timeline, not yours or mine.
• Don't say "now you have an angel watching over you." I didn't want her to be my angel. I wanted her to bury me in my old age.
• Don't say "I understand how you feel." Unless you've lost a child, you really don't understand how I feel. And even if you have lost a child, everyone experiences grief differently.
• Don't tell me horror stories of your neighbor or cousin or mother who had it worse. The last thing I need to hear right now is that it is possible to have this happen six times, or that I could carry until two days before my due date and labor 20 hours for a dead baby. These stories frighten and horrify me and leave me up at night weeping in despair. Even if they have a happy ending, do not share these stories with me.
• Don't pretend it didn't happen and don't change the subject when I bring it up. If I say, "before the baby died" or "when I was pregnant" don't get scared. If I'm talking about it, it means I want to. Let me. Pretending it didn't happen will only make me feel utterly alone.
• Don't say "it's not your fault." It may not have been my fault, but it was my responsibility and I failed. The fact that I never stood a chance of succeeding only makes me feel worse. This tiny little being depended upon me to bring him safely into the world and I couldn't do it. I was supposed to care for him for a lifetime, but I couldn't even give him a childhood. I am so angry with my body you just can't imagine.