The cat is now out of the bag for quite a few people: most family, and a lot of friends, now know that we’re expecting our second ‘rainbow’ baby in October 2015. The problem is, the exchanges surrounding this information coming about are, very possibly, even more awkward than talking about Brock’s death.
Pregnancy after loss is an extremely tricky beast, especially in situations like mine. I didn’t simply miscarry – if I had, my nerves would likely lessen when I passed into the ‘safe’ zone, because I would still have that lingering sense of naivety – the sense that, if you make it to 12 weeks, the odds are, all at once, overwhelmingly in your favour. Since I lost my son so late in the pregnancy (when I was actually several days overdue), not only am I going to worry every single day of the pregnancy, because I know that these things absolutely can and do happen (even late in the game), but I am only going to get more and more anxious as I get closer to the point where I lost Brock. I feel like the longer I have this baby inside of me, the more time I’m giving my body an opportunity to let me down again. I feel like a ticking time bomb, and I’m sure I’m going to be practically begging to get this baby out by the time I hit full term at 37 weeks.
Understandably, without explaining all of this, it’s a difficult concept for people who haven’t lost babies to grasp. Probably not helping the issue is the fact that most people don’t know the exact reason why we lost Brock in the first place. Therefore, the reactions and commentary I’ve gotten about the whole thing have been… mixed, to put it plainly.
And this is why I’m here today: if you ever find yourself in a situation where you are trying to help someone through a pregnancy after a loss, regardless of how early or late their loss was, here’s a few suggestions on how to NOT make the same mistakes that some of my family and peers have.
Things you should (or shouldn’t) say to someone expecting after a loss
When they say: “We’re pregnant again.”
DON’T say: “Congratulations… I think.”
Thanks, I think.
I get this surprisingly frequently, and it stings a bit every time. It just sounds insincere and flighty.
DO say: “Wow, congratulations! That’s so exciting. How are you feeling about it?”
In my case, I think I have been getting the poor response so often because it’s quite soon after Brock, so people are assuming that we’re not in this situation by choice. Come on, ladies and gentlemen, give us the benefit of the doubt! We’re grown-ass adults. We know where babies come from, and if we weren’t ready in at least some sense, we wouldn’t have let it happen.
The best thing you can do is acknowledge that our feelings about the situation are mixed. We are excited, but we are also anxious. If we’re telling you about this, especially before it’s necessary to do so, odds are very high that we are doing it because we’re looking for support and positive thoughts. If you can communicate to us that you understand this is a conflicting time for us and also make it clear that you are here to support us through this, that’s a huge win.
When they say: “I’m very nervous this time around.”
DON’T say: “Don’t worry about it. Just enjoy the experience.”
Sure, I will get right on that. How silly of me to be nervous about the outcome.
DO say: “I don’t blame you. I’ll be thinking of you/praying for you/sending you positive vibes.”
Please oh please, don’t negate the severity of our previous loss(es) and try to pass it off like it never happened. People seem totally unable to wrap their head around the concept that I am most likely never going to enjoy pregnancy again. I have been pregnant twice; one is ongoing, and the other ended in tragedy. My success rate is 0% right now. How could I sit back and calmly expect everything to work out when it has only ended poorly for me right now?
Instead, just tell us that you’re really hoping that we will have the best outcome possible this time. Just support us in whatever capacity you can and don’t invalidate our feelings, even if you don’t fully understand them – that’s all we ask.
And here’s the big one…
DO NOT, for any reason, say: “It’s going to be okay” or “Everything will be fine”
Are you [insert deity of choice here]? No? Are you omnipotent? Can you time-travel or see the future?
You cannot possibly know this, because nobody anywhere can ever know this for sure. We have already played games of long odds and lost. While the chances of the same thing happening again are remarkably slim, they’re still not non-existent, so when you say “It’s going to be fine” it’s, frankly, insulting. This comes back to the invalidating-our-feelings thing. You do not have the knowledge or right to tell a bereaved parent how they should feel. Besides, how crappy are you going to feel if you end up being wrong?
DO say, at any time: “I am here for you.”
Aww, you’re such a good friend. We’re going to remember that you were supportive and understanding, and we love you for it. After all the crappy (but well-meaning) things that other people have said, we’re glad that we know we can rely on you, at the least, to take good care of us. HUGS!
And there’s my rant for the week. Even if you have suffered a loss of your own, remember that we are all different, and we all process these types of things differently. Don’t push your own feelings or opinions on others or make light of their situation: just be there for them.