I am a firm believer that you truly don’t understand what someone is going through until you have been in their shoes.
I often think of my patients and their families and try to even imagine what it must be like, but I don’t fully understand it. I understand it from my perspective, but not for what they are going through. All I can do is try to be as empathetic as possible.
The same goes with going through miscarriages or infertility. I never fully understood what it was like until I found myself going through it. But I know that there are so many people out there who have been in our shoes, who understand what Marcus and I are going through.
But there are also so many that don’t. Because this is most times a secret club, our society does not have the opportunity to learn how to best approach those experiencing this journey.
I have been told by friends throughout this journey that they don’t know what to say or how to act.This blog post has been on my heart for a while now so I felt it was time to share. My prayer is that this post can reach those who don’t understand what someone on this journey is going through and to help them know what helps and what hurts.
(Obviously these don’t apply to everyone, but are generalized to what I have felt or have heard from others. Please don’t take anything offensively but just learn how to best understand someone close to you who finds themselves on this journey).
Why don’t we talk about it?
First of all, this isn’t something that can come up easily in small talk. How do you bring something like this up? Oh by the way, I was pregnant last week and this week I’m not? My feelings are often so painful that even the thought of it would instantly bring tears to my eyes. But telling people is like giving them a glimpse of my soul, as raw as that may be.
I also fear how people may react. Will they be stunned and speechless? Or will they offer advice that is more painful than helpful?
This brings me to my next point…
What NOT to say.
I have heard it all:
Don’t worry it will happen someday- but God has not promised me this
Just relax and it will happen- my journey is stressful to say the least and it isn’t so simple to just “relax”… and “relaxing” does not cure infertility issues
You can borrow my kids for a day- I don’t want your kids, I yearn for a child of my own
Enjoy freedom while you can- we are ready to bring a child into our lives and embrace the experience of a newborn or a terrible two
So and so had a miscarriage and they have 4 kids now- but each child of God has a journey of their own He has planed out, their success does not always bring me hope
Just have fun in the mean time trying- those who have dealt with infertility know, it is anything but “fun”
At least you know you can get pregnant- what is the point in getting pregnant if you can’t carry a child to term?
I know that all of these people have the best intentions but it is hard for them to see that their words hurt more than help in the face of a loss. A simple “I’m sorry” or a hug is sufficient enough if you don’t know what to say. Or let me know you will pray for me, because that is what I need most right now.
Please don’t complain about your children to us.
I realize you want to vent, but it hurts me more than anything. All that runs through my head is what a blessing you have been given to even have children. It is one thing to tell us about your child, but when people complain constantly I don’t understand what you are going through either as my daily life is nothing like yours!
Your pregnancy announcement still hurts so please tell me in privacy.
Yes I am thrilled you are pregnant! I would never wish infertility or miscarriage on anyone. I understand that God places each child into a parent’s life for a reason. But despite these feelings, your pregnancy is a reminder of my loss. I need some space after hearing your news. I am still dealing with feelings of my own that are hard to hide, especially when they are all brought to the surface suddenly. Sometimes I am too weak to hide my pain and I need some time to work through this. You have something I want more than anything so please understand my faults.
I agree you are allowed to share your wonderful news in any way you wish, but please, please don’t tell me in a group setting. People stare at me to see how I am going to react and it gets awkward. I have to work so hard to hide the overwhelming emotions that start to overtake me. Then I have to sit through everyone asking questions about your pregnancy as I am racking my brain to plan my escape so I can let my tears flow and breathe again. It helps to just send a text or email letting me know so that I can deal with my feelings first and am not taken off guard unable to cope.
Please still include me.
I still want to hear about and experience your pregnancy with you, but understand it may still sting. Let me ask you about how you are doing. I don’t want to be left out of your baby showers or parties either, but understand if I’m just not ready. I prefer to stay busy than to just sit back and watch the shower unfold so giving me something constructive to do is best. I want to be included in your children’s lives as well but let me get comfortable in my own time. Your invite means the world to me so please let me decide if I am ready or not.
The pain never goes away.
Even after all I’ve been through on this journey, every pregnancy announcement still feels like a dagger to my heart. I want more than anything for the pain to subside, but nothing will ever take away what it feels like to lose a child and long to hold them in my arms. I have never in my life felt pain so deeply.
Though it may be months or even years later and I seem to be holding up well, my heart is still broken inside. Anniversaries and holidays just remind me of my loss and the baby I should be holding in my arms. Your prayers mean more than the world to me and would help me to heal, even long after my baby has left this world.
I still need time.
Time to process. Time to heal. Time to understand God’s plan for me. So if it is too much to be around you right now or I just need some space, please understand my needs. I know this sounds self-centered but it’s just what I may need at the moment.
My husband is hurting too.
Not only do husbands feel the hurt of losing their child, but they face fears of inadequacy to prevent their wife’s pain. They want to be able to “fix it” because that’s what they do best but they also understand that there is nothing they can do to cure the pain. They feel that their wives need them to be strong so they may not express their grief verbally, but deep down they are feeling the same pain. They want to be fathers too. This journey is deeply emotional for men too and breaks them down to their core. It would mean the world to him if you acknowledged him too.
I do appreciate you asking how I am doing.
Though you may be scared to even bring it up because I may just break down and cry, I do appreciate you acknowledging my struggle and sincerely caring about how I am doing. Walking around people who are oblivious to my journey is more painful than talking about it. I may shed a tear or two or get choked up, but I need to grieve my struggles too. And sometimes I just need to talk about how I feel- my frustrations, fears, angers, and hopes. So if you feel comfortable, feel free to ask me how I am doing.
Don’t ask me if I’m pregnant.
But please don’t ask my if I am pregnant yet. I understand your support for me, but your asking may cause me to become discontent with God’s perfect timing. This journey has already been very stressful and I may not be ready to tell you even if I am.
Don’t be nervous around me!
I didn’t grow two heads and turn green because I have vocalized my struggles. I don’t want to be seen as “the couple who has had a miscarriage”. I am still me so please treat me the same. At the same time I need to not always think about my pain. I want to laugh and experience new memories so that I don’t fall into a deep dark pit. Your awkwardness just reminds me of my struggles. I need more opportunities to have fun and smile.
When in doubt just ask!
I am always willing to let you know my needs so please just ask if you aren’t sure how you can help, what you can say, or how you can pray for me.
How can you help?
If we have just experienced a loss, your support means the world to us. Imagine what you would do for someone else who just lost a child and treat us the same way. During any course of our journey, your prayer is most important to us.