As I said, I’ve been plenty angry this week. This is because I look back and I realise just how damaging some things that were said to me were – and how, in part, they have made the grieving process that much more difficult.
I hadn’t told many people I was pregnant, but some I’d had to tell because, as with my other pregnancies, I’d already been super sick. But you know what – that’s almost an apology in itself isn’t it? So here’s the first thing that some people said:
‘You shouldn’t have told anyone you were pregnant in the first place.’ Translation – now we have to deal with your miscarriage and that’s something you should keep totally private and not talk about because it makes US feel uncomfortable. Not helpful. Miscarriage is so rarely spoken about and it bloody well should be. I find it very distressing that people *don’t* know that I was pregnant, because they have no idea that I am grieving. I don’t want everyone to comment on it – but I would prefer that people knew. And those who I have told and have said that to – your own discomfort should taken second place to acknowledging my pain.
‘At least you know you can get pregnant.’ Translation – there is something positive for you to hang onto, it wasn’t all bad. I found this one of the most hurtful things to hear. I already know I can get pregnant anyway – I have two kids already! Our chances are super low at the moment because my levels are low and there’s a greater risk of miscarriage. Am I really supposed to rejoice because my body managed to get pregnant? Even though I’ve just told you that my baby died? There IS no ‘at least’ – I am grieving. This particular story – my story – is about my baby dying, not a successful pregnancy. And successful pregnancies are the only ones that count (why isn’t that obvious?).
‘You can try again.’ Translation – you need to move on and stop grieving. If my 9 year old daughter died, would anyone say ‘Well, you can have another child – and actually you’ve already got one’. Yes I know that my baby hadn’t taken its first breath in the world but that doesn’t matter – it wasn’t a bunch of cells, it was my baby – please acknowledge it as that. While I can try for ANOTHER BABY, I cannot try again for THIS baby – that baby is gone forever.
‘Was it a phantom pregnancy?’ Translation – you had imagined it. When I was in total shock about being told that there was nothing on the screen and molar or ectopic pregnancies were being suggested, I had so many friends asking me questions, as if I had any clue what was going on! This included friends who’d seen me looking ill. I didn’t want to be bombarded with questions and what I felt were challenges. It was exhausting justifying my position – that all my tests had come up as positive, and were continuing to do so. And in the end, actually there WAS something in the womb. I really was pregnant. Even a molar pregnancy is still a pregnancy. I really didn’t need anyone suggesting anything. Just a few words of ‘Oh no, I am so sorry you are going through this’ would have been enough.
‘How many weeks pregnant were you?’ Translation – I am going to give a proportional amount of sympathy to you and YOU should grieve proportionally. If you’d been carrying your baby much longer, you would have deserved more grieving time. Again – my baby including that anticipate future died. The only people who asked this were mothers and surely, if they’d thought back to when they were pregnant they would know that love is not proportional to how long you carry your baby for? And above all – WHY DID THEY NEED TO KNOW? It is just fact collecting. Would you ask ‘how many years were you married to your husband?’ if someone told you they’d died? No you wouldn’t. It is so irrelevant and prying. Fact collecting – distilling a situation down to just the facts – is the worst.
‘Lots of people I know got pregnant after they’d stopped IVF.’ Translation – you are somehow affecting your chances of pregnancy, that you are basically trying too hard (and perhaps this has caused your miscarriage) and if you really want a child, just give up attempting it. Seriously – what am I supposed to do with this information? I don’t doubt that it’s true but will it be true for MY story? You have no idea. Will you saying it make it come true for me? No. Will saying it make me suddenly want to give up? No. But all this is to do with the future – which neither you or I or my fertility specialist have control over. Let’s come back to now, which is me grieving for the death of my baby. Can we please focus on that? If you can’t deal with my grief, please don’t talk to me right now.
‘Are you pregnant yet?’ Translation – we know you’re now having IVF so you have obviously moved on from your grief & I’m impatient with your story. This is one of the worst because I haven’t moved on – it was mainly my way of coping WITH my grief. And a new pregnancy will never replace the baby that died. I find this one really hard to cope with anyway, because if there was news I’d say so, and it makes me feel like it’s a long road I’m forcing everyone to go down – even though I’ve told hardly anyone that I am having IVF. And this was actually asked while I was miscarrying the first embryo of IVF, and then asked again a few weeks later. I found it incredibly upsetting but I locked it all inside and responded with facts.
I KNOW that these people are good people – and that what they say comes from trying to help. But it’s been very damaging for me. Trying to convince people that I was pregnant – to have that pregnancy believed – I could have done without. Being told that I should view it in a positive way makes me think that I *should* view it like that, and that I must be wrong to grieve. Quizzing me on how many weeks I was pregnant also makes me feel that I have no right to grieve – or that it must be limited in some way. Telling me I shouldn’t have mentioned it makes me feel guilty or wrong for doing so – that my grief must only be privately acknowledged by me and my partner. Telling me I can simply try again, or facts about success after giving up, is pushing my grief – and my baby – away. Bluntly asking me about pregnancy – when it is my right to decide when and who to tell – had triggered lots of distress.
It has been confusing, knowing that these people are my friends, and are good people and yet, they have caused a tremendous amount of damage – and have halted the grieving process. It has taken me this long – 5 months – to realise that what they said was wrong and just very, very unhelpful.
At the time, I was so distressed I was looking for help – and it’s taken me this long to realise that most people just can’t give that help. But I don’t think I could have protected myself any more. These people asked me questions, and so I told them, and then got their responses.
I’m struggling to know how I could protect myself in the future – or whether I should ever tell them how much their words were hurtful and unhelpful. All I know is that it did not help me, and that a much better thing would be so just say how sorry a person is. That’s really the best thing to hear.