Christmas this year had been tinged with a little bit of dread for me. I’m fortunate that my husband and I both have quite “grown up” families (by which I mean there are very few toddlers and babies around). So I knew that Christmas Day, although jolly, would be relatively quiet, which is exactly what I wanted. But there are still 24 days to get through (if we only count December!) before that day arrives, and my GOODNESS how people like to remind you that Christmas is all about the children!
Luckily for us, we moved house at the beginning of December, so we valiantly managed to avoid Christmas shopping, Father Christmas, crib services, tv adverts and weepy movies, and instead spent the weeks running up to Christmas shouting “WHERE’S THE FUCKING TEA STRAINER?!” And frantically unpacking boxes and learning how the white goods work.
For me, the tinge of dread had been around seeing family and friends we haven’t seen for a long time. For those I knew had read my blog, I worried that I had put a pressure or responsibility on them to act in a certain way based on what I had written, and I wondered whether I had put an unnecessary responsibility on myself as well. For those who hadn’t read the blog, I worried enormously about pregnancy announcements, as I really wasn’t sure I would be able to contort my face into an appropriate expression if I was taken by surprise by this.
The expectation is always worse than the actual event isn’t it?
I should have trusted that my husband and I are surrounded by some fantastic people. Over christmas I was reminded of how I felt when I originally shared my blog, and I was inundated with emails, texts and cards, from people either just checking in and saying they were there if I needed them, or from people bravely sharing their own experiences. I didn’t get the impression that anyone felt a pressure to act a certain way, but I did notice how much more open people were with me about things we would never have spoken about before.
I usually have a bit of a theme in mind when I write something for my blog, but for this post I just want to do a bit of a shout out to anyone who has shared their story with me. I really am so truly grateful, and I hope that sharing has helped you too.
One of the things conversation often veers towards with people who have experienced miscarriage, is the hugely varying ways in which it is dealt with by both medical professionals and wider society. I am the first to admit that before I experienced miscarriage, I wouldn’t have had the first clue of how to comfort someone who was going through this. To be honest I think I would have avoided the topic at all costs.
But with great honour comes great responsibility! I am so honoured that my words have helped other people, and I want to reach out to people who find themselves comforting a friend or a family member. I’ve come up with a (by no means exhaustive!) list of some common phrases which, although no doubt well-meaning, may not be of the most comfort to a person grieving, and where possible I’ve given an alternative approach. Please feel free to add in the comments any additions.
- “At least…”
It’s best to rethink any comment which starts with “at least” (“at least it happened early on”, “at least you know you can get pregnant”, “at least you’re still young”, “at least it happened before Christmas”, “at least you can drink again”, “at least you have another child” etc etc).
Not only are these comments unhelpful, but they are arbitrarily trying to make a terrible situation better. Don’t try to make it better. Just say “I’m so sorry. That is terrible”.
2. “Don’t think of it as a baby. It was just a collection of cells.”
When you go for a 12 week scan and everything is fine, does the sonographer say “congratulations! There’s your collection of cells!” No, they don’t. If we’re calling it a baby when it’s alive, we’re calling it a baby when it’s dead.
3. “You can move on and try again”
I think a common misconception is that a miscarriage happens, takes a few hours, then you’re good to go again on the baby making journey. The reality is that the physical aspects alone could take months to settle down. This, alongside feeling pretty shit about weight gain, spotty skin, strange aches and pains, not to mention the loss of your baby, doesn’t exactly make for nights of passionate baby-making. It would be more helpful to just say “how are you feeling?”
4. “It was for the best/it’s your body telling you something wasn’t right”
Be that as it may, the lady who has had a miscarriage didn’t want this outcome. When a person dies, we let the family grieve. We don’t say “it was for the best”. The best scenario would have been a baby. This is not “the best”. Again, a simple “I’m sorry” would be better.
5. “It wasn’t the right time”
Timing, age, your financial situation, your living situation, your marital status, do not bare any relation to how much you would love a baby.
I hope some of this is helpful, and if you find yourself here looking for some comfort, I hope you have found it. Best wishes for the first week of the new year, and if your Christmas has not been what was advertised on the telly, then congratulations on making it through to the other side. That in itself is a tremendous achievement. Xxx