I was alone with my thoughts this afternoon while I was sweeping the floors and I got to thinking. Scary, I know. But I was thinking about pregnancy announcements, which got me to thinking about the social norms surrounding such announcements. Typically, people announce their pregnancy around the second trimester because that’s when it’s “safe” to tell…
I announced I was pregnant with Rex at 14 weeks…because it was “safe” to tell. I announced I was pregnant with Sydney when I was 10 weeks pregnant…because it was considered “pretty safe” to tell (that and I threw caution to the wind). What I have never “announced” is that I had 4 miscarriages before carrying to term with Rex and Sydney. I have never “announced” it because it didn’t feel “safe” to tell people I had a miscarriage, let alone four. Think about it. Doesn’t the phrase “it’s safe to tell” imply that, God forbid, you should experience a miscarriage prior to 14 weeks, it’s NOT safe to tell people?
Granted, miscarriage is a tough subject. It’s uncomfortable (grief is like that). It’s hard to have the right words, and it’s even harder to know what to do for the person experiencing the loss. But more than any of those things, miscarriage is sad. Devastating. Someone’s child died… You can pussy foot around it all you want, but that’s what happened. Someone was going to have a baby and then the baby died.
Someone once told me that grief is often measured by the size of the coffin. Sad, but true. There is also this “idea” that miscarriage is some kind of natural selection…that nature is weeding its own garden (so to speak). Even sadder. It was still someone’s child.
I guess my whole point is that, in my opinion, a person should be able to announce their pregnancy whenever and however they choose. If one wants to shout it from the rooftops at 4 weeks 1 day, they should! If another wants to quietly announce it to close family and friends at 20 weeks, they should! There should be no norm! And if either of these pregnancies should tragically end, it should be safe to share that news too. That should be the norm.
Grief is messy, but it shouldn’t be done behind closed doors.
For the sake of time (I can get long-winded), and because I like lists, here is what I’d like to share with you about miscarriage:
1. Please don’t ever say to someone who has had a miscarriage, “At least you know you can get pregnant” -or- “At least you have another child.”
2. Please don’t say, “the baby probably wouldn’t have been healthy.” That doesn’t make them miss the child any less.
3. Probably refrain from asking them when they are going to “try again.” If they want you to know, they will offer up that information.
4. It’s ok to talk about the baby. Acknowledging the baby won’t delay nor prolong the grieving process. In fact, talking about it may help.
5. Don’t expect them to “move on.” Forward, yes, but never on. It happened. No amount of time will change that.
6. Don’t expect them to be who they once were. They are forever changed. If you don’t like this “new” person, I suggest you move on. Some friendships and relationships can and should end. That’s a fact of life.
7. You can’t fix it, but you can be a good listener and a soft shoulder. They will likely return the favor someday when you need it.
8. It will get easier with time. GIVE them that. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. They will have good days and bad days. They may have a string of 100 good days…don’t be surprised on day 101 if they turn into a puddle.
9. Don’t just suggest they go to a support group. Find one and go with them.
10. If you are pregnant, please know that they are happy for you (if you can’t see it), they are just also really, really sad.
Sometimes Most of the time you don’t need to say or do anything. Just be there.
and last, but certainly not least
doesn’t need to be shouldn’t be a secret.