If I could say one thing to a health care worker, it would be this:
Just because a loss before 12 weeks is common in your experience, it doesn’t mean it is common in mine. This was my baby, my once-in-a-lifetime baby that I loved. Please stop treating me as though my loss is no-big-deal. Do not “save” the grief support and pregnancy loss resources for women who have lost a child later in gestation. They need support, absolutely. But so do I. Treat me as though I have lost a child. Because I have.
If I could say one thing to family:
Please don’t try to fix me. This is an unfixable situation. My baby died, and she isn’t coming back. The old me is gone, and I’m trying to find the new me. Love me right where I am. Be patient with me. Let me find my way through grief in my own way, but not alone. Know that right now, I need your full support more than ever. I need to know that you will help me, nurture me and love on me, right where I am. Just please, don’t try to fix me. I’m hurting, not broken.
If I could say one thing to strangers:
I know my actions don’t always make sense right now. I know I seem a bit off, or angry or snippy or sad. I know that I’m not measuring up to what “normal” people do. If we had time, and we were both so inclined, I might sit you down and tell you a story. I’d tell you about my baby. My dreams, hopes and plans. I’d tell you how he died. I’d tell you of the emptiness I feel in my heart every day since then. And then, you would know exactly why I behave as though I do. But we will never have that conversation. So please, excuse my attitude or behavior, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. And if you are so generous — say a little prayer for me.
If I could say one thing to medical billers:
I know this is just your job. Your work revolves around codes for this and insurance plans for that. I understand that maybe, right now, I may just be a number to you. My emergency surgery for you is wrapped up in a series of codes you have to go through and charge: Anesthesia, sutures, laparoscopy, surgeon fees, etc. My emergency surgery for me is wrapped up in a series of traumatic memories: wondering if I will wake up after surgery, knowing my baby died in the onslaught of blood, getting wheeled helplessly into a sterile room. As you talk codes with me, and explain bills, please know that I don’t speak your lingo. Remember that I am living through grief, and my head can barely wrap around life without my child — let alone why you are billing separately for this or that. Please, be gracious with me. Take lots of time, and be compassionate in your response. Please remember that I, nor my baby, are just a number.
If I could say one thing to my pregnant friends:
I am happy for you. I really, really, really am. Even if I burst into tears when you tell me you’re pregnant. Even if I go on a 9-month hiatus. Even if I never ask you how your pregnancy is progressing. I am STILL happy for you. But I hurt for me. Sometimes, I don’t know how to handle two feelings that seem so at odds with each other. Sometimes I do it well, and others times — well, other times, I just plain suck at it. But no matter how things go from here — please know that I know every baby is a blessing. Your baby is a blessing. And I really, really am happy. Even if I don’t know how to show it.
If I could say one thing to my nurses:
Please read my chart. And by that, I don’t just mean read it. I mean study it as though your life depended on it. Please don’t come in to my room chipper and happy, talking about the weather, when it’s clearly written on my chart that this is a post-miscarriage follow-up. Don’t ask about nursing when in fact my baby has died. Please don’t ask me to go through my losses all over again when it is clearly written in the chart. Sitting in your office is full of grief triggers and traumatic memories. Please show kindness and compassion by understanding my history before entering my room. Your few minutes of preparation can make this already difficult visit for me go by more smoothly.
If I could say one thing to my friends:
Thank you for being my friend. Please know I need YOU now, more than any other time. I don’t need your answers, I don’t need your ideas, and I don’t need your platitudes. I just need you, and your very real, very tangible love. I need your arms around me, holding me up. I need your help getting my bathroom cleaned when I can barely get out of bed. I need you to take me to coffee (or bring it to me), and let me tell you every single thing about my baby. Or I need you just to sit as I stare into the swirling creamy blackness as I am so overcome by emotion that I can’t utter a single word. Even though you may not recognize me these days, please don’t leave me. I really, really, really need you.
If I could say one thing to my husband:
I’m so sorry. I know you know that. We both know it wasn’t my fault. And yet the guilt just keeps eating at me. I’m sorry our baby died. I’m sorry I’m no longer the wife you recognize, and you are no longer the husband I’ve grown to love. We both changed, so quickly, in just that one instant. Sometimes it is easiest to talk with others. It is hardest to talk with you. To tell you how much I hurt. How much I regret. How much I wish things were different. Because I know you are there, too, in your own way. Hurting so much, but trying to carry me as well. Things may be different now. Maybe they always will be. But I love you. I need you. And I’m committed to finding the “new us” in the midst of the loss of our beloved child.
This is what I would say — if I could just say one thing.
Rachel Lewis is a foster, adoptive and birth mom. After a 5-year battle with secondary infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, she now has three children in her arms and a foster son in her heart. She is passionate about helping women feel heard and understood when building their family gets a little bit complicated. When she’s not chauffeuring her kids around, you can find her shopping at Trader Joes, drinking coffee, or writing about her journey as a mom at The Lewis Note or as a contributor to Still Standing Magazine. You can get her free resource, “Your BFF Guide to Miscarriage: 5 Ways to Comfort a Friend Through Pregnancy Loss” here. Connect with Rachel on Facebook, or join her private Facebook group Brave Mamas — a support group for anyone who had to struggle to build their family.