“I don’t really understand why you are so sad. It’s not like you can point to a chair your baby sat in or their favourite clothes and miss not seeing them in it.” My GP had referred me to a counsellor after I lost my baby in a stillbirth and during our first (and only) meeting, the counsellor told me she didn’t understand why I was so torn up over the baby I never got to meet. She went on to tell me how she didn’t connect with her children until much after they were born.
That might have been the case for her but I connected very deeply with my son right from the beginning. As my pregnancy progressed, I knew when he was awake and when he was asleep. I’d listen to music at work on my earphones and place one of the ear phones on my tummy and feel him move around. That was why, when I woke up that dreadful Sunday morning and everything was quiet and still, I immediately knew something was wrong. I knew he was gone even before the doctors confirmed it even though I desperately wished it wasn’t true.
I am not writing this article to highlight a counsellor’s insensitivity; I am writing to say that I understand how it can be quite difficult to empathise with someone who’s going through a tough experience you cannot fully comprehend. What do you say to a friend or colleague who has been preparing for her baby’s arrival for months and who suddenly lost all that dream? How do you comfort someone who has lost her pregnancy for the 2nd. 3rd or even 4th time? Chances are that you ‘know’ that it is a tough experience but you don’t know how they really feel unless you’ve been through a loss yourself. And that is ok; you don’t have to understand, you just need to show that you care. I could give you a list of some things to not say:
– You are lucky it happened early on in the pregnancy.
– You are healthy, you can still have another baby
– At least you now you know can get pregnant
– It’s been x months already, are you still sad about that?
But I think the best thing you can say to a woman (or man) going through this is ‘I’m sorry this happened to you. Let me know if you need anything’. It shows that you care. You are not prescribing any solutions or giving well-meaning but hurtful advice and your friend knows that they can count on you when they need someone to talk to or hold their hand.
Have you lost a pregnancy? What was the best thing anyone ever said or did for you?