We lost our first baby to miscarriage in June of 2013, our second in March of 2015, and our third in September of 2015. Tomorrow is internationally dedicated to Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. I’ve thought a lot about what I could briefly share about my miscarriages on this day to raise awareness and while I have learned many lessons, there is one I have decided to focus on:
Be sensitive when inquiring about people’s family sizes and plans for reproduction.
Over the course of the last five years since getting married I have been routinely questioned by people – family, friends, and strangers alike about my plans for children. Thankfully I have a very strong faith that never left me doubting that God’s plan may not be my plan, and that’s ok. Many do not have this faith and can feel immense despair when waiting for a child. And for those that do have faith, the loss is still incredibly painful and personal.
I remember feeling like a knife was being twisted in my heart when people would joyfully observe my near-toddler and ask me, “so, when are you going to have another?”. Never did I think they were intentionally trying to be cruel or insensitive. I realized they had no idea I was physically and emotionally just beginning to heal from back-to-back miscarriages. That just days before, I had been laying in a puddle of my own tears on the hardwood floor of my house after coming home from the doctor appointment that confirmed what my body had already told me over the previous excruciatingly painful 5 days of miscarrying yet another baby. That I honestly had no idea if I would ever have another.
So here are some things NOT to say to people when you notice they have a little one or two, or that they’ve been married a few years with no children in sight:
When are you going to have kids?
When are you going to have another?
You think you have it hard with one…
Oh two boys … now you need to try for a girl.
2 1/2 years apart … you planned that perfectly.
And here are some things you could say instead:
Wow, what a beautiful child. You are so blessed. What is his/her name? Lovely .. how did you pick that name?
I see you have a little girl… What is your favorite thing to do together?
What cute boys. What do you enjoy most about having two of the same?
And if you know they’ve had a miscarriage ….
You could ask if they’ve named their unborn child(ren), and what their names are.
You could offer to pray for their intentions, and then ask what those intentions are (you may be surprised that their intentions could be different than what you would assume … for example, instead of ‘wanting to have another child’ their intention could be ‘wanting my child to have a sibling’, and thus in prayer together, adoption could eventually become a possibility to someone who once thought they were not open to the idea).
You could inform them that there is a Shrine of the Unborn at the Church of the Holy Innocents in NYC where their children’s names can be entered in a book of prayer that will be prayed over 24/7.
Often times our insensitivity towards other people’s situations comes not from purposefully being insensitive, but rather from a lack of preparation for the conversations that we might find ourselves having with people. The most obvious thing to ask a parent with a small child, is if there are more small children at home, or if there are more on the way. There are MANY people suffering miscarriage, infertility, secondary infertility, stillbirth, infant loss, twin loss, regret from abortion, etc. Assume that everyone has a story. And even if their story doesn’t include one of the above scenarios, you can be certain that their reproductive life and choices are extremely personal ones that are best left up to discussion with their spouse.
And if you’ve had a miscarriage …
Share about your experience if you are comfortable doing so. In becoming vulnerable to others, we help them open up too, which can be healing for all. I have heard countless stories of struggle, loss, and hope just by being transparent about my own journey. Among many other blessings that have come from experiencing miscarriage, it has helped me more genuinely connect with others.
By the way, I am the proud mama of five little angels … two on Earth and three in Heaven and when we all meet one day and spend eternity as a family, it will be the happiest day of my existence. In the meantime I love that God can transform us through our suffering if we let Him. When your heart breaks, you become aware of how much it is capable of loving. And that is a truly beautiful thing.