We’ve come a long way in the past 10-20 years. In the not too distant past people would encounter a woman who lost a pregnancy and say, “well at least you can have another one,” “at least you can try again,” “at least you weren’t that far along.” I’m happy to report that I haven’t heard any of these things. And thank the good Lord, because I know I wouldn’t respond in the way people would expect a Methodist pastor to respond.
What I have heard has still been troubling. My mother-in-law told me that someone said to her “Oh they have to try again! They would have beautiful children.” Now this may sound nice, but its full of problems. First of all, I don’t have to do anything.
Never tell a woman who lost a pregnancy that she has to do anything. To imply that I “have to” have children is a gross misinterpretation of the reason God put me on this earth. I am here to serve as a disciple and pastor first. I am a woman and I am a feminist. If I choose to get pregnant again, cool, but I also get to decide not to. Just because we don’t have children does not make James and I’s family any less complete. I have a job that I love and a life full of love and joy. You don’t get to tell me what I “have” to do. On top of respecting me as a woman, please respect me as a person who has experienced the worst trauma of my life. I have only been pregnant once and it ended tragically. Nobody gets to ask me to go through this again. Nobody.
The second thing you should never say to a woman who has lost a pregnancy is anything about “trying again.” People have offered me this phrase in a myriad of ways. “I hope you try again,” “You have to try again,” “Are you going to try again?” “Do you want to try again?” Maybe people are aloof, but by using the phrase “try again” you are implying that I did something wrong the first time. It is (or at least should be) common knowledge that I did nothing wrong causing my child to die. I took prenatal vitamins, I avoided wine and coffee, I ate all the nutrients, I listened to my body, I rested well, I could go on and on. There is nothing I could have done to save my child. Saying “try again” implies failure. Neither James, nor I, nor our child have failed.
I’ll write more in a later blog, but lastly, please don’t mention anything about abortion. Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, there is no need to insert your stance into my narrative of loss. I honestly don’t care what you think. You are not me and you didn’t suffer my trauma. Don’t press your opinions on me because I’m not interested. I have skin in the game now. I get to make a well informed theological understanding of what happened to me and what happens to other children who die prior to birth.
I suppose I should now offer some examples of things that you can say to a woman who has lost a pregnancy. The following have been helpful:
- Cards. Send all the cards. Even if you just write, “I love you” and sign your name it goes a long way.
- “I’m praying for you.” Don’t just say it. Please do it. Peoples prayers have stuck with me. I feel them in my soul. I know people are praying and I am healing. God has stayed near and your prayers have reminded me that.
- “Me too.” By being so honest about my loss, I have been able to hear from a multitude of women who have experienced the same hurt and grief. They lost their children at different times and in different ways, but they simply said, “me too,” and allowed me to share as little or as much as I want. The solidarity and shared hurt has made me feel heard and loved.
- Perhaps the best thing I’ve heard was yesterday right before church. One of my 6th grade youth ran up to me and grabbed my hand. He said, “Joy I’m sad. I’m so sad your baby didn’t live.” This was a 6TH GRADER! I told him I was sad too. He then said, “This just sucks. You deserve to have a kid.” You know what, I do! This was not only significant because of his age, it was significant because he didn’t try and fix things. he was ok sitting in my grief. Be like this kid.