Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Say What? Pregnancy Loss & Infertility Etiquette

What do we call a child who loses a parent? An orphan
A woman who loses a spouse? A widow
What about a couple who loses a child or pregnancy? There isn't a word to describe them.

In case you didn't know, October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. President Ronald Reagan actually declared this in 1988. Later on in 2006, the US House of Representatives named October 15th National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day. The purpose of this month is to recognize any parent who has lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, SIDS, and many other causes. Infertility Awareness Month actually falls in April, but I want to touch on a couple things regarding that as well.

3 times now, I've had the fleeting dream of motherhood come close to being realized, only to have it taken right back away. I do not pretend to know what it's like to lose a child at 10 years old, or 1 year old, or later on in pregnancy. My short-lived pregnancies have all been doomed almost immediately upon getting a positive blood result. My suspected ectopic lasted 10.5 weeks, but I knew it was over at 5.5 wks. Still, that doesn't mean that the intense hurt and pain we've experienced as a couple throughout each loss is not real.

Not only have we experienced 3 losses, but we are ALSO experiencing the double whammy of infertility on top of it. When you have spent endless hours praying, wanting, and waiting as patiently as possible....Every extra resource available and every ounce of energy towards finding a solution; It's extremely heartbreaking to still feel like you are at square one to ever becoming a parent. One thing that makes pregnancy loss and infertility especially hard is the lack of awareness.

Learning to handle the comments from others who don't understand what we're going through has been something we've had to work on, and I've definitely not yet mastered it. The other thing I haven't mastered are the feelings left in the wake of the idiotic...I mean, well-meaning but extremely misguided comments we hear. We've had supposed "friends" enthusiastically announce their baby's gender publicly front and center less than 24 hours after we told them we were miscarrying. I've had people tell me horrific stories of children born with deformities or special needs as if to say, "At least yours took care of itself!"  I've heard "Have you considered adoption, surrogacy, or taking a vacation?" more times than I can even count. I am surprised I haven't bitten off my own tongue by now. I try to take in the actions and comments as graciously as humanly possible, but it's hard. And while I do feel compelled to gently "educate" others from time to time, even doing that just becomes sooooo exhausting.

The fact is that there are two types of misguided comments: 1) Those that come from a flat out selfish & non-caring place, and 2) Those which truly just come from a place of wanting to help. Unfortunately, even people who genuinely care can say some incredibly hurtful things without even realizing it.  If there is one thing I've learned the past couple years, it's that people tend to be solution oriented when it comes to someone else's problems. It's made me more aware myself of being a more supportive listener.

Let me be clear. I don't want anyone reading to think this post is intended to gain sympathy. It's not.
  It's also not directed at anyone specifically. Believe me, the lack of knowledge in the general public runs rampant. Most of those who comment here on my blog are fellow mom's in the making, but I do get readers from across the globe surprisingly least that's what my blog stats say. Who knew?

Anyways, I wanted to share some Infertility & Pregnancy Loss Resources with you all. Maybe you can use some education yourself to better help someone experiencing infertility or loss. Or, maybe you need something to share with others to help them understand your own journey more. Wherever you fall in the spectrum, I think these can benefit everyone....

Seleni: Infertility Etiquette 101
Seleni: 11 Things You Should Know About Grief
Dancing Upon Barren Land: for Family & Friends
Dancing Upon Barren Land: Miscarriage or Stillbirth
Resolve: Infertility Etiquette
Resolve: Facts vs. Myths About Infertility
Orthodox Church: Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness

There are oodles and oodles of resources on these topics online. If you aren't sure what to say to someone experiencing infertility or pregnancy/child loss get some guidance by doing an online search. Sometimes saying less IS more. Think carefully about what you say BEFORE you say it please.

If you are someone needing more support from those around you, don't be afraid to share resources with people who can use them. It can be a balancing act to handle comments graciously, set boundaries and have our own experiences validated in an appropriate way. One thing is certain though...No one should have to go through this alone. You deserve to be supported in the way that you need to be.

Anyone who wants to participate in Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day is invited to light a candle on October 15th at 7 PM to show their solidarity. I will be lighting a candle at home and praying for all of the mothers and fathers out there that have endured the heartache that comes with pregnancy or child loss. If you have any other resources you've found helpful to deal with loss OR infertility, please feel free to share them here. We can all learn from each other!


  1. Good point Emily! I had to come to grips with forgiving people quickly/giving benefit of doubt with rude comments. The worst thing that happend to me was right after I texted close fam/friends our FET failed, I got a call within 24 hours asking if I could take off time in the fall to help someone having her child (by watching her older child). The woman that asked me was like 9 weeks pregnant (so the favor was for like 6 months down the road). It was so painful and insensitive. @#%@# vacations and relaxing and vitamins. Infertilty is a disease and I hate it. Thanks for this reminder.

  2. Such a great post, Emily. Thank you for sharing all of this great info. I've certainly gotten better at the ridiculous comments and try my best to chalk it up to they simply don't know any better...though it never fails to gut me just a little bit each time.

  3. "If there is one thing I've learned the past couple years, it's that people tend to be solution oriented when it comes to someone else's problems. It's made me more aware myself of being a more supportive listener." <-- Amen to that. I know people mean well, but they sure has he** aren't going to fix it. We require doctors and procedures; it's a disease. Thank you for sharing this, Emily. I often struggle with how I feel about my pregnancy loss at 4 weeks and 3 days. I was pregnant, technically ... but either it was too early, or I'm in denial about having lost my baby. I don't know; sometimes I feel bad about how I feel (or don't feel). Either way, I will definitely keep 10/15 at 7 p.m. in mind.

  4. Amen, Amen, Amen to that! Honestly, I wish so badly that people would just think before they speak sometimes. Even those who are trying to help in a sypmathetic way. I just told my husband last night as we were falling asleep that even if I beat this, I will never, NEVER say the things to someone else as those have said to me during this horrible time. xoxo

  5. Thanks for sharing!! This whole journey has opened up my eyes to asking questions to people in general - just makes me realize you never ever have any idea what someone is going through! Thanks for sharing all those resources!

  6. Fantastic post as usual Emily. You capture SO well the challenges you continue to face. From one of those people from across the globe - yep, we're real!


  7. I will definitely light a candle. Amen about biting our tongues off. Sometimes it's easier to just not saying anything at all.

  8. Excellent post and so well put. Those "helpful" comments/suggestions from the uninformed have really pushed me to my limits...
    Thinking of you!

  9. Can't believe this liberal Democrat is approving of a decision made during the Reagan and Bush II administrations! From my own experience, people want to move past your miscarriage as soon as possible. They may console you at that time, but then never bring it up again. Ignore the fact that as more time goes on (and especially if you're still not pregnant) the sense of loss only grows. What was most disheartening to me is that none of my closest friends IRL acknowledged my would have been due date (even when I dropped some hints). It made me realise that if I had a successful pregnancy and had given birth around that time, friends would have showered me with cards, flowers -all unnecessary items after receiving the gift of the baby- it was when I was alone and mourning what would have been, that I needed the attention and support. Thanks for your post and your comments.

  10. Great post Emily - People are idiots sometimes. It takes two seconds to stop and think about what you are going to say, but once those words are out there they can never take them back.

  11. Thank you for posting this Emily. You're so right, people can just say stupid things sometimes. It's almost worse when it comes from someone who you know is trying to say the right thing. You can't really get mad since you know they mean well, but so often their words just flat out hurt! Lighting a candle on the 15th, thank you for the info for that!

  12. Love this Emily. You are SO right about people with good intentions being solutions oriented. I know it's well meaning but after suffering from infertility for YEARS I didn't need people providing solutions or advice, esp considering most (if not all) of them knew far less than I did about fertility in general.

    Here's a quote from one of my favorite poems called The Invitation by Oriah Mt Dreamer that sums up how I feel about this:
    It doesn’t interest me
    what planets are
    squaring your moon...
    I want to know
    if you have touched
    the center of your own sorrow
    if you have been opened
    by life’s betrayals
    or have become shriveled and closed
    from fear of further pain.

    I want to know
    if you can sit with pain
    mine or your own
    without moving to hide it
    or fade it
    or fix it.

    I didn't need solutions. I needed people just to be with me in my pain but I had to go through something painful to realize that.... and realized that prior to infertility I often was solutions oriented when others were hurting. I later learned how hurtful that might come across.

    Anyway, I love your post. :)

  13. You're so right. People can be so insensitive. The only thing we can try to do is educate. I'll be lighting a candle for you and those other infant loss and miscarriage mamas on the 15th at 7pm. Hugs friend!

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