"Everything happens for a reason"
"At least you have one beautiful child, many people aren't that lucky"
"You can still try again"
"At least you have each other"
"It just wasn't meant to be"
"My sister had a miscarriage, you guys should get together and talk about it"
When you're grieving, people talk a lot of shit. I used to be one of them. I'd sit there with a friend or family member who was hurting, and I'd feel like I needed to say something, like I needed to cover the silence, fill in the empty space. So I'd say something, anything. I thought I was doing it for them, but I guess thinking about it now I was really doing it for myself - making myself feel more comfortable in the situation.
Having been on the other side of the table now, I don't hate or judge Past Nick for his efforts at comforting others. He was doing what he thought was best. He meant well. He was trying. He was also a dickhead, and he probably made things worse for whoever he was trying to help.
Because Annamarie was so sick through the early stages of our Partial Molar Pregnancy, we were forced to be very open with the people in our personal and professional lives. In some ways that was a blessing - when we lost our baby, we didn't have to make up lame excuses or pretend that we were OK. People were nice, they gave us time and space to process, to hurt, to start healing. Ultimately it's probably what led to us creating this blog - the cat was out of the bag, might as well let it run around a bit.
But there was a fiip side to this, of course. Because everyone knew, each new person we saw was like ripping off a Band Aid. We'd have to re-live the whole thing, explain the details all over again. It felt like going back to square one, every conversation. My first day back at work was like a form of emotional torture. Every time I thought I'd got on top of it and could function normally, someone else would appear who I hadn't seen, and my professional armour would be gone, I'd be right back in that hospital, lost, confused, worried, empty.
Everyone was very kind of course, and I know they were all trying to help. Some people would tell me they were really sorry, and then move on, not really knowing what to say. Those were probably the easiest - they let you know that they cared, and then they let you get on with living. No expectations, no strings. Others would tell us about similar experiences they'd had, that they'd had a miscarriage, or they knew someone who had, or they'd had trouble with conceiving / IVF and the emotional rollercoaster that entails. At the time, that was hard to hear - we didn't give a shit about other people's pain, we didn't have the space for that. We were hurting. That was what mattered. But on reflection, I'm grateful these people shared their stories - it helped me to realise just how common this sort of loss is, and how little people actually talk about it.
There were others conversations though, that I could easily have skipped. The ones that left me shaking with barely contained rage. The ones that made me want to punch people in their nosey fucking noses. The nurse who told my wife the day after her D&C that she was "so lucky to have one child" . The colleague who told me that God had a plan for all of us and that my dead baby was "part of His plan". The countless people who helpfully reminded me that we could "always have another go".
I should mention here that I am not good with advice at the best of times. As a general rule, if I feel like you're telling me what to do, you can be pretty well assured that I am either going to ignore the living shit out of you, or aggressively pursue the opposite course of action. I'm OK with information. I love information. Tell me an interesting fact, tell me a story about your experience, ask me a probing question - I'm right there with you. But instruct me, direct me to do something (especially if you've got limited information about the subject) and you're in for some Christian Bale type shit.
So, suffice to say that it took some Herculean self-control for me to not get locked up for assault while receiving "comfort" from some people. I mean really, read the room people. If you've just broken your leg, I don't wander up while you're writhing on the ground in agony and tell you that you're fortunate to have the other one. I don't tell you a story about my broken leg and how much it hurt. I call you a fucking doctor, and then I sit with you and make sure you're OK until the damn professionals show up.
I think it's a common misconception that you have to do something for people who are in emotional (or even physical) stress. I can't speak for everyone, but I have to say that isn't true for me. I don't need you to do anything. I need you to shut the fuck up and love me. That's it. Let me know you're there, let me know that you can see I'm hurting. Go ahead and ask if there is anything you can do - and when I tell you there isn't, listen to me. Don't disappear, but don't get in my face either. What I want is for this shitty thing not to have happened to me, What I want is to rewind the fucking clock and make it all better. What I want is my daughter back. You can't do that for me - but what you can do is just be there. If you're my friend, be my friend. If you're my well-intentioned work colleague, be that.
This can be hard for people to get, I think - that just being there makes a difference, and I suppose at the time it doesn't feel like it. It just feels terrible, and sad. But it would feel that way anyway - at least now I feel terrible and sad and not alone. I might not thank you for it at the time, because I might not have it in me just then, but in a few weeks when I am staring blankly at the ceiling unable to sleep and feeling like nobody gives a shit, I will remember that at least one person does. And that will make a difference.
I don't want to seem ungrateful. I'm really not. We've had incredible support from friends and family, and we're lucky enough to have a large network of people who live in the same city as us so that they can support us. Not everyone has that. But as someone who has been on the other side of the fence, I would have liked to be told the truth about what's helpful, and what is maybe less so. How can you do better without feedback? It's like if you see a mate with their fly down and you don't mention it - you're not helping them, you're just setting them up for more embarrassment later, maybe from someone who won't be quite as sensitive to the situation as you.
If you've read this far into our journey, I think we can probably consider you a mate (or at least an acquintance) by now. So let me tell you, as a mate - thank you, and shut up.
We are a family of 3. This blog is the story of how we almost became 4, why we didn’t, and what we are doing to recover from that experience.