Contributed by Andrea Vandiver
Warning: this post may cause some emotional distress for women who have experienced the loss of a baby or who are currently pregnant.
The bleeding started on December 23rd. It wasn’t much so I wasn’t too concerned, but after a full day and no sign of it stopping, I called my midwife. The next day, Christmas Eve, I stared at the television screen while the ultrasound tech struggled to find a heartbeat and measured my baby much smaller than what I knew it should be. She couldn’t tell me anything right then, but she didn’t have to. I knew. And a couple of hours later my midwife confirmed – my baby had passed away.
Over the next couple of days, I faced all of the Christmas festivities with a heavy heart and looming sense of what was to come. On December 26th, I woke up early with contractions and within three hours, I passed my baby. To say it was devastating is an understatement.
This was a new experience to my family and closest circle of friends, but I was blessed to receive a lot of support.
I hope you never find yourself in a position where someone you love has lost a baby. But if you do, here are a few ways to make the experience even the tiniest bit easier on her.
The physical needs experienced after a miscarriage are not much different than after a full term birth.
1. Meals – Physical and emotional demands make food preparation very difficult after a miscarriage. Delivering a simple meal can be a huge blessing. Ask the mother if she would like a meal calendar set up (like this one), and share it with mutual friends. Or stock her fridge with freezer meals, like this delish Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce.
2. Cleaning – Again, physical and emotional demands can put routine housework on the back burner. During a visit, load the dishwasher or take out the trash. You could even consider purchasing a gift certificate for a local maid service.
3. Babysitting – Caring for live children can give your loved one a chance to grieve alone, with whatever emotions she feels.
A simple gift or care package can be both helpful and meaningful. Some suggestions are:
- gift cards to restaurants, coffee shops, spas
- personal care products such as bath salts (like these), shower gel, nail polish
- chocolate or other sweets
- heat wraps (like this one)
- personalized gifts memorializing the baby (Using the baby’s due date or birth date adds a special touch)
- Grieving the Child I Never Knew (a Christian devotional)
Probably the most meaningful gift I received was a Hannah’s Hope box.
By far, the best way to support your loved one is to be available. She may need your company or she may need her space, but you won’t know until you ask. Frequent texts, calls or cards remind her that you are thinking of her and grieving with her.
You might not know what to say, so here is a good starting point.
What not to say:
“At least you already have _____ kid(s).”
Would you say that to someone who had lost one of their grown children? A child is irreplaceable, no matter how many you have. Each pregnancy comes with its own hopes, dreams and expectation for the future. Your friend/sister/daughter/neighbor probably dreams of what her baby would have looked like and who they would have become.
“Don’t worry, you’ll have more!”
Who knows if this is true? Many women struggle with fertility for years, finally conceive and then miscarry. Secondary infertility, (the inability to become pregnant, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children) is also very common, although not often talked about. Some women may want to delay pregnancy while they heal emotionally, and some may fear they won’t be able to conceive again at all.
“At least you know you can get pregnant!”
Getting pregnant and then losing a baby is not easier than never getting pregnant at all. Both infertility and miscarriage are extremely difficult, emotionally-charged hardships. Your loved one might also be wondering if subsequent pregnancies will end in miscarriage.
“Better early than later on.”
How is that better? Part of the difficulty in early miscarriage is that a lot of women never get to hold their baby. To kiss the top of its head. To know its gender and give it a name to speak of in years to come.
“Let me know if you need anything.”
This isn’t a terrible thing to say, it’s just not very helpful. A mother who has just lost her baby has so much going on, physically and emotionally, she cannot possibly remember who all offered to help. And she may feel too shy or embarrassed to reach out and say “Hey, I’m not feeling well today. Could you bring us a meal?”
What to say instead:
Something. Most of the time, it’s better than nothing. Simply checking in helps her know you are thinking of her.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.” Acknowledging the loss helps her feel justified in her feelings.
“When you feel comfortable, I’d love to hear about your baby’s journey.” A friend of mine texted this to me and I was surprised by how much it touched my heart. I had a story I wanted to tell, just like telling my firstborn’s birth story. It was healing to me to talk about it.
“I’m praying for you. Or, how do you want me to pray for you?” Another friend asked me this. It made me think about what I specifically wanted: physical relief, a miracle, or in my case, I wanted to see my baby when it passed.
“I’m thinking about you.” Short and sweet but a great way to communicate when you don’t know what to say.
“When can I bring a meal? Can I drop by for a visit on _____? Can I take _____ to the park for a playdate?” This is the opposite of “let me know if you need anything” and is a great way to help without making her ask for it.
It rained all day on December 26th.
It rained while my husband found a beautiful spot on my family’s land and dug a hole. It rained as I wrapped my baby in a soft cloth given to me by my sister-in-law. It rained as I placed it in the hole and covered it with fresh earth. And it rained as my husband and I walked back, hand-in-hand into a home where my family and friends were waiting to love and support us – and still do.
Your support means more to them than you know. Reach out.
Andrea Vandiver is a work-at-home mom and freelance writer in Oklahoma. She spends her days imitating animals and blowing bubbles. Her favorite things are those that taste, smell, feel, sound and look wonderful: the stuff that romance is made of.