An important (but long overdue) PSA

I should have posted this a long time ago. I’m not sure why I didn’t. But what’s the old adage? It’s better late than never? Yes. It’s better late than never.

Life is weird. Our entire lives, at least in Western culture, we’re taught, “If you have important/difficult/exciting news to give, it’s best to deliver said news in person.”

But I want to make it abundantly clear that there is at least one situation (I’m sure there are others) in which this teaching couldn’t be more incorrect. And this situation is when someone who has not experienced a loss such as mine (so this doesn’t apply to other baby loss parents) must announce their pregnancy to someone who has experienced a loss such as mine. And before I delve deeper into this topic, I also want to point out that, in my three years living this life after loss, I’ve never, ever met a bereaved parent (mother or father) who feels differently.

Yes, in our minds, there’s only one single best way to deliver this sort of news, and this is via short, sweet, to-the-point text message.

“But no,” you argue, “They’d want to hear from ME in person. I’m family/an amazing friend/so supportive/*insert any other reason why I’m special*.”

Doesn’t matter. The best way to communicate such news is still through text message.

“But no,” you argue again, “It’s been three years! They’ve had two more healthy babies!”

Again, doesn’t matter. The best way to communicate such news is still through text message. There are really no exceptions here.

(Pausing to note that if anyone has delivered such news to me in a method contrary to this PSA, I’m not angry. I know this was done out of love and care and what you thought was the most considerate way, and I’m aware that I can’t expect you to be a mind reader, which is precisely why I’m now writing this post, so there isn’t any confusion moving forward.)

And by text message, I mean TEXT message. As in WORDS only. As in the absence of sounds and voices and cutesy pregnancy announcement photos and videos and images of the inside of one’s uterus. (Yes, someone from my support group once had a “friend” who texted her a surprise ultrasound photo. Let’s just say I’ve yet to attend a support group meeting with more utterances of expletives.)

There are several reasons for this, wanting to receive this sort of news only by way of text message. First, these sort of announcements are generally made out of excitement, which is fine and good and normal, but, to put it bluntly, I don’t want to have to feign excitement for you. While it isn’t that I’m not excited for you, necessarily, excitement just isn’t the primary emotion I feel upon hearing such news. Instead, there is shock, fear, trauma, etc. And, by the way, this is true in regards to myself too. Upon learning about Joel, and then about Fredrik, there was also shock and fear and trauma, so my feelings aren’t about you. They are about me. So it’s best if I’m allowed the space to cry, scream into a pillow, whatever, while you’re allowed the space to bask is your blissful glory.

Second, sometimes, I’ve found, as it relates to others’ pregnancies, there seems to be this (ridiculous) expectation that I might be able to provide some sort of reassurance to make a pregnant person feel better. Like, “Oh, it (infant death) is so rare! It happened to us, but, don’t worry, it definitely won’t happen to you!” I’m unable to provide any such reassurances. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. If it can happen to the other smart, healthy, amazing women (and families) I’ve met, it can happen to anyone. I hope it never happens again, to you or anyone else. But the fact is, it can happen it to anyone. And it does happen to someone. Lots of someones, actually. Every single day.

After an initial pregnancy announcement text is sent, what sort of interaction/support can be expected from me? The short, simple answer is generally not much. And the short, simple reason for this is, in general, the thought of a normal, low risk pregnancy sparks PTSD in me, and I can’t relate to it on any level whatsoever. So, I basically just wish you the best from afar and hope we can rejoin each other’s lives at a later date (sometimes a much later date). And this has actually happened with a few of my friends (we’ve rejoined each other’s lives at a later date) – I thank them for their compassion and understanding.

I already know there are people reading this judging me as selfish, asking, “Can’t you just be unselfish and make some accommodations for Christ’s sake?” To this I want to say that I make accommodations in my life every single day for the sake of others’ happiness and comfort in attempts to maintain relationships and live some semblance of a normal existence. But this particular area is just one in which, currently, I cannot bend. And I make no apologies for asking for what I need in my grief, whether it be one week, seven months, three years, or ten years in…

In her newly released book, Notes for the Everlost: A Field Guide to Grief, Kate Inglis writes about grief, “We don’t judge a river for overflowing or slowing to a trickle. We consider the conditions: pressure fronts, storms, drought, rain, wind. None of it is abnormal. It is the raucous, relentless, and sometimes unscrupulous nature of nature. It does what it must. But when people start messing with a river – trying to divert it, alter its flow, use it for other purposes, change its course – it becomes a disaster. Nature, when protected and cared for and allowed to be what it is, can be perfectly harmonious as long as we don’t interfere with our agenda. So can grief.”

I am a river. We bereaved, we are each rivers.

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8 thoughts on “An important (but long overdue) PSA

  1. I would definitely agree with this. I appreciate a person’s excitement. But, also, the text news gives room for me to feel what I feel in peace. Because, odds are, my initial feelings won’t be what is needed from me. I need time and space to come around to that.

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  2. It’s been 14ish months since a friend CALLED to tell me she was pregnant and that baby is now 9 months old. I haven’t seen or spoken to this person in over a year and I can’t imagine reconciling. Even if she had texted me I don’t think we would be only speaking terms. But the call was torture for all the reasons you outlined.

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  3. The night Amanda died, I called a couple of people(brother and sister, mother), I sent some text messages and yes I posted her death up on my Facebook page. Church already knew, several pastors were there with us. Honestly, I don’t know how everyone else found out. Word of mouth I guess. That adage you quoted is from my grandparents generation. You know, the phone just became popular. Getting the info out is best you can do. Shock and sorrow are on your front door. Hugs.

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  4. Yup! I had a good friend tell me about her pregnancy over brunch which I feel was her way of acknowledging that the news may be a bit hard on me. But then I just felt like part of me was dying inside and I had to keep making small talk for the whole meal.

    I’m also a fan of people telling my husband and then he tells me when he thinks I have time to have a PTSD reaction to the news.

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  5. My sister in law, who I love dearly so it’s hard to be mad at her, nonchalantly mentioned to me yesterday that her newly wed brother & wife are expecting. I could feel the lump forming in my throat. “Oh are they?” was all I could mutter. They were just married this past May and apparently got pregnant right away because they are due in March. I too got married the same day in May two years earlier, got pregnant immediately and our Lillian was due in March. She was stillborn at 38.5 weeks. Even though Lillian’s little sister is here, a healthy 5 month old, it was still a punch in the gut. I was frazzled the rest of the day.

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  6. Omg yes! I keep telling people this. Give me a chance to deal with my initial reaction in private, so I can then be there for you the best I can be. And sometimes I’m going to disappear but it’s not because I don’t love you.

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