With a blank look in her eyes, she stared through the woman in her front. Her mind was long gone, she was dwelling in that moment when the doctor had told her that there was no longer any heartbeat in her 16-week pregnancy.
Her mind recalled, with alarming clarity, the mannerism of the radiologist as he broke the news of her first term miscarriage to her, the first time. She had been a newbie to the whole Trying To Conceive business then, having gotten pregnant in her first month of marriage, it was like a dream. They weren’t planning on starting a family immediately, but neither had they made any conscious effort to plan or do anything about it. So there they were, expecting in the very first month of their wedding.
After the shock of the moment had passed, Debola began to enjoy her pregnancy. Even though there was no bump yet, she eagerly shared her news with her loved ones, and everyone was pleasantly surprised and happy for them.
However, tragedy struck when she woke in pain on a Saturday morning and, on getting to the hospital, it became clear that she had lost that baby. She lost so many other babies after then, and one had survived till full term. She had named him Miracle, because the doctors had not given him any chance, but he had stubbornly stuck and refused to become ‘unstuck’.
After she had him, there were a lot more miscarriages, so many that she might have lost count. At least, since I have known her, for the past two years that our children have been in the same class, I have watched the numerous times of the rise and fall, literally, of her stomach, with no other baby to show.
On Monday, I bumped into her at the school gate, she was taking her son inside, and I was coming out, when I asked her if she had given birth. The words flew out of my mouth before I felt like kicking myself. Interestingly, she asked if it was ‘this one?’. After that, the now awkward conversation moved on to how the kids were doing.
However, another opportunity came for us to talk, and it was as a result of a third mom, who was active in the Parents’ Forum of the school, and somehow sees herself as the minder of every other mom’s business. She had been pregnant at the same time that Debola was pregnant. She has since gone on to birth a son, while Debola went on to miscarry yet again. And she had been the one to tell her that her miscarriage experience would not have been as bad as a labour experience. That was where the blank stare came from, and the ugly reminiscing.
When she snapped out of her trance, her words, dripped with vitriol, were directed at the insensitive words of the mom who had said them. They were friends, but it did not look it at the school gate. Said in low tones, Debola gave vent to her anger, and the misconception people have about miscarriages; an experience she has lived with for years now.
1. Starting with the obvious, miscarriage pains are nowhere close to that of labour pain.
Debola quietly spoke of how she would never wish her miscarriage experience on any one, not even her worst enemy. Having gone through both experiences, giving birth once and having a series of miscarriages, she said having a miscarriage was much worse than having to go through labour, to have a live baby. At least with a live birth, there is some comfort, but not so with a still birth or miscarriage, you go through all the pain for nothing. It has gotten to the stage where she just turns her face from the the whole process. Her heart can only take so much. But she is still TTC, so if she gets pregnant, she is going to keep it, hoping against hope that it will turn into another miracle baby for her.
2. “Well, at least you know you can get pregnant.”
Ha! The things people say! Or better still, the things, TTC moms hear. This was a particularly upsetting statement for Chinenye, a woman who had just gone through her seventh miscarriage. She wondered if she was supposed to gain some comfort from the fact that her body could at least start the process of pregnancy, but couldn’t finish it.
While the person who had said the words was long gone, Chinenye ruminated on that statement, asking her husband if she should indeed be grateful for being able to get pregnant at all, when, after all, there are women, who are unable to get pregnant.
All that statement did was made Chinenye feel ungrateful to God, for the gift of pregnancy. This is the same God that understands perfectly why she feels the ways she feels.
3. “You Will Have Another Baby!”
Really???! Well, this was one mom’s answer to that comment, when it was directed at her by own mother, who really meant well, “I don’t want another baby, I want THIS baby, the one I thought I would have, the one I started planning for, hoping for, dreaming about, talking to. All that got taken away from me. I want THIS baby, not another.”
4. “Your pregnancy was in its early stages, you can’t be that emotionally attached to it yet.”
Lara nearly slapped a colleague who said that to her, after her first miscarriage, which she lost at 5 weeks, 2days. The fact that they were in an office environment restrained her.
People think that, by saying something like this, they are helping her detach from the loss. While she gets the logic, she still finds it a mean and hurtful thing to say. Each loss, no matter how early in pregnancy, is hard and emotional.
Lara’s coping mechanism was to bury herself in work and other activities, so she didn’t have to think about her loss, and then later, cuddle in her husband’s arms and give way to the tears she had kept at bay all day. Of her husband, she says, “My husband is the most amazing and supportive man, and has helped me through every moment of both of our losses. Without him by my side, I don’t think I could have made it through the way I did.”
5. You don’t need to take any time off work. It’s just a miscarriage.
Just a miscarriage?! I can smell mean-spiritedness. This was a statement by Enebi’s direct boss, and she did not take it lying low. She was hurting anyway, and did not see any reason why that hurt needed to be compounded by insensitive statements like this one.
She told her boss, a man, that she did not not just have a miscarriage, but that she lost a baby. She went on to tell him that when she had suffered her first miscarriage on a Saturday, she had been back at her desk on Monday. But things needed to be different this time around. She had miscarried while at work, bore the pain for most of the day before going to the hospital, and then to be called into work the next morning, as a matter of urgency, was unacceptable. She needed time off to heal, and undergo the numerous investigations her doctor recommended. To think that she worked in the health sector made the statement even more hurtful. That she worked with people, who should understand.
After reading and hearing all these stories, all I can say is there are people in life who, regardless of what goes on, just say the rudest things, and they don’t even know what they are doing. If its directed at you, the best you can do is just to ignore them, but there is the risk of perpetuating their ignorance, so if, you are so inclined, you can enlighten them, but if not, just ignore.
On the other hand, if you are reading this and have not been sensitive about the things you say to people in circumstance like this, please endeavour to pay particular attention next time.
Words are powerful, if they will not edify, it is better to be quiet.
Sticky wishes all round.
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