“…I’m sorry. You’re in labor. You have to go to the hospital and have the baby today. There’s nothing we can do to stop it.”
I remember wondering how on earth I was going to manage to call my husband and explain why I needed him right then. I remember simultaneously feeling like I was going to scream, cry, and vomit all at one time. I remember thinking that I needed my mom, my best friend, and my principal (who happened to be like my second mom). I remember thinking, ‘Why? I did everything right. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t drink. Aside from the occasional junk food binge, I ate well. Why?’
No one tells you about miscarriage or infant loss when you first get pregnant. It’s just not something we talk about. It’s a reality, though. 1 in 4 women (and their families) are affected by pregnancy loss in one form or another. One in FOUR. 25% of women have had the most devastating news ever delivered to them in their lives – ‘no heartbeat,’ ‘not viable,’ ‘in early labor.’ For a very long time, and even still, it’s not something people want to talk about. It makes us uncomfortable. If we don’t talk about it and we only focus on the darling newborns with the beautiful pink cheeks, then it’s all okay. Everyone is good.
But it’s not. The more we hide it, the more of a stigma it becomes. The more a stigma it becomes, the less chance families have to get help and support when it happens to them.
So how can you help? How can you support your girlfriend, your sister, your neighbor, when she suddenly has her precious baby taken from her?
First, offer help in practical ways. Ask if you can bring dinner over, offer to baby sit older siblings so that parents can have time alone together, or ask if you can help clean the house. Those things mean more than you know – no, we don’t have the recovery time that a mom who just gave birth to a full term baby would have, but we DID give birth.
Second, please talk to us. Don’t avoid us because you don’t know what to say. Pray with us. Pray for us. Come and give us hugs and love. We need that. I will caution you to avoid clichéd comments, like ‘It just wasn’t your time,’ and ‘at least you can have more kids.’ (Whew – THAT could be a whole other blog post!). Just be there for us. We are trying desperately to grasp what has just happened and we need some consistency with our friends.
Third, please say our baby’s name (if we’ve given them one). It would kill me when friends would stop and ask how I was, but avoid using Charlotte’s name. It was clear that it was the elephant in the room – comfort me, but don’t talk about the baby, because it might make me sad again. Guess what? I AM sad – and it’s okay. I would be sadder if my daughter was forgotten by my family and friends. My husband, Dave, and I had a dear friend who is a potter and she made a cross for us with Charlotte’s name on it. The cross hangs on our wall and is our constant reminder of our sweet girl who got to avoid the pains and heartaches of this world, and is resting in the arms of Jesus.
Lastly, pray. Don’t just say you’ll pray – but make a mindful effort to offer us up before the throne of God. We feel it. We need it. We CRAVE it. There’s a peace that you desperately need, that only comes from God when you’ve lost a child at any point – infant or not – that comes from prayer. It is the single most powerful tool that we humans have. I felt so surrounded by God’s peace and calm during the time that we lost Charlotte and were dealing with the aftermath of that – and that was only through my family and friends interceding on my behalf, because I simply couldn’t do it for myself.
Our Charlotte Marie changed us in big ways. She changed my own walk with God. She changed the way I pray for and support my friends. She changed the way my husband and I pray for our boys, her brothers. She was not given to us in vain. She has a story, a purpose, and meaning. God intended her to only be ours for a short time, but in that short time, she impacted many in big ways. I rejoice that someday, I will be in the presence of my Savior, hugging my sweet daughter.