I have a blood condition that can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and inter-uterine grown retardation (tiny tiny baby). It has not caused any of these things for me, thank goodness. I have only been pregnant twice. The first pregnancy ended in a full-term birth of a healthy baby boy, and the second is now 26 weeks along and progressing beautifully. My blood condition was diagnosed between the pregnancies, and to prevent problems, I have been injecting myself with a blood thinner every day since I found out I was pregnant, to prevent baby-starving clots from forming on my placenta (is it my placenta, or the baby's placenta? Maybe it's "our" placenta. Perhaps we'll stick with "the" placenta).
Early in this pregnancy, knocked for a loop by nausea, I passed time by hanging out on bulletin boards at BabyCenter, including the Heparin/Aspirin/Lovenox board, for women being treated with blood thinners for various clotting disorders similar to mine. Many of these women have had mulitple miscarriages because of their wonky blood; I think the highest number I ever saw was seven, but three, four, and five miscarriages or stillbirths were pretty common, sometimes with a live full-term birth mixed in, sometimes not. Yet they were all pregnant again, and all busily on-line sharing tips about choosing injection sites, cautiously giving rein to their hopes as the days and weeks passed, and responding like tuning forks to each other's grief when someone had to post about another loss.
I am thinking about them because today I found my way to some weblogs by women dealing with infertility (of which Chez Miscarriage is the most bitterly hilarious). As I was on the message board, I am humbled by these women's tenacity and optimism. And also freshly pissed off at the kind of thoughtless and hurtful things people say to other people who are sad or grieving. My own most vivid experience with this is the many many breastfeeding mothers who told me I was "better off" when I was unable to nurse my son, even though it must have been clear from the way I could barely talk about it without tearing up that I was grieved by it.
I also once had someone tell me that getting pregnant on the first try "must mean this baby was really meant to be." Which angered me on behalf of my many friends who did not get pregnant on the first try, but who needed, say, ten months and injectible fertility drugs, or who were on what they had firmly decided was their last round of IVF, or even my partner David's mother, rest her soul, who tried for eight years to concieve before he came along. All of whose children were clearly less meant to be than mine, Little Mister Chosen One.
All of which I wish I had said to the person who told me that. I want to stop honoring people's good intentions and hold them accountable for their actions and words. I wish I'd told all the "you're better off" breastfeeding moms to stuff it. I wish I had managed to say one thing to one person, as I dealt with my small-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things loss, that would make that person think carefully before telling some poor woman who's just lost her fourth baby in twelve months, "At least you know you can get pregnant."
In lieu of that, I'm going to pass on to all of you good people some advice I got from Miss Manners that has seen me through many a sticky situation: "I'm sorry," "Thank you," and "Congratulations" are simple, multi-purpose expressions that rarely offend. The next time someone tells you their bad news, try "I'm sorry" instead of "I know just how you feel," "I can't imagine how you feel," "That happened to me once, too," or any expression of how lucky they are or how much worse things could be. Works wonders.
And for those times when you fail of good judgment and something ill-advised slips out, as happens to all of us, try--you guessed it--"I'm sorry." It has a thousand and one uses.
Let's practice now: Say, "I'm so sorry," and then shut up for minute. Do this ten times a day until it becomes automatic. Then you'll be ready the next time someone tells you their bad news. You can be the person of whom they say, "I'm so grateful for my friend X, who alone of all my acquaintance and family said exactly the right thing."Posted by Su Penn at January 8, 2004 02:02 AM | TrackBack