A big thank you to my cousin who suggested this topic:
Tell us how you would want us to respond when you tell us your story. Do you want us to be quiet? Do you want us to sympathize? How can we respond that doesn’t cause you more grief but also allows us to sympathize and/or empathize?
No, I don’t want you to be quiet. That would mean that you are ignoring the situation. Millie is real. What happened to us was real.
Immediately after we shared our news, we received many cards from our village of people – sharing the most heartfelt sentiments given our situation. Some were from mothers who had lived the same tragedy, others from people who wanted to share their love and grief.
As we have seen family and friends for the first time since sharing our news, we have had a range of greetings from long, silent hugs – strong hugs that say everything that words can’t or simply a hug and “I’m sorry.” Some have shown empathy by sharing their similar experience, because when else do we actually broach this heartbreaking subject of stillbirth, except when we hear of a related loss? Some who haven’t ever known such a loss still offer their love for Millie and their heartfelt grief. For me, all of these things touched me, warmed my heart, and gave me either hope or strength to keep going.
Stillbirth is an uncomfortable subject. Heart wrenching. Tragic. For those who haven’t experienced a similar tragedy, it may be hard for them to discuss. For those who have, it may be even harder. It’s unfortunate that this is a difficult subject because the truth is no matter how rare an occurrence it is, it does exist. Although, I read a recent article that says the stillbirth is more common an occurrence than SIDS and Downs Syndrome.
The one thing I expected and was sort of surprised that didn’t happen was, in our village, with all the young children who knew I was pregnant, none, absolutely none of those children mentioned Millie or asked me any questions after we came home from the hospital. Children have a sort of honesty and curiosity about them – I was ready and okay to speak with them. It was so easy for them to touch my belly and say hi to Millie when we were expecting, but in the wake of tragedy, all was silent.
Likewise, there have been adults who avoid the subject because they don’t know what to say. Let me reassure you that it happened to me and I don’t know what to say. I say what I feel and am honest with myself and others. That’s all I can do. That’s all I can ask you to do.
Let me also reassure you that if it happened to anyone in my circle of friends, I would keep quiet, not knowing what to do, feeling awkward for the silence and feeling helpless for not knowing what to do. I would tell Mon Cœur not to mention the baby to the family. Having lived this, I know that for me none of those things are helpful.
What helps me most is acknowledging Millie. People have asked me questions about her, asked to see a photo, told me that they saw something that made them think of her (typically a butterfly). I will gladly tell anyone who asks how beautiful and perfect she was, share a picture of her, or thank you for having thought of Millie.
What has helped me- keeping a picture of Millie in a prominent place, keeping cards on the mantle, and even this blog- are not necessarily any other person’s answer to a comparable loss. Please know that what I am offering here in this post are things that have helped me, and it may not apply to everyone. When researching other blogs that discuss stillbirth, I will say that all concur that talking about it is helpful.
If you have any questions or suggestions about a post, particularly with the subject of stillbirth, please email me. Part of the reason I started this blog was to express myself when no one wanted to bring up the subject, to connect to others who have experienced similar situations, and to help inform (from my personal point of view) others who may be trying to support mothers and families experiencing similar circumstances.