If only there was…

by Kathy on July 24, 2008 · 13 comments

in Bob, Loss, Molly, Sean

…some type of card you could hand out to people after your baby dies.

The card would explain briefly what happened to your child and that way when out in public and an acquaintance poses a question that does not make it possible to avoid answering at least somewhat truthfully, said card could be given and save grieving parents yet another sad, painful and uncomfortable interaction. Better yet, the card would be distributed before questions would be asked in the first place, saving all parties involved the time and trouble.

My mom gave me a very touching and well written article from a recent Oprah magazine written by a mother of stillborn baby boy. The author mentions in her piece about how years before she met a man on a train who gave out cards that stated “I’m deaf” and how she wished that she could likewise hand out cards that had on them “my first child was stillborn.” As that way people would know what happened, what she has been through, but wouldn’t have to ask her questions that could lead to her feeling compelled to tell them and therefore she wouldn’t have to explain and make them or herself feel sad or uncomfortable.

Twice this week I have been faced with uncomfortable questions related to the existence of our baby girl. What was unique for me about both experiences is that neither interaction really gave me the chance to choose not to share about Molly. As I have shared here before, when someone asks me if I have other children or if Sean is my oldest, I don’t feel so bad not sharing that I do have another child and that he is my oldest, not my only. As I believe at that time that I am sparing myself and the person inquiring (who is usually just making small talk) unnecessary discomfort.

The first question came on Sunday morning. Bob, Sean and I were at church, sitting in our regular section near some friends/other families with young children. There is a man who is typically the usher for our section. He is responsible for passing the collection basket when the time comes and he has always been friendly to our family. When I was about 16 weeks along with Molly he was one of the first people in our parish to approach me and boldly congratulate me on being pregnant. I was surprised that he noticed at the time, but was also appreciative of his enthusiasm. Especially because at that point we already knew Molly’s diagnosis and prognosis. I chose not to share with him back then that we knew our daughter was very sick and might not survive to her birth or if she did, not much past it, as we didn’t feel like getting into it everytime someone commented in passing about our pregnancy. It was also kind of nice sometimes to pretend that we were having a “normal” pregnancy. Since Molly was born and died we haven’t been to our church very consistently as it has been a busy summer and we have been out of town a lot. I guess I never thought about whether the news of her birth and going to Heaven would have made its way to our usher.

So anyway, as the usher was approaching our pew Sunday with the collection basket and Sean was getting ready to drop our envelop in, the usher leaned over to me and said, “So, what did we have? A boy or a girl?!”

Bob and I were in shock. Clearly we had no baby with us. I suppose he must have thought he or she was napping at home with a grandparent or something. Was it possible that he actually didn’t know that our baby had died? I guess so.

It all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to think about the best way to answer his question as he was moving on to the next pews with the basket and so I replied, “a baby girl.” Then I turned to Bob and said I couldn’t believe that had been my answer, that I would have to find him later and clarify, if nothing else to prevent more uncomfortable questions and interactions with our usher in the future. Then I got choked up, a bit teary eyed and joked with Bob about how this is why I fear going out in public sometimes lately, due to these kinds of experiences.

A bit later on in the mass, during the “kiss of peace” our usher came down the aisle near us and started shaking hands with people around us saying “peace be with you.” As he approached us, I knew that this time would be as good as any to further explain about our baby girl. As he reached out to shake my hand, I said “peace be with you” and the told him that I didn’t know how else to say it, but that our baby girl had died. I said that I wasn’t trying to shock him with the news, however when he had asked us earlier, he had caught me off guard and I hadn’t known what to say. Regardless of my words, he looked very shocked and saddened. He told us how sorry he was and I felt bad for him, as I knew that like so many others, he really did have the best of intentions. I also realized at that moment that he kind of reminded me (in both looks and mannerisms of my maternal grandfather who died 10 years ago).

The second question came last night, also ironically at a church related event (maybe God is trying to tell me something). I was picking up Sean from a vacation bible school program that he has been participating in every evening this week at a neighboring parish. I had arrived a bit early to peek in on him in action. As other parents began to join me in the waiting area, I noticed a woman that I knew from our neighborhood, who I hadn’t seen in a long time. Sean and her daughter had been in a sports class together at one of our local parks awhile back and we had gotten to know each other from this very type of activity (dropping off and picking up our children from class). The last time I recall talking with her she had just given birth to her now 17 month old son (her third child). As we made small talk tonight waiting for our kids to finish up, out of seemingly nowhere she said to me, “did you have a baby?” or something to that effect.

The question surprised me as it isn’t quite the same as someone asking if you have other children and I felt like it was harder to brush off. I imagine someday, these kinds of questions won’t catch me so off guard and I will be able to answer them without getting choked up and teary, however I am not there yet, not even close. So I told her that I did have a baby a few months ago but that she had died. Once again I found myself in that really awkward moment where I didn’t know who to feel worse for me or the woman I had just dropped that bombshell on. My tears started to come and the woman said she was so sorry, that she wouldn’t ask me to tell her anymore and that she should have never asked. I said that it was okay and that I understood she had no way of knowing (though we do have a number of mutual friends, but I guess maybe she hadn’t heard through them or hadn’t put two and two together to recall who I was if she had been told about one their friends that this had happened to).

I quickly tried to pull myself together and observe my son from afar doing a cute song and dance about “God’s Big Backyard” with the other vacation bible school participants and volunteers. I also didn’t want to ignore the woman after our interaction, so after I composed myself I somehow managed to go on small talking with her a bit.

I don’t have any great lessons learned from my two experiences this week with dealing with unavoidable uncomfortable questions, other than this is my life now and I have to learn to live it the best I can under the circumstances. However, I do find it helpful to share here about what happened and so appreciate your validating comments. From many of your comments (especially those of you who have lost one or more babies) and talking with women I know from the support group I go to who have also lost babies, I do realize that this is all still so new and very raw for me. It will get easier in time and I won’t get nearly as many surprising questions as I do now.

Thank you for all of your thoughtful and caring comments on my last two posts and a special welcome to those of you who have found your way here through IComLeavWe.I have really enjoyed seeing and reading so many new blogs this week and I thank you all for sharing your lives and experiences, especially as they relate to infertility and/or pregnancy loss, with me and the other IComLeavWe participants so candidly.

Sommer and Katie, thank you for pointing out that Molly’s Social Security Card (SSC) is also something that proves she existed and was here with us on this earth, if only for a short time. When I called Bob to tell him that her SSC had arrived, he had the same reaction as you both did, which I truly appreciated at the time, as it did help to take me out of my grief and give me a more positive and affirming way to see the piece of mail for our daughter.

This week has been extremely busy for me and my family, which is ironic for me to think about sometimes, as if Molly had lived we likely would have been spending so much more time here at home caring for her and just trying to get through each day. We are still just trying to get through each day, however instead of getting used to having a newborn baby in our life again, we are learning to live without the baby girl that we couldn’t wait for to join our family here on earth. One of the ways we, or at least I, seem to be coping is through over-programming our lives. We certainly have been having a lot of fun out and about enjoying our summer. That said, today Sean and I don’t have much planned and I think that will be nice for both of us to take it easy and catch up with the many things that need to get done around the house.

Thank you for reading, for listening, for caring and May God bless you and your loved ones.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mrs. Spit July 24, 2008 at 8:41 am

I thought seriously about cards when I came back to work.

When I left I was 6 months along, and very obviously pregnant. Canada has year long paid maternity leave. Why on earth would I be back 3 months later, clearly not at all pregnant, if the news was good.

I wanted to hand out cards with Gabriel’s info on one side, and information about pre-eclampsia on the other.

And maybe some suggestions about what not to say to a grieving parent.

I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all.

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2 Tiffanie July 24, 2008 at 12:10 pm

hi – here from ICLW

i just wanted to say that i am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful Molly. while i can’t say i know what you are going through as i don’t have children, (ttc for over 2 yrs), and haven’t suffered a loss, i do understand some of it. i’m an RN, work in a pediatric ICU and take care of many babies born with CHD of some kind. Not all of them get to go home and i see how heartbreaking it is for the families left behind. you seem incredibly strong from reading our posts. i wish you and your family continued healing.

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3 SommerNyte July 24, 2008 at 3:55 pm

I’m sorry that this keep happening to you. 🙁 As if everything isn’t bad enough, you are forced to talk to strangers about it — it’s just not fair.

I am glad that my comment about the SS card was uplifting in some way – I (obviously) hoped that it would be.

I have a story to share with you, too. As I was making breakfast this morning, I was looking at Molly’s picture as I have the card you sent hanging on the fridge. For the first time, I noticed the magnet that was right below it. It reads:

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched. They must be felt with the heart. ~ Helen Keller”

It seemed so fitting for your sweet baby girl. 🙂

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4 Natalie July 24, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Those questions – especially the out-of-the-blue ones – are so hard. I don’t run into it very often, probably because I’m not all that social, but once in a while it’ll still hit me across the head. It’s terrible knowing you’re going to upset someone and cause that awkward moment. :/

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5 Katie July 24, 2008 at 6:28 pm

Yeah, those cards would be good.

I am glad that it was helpful to read about the card proving that Molly was here. After I wrote that, I hoped I hadn’t overstepped any bounds.

She was here, Kathy, and she was so precious. I remember her each and every day. I’d like to think that she is playing with all of my angels.

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6 Echloe July 24, 2008 at 6:32 pm

I just want to commend you on being so very brave. This post just brought tears to my eyes. You might not feel that you are brave. But I think you are for being able to talk about Molly at awkward moments, and being caught off guard. Someone else might cut and run. My parents lost a daughter before me (on Christmas day 1974) and my Dad still cries every Christmas for her. And my parents still say they have 5 kids (even though only 4 live). And I was always made aware of her existence and feel like she is my guardian angel. You have 2 children. Your daughter exists. And I hope that one day you are able to talk about her to strangers without feeling awkward or teary.

And I thank you so much for the kind words you left on my blog.

Peace be with you today hun.

ICLW

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7 Cassandra July 25, 2008 at 9:12 am

Returning your ICLW post, thanks for your support…

I think most of us have been in the situation of asking an innocent question because we just aren’t thinking or just don’t know. Years ago I asked an acquaintance, “How’s your fiancee?” His answer: We broke up yesterday. No way I could have known.

A few months ago, I asked someone that I see once a week, who had been about 5 months pregnant and started preparing for her maternity leave, “When are you going to take your maternity leave? When are you due again?” Her answer: I lost the baby. If I had thought it through, maybe I might have sensed that something might be wrong, but probably not.

Sometimes, I think I should just stop asking people any questions. I definitely never ask anyone if they are married, if they have children, if they are going to have children, etc., because all of those can be such sore subjects.

I find it a difficult balance to strike between not asking anything that may offend someone, and trying to convey my genuine interest in their life. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

If I reframe all of the people who ask me when I’m going to have children as showing interest, I get a little less angry but it doesn’t take away the hurt.

It sounds like you’re doing the best and most sensitive job of navigating all of these encounters as you possibly can.

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8 Martha July 25, 2008 at 10:51 am

Here is a hug and a special prayer for peace for you and your family. Your Beautiful children are very much loved, always will be with you. How I wish you didn’t have to go through this pain of awkward explanations. ((Hugs)) Thank you for stopping by my blog, I’m privileged. I will always be here for you.

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9 Kymberli July 25, 2008 at 2:20 pm

I don’t know much about anything, but it seems like you handled both situations as well as you could have, and definitely with much more composition that I ever would have been able to muster.

Always reading along and listening.

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10 tripmom827 July 25, 2008 at 2:27 pm

I am here from ICLW. Thank you so much for so openly sharing the story of your beautiful Molly. I wish healing and peace for you and your family.

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11 momofonefornow July 25, 2008 at 11:04 pm

Hi, from ICLW,

You mentioned that you didn’t learn any great life lesson from this. I would just point out that your willingness to tell the truth and then try to bring comfort to other people seems like a lesson in the magnitude of your strength. I can’t imagine the pain that you must have felt but you still offered other people the solace they needed. I think that is huge!

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12 ~Jess July 26, 2008 at 7:08 am

*hugs* I can’t even imagine how hard this all is for you. Cards are definitely a good idea: So often there are things in our life that are painful to share and be reminded of, if we could just give someone a card telling them the answer they ask.

ICLW

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13 Dee.. July 26, 2008 at 11:19 pm

Thanks for dropping by my blog! I’m playing a catch up on your blog! Thanks for your words.

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