If you’re like me, you were told how special babies are your entire life. You were handed a baby doll to mother from the moment you were able to hold things. You had these dolls, and all the dolly accessories, and the play-sets, and all the toys and books you’d need to learn that motherhood is a part of who you are. You were taught to be a “good mommy” to your babies. You were still a child yourself, but you were already forming the idea that motherhood was a given.
As you grew up, you realized that special moments are marked with pregnancy and babies. Even at weddings, there was always the “how long until the babies come” guessing game among guests. You attended showers and christenings and dedications, and all the things that celebrate the wonder of new life. Even as a young girl, you just knew that one day it would be your turn to proudly wear the “Mother to Be” sash across your perfectly round bump as your friends and family celebrated your baby’s impending arrival.
As an adult, you noticed how so many books, movies, tv shows, magazines, pins or posts, ads, posters, or billboards seemed to tell you how special it is to be a mother, how cute babies are, how life-altering it is to parent, etc, etc, etc. It seems the world is fixated on “mother and baby” this, and “happy pregnancy” that, and “wonderful family moments” the other thing. Who is pregnant, who just delivered, who is showing off their new baby; those are the things that make social media buzz. Babies are drooled over, and cooed at, and shown off insensitively; “Oh, look at the sweet baby!”
Babies, babies, babies. Apparently, they are the best thing that could possibly happen to a person.
Then – finally – your day comes: you’re pregnant! People gush all over you, send gifts, give advice, tell you how wonderful, joyful, meaningful and fulfilling it will be for you .They are constantly touching your belly – gleeful over kicks and wiggles – and liking your latest ultrasound/belly/baby updates on Facebook. All eyes are on you and your bump, and the world loves you.
Until they don’t.
Until your baby has died.
Suddenly, the baby that was, “The best news ever!” and reason, “Your life will never be the same again” is gone, and some people start acting like nothing ever happened. Suddenly, all the kicks, rolls, cravings, nursery-planning, motherhood planning, life-planning and dreams mean nothing. Suddenly, it’s all “It just wasn’t meant to be”; “You didn’t even know your baby” and “You can just try again” Suddenly, you are broken in a way no words can possibly describe, and you’re expected to just say goodbye, then move on; completely overlooking the huge gaping hole in your heart and life. Suddenly, you realize not everyone gets the happy-ended the world has promised.
People who were smothering you with excitement and joy are now acting like they can’t understand why you’re upset. As if it’s shocking to them that you can’t just, “move on” and stop “living in the past.” Suddenly, it seems, the whole world wishes you’d just “get over it, already.”
How can there be such an enormous disparity between how people react to a new baby – the news of a pregnancy, the birth of a baby, the parenting of a baby, the “sweetest most wonderful, darling, perfect, life-changing, miracle” – and how they respond to that same baby’s death?
How does it go from “This is the best thing you’ll ever do” and “You’ll never be the same again”, to “Oh well, too bad, bummer, no big deal, better luck next time” or, “I’m really sorry this happened, but you need to be happy again”?
How can something so wonderful be considered nothing in the blink of an eye?
How can people who were gushing over your pregnancy now be so distant and cruel as you mourn the death of that same child everyone was so happy about just days/weeks/months ago?
Why are people so quick to push your grief aside?
Shouldn’t there be wailing in the streets for years to come if they all really believed what they had told you about how life-altering a new baby is?
I find myself utterly astonished by the immediate turn-around.
In the years I’ve been a bereaved mother, I’ve watched this happen over and over again to the newly bereaved. One minute – all is shining like the sun, the next – the dark side of the moon. I’ve had many conversations with people about why this could be. Maybe it’s self-preservation: they can’t accept your grief because it opens them up to their own weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and grief. Maybe it’s our “happy-at-all-costs” culture that says you just “let it go” and “smile” and “wear a smile so no one can see your tears” (heaven forbid!). Maybe it’s a lack of education on the topic of grief: they simply don’t know what to say, so they say the exact wrong thing, or nothing at all. Maybe, they just don’t think it’s a big deal.
I don’t know what the answer is to this question. I can’t say for sure why people so easily switch from excitement to indifference – or even disdain – when death interferes with new life.
All I know is that it happens.
If it’s happened to you, you need to understand that it’s not a reflection on your baby’s life, or your baby’s worth. Your baby matters. Your baby is wonderful, and lovely, and beautiful, and special, and life-altering, and a miracle, just like they said. Your motherhood is real and your endless love is true. You will never be the same again. Your baby is – and will forever be – the best thing that ever happened to you because that sweet little life has opened a place in your heart you never knew existed, and not even death can close it again.
Death has caused misery, not your baby.
I’m sorry we live in a culture that forces the broken-hearted to defend their grief. I hate that it’s true. Please remember in those moments where you are utterly floored by the shocking lack of compassion someone is presenting you with that you are not in the wrong: they are. Your baby matters. And nothing and no one can ever make that untrue.