Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway won a bet when he stated he could write a novel in only six words. Those were his submission. Whether that story is fiction or not, for one in four families, the reality at the end of a pregnancy is all too tragic.
The death of a baby profoundly affects parents, grandparents and siblings. Usually, there is no outlet or space for them to express their grief or sadness, as society often avoids talking about the death of a child. We don’t even have a word for it in the English language.
We recognize children without parents as orphans and losing one’s spouse creates a widow(er). There are many theories as to why this is, several involving the disheartening reality that it is something that has been so prevalent in years past that it’s commonality meant it required no term.
In Canada, first trimester miscarriages occur with 15 to 30% of pregnancies. Having more than two consecutive miscarriages lowers the chance of a successful pregnancy. All of us likely know at least one family who have had this experience, whether we realize it or not. It is helpful to understand what you should and should not say and do to show your consideration. It is important to remember that this is a case of loss of expectation, of hope, and of a vision of the future.
As with all losses, acknowledging the pain is crucial. Show love and support to both grieving parents, taking care to recall that because this is also a physical loss for the mother there may be additional consequences to her health, and there is a father in mourning as well.
Unsolicited advice, no matter how well intended, minimizes the pain and the experience. Things such as “At least you know you can get pregnant.”, “It happened for a reason.” or “You can have another one.” are said with the aim of making the parents feel better, but in reality, do the opposite. They wanted THIS baby, had envisioned a future in which THIS baby were already a part.
Parents want to share the experience and deal with the sorrow now. Do offer to help any way possible. Depending on the closeness of your relationship, this could be anything from helping with housework to going along to doctors appointments.
October 15 is recognized as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in several provinces, including Saskatchewan, to honour and remember all babies who died too soon. Everyone is invited to show their support by taking part in the International Wave of Light – people will light candles for one hour at 7 p.m. local time which will form a continuous wave of light around the globe.
(Tracy Bowie is from The Good Foundation Inc based in Maple Creek)