What not to say

QUICKIE: Vincenzo: “Know how football players get to their games, Mommy?”  Me: “No; how?”  V: “They take a blimp.”
I ran into an old friend this weekend, who noticed (because it’s impossible not to) that I was pregnant.  I filled her in on Angelo and she said the worst possible thing someone can say to someone in my position.  I pass this on to you so you know what NOT to say:

“Oh my gosh, my friend just had a stillborn at 39 weeks.  Everything was fine up until that point.  I guess it was the cord…” 

You would be surprised at how many people think it’s appropriate or comforting to tell a paranoid, freaked out pregnant lady who buried her own son just a year ago that babies die all the time!  They can have heart defects undetected by ultrasounds!  The mother could get an infection that kills the baby without her knowing it!  Doctors may never know the reason your baby was stillborn!  The cord!  The cord!  The cord!

So anyway, if you know someone who has lost a baby and is currently pregnant, do her a favor and just listen quietly and tell her you’re sorry and ask about the baby.  Do not mention other stillborn babies.  Do not say, “Well you’ve used up your bad luck, so this baby should turn out fine!”  Statistics get pretty skewed when you’ve already won the unlucky lottery once, so when my OB says not to worry, they only see a cord strangulation once every two years in her office, I kind of FREAK OUT a little bit and have to physically restrain myself from asking, And how the f*** long has it been since the last one??! 

I do want to say there’s a different set of rules for someone actually going through the process of having a stillborn (i.e. either carrying a child she knows won’t live or having just given birth to a stillborn).  During this time, she needs other people there who have been through it–people who understand her pain and who can tell her how they got through it themselves.  If you know someone who the mother can talk to, those are the people to share your stories with, but only if it leads to some kind of support, and not if it just adds to her list of Things to Lose Sleep Over.

Before my own experience with Angelo, I have to admit I’d have been the one throwing out stories of other people whose babies died.  It’s hard to know what to say unless you’ve been there…or you’ve read the blog of someone who has.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.  Like you had a choice.

Leftovers.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

11 thoughts on “What not to say

  1. Seriously? Seriously?! Some people just don’t realize that their head should not be inside their rear-end.

  2. Oh, Lord, have I been there!

    People really struggle trying to find something to say, looking for a way to relate. Shame they miss the mark so often. Love to you.

  3. hugs!

    it really is good to hear what NOT to do. I think sometimes folks get so nervous and start rambling whatever comes to mind. sigh….
    thinking of you.

  4. Geez Mrs. Mouthy – I am sorry. I know that puts YOU in the position of having to play nice after someone has acted like an arse. I don’t think people are malicious (sp?) just stoooopid.

    Don’t hit me but I’m sending {{{hugs}}} your way – I know… how bloomin’ annoying.

  5. Crap, I can’t say anything sarcastic after a post like that…How about a Seth Meyer “Really?” “Reaally?” segment?

  6. I’ve had so many moments of insert foot into directly mouth over the years it just makes me cringe. I’m sorry that subject came up this weekend.

  7. it’s hard to know what to say if you haven’t had a similar situation. they happened to me every two seconds when i was going through my divorce. i also think it’s important to remember that i believe people really want to relate to one another. people feel they do that through sharing similar stories (whether appropriate or not) i had to keep reminding myself, “okay .. THIS is how he/she thinks i will feel better.” even if you don’t. 🙂

    sorry she said that though … it’s always so hard to hear.

    love you xoxoxo

  8. Lisa et al: Thank you for reminding me that my friend was just trying to relate. I’m sure I’ve said the wrong thing to people too many times to count, and just because I know how to help people in my specific situation doesn’t mean I know the first thing to say to someone who is going through a divorce or struggling with infertility or who has lost a spouse, or any number of other situations. We all just want to connect with our friends and every person and every story is so different that there could never be an official rule book!

  9. I totally hear you. When I was pregnant I had to completely avoid stories of pregnancies that didn’t turn out well. Otherwise I would have been a basket case. I’ll tell you more about it later – after you deliver.
    Sometimes I am just too fragile to handle my own mind.

  10. He’s a genius…the blimp thing totally makes sense! Why else would it circle around waiting for the game to end?

    Thanks for the reminder. I don’t think I would do it, but I needed the reminder.

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