If I had a nickel every time I've been asked when I'm having kids, I'd probably have... a few dollars worth of nickels. And with those nickels, I'd embarrassingly frustrate a barista with how many nickels I've brought in, and I'd buy a couple of iced lattes and sit and talk with a friend over these thoughts.
Friends that are aware and friends that are unaware of what you're walking through say the darnedest things. I've been that friend. The friend who nonchalantly asks a friend when they want to have kiddos, being naively unaware of what struggles they're walking through. Let's be honest, we all have had those moments where we put our foot in our mouth. Word vomit. It happens more often than you'd think. Well, for me, at least. I tend to speak first and think much later. I'm still workin' on that "quick to listen, slow to speak" verse.
Although we can't take our words back after they've left our pie-holes, we can be more aware of how our words affect others and we can extend grace to every person we interact with. (Easier said than done. Am I right?)
I have been insanely blessed with a community who has come alongside me and encouraged me after my miscarriage, checks on me, and prays for me and with me. I have hit the jackpot with friends and siblings and family support in this season. Like, Jesus loves me, this I know. That being said, my intent to post this is not to call anyone out or make anyone feel bad or guilty. I want to take this opportunity to apologize for how I have been an insensitive friend to friends who were hurting. I'd give hollow advice and encouragement and I wasn't as empathetic as I should have been.
From the bottom of my heart, I apologize. I just know SO many (way too many) women who have dealt with loss that simply wishes someone acknowledged how hard it is to have the same conversations after loss.
Life after loss is difficult and challenging and there comes a time when you guard your heart in the simplest of conversation topics. And in a brief sentence or comment, you can trigger certain painful memories that come flooding in, uninvited. The best intentions to help can quickly turn into hurt and do more harm than intended.
Lil' disclaimer here... I will admit, I have done EXTENSIVE editing to this post before clicking publish. I'll give you a glimpse into my messy heart and say, I had some colorful language and not a whole lot of grace sprinkled into the first draft of this post. The first post title looked a little something like this ($hit People Say To Moms With Angel Babies). I decided it was best to table this post for a while until God did some reconstruction on my heart.
Then, I took a step back from the blog, asked the Lord to help me forgive myself and others, and then came back to type with a clear mind and fresh heart. This is a daily prayer for me, asking God to carry me, heal me (over and over and over), and give me the strength to extend grace and receive the grace He has freely given. Receive it, sista!
1. "It's a mom thing! You'll understand when you have kids."
As much as I love a good nugget of wisdom here and there, I don't need to be reminded of the gaping hole in my torso and empty hands. I KNOW parenting and motherhood are challenging, but the gravity of the loss of a life does not mean that the childless need to be educated how much they are missing out on this exclusive "Mom-club". Not only does this statement remind a woman that she doesn't have kids on earth, but it also isolates her making her feel like she was robbed of an understanding that a mom-friend is holding over her. But maybe you're right. We'll understand when we have kids... on earth.
2. "Don't wait too long to have kids, that body clock won't work forever."
As if women don't know statistics or have access to the internet. Also, last time I checked (and it was pretty recently when I checked) God is the author of life, so if He chooses to bless us with a child He can do so when and how He wants, regardless of all the statistics on the world wide web. If it is God's will that you have a baby, you will have a baby; Mary didn't even have sex! Check out Genesis 21... tell me, how old was Sarah?
After having a miscarriage, it is a very normal emotion to feel apprehensive about trying to conceive again. There are really raw internal fears to work through about the possibility of it happening again. Speaking for myself, I am still working through those feelings. For people who mean well and share their "wisdom", it is never helpful or kind to tell a woman she has reason to fear and needs to hurry up and have children. REBUKE THAT. Do not receive it. You do you, boo.
3. "Pregnancy/parenting is so hard, anyway."
We all have pregnant friends discussing their symptoms and experiences or Mommy friends discussing parenthood, explaining how hard it will be for me one day and their experiences they believe everyone will encounter. What good does this negative advice do for us? Is this advice intended to be a warning to not have kids? To proceed with caution? Is it to make me aware and not naive? Should you assume that I am naive? I experienced labor pains in a coffee shop, so although I would never claim to be a birthing expert, I have had a glimpse of deep, gut-wrenching pain, abruptly followed by anguish and sorrow.
It's not appropriate or necessary to assume your young friends simply don't know. Kids can be extremely exhausting and require so much of moms. Yes, sweet friend, you're so right! Amen to that! I teach kindergarten, so I get a little glimpse of how needy children can be. So. Very. Needy.
The stretch marks you're warning me about, yeah, I was much taller than all the boys in my elementary school because I grew so fast, so I'm no stranger to stretch marks.
The late night feedings you are warning me about, I've spent these middle of the nights bawling my eyeballs out in my closet, begging God to take this burden of grief from me. Having a child doesn't necessarily mean you always get less sleep than your childless friends.
Life with kids is hard, friend. I hear you. I believe you. And I love you. Heck, I love your kid! And I know you do too! But the timing of this well-meaning advice is crucial to being sensitive to your grieving friend's heart.
Life with kids is hard. Life without kids is hard. LIFE IS HARD.
What ever season you're walking through, whether that be childless, spouseless, friendless, sleepless, jobless: I pray that you don't remain HOPELESS.
That is my number one prayer for every soul who reads my blog. That you would trust in the God of hope to carry you through the season you're walking through.
4. "1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage."
Here's the sucky thing, I know. It is a devastating reality that I wish weren't true. Telling me how common this is really undermines the gravity of the situation. Sort of a "nah, no biggie, happens to a lot of people." There is something that maybe they're trying to make you feel like you're not alone, but this isn't the way to convey that truth. You aren't alone. God never left you. He will never leave you or forsake you. I pray that you feel His presence even in the midst of your grieving and sorrow.
5. "At least you know that you can get pregnant! If anything, you're fertile!"
Hey-o! High five for fertility? Nope. Not a thing. This fact alone that my husband and I conceived once does not give someone the right to minimize the depth of our loss by pointing out what my body started but could not bring full-term. I'm all for a silver-lining or an optimistic declaration, but again, timing is everything when grieving a death. I totally get trying to make light of the situation or trying to find how good could come out of something so devastating, but starting a sentence with "At least..." is pretty tricky when dealing with heavy topics like miscarriage. Let's go ahead and proclaim that the phrase "at least" is never appropriate when your intent is to encourage someone who has lost a child.
6. "I know so-and-so and she had multiple miscarriages and has had successful pregnancies after them."
I am genuinely happy for your friend. Like, that is phenomenal and God is the author of life and I believe he can restore painful situations. This one is all about timing. It's not necessarily hurtful to share hope, but it's all about the timing and if someone is asking for hope. Sometimes a friend just needs a shoulder to cry on or an actively listening ear. Instead of sharing someone else's experience, lend an ear. Ask frequently how their heart is, how you can be praying for them, and that you're thinking of them.
7. "At least you lost it early. Can you imagine being farther along? Now THAT would be devastating!"
First of all, "it"? Ouch. It is a human child. A baby. My baby. Secondly, "at least"? Dude. These words STING. And congrats on inventing a shrinking machine, because dang, it really just undermined and minimized the whole situation. Admittedly, I am the kind of person who reads into things. Not my best quality. One may accurately call me an over-analyzer. So when I feel incredibly sensitive, it's especially hard not to hold onto every word as truth confirmed by another person. The amount of time alive doesn't make a child any less of a child, right? So comparing someones loss to another is extremely hurtful and never ever helpful.
8. "But like, could you even imagine having a kid right now? It would be so crazy."
To put it simply; YES, I CAN IMAGINE. I imagine it every moment of every day. It is a regular scenario that happens in my mind and heart. I know the intent is to give me a birds-eye perspective at what life would look like with a child in the picture. More financial stressors, physical changes, sleep deprivation, and the list goes on. I would gladly take those belly stretch marks WITH JOY in my heart. And I will pray that God would give me the strength to endure the wait with the same JOY that only comes from above. (Hence the name, Due To Joy)
9. "Maybe it's best that this happened when it did. Everything happens for a reason, right?"
Yep, but what does that even mean? As if the timing makes this deep grief hurt less? Yes, I could imagine scenarios where dealing with a loss could be even more detrimental to my physical health and mental health but is saying that phrase at all comforting to someone who is mourning a death inside of them? Nope. Not even a little.
10. "Maybe this happened because of x, y, z?"
Maybe your birth control, maybe your diet, maybe your exercise (or lack thereof), maybe your sin (the devil likes to whisper that one), maybe your timing, maybe X, maybe Y, maybe Z. Yeah, you could be very correct, or you could be very incorrect. The reason why at this point is out of my control. Killing myself over the what-ifs will not change what has happened. It is so normal to wonder WHY things happen.
I can choose to let these questions of "WHY ME?!" overtake me, consume me, and ultimately destroy me. OR I can cling to the God who hears my pleading questions, cries, prayers and knows my heart.
Whether we find out the purpose for the tragedies that happen in our lives or not, I will hold so tightly to the Lord who created me and loves me dearly.
Losing a child, no matter how far along, is truly devastating and hard. Knowing what to say to someone who has lost a part of them is also hard.
Let's agree to extend grace as we navigate these waters of life after loss.