A Miscarriage of Thoughtfulness

by admin on June 1, 2011

My story happened last year and even now I’m not sure everyone involved has completely grasped why I was so upset.

In January, a few of my girlfriends and I planned to go away for the Bank Holiday weekend in August. Quite a time lapse, but it was a tradition that started from our University days. The weekend normally involved spa days and pub crawls in the evening, just a nice long weekend to catch up with friends and have fun. So we booked the hotels, booked the time off of work and all was good.

In April I discovered I was pregnant. An unplanned but happy surprise, it was the first child for both me and my husband and we were understandably cautious, excited and absolutely petrified. By June I had my 12 week scan and confident the baby was doing well, we began telling our family and friends the good news. I also told my girlfriends that I wouldn’t be coming to the weekend trip in August as, 1) I wouldn’t be drinking and didn’t want to be sober at 3am surrounded by people more then a  little intoxicated, 2) I also didn’t want to ruin their weekend by being back in the hotel by 9pm fast asleep and complaining when they stumbled in at 4am [We were sharing one large room.], 3) because morning sickness, chronic backache and swollen ankles just ain’t fun; and again I didn’t want to ruin it for the others with my complaining, and 4) because hell, I wanted to be at home, curled up with a baby name book with my husband and father of my child.

I had already paid my share of the hotel room and train fare and told them in no way did I expect it back. I even told them if they wanted to invite someone else and use the extra money for drinks on me then it was all good. I did feel guilty about not being there for the first time in like 6 years, but my little growing bubba took priority.

In July I miscarried. As you can imagine, my and the husband were devastated. We were told it was just “one of those things” and that we/I did nothing wrong and that sometimes Nature just takes back what she gives…all the usual things said to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage to try and stop falling headlong into a pit of guilt and self recriminations.

So we began the awful task of telling our family and friends what happened. When telling one of my girlfriends whom I was meant to be going away with, the first thing she said was, “Oh! Now you can come away with us in August!” Like my child was just a mere inconvenience to her plans which had now sorted itself and life could go on as normal. I was completely shocked and told her,  “No, I will be grieving my child and will not be attending”, then quickly cut the conversation short.

I understand that when given shocking or tragic news, people don’t know what to say, I appreciate that and after a few days, I didn’t hold it against her. Maybe she was trying to cheer me up in her own misguided way or maybe her mouth kicked into gear before her brain did and she never intended it to come across as it did. With that thought in mind, I gave her a call a few days later, whereupon the second sentence she said to me after “hello” was, “So have you changed your mind about the weekend away yet?”

At that point, I told her someone was at the door and I really had to go.   0517-11

The people who most often say stupid things about miscarriages are the ones who never had one.   They have no concept of what someone is feeling or how a miscarriage represents lost dreams of the future.

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

The Other Me June 4, 2011 at 7:53 pm

What XtinaS said, times a million!

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Jillybean June 4, 2011 at 10:23 pm

I agree with those who say it was the second time she mentioned it that made it kind of callous. The first time was probably just nervous stupidity, that she should have recognized after the fact and then NOT repeated the same mistake. Though insensitive, I don’t think it was that horrible. She may have known other women in the past who had miscarriages, and reacted very differently than the OP. There is a wide range of reactions to that particular tragedy (or not, for some people) in life.

On the other end of the spectrum, I had a co-worker who, horribly, lost a child during child birth. Her immediate co-workers rallied around her to protect her a bit from “well-meaning” idiots who might say something stupid. About a week after her return to the office, we were having an office party, which she understandably was in no mood to attend. Another co-worker, who had apparently been trying to talk to her privately skipped the party too so he could “ambush” her.

He went over to offer her his condolences. While they were chatting, he said, and I quote, “Yeah, I mean, we’ve had this sort of thing happen in my family as well, so ya know, been there, done that, but you do get through it.”

Yep folks, he said “been there, done that” about her dead child. I was STUNNED when he relayed the conversation to me, and immediately went to find one of her closer co-workers to let them know what happened so they could make sure she was ok.

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Enna June 5, 2011 at 10:02 am

Elena, that was bad the way your sister in-law and mum-in-law reacted. When I first read your comment I misread it and thought that your sister in-law had not got the message. Your sister in-law should have discretly said to her boss that the baby stuff wouldn’t be needed – doesn’t have to go into details as lots of people have old baby things they pass on to others.

OP hit it on the head about the first time the firend might have not got the right words out. But the firend doing it a second time was inconsideate. The second thing the firend should have said to her on the phone was sorry about putting her foot in her mouth.

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RayChee June 5, 2011 at 7:46 pm

I am going to assume that the OP is open to hearing a different perspective, based on the fact that she posted on a public site. It must be a horrible time for you, and I hope you have people around you to talk to. My comment below is not for you, as I think your post demonstrates perspective, understanding, and sensitivity in dealing with your friend.

But for the rest of you? Stop trying to homogenise the world. A natural reaction to bad news are just that, natural. I would rather people react in their own way, rather than reciting a line from an etiquette book. Try to be sensitive, sure, but let people see who you really are, rather than hiding behind a formulaic phrase. If we just accept that people are all different and respond to life differently, perhaps we would cease to be hurt or angered so often?

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DGS June 6, 2011 at 6:50 am

@RayChee, with all due respect, I disagree completely. The reason that etiquette exists is to give people structure for relating to one another in times of both loss and joy and to prevent certain natural reactions that may be authentic but may still hurt someone, especially someone who is grieving. One may not understand that intensity of one’s grief and loss, but that does not give someone the right to trivialize it with one’s natural reaction (if you don’t know what to say, you might find a retreat in a conventional phrase that would give you a chance to think of the appropriate thing to say).

I am not a pet person, so when people lament and grieve a dead dog or cat, my natural reaction would be to shrug my shoulders and say “What’s the big deal about Fluffy dying?” However, I know that this natural reaction would be tremendously offensive to someone who perceives their dead pet as a member of the family, so I appreciate the opportunity to say “I’m so sorry for your loss”, as it is a tremendous loss for the person grieving. I may think someone’s dead Uncle Gene was a mean old coot, but while that may be my natural reaction, it would be tremendously uncouth to suggest that. People may be different, but if a friend of yours is grieving, the only appropriate response is to offer them compassion and to inquire of what they may need, even if you have no concept of the severity of their loss.

From the responses to the OP, it is painfully clear that those who have suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth, early neonatal loss or fetal demise understand the severity and intensity of that suffering, whereas those who have not suffered that loss clearly do not comprehend that devastation. However, I would hope that most people would find it in their heart to offer their condolences to a grieving mother, rather than justifying the thoughtlessness of her friend, who may have been well-intentioned but clearly behaved callously and thoughtlessly.

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The Elf June 6, 2011 at 7:54 am

XtinaS, I don’t think that “well-meaning” completely absolves a person from saying something hurtful, but it should help to forgiving the person for saying something hurtful. There’s the difference.

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Tiffany June 6, 2011 at 10:43 am

I”m sure she did it out of nervousness and she did not have a bad intention.

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livvy June 6, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I’m sorry, Xtina, but I have to disagree. Intent is the only thing that matters – how we interpret someone’s words, what we hear through our own personal filter of grief, misery, upset, cannot be controled by or even understood by the speaker. We also do not know or understand the speaker’s unique circumstances, upbringing, knowledge or social finesse, which might lead them to believe that these particular words would be comforting. Therefore, all we have is intent. While some of these things arise from a lack of thinking ahead, some are just mis-matches between what the person themself would like to hear, and what the person being spoken to would like to hear.

To condemn someone for trying to comfort/cheer another, to state that one’s own feelings are more important than another’s, smacks of self-centeredness. In every other area, we strive to see the intent of the speaker, this should be no different, even though these kinds of mistakes may hurt us much more deeply.

Of course she can tell her friend “I know you’re just trying to cheer me up, and tell me how much you’ll miss my presence, but right now I’d just like to have some time to rest and recover, so I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mention the trip again. Thanks so much for caring, though, you know I love you guys.”

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RayChee June 6, 2011 at 9:50 pm

DGS, I suppose it depends on your perspective – I don’t believe that people showing a natural reaction to bad news is trivialising it at all. I think it’s just being human. I completely take your point about falling back on a conventional phrase if you don’t know what to say, however that doesn’t sound like the case here. The OP’s friend knew what she wanted to say but the OP found it insensitive. Difference of opinion.

I think there is quite a lot of scope within a natural reaction to be sensitive – “What’s the big deal about Fluffy dying?” might be a natural reaction,but I am sure you would never say that to anyone. Or perhaps you would – and that would be ok with me, because I know you don’t like animals!

livvy – I really like what you said about intent and how interpretation cannot be controlled by anyone else.

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starstruck June 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm

some people are so self serving that the only thing they care about is their on agenda, no matter how it affects you. i worked for a company for a couple of years without ever calling in sick. one day i get the flu and called my boss to tell her and the only words out of her mouth were, well i really need you here today. really? flu and all? i ll never understand this attitude, or lack of basic human compassion. your friend should have known better. i wouldn’t have even thought about bringing up the trip to you.

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