A few weeks ago a woman I had never met reached out to me to thank me for writing about the painful decision to end my pregnancy. I was touched. It turned out my blog had been shared on a forum site for women who went through a similar experience I did. When I was going through this last fall, I found solace in these sites because it felt like it was one of the few places I could go to seek comfort in a non-judgemental environment. It was also a place I could seek comfort from women who understood what I was going through because they themselves were going through it. Maybe it’s because that kind of loss is so painful, but I also think it’s because it’s so taboo that people don’t know what to say. So, at the encouragement of that brave woman who reached out to me and to the countless brave women who went through a similar experience, here’s a list of things you probably shouldn’t say to someone who is going through that kind of loss. Obviously, these are all my own opinions (with the insight and help of some incredible women).
“I Know Exactly What You’re Going Through”
Here’s the thing, even if you were in a similar situation, no situation is exactly the same. This sentiment isn’t helpful. And when someone is experiencing a huge amount of pain and confusion in their life, saying you know how someone is feeling actually diminishes that pain. But, for the love of God, please, please, please do not utter this phrase when I can hear your newborn baby crying in the background. That’s just plain mean and insensitive.
“Everything Happens for a Reason”
Again, another phrase that may seem harmless at the time, and I’ll admit it’s one of my go-to’s when I don’t know what to say. Even though I 100% believe this to be true now, when you’re going through it, this is the last thing you want to hear. You want to have that baby— someone telling you that something is very wrong with that baby and you have to make a heartbreaking decision does not seem like “fate” at the time. It seems cruel.
“Well Now You Won’t Have to Deal with (Sleepless Nights) (Dirty Diapers) (Insert Infant Complain Here)”
This one was very confusing to me because on one hand, I get that it’s a “look at the bright side” sentiment, but on the other hand, I wanted to deal with all of those things and you reminding me that I won’t be is hurtful.
“I Thought You Needed Your Space”
During the two weeks between finding out something was wrong with our baby and making the decision to end the pregnancy, my husband and I were very mindful about who we told about the situation. If you were one of the people we told, it was because we wanted your support and said as much. So, if someone is aware of that and still doesn’t make an effort to check in (especially on milestone days like getting test results or surgery days), it’s just very confusing. People have lives— that’s completely understandable, but don’t put the blame onto me and say that you thought I needed space. I needed the opposite of that. You were just being a lazy friend.
Anything Involving Money
Here’s another thing that doesn’t get talked about in regards to ending a pregnancy: it costs a lot of fucking money. Between the specialist visits, surgery, testing, genetic counseling, regular counseling, etc my husband and I were billed close to $160,000. You know how much it costs to deliver a healthy baby? Less than a grand. You know how I know that? Because when I was griping about how much it costs to end an unhealthy pregnancy someone told me how much their delivery cost. It wasn’t malicious, but boy is that salt on an open, gaping wound.
“I Didn’t Agree With Your Decision”
Yes. Let that sink in for a second. I actually heard this the day after my surgery. And many of the women on the forum site heard this from several people before and after their decision. Let me be very frank: this is definitely one of those times that you should keep your opinions to yourself. Even if that’s how you feel (and how you can feel that without being in the situation is just mind-boggling to me, but I digress), I can assure you the person making the decision doesn’t need to hear it. I already went through every single fucking pro and con in my head. I talked to the doctors and counselors. I felt the baby in my body and still had to decide what was best for that little being. Nobody else gets to decide except me (and my husband). Even if you don’t say it directly to me, if you say it to anyone, it will get out. People talk. And trust me, that’s the kind of thing that once it’s said you can’t take back.
When all else fails, here’s something that you can say: “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I love you and am here for you.” And you know what else really helps? Cookies. If you can’t think of anything to say at all, just send some cookies. I promise that’s always a good option.