22 October 2013

The things you aren't supposed to say out loud...

My husband has been writing lately about things that people have said that bug him, and it has me thinking a lot. Of course I’ve written about the top things that should never be said to a grieving parent and the stupid things people say and all the other things that bug me, but the thing that bothers me the most, that hurts the most, is probably the most controversial and misunderstood thing out there that no one wants much to talk about or think about and read about and so, well, let me just say it out loud:

A stillbirth is NOT a miscarriage, and a miscarriage is not a stillbirth.

A stillbirth is NOT a pregnancy loss.

A stillbirth is a dead child.


Now we could turn this into a political argument by left and right-wingers all day long. We could say technically in most states, a stillbirth is a child born twenty weeks or later and a miscarriage is 19 weeks or earlier. We can talk all day long about women’s rights and who’s on first and what’s on second but that’s not at all what this is about.

This is about babies dying and parents grieving, and people who want to compare that grief of a dead child to the grief of a miscarriage—and it is NOT the same.

I’m not saying miscarriages aren’t painful, horrible, undoing griefs. I’m not saying that we don’t grieve when we have them. I’ve had one. I had a miscarriage. I know what it feels like. I know how much it sucks. But no matter how much it sucks, it was not my dead child held in my arms after my stillbirth.

I’m not here to argue that moms and dads who delivered their baby at 16 or 17 weeks and held them in their arms aren’t parents. If you held your baby in your arms and you named your baby, then go ahead and tell me about it and let me grieve with you and let us talk about the child who died. I don’t care about weeks defining a stillbirth versus a miscarriage. And if you have a miscarriage, I will still show compassion and understanding, and I will long with you. I will share your grief. 

But, what I do care about is when someone asks me how old my child was when she died, and when I say “at birth” (because honestly when I say 33 weeks the look is even worse), I get that look of “oh” that look of “loss of potential” that look like “oh, well, at least she wasn’t a child.”

What the fuck? I hate that look and that inference. 

What I care about is when people refer to Grace’s death as a “late miscarriage” or a “miscarriage” or a “loss.” She was none of those things. She was a child that died.

Miscarriage and stillbirth are not the same thing.

I hate it when people post things on my Facebook page about miscarriage or people send me articles about miscarriage implying with that quiet gesture that Grace was a miscarriage, a mistake, somehow avoiding the reality that a child died.

My child was NOT a miscarriage. Got it?

My child was a baby who died for no good reason. Who was the perfect weight and height and size for her 33 weeks (and if you want to be really technical then 32 weeks and 5 or 6 days), who could have survived outside my body had she not stopped breathing inside my body. Why she stopped breathing, I’ll never know.

But I do know that holding her in my arms, her four pounds feeling like 100 pounds was a completely different experience than feeling blood run down my legs, watching my underwear and clothing become soiled, running to the emergency rooms as clots fell out of my body and watching that give way to intense cramping and pain and heartache. But it was different.

And that was a miscarriage NOT my dead child.

And those are two entirely different kinds of grief.

So if you want to sympathize with mothers and fathers who have experienced stillbirth, never refer to their child as a miscarriage. It does a disservice to the grieving parents of both.

Language matters. A great deal.

Even Wikipedia backs me up on this one when defining stillbirth, “…and the word miscarriage is often used incorrectly to describe stillbirths.”

So stop it, okay? It’s not the same.

And to a mother and a father whose experienced one or another or both, it matters. It matters a great deal.

It matters to me.

It matters to my Grace.

It matters.


Violet's Mommy said...

I love this post - I agree with it 100%. And I think you are brave for posting it. I am finding myself wanting to share it on my facebook, and yet I'm afraid. But maybe someday I'll be brave enough, too. Thank you for writing this. My daughter died during labor at 41 weeks, and I have been lucky that no one has suggested that she was a miscarriage. But I have seen 'the look' that says, "Oh, when you said your baby died, I thought you actually meant a 'real' baby." I hate that so much.

Sarah Bain said...

Oh Violet's mommy! Love to you. Thank you for your kind words and I am sorry you have experienced that look. Peace and deep love.

Anonymous said...

I, too, share these feelings - I am tired of people referring to my own baby who died as a miscarriage. Nope, folks, not a miscarriage. My child is a CHILD, a BABY and when we are afraid to TALK ABOUT THIS STUFF publicly- and honestly- for fear that other women will attack or unload on us, we put ourselves in a position of dishonesty. The TRUTH is that for some women, miscarriage hurts, deeply. And deserves to be mourned.

The TRUTH is also that my child - my baby - is a baby just like any other persons child. NOT a miscarriage, not the loss of dreams or hopes or the future. A DEAD BABY.

Really thank you Sarah for speaking this truth. I wish more people would be honest about this and upfront. We are diluting the death of a baby to stillbirth with such fear and dishonesty.

Sarah Bain said...

Thank you Anonymous for your words. I am so so sorry about your baby!

Marla_81 said...

My god, thank you thank you thank you.

BoysenberryDesire& said...

Sarah. My first reaction to reading this was shock. "Did she really say that?"

My second reaction was gratitude. "Fuck me someone finally has the courage to say that."

I'll be reading more from you. Thank you. My son died at 41 weeks in 2006. I have also had 3 miscarriages. While I was sad for them, they were not a dead child and I didn't wish life could end. The death of a child is awful, godawful. When I miscarried, what I really wanted was a baby, any baby. But Jonas, my son, is irreplaceable. I haven't had more and won't. I have struggled with this for a long time and youve helped me to resolve some of this.

Sarah Bain said...

Thank you for your comment and I am so so sorry about your son, Jonas. It is such a tragedy and so so hard to go through. It is good to know that none of us are truly alone and that many of us can rely on each other for support.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

(((Sarah & Grace))) and all the precious children who died before their time...Indeed, these are children, babies loved and wanted and real, who existed and who matter. Not even "lying language" can change that. Thank you for using your voice, even if it shook.

Julie said...

I came here from the Return to Zero link...and you are now added to my bookmarks list.
The entry on Return to Zero had me sobbing out of nowhere, and this most recent post had me hooking my elbow around yours in solidarity. Wish I knew you "in real life".
I will be reading more, catching up on the past, reading into the future.
Thank you. Thank you, thank you thank you thankyouthankyou

Sarah Bain said...

Julie, thank you and I am so so sorry that you have to come here and find solidarity in our words. You are so welcome and please do send me the link to your blog. Sarah@bainbooks.com