Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Try Not to Freak Out the Preganant Lady, Please

Before I get started let me assure you that the pregnant lady in this story is not me.

As I have mentioned before, I'm an American expat living in London. One of the first things I did when I got here was to join a club for expatriate women. It has been through this organization that I have met most of my close friends. Once a month this club has a coffee morning where new members and old members can get together. It's mostly designed as a way to welcome new people to London and the club. For many women, it's the first time they have worked up the nerve to venture out of their new homes and walk into a room full of strangers hoping for some kind of lifeline. So as a veteran member, I understand how important it is that we make these new women feel welcome.

I've mostly avoided these coffee mornings since losing my son because I just didn't have the energy for them. But his month I've been feeling more like my old self and decided to attend.

It was all going pretty well. There was a nice mixture of new members and existing ones. As fate would have it, I ended up sitting next to two visibly pregnant women. One who had just joined the club, and one who had been a member for a while but who I don't know very well. This was fine by me. I don't have an issue with pregnant women, I just have an issue with newborn babies. Since neither of these women had a newborn with them I was sure all would be fine.

So we were chatting about this and that. I was careful not to ask anything about their pregnancies as I knew this would lead to them asking me if I had children. I thought I was doing so well. Until the woman who I don't know very well asked me this question. "The last time I saw you was right before you had your baby, right? So how is the little one?"

So now I am trying to figure out exactly how to say what I need to say. I have two very pregnant ladies staring at me waiting for my answer. The new woman looks very smiley as she's expecting me to start telling tales of cute newborns, sleepless nights, and other various baby tales.

So I just said it, "My son was stillborn."

Looks of horror spread across both of their faces. Not just horror for me, but horror for themselves. They both asked me how and why and did I know anything. They wanted to know if the doctors had known anything or if there had been any signs. I calmly (so proud of myself for that) explained that no, there had been no signs. I had had a perfectly normal pregnancy. I didn't know anything was wrong until the ultrasound at 36 weeks (which got a shriek from the new woman who I'm assuming is close to 36 weeks).

They both asked me how I was doing. Again, I stayed calm and explained that it has been really tough but that I've got some really great friends who have helped me through it. I was so proud of myself for not crying through all of this. At this point another friend of mine (who had been chatting to someone else) realized what we were talking about and very slyly turned the conversation in another direction.

I am proud of myself for staying calm and not breaking down. I've been in this situation before when I haven't been as brave. But this time I felt a bigger responsibility. I needed to stay strong not just for me, but for the two pregnant women I was talking to. The last thing I want to do is to freak out a pregnant woman. We've all been there and know how scary it all is. But to have to face me, the manifestation of their greatest fear, couldn't have been easy. I know it wasn't easy for me.


  1. No link needed for 365, but thank you! I will probably comment again after I get back from lunch and can actually read your post!

  2. You did wonderfully. Afterall what could you do? Lie? I mean obviously they'd work it out when you never have a baby around. And i don't think you freaked them out too much, i mean it's something that's always there in the back of your mind, like losing a loved one, or them falling ill.

  3. You did so well. And I think it is so important to talk about these things and yes, even in front of pregnant women. As that is half the problem - no one talks about it. And even us babylost can be guilty of that. I've done it myself. The more we talk about it, the more awareness we create and maybe, just maybe, more babies' lives are saved. I know no one talked about or mentioned stillbirth to me, and I thought it was something that happened in "the old ages". Even if you scared these women, you may have planted something in the backs of their minds and you have gone about creating some level of awareness and I think that is so important.

  4. You must be superwoman! I so admire your strength! I'm sure I would have run from the room to never return. I do agree with Hope though and talking about it and opening up innocent minds to the world of possibility. If I had heard it once during my pregnancy I might have cracked the taboo section of the books and had at least a minimal knowledge. I'm glad you had a friend there to help save you and I hope you find the strength to continue to go. Much love~

  5. I never read that section of the books either Missy. I figured I didn't need to know about all that stuff, it would just make me worry. So I didn't worry at all, and my son still died. So what was I really saving myself from??

  6. You did amazingly well...I know I would not have been able to be so calm! And thank goodness for friends who have the ability to step in when we need them most.

  7. So proud of you mama- you were so strong! I know that had to be very hard to talk about what happened. Thinking of you today! ((hugs))


  8. You did a great job! Be proud about talking about something so close at heart that brings up so many memories.

  9. Very very very good job. You definitely need a treat today!!

  10. You really are amazing, I know you probably don't feel it all the time, but you are :) Jen

  11. I'm going to echo what all these other ladies are saying...YOU DID SO WELL! I'm not sure that I could have done that. I've gotten pretty smooth about handling talking to the general public, but not pregnant ladies. That's really a whole other thing. I think you handled it beautifully!
    I also agree with Missy and that "taboo section" of the pregnancy books. I didn't read them, but after we lost Caroline, I went back to try to learn anything and everything I could...but there was no real information there. I avoided reading them, because I just KNEW nothing would ever happen to me, and then it did. And when I needed some real information, it wasn't easily found. I think that we do need to discuss these things, even to pregnant ladies. Not in an effort to scare them, but just to have information out there, that awareness.
    I was at a support group and thought of's kind of silly, but it stuck with me. As a society, we'll readily discuss erectile dysfunction, but not stillbirth. That just doesn't seem quite right to me. (Not that I'm saying anything bad about men with ED...) We have advertisements on TV, in magazines, etc. But stillbirth isn't discussed. Seems a little wrong to me.
    Okay, enough real point is that you did great! I'm proud of you!

  12. phew. I am exhaling deeply for you. Well done. I have to think the exchange was good for you and them. It's not our job to shield the world from reality. And it't not our role to help people process the fact that yes, things can be random and yes, there are situations where nothing you do/don't do will change the outcome and OMG yes, bad things really can happen to good and unsuspecting people. But it sounds like you conveyed all of that in the best way possible.

    I skipped those sections of the books too. Because "that won't be me," right? Hope's mom is so right. Awareness is a good thing.

    So much more to say here but I'm at work sneaking in a few reads when I shouldn't be.

    PS - I love your friend.

  13. As many of the previous comments have already said, I skipped 'those' sections of the books too. More fool me eh?

    I admire you so much for keeping calm and for explaining well and with such care for the women you were speaking too. I really don't think that I could have carried that situation off with such grace even now, over two years later.

  14. Wow- you did outstandingly well today... for sitting next to the bumps and for not shying away from your own reality. I always feel a sense of strength and amazement with every mother who confronts the reality of what we live with.. for sharing and for not being afraid to open up the emotions of others. Good for you mamma.

  15. I was holding my breath reading this, I've been in simialar situations all too frequently, as I guess we all have.
    You did really well, honestly I doubt you scared the pregnant women too much, but maybe just enough...does that sound harsh? I hope not.
    and M, yes I skimmed those pages, but found when I really needed them, there was not nearly enough information there.

  16. wow, you handled a difficult situation so well. I remember returning to a group, which I hadn't attended for months after my son's death, and meeting a very pregnant lady that I hadn't met before. Everyone was talking to her excitedly about the pg, the baby, the birth and I sat there feeling quite numb. I was incredibly jealous of her pg - the fact it seemed so trouble free. The fact that she seemed to naively be looking forward to the birth etc etc.

    It was only later that I found out it was her 2nd pg. Her first had ended with the birth of a stillborn daughter. I sobbed for hours for her loss, praying her new baby would be born healthy (she was) and feeling such regret that I had been channelling such resentment towards her during the conversation.

  17. i found your blog through honoring our angels. i'm so sorry for the loss of your son. i lost my 4 mo old baby boy to SIDS in oct. those questions are SO difficult to deal with. i still have to deal with the awkwardness of ppl that don't know and ask, and it seems to rip me apart every time. i've actually not been able to return to the groups that i was in when i was preg or had him. it's much too painful for me. but i think it's amazing that you were able to stay composed during those series of questions. ((hugs)) to you.

  18. I think that's amazing. I *just* had my first encounter with someone who offered me condolences and I was able to respond without crying. Having to explain what happened... it still just crumbles me. But I know that it will get easier to talk about, and I think it is important to talk about. Because chances are, one of the women in that group will know someone else who will have a stillborn baby and they will be able to say "I know someone who has been through this and she survived." And that can make such a difference.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. It is difficult. I have had similar situations. Just saying "my son is stillborn" is very hard. I have a friend who I rarely see who is heavily pregnant, I haven't told her about Orson. She e-mailed and asked and I justcoukdn't tell her. Didn't want to scare her.