Verbal diarrhoea (urban dictionary): A condition suffered by an individual who has the inability to shut the f*ck up
This is another collaboration blog, where I’ve asked the baby loss community to tell me some of the insensitive things people have said to them, after experiencing a pregnancy/child loss. Some of the stories (my own included) are so insane, that you would think we were making this stuff up. Sadly not: these are all true.
The point of this blog, is not to fuel the fire, but to raise awareness about some of the thoughtless things people say. It’s also about showing solidarity, so that bereaved families don’t think it’s just THEM having to experience this. It’s to create a safe space to acknowledge these uncomfortable comments, in the desperate hope that they’re never repeated. And finally, since baby loss can give you a dark sense of humour, some of these may actually make you smile wryly as you nod along thinking “yup, been there, have heard that one myself!”
This blog today is inspired by and for my friend, birthday girl K, who has always said that we – the loss community – should publish a book on these stories (I’ve always told her that people wouldn’t believe us!). So thank you to everyone who has been honest and brave by contributing. I have kept all comments anonymous, but I’ve grouped them into what I think work well as broadly common themes, so see what you think.
The one where people compare your loss:
My aunt lost her son at 33 years old and said “at least you never bonded with your child and he was a baby. It’s easier to deal with”.
After a miscarriage, someone said that she could understand how upset I was feeling because when her dog died she was depressed about it for months.
“Well at least she wasn’t really alive or your first child. Can you imagine how bad you would be if she lived or if it was your first?”
A relative: “I never imagined you would have a boy, I always imagined you with a girl – maybe it will be a girl next time!”
The one where people try to offer solutions:
My friend said to me after my third loss “so do you think it’s time to look into adoption instead?” I mean I love the idea, but it’s not for me and I didn’t need to hear that.
Being told that I should focus on getting “back to work and back to normal” – this was THE DAY my son died, after a 3 week hospital stay with preeclampsia/ HELLP, and a c-section 18 hours before.
Mum: So F is getting older. When are you going to take down the pictures of D&A so he doesn’t get confused?
Me: I was thinking never, because they are my babies and his brothers. It isn’t confusing, it’s a fact.
The one where people are dismissive or don’t acknowledge your loss:
“You can always have another and it’ll be better as you’ll be closely monitored”.
“At least you didn’t feel it kick”
At my husband’s return to work meeting (when he had taken time off, after the loss of our child), he said he was feeling anxious and they asked him “so what is the source of this ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’?”.
On ectopic pregnancy: “They weren’t real babies, at 6-8 weeks they are just a bunch of cells at that point”.
My mother in law never talked about our baby or mentioned his name for a long time. She would just skirt over him in general convo (text or FaceTime mostly, due to lockdown) then she text me out of the blue about 4 months later saying sorry she couldn’t talk about him as it was too hard for her. Like gee thanks, how about how hard it is for me?
My manager couldn’t take my call when I rang to tell her what had happened, she was busy organising her kid’s birthday party. It turns out she already knew my son had died, but still chose to tell me it was too inconvenient to speak and made me call back days later.
My manager at the time asked if I found out what happened to ‘it’?! It really boils my blood when people refer to babies as it. I know we’ve probably all done it at some point, but I just felt it was insensitive for the time. Also another manager called me while I was off to see how I was, but then continued to say we know why you’re off and we don’t want to talk about ‘the miscarriage’. I actually just laughed down the phone then cried.
The one that just makes no sense:
“I thought I had a miscarriage once”
“I was going to send you flowers, but I didn’t want to remind you of it” – err right, because I would have forgotten all about my miscarriage, until I saw your flowers as a reminder (!)
One of my friends didn’t ask our baby’s name and just said she will always remember ‘pip’ like she had given our baby her own name which I find really strange.
When we announced our second IVF miracle was on the way, a response to us wasn’t congratulations, but “why did you do IVF again?!” Then when we lost our IVF miracle, they messaged me telling me “there was obviously something wrong with it.” I’m not oblivious to that fact, but comforting words instead of facts in my most vulnerable state was what I needed.
The one where people bring God into it:
“God will give you another child”.
I have had people tell me that “everything happens for a reason”, which I think is shitty when talking about baby loss.
The one where people think tough love is the answer:
I was talking to someone about how I was struggling after my miscarriage and they told me I needed to snap out of this negative mindset because it wasn’t going to help.
A work colleague told me I should feel blessed for the family I already have. I have a 6 year old living daughter, who I am so lucky to have, but saying that also made me feel like I wasn’t allowed to grieve for my baby boy. That led to so many feelings of guilt (as if the guilt you feel on your own isn’t enough, without someone else adding to it). I also felt like a bit of fraud, like I didn’t belong in the baby loss community. Which is actually really sad I used to think like that.
The one where people are far too direct:
Someone asked if I had a bump 3 months after I had a miscarriage and thought I was pregnant again even though I wasn’t. It was just because I had gained weight, they knew I had had a miscarriage too.
My mum asked me if I was pregnant, even though I’m still receiving ongoing medical treatment for my last loss.
The one where people put extra sh1t on your plate:
“Sorry I find it hard to talk to you right now as you’ve lost your baby and I’m still pregnant. It’s not fair and I don’t know what to say.”
After my baby died, a friend sent me a message about all of the things that I hadn’t supported her through, most of which surrounded her pregnancy. Her daughter was born on my son’s due date. I’m pretty sure she wanted me to justify my actions.
With the holidays, my deceased son’s first birthday, my diagnosis with PTSD and depression, and not to mention the strict lockdown from early December, I did not engage with anyone and lived in my own bubble. My friend who is currently pregnant, wrote to me and said I did not check on her for 4 months and she is hurt and disappointed that I distanced myself. She said she was being ghosted for the pregnancy that isn’t her fault and then declared that she doesn’t know what to think of our friendship, when she has been there for me and I have not!
The one with the throwaway comments:
“We got pregnant in the first month of trying!”
Anytime I tell anyone about my miscarriages, people tell me that it’s so common and then tell me about their friend who had 9 miscarriages and went on to have a baby. Which I think is toxic positivity and leans towards making you feel like your grief is invalid because you’re not the only one this happens to, or other people have it worse than you.
Over dinner, some friends discussed their plans for abortion, knowing full-well that my husband and I have experienced multiple losses and have no living children.
I’m tired of people contently and confidently discussing plans to extend their family and trying for a second child soon (“when the time’s right!”), knowing we’ve been trying to have just one, for years and years.
It drives me nuts when people complain about a bad night with their baby or toddler’s sleep, especially when I’m just recovering from a surgery or something related to a recent loss. I don’t wish to take away a parent’s right to complain and feel difficulties, but I feel they have other people around them they can off-load and voice these things to. My babies died. They shouldn’t need me to be the person they complain to.
The one where a million cliched platitudes are offered:
Personally I hate the “you’re so strong” comments “I don’t know how you do it” or “I can’t even imagine how you feel” which I’ve had said to me numerous times over the last year.
All while still in hospital with my son:
- “You’re young, you can have another”
- “Don’t get upset”
- “Lightening doesn’t strike twice!”
- “He wouldn’t want you to be sad”
- “At least you know you can get pregnant! Some people try for years and don’t get as far as you did”
The one where people try to distract you with a hobby:
I had a friend tell me he was going to buy me a dog after my son died to “cheer me up” – like it’s the same thing.
“Have you tried cooking or watching a really good Netflix series? It will help keep your mind off it”.
The one where the medical professionals forget that you’re a human being with feelings:
GP: So did they give you any indication of why the baby died?
Me: They thought there was an infection, as my waters didn’t smell right when they did the c-section
GP: Oh, that will just be because the baby was dead (complete with a dismissive wave)
My name was called and I went in to speak to the doctor. I told him I was there to discuss the options around dealing with my miscarriage. His first words were: “why are you crying?”
I explained to a new GP that I have previously had a stillbirth, a neonatal loss and one living child. His response? “So you’ve had one child”.
The one which, I suppose, was meant as a compliment:
So about a week after I had given birth to our sleeping baby, my mother in law called to drop some Easter treats off and told me how skinny I looked and that she was jealous! I think had I have been in the right frame of mind, I would have responded quite rudely, to be honest. But all I could do was laugh and shrug my shoulders as I was just so gobsmacked. I really wouldn’t recommend your baby dying as a bloody diet. I didn’t even know my own name or what day it was, I really wasn’t bothered how I looked at that particular moment.
The one where you lose a friend (or four):
A friend sent me an email listing all the ways I had been a bad friend to her. The list spanned the time period that I had lost four pregnancies – she knew that. Who needs enemies, when you have friends like that?
After I lost my son (my third loss) my friend texted to say she really felt for me, and that she had two very busy weeks at work coming up, but we could meet up to chat after that. That was July 2020. I never heard from her again.
There’s a fair few stories and inappropriate comments I received from family and friends after our loss but the one that sticks out is my supposed ‘best friend’. We hadn’t told anyone we were expecting but she sent me a message the day after our scan telling me all about her holiday. I replied saying I hope she had a lovely holiday, but I was in hospital and having a tough time. She then bombarded me with photos from her holiday and didn’t once ask why I was in, what was wrong or if I was ok. 3 months and countless one-way messages later, she still hadn’t enquired about my hospital stay. When she eventually did ask (in a very blase manner) and I told her we had lost our baby at 12 weeks, she replied saying that she was having a terrible time at work and her dog had been vomiting. Still no acknowledgement of our loss, the trauma or even a ‘how are you doing now, 3 months later?’
I had a friend who I’d known since we were teenagers. After I went through my second loss in 6 months I didn’t feel like she was being very supportive – sometimes taking weeks to reply to my messages, where I told her how much I was struggling. I eventually confronted her about it, and she said she was sorry but she was setting up a new zumba class and I couldn’t possibly understand how time consuming it is to hand out leaflets and set up a Facebook page. The friendship didn’t last, and neither did her zumba career.
The one where no words are truly better than these words:
At my last D&C, I was in the operating room, legs in stirrups, I’d found out the day before, for sure, that my baby had died. The surgeon was about to start the procedure and said she was sorry I was there. Then she put her arms up in a cheer pose and said “yey, that’s great news, you got pregnant!” I was so taken aback, I didn’t know how to react other than, are you f***ing kidding me?
I was told (at my son’s funeral) “thank god it was only him who died and not you both”.
I need to pause after that last one.
Thank you again to all who shared their stories. If these were actual episodes of Friends, there would be no laughter, though one small joy is that I can count lots of you among my friends now – best worst club ever. Thank you for contributing, I hope others have learnt something today – even if it is only to see all the awful stuff we have to put up with, on top of losing our babies.
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