“You will have another baby.”
I sat drugged and stunned on a hospital bed one frigid December day. A needle was being inserted into my spine and a drug to induce labor was taped to my arm. I prepared to give birth to my son – whom I knew would be stillborn.
A doctor looked at me. She forced my gaze. She said that there was only one way through this – to have another baby.
I remember a strange and toxic brew of guilt and anger rising like bile in my throat. How could she be so tone deaf? This was the baby I wanted. I dimly recall that she said something to suggest that she understood the complexity of her message. I could not hear her though – not with the nightmare-unreality of the total situation ringing in my ears.
I gave birth to a stillborn baby a few days later.
For weeks after people raced in to comfort me and then fled. They echoed what the doctor said. You will get pregnant again. They wanted to come to me, but I made them nervous and some retreated.
I hated it when people said I would have another baby. I especially hated it when the person who said it was close to me. This admission makes me feel badly. They were trying to help.
It has taken me years to identify the fact that the people best placed to offer this reminder are those who are outside the inner circle of the bereaved. Between 50 – 80% of women who experience loss will get pregnant again within 12 to 18 months.
In those early weeks I avoided contact even as I yearned for intimacy.
I set myself up with a kind of solitude. I drank it in like liquor. I’d be there steeping in it and then I’d go out into the world and be all wobbly, grief-drunk, incoherent.
Once I was out and I saw once a lovely woman I hardly knew. She reached for me and touched by arm.
“You will have another baby,” she said.
Maybe it was the fact that I did not know her well. Perhaps I was just lonely enough to hear her.
She wasn’t a fortune teller but she somehow met me on the bridge between grief and belief.
I hated it when people said I would get pregnant again. But oh so too did I need to hear it.
It was easier to hear from people I did not know well. Those closest to me did better by accepting their impotence and staying anyway – disenabling my solitude binge.
Now when women I love have miscarriages I don’t remind them of their ability to have another baby. This is for many reasons. To begin with, I love them. Reminders about future babies can be inadvertently nullifying – a race to something like a happy ending. Although that phrase is in itself trite. Happy endings are never the end game in loss.
In addition, some women can’t attempt another pregnancy, or courageously choose not to. In such circumstances, it is necessary to honor their lasting and encompassing motherhood and resist platitudes.
For the women I love – I try to sit with them. I want everything for them – so much. I am not special and I’m not alone but I’d bear their grief if I could. I can’t rush them through their own understanding as they shape their narrative. I long for their happiness. I watch the shock morph to grief – a tear before it drops all bulbous-like carrying the attempted conceptions, the joy of a positive pregnancy test, the sadness of a sonogram without a heartbeat. I remind them that the degree of sadness has nothing whatsoever to do with the length of gestation.
Many women in loss say they don’t like to be reminded about future babies. This is largely true. But for some (even many), the whisper of this hope feels like an early spring wind – a hint of warmth – a harbinger after a long winter with all the dormant life this contains.
This article originally appeared on BabyCenter.