Bad News and Good Advice

Unfortunately, our blood work yesterday showed a drop in hormone levels.  Although the progesterone level was still in normal range (it ought to be with the extra I’m taking), it had dropped from Monday, and the HCG level dropped, too.  For the uninitiated, HCG is human growth hormone, and it should double every two days through the first trimester if the baby is still growing.  It’s not good news if it doesn’t rise as quickly as it should, and medically speaking, when it drops, you are just waiting for the inevitable miscarriage.  Our doctor wants to recheck the levels again on Monday before we make any decisions about what to do.  To my eternally optimistic friends: I have not completely given up hope that Monday could prove my body wrong – only because God can still do miracles.

Having been told multiple times in the last 24 hours that I’m “just being realistic” by saying the blood work confirmed what I already knew on Wednesday, I’d like to point out that I would be realistic if I were only looking at the numbers in the blood work.  To feel the kind of pain I’ve had for the last two days and to suddenly not feel nauseated and tired – to feel the exact same thing I’ve felt in the last four pregnancies – is to experience what the tests can only confirm.  To remain optimistic in the face of that experience would be an unhealthy version of denial.  Also, a word of advice if you’ve never dealt with a miscarriage: never argue with the crazy pregnant/miscarrying lady; it’s just frustrating to have someone (even the doctor) tell you what you’re feeling.  I have, in fact, vowed to kick my doctor in his nether parts if he repeats certain key phrases (“It will just feel like a heavy period” and “Well, just go get pregnant”).  Friends and family won’t be kicked because I know they mean well, but it occurred to me in writing that note of advice that most people have no idea how to handle a friend or family member losing a baby.  Here are my best tips:

-Hugs, flowers and chocolate (anything edible, really) are always appropriate.  Miscarriage is a really lonely thing because most of the time there is no body to bury and no marker or service to memorialize the loss.  When someone loses a spouse, people bring food, send flowers, have a funeral; after a miscarriage, people tend to give you space because they have no idea what else to do.  I know that everyone grieves differently and may not want to have people around, and miscarriage tends to be more private, but you can’t tell me that everyone who loses an adult family member truly appreciates being bombarded with people either.  If someone was willing to announce the pregnancy in their first trimester and announce the loss of the pregnancy, they’re not going to mind expressions of sympathy.

-Listen.  That’s it.  Don’t offer advice unless it is solicited.  I know it’s tempting, but avoid saying things like, “You can try again; you’re still young,” “You’ll have a baby when it’s God’s time,” “It’s better to have lost the baby early if there was a problem,” “Well, what’s the problem?  Why haven’t they found anything yet?” or my least favorite, “God must have something even more special planned for you.”  It’s not that these statements are not all true, but they tend to trivialize the loss.  Before you say anything, stop and consider whether or not you would say the same thing if the person had lost an older child.  If it feels inappropriate, it’s probably doing more harm than good.  (For example, you would never think of telling someone who lost a toddler that they can try again.)  The simplest thing to say is, “I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m here if you want to talk.”  The sweetest words of sympathy I’ve ever gotten have been from the guys at work who were at a complete loss for words.  Their bumbling around meant more to me than the most eloquent words ever could.

-Don’t be afraid to call or talk.  In any kind of loss, it’s hard to reach out; human nature tends to withdraw from people in tough times, so making the first phone call or sending the first e-mail is hard.  Women who’ve had miscarriages usually need to know that their baby hasn’t been forgotten.  Most people are afraid to bring up the subject so that they don’t bring up any bad memories, but you can check in without ever mentioning the loss directly: “I was thinking about you, and I just wanted to check in.  How are you doing today?  Is there anything you want to talk about?”  I’m a tough cookie to crack, but even I will spill my guts when I need to and I know the other person will listen.  I do, however, have a really hard time calling someone out of the blue to cry with or rant to.

All of that being said, I am not giving up hope that God can perform a miracle.  I am not expecting a physical miracle; the far greater miracle in my case would be to survive this loss with my faith intact.  I can appreciate why my family and friends want to hold out until Monday – it is a hope born out of love and a desire for me to experience pure joy instead of loss.  It is wonderful beyond words to have people who love me that much.  You should keep hoping.  I just hope you understand that I can’t, as much because it is a coping/survival mechanism as it is a realistic interpretation of the facts.  I want more than anything to have great news on Monday, but I can’t hope that hard and then be disappointed that badly.  It may not ever be in God’s plan for us to have our own children, and I can deal with that.  Most often that’s harder for other people to deal with because they don’t want me to give up; it is not giving up to admit that God’s plan and my desires may not be the same thing.

3 thoughts on “Bad News and Good Advice

  1. Very well put, Anne. I’ve never experienced your kind of loss but have so many friends who have, and I’ve tried to learn from their experiences how I can be a better friend when life sucks like this. I’m sure we’ve all stuck (and will stick) our foots in our mouths whenever we’re trying to be a good friend to someone enduring loss, but it really does help to know what explicitly doesn’t help.

    Following along on your journey and praying with you. Thanks for letting us all in.

    1. Thanks, Julie. I think the bottom line is there’s no real right or wrong thing to say, and it seems to be the human condition to be constantly putting one’s foot in one’s mouth. I can tell you hundreds of things that hurt when people said them, but I can probably only match a few of them to specific people because I knew that the person had no idea what they were saying would hurt. If a friend is trying to communicate from the heart, that’s all that really matters, and that’s what will be remembered.

  2. Thank you for sharing your heart. I’m so very sorry you are hurting and I’m here if you need or want to talk, cry or rant. You are precious.

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