MYTHS AND COMMON "ADVICE"
-reprinted from "Loving Arms" newsletter VOL. 8, No. 3 #26, August 1989, The Pregnancy & Infancy Loss Center, 612-473-9327
At the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Center, we find that myths and "advice" abound relative to the issues of miscarriage ,stillbirth, and infant death. Dispelling these ideas and replacing them with solid, real information as an ongoing task for our staff. Often we meet with resistance at the attempt to demystify unfounded concepts that prevent true acknowledgment, acceptance, and resolution of grief after the loss of a baby. In this [article form] Loving Arms, we have noted the most common myths and advice. Although the tips and suggestion art those of the individual authors and not necessarily experts, the editorial staff hopes you will, nevertheless, find ideas to help you cope better with your losses.
"YOU CAN HAVE ANOTHER BABY."
Statistics show that parents will in time go on and give birth to a live baby after a pregnancy or an infant less. However, some do not. In this era if rising infertility, why do we attempt or comfort bereaved parents by advising them to just go out and have another baby? It may be impossible for some, but more importantly, the suggestion devalues the significance of this baby.
We would never dream of telling a new widow to go out and fond a new husband as a way of offering comfort. That would be denying the love she had foe the husband who has just died and implying rather could that he is "replaceable; neither are babies. Each person is an unique gift and should be viewed as such.
"YOU WILL GET PREGNANT AGAIN SOON OF YOU START ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS"
It is estimated that 5% of infertile couples do conceive after adoption proceedings are initiated. However, that slight percentage is not a legitimate motivation for adopting a baby.
Adoption as a wonderful alternative to giving birth biologically. In itself, it is a "pregnancy" and should be desired, protected and pursued with comparable care and enthusiasm. Although adopting a baby may be chosen as a last resort to childlessness, it should be viewed as a precious and awe inspiring alternative to biologically giving birth to a baby.
"YOU REALLY DIDN'T 'KNOW' THE BABY. IT'S NOT AS IF A TWO-YEAR-OLD HAS DIED."
Love isn't measured by the age of a person or the length of time person was known. Can we really say that a woman who loses her husband after twenty years of marriage deserves more tears and more grief than one who was a newlywed before the death occurred? Of course not. When we love, no matter what the tome span.
Many parents feel that they love and bond to their babies even before they are conceived. The love the very idea of having a child, of giving love, and of nurturing and guiding life, and of nurturing and guiding a child through life. Whether the baby dies after being alive in the womb foe six weeks or six months, the, love, hopes, and dreams, the parents gave for that baby are comparable. It cannot be presumed that the six month baby was more cherished than the six week one, and therefore deserves more tears or grieving time.
The death of a baby at any age is worth tears and grief. The intensity of the love or the degree of the loss cannot be measured in weeks, months, or even years.
"SOMEONE OR SOMETHING IS TO BLAME FOR THE LOSS. OR THAT THERE IS A REASON WHY THE DEATH OCCURRED"
Some parents feel the need to place blame on their doctor, on their life style, on each other, or even on themselves. Placing blame is a way of funneling anger. Anger is a normal emotion. However, it needs to be dealt with or it can become a source of potential harm to existing relationships or to selfesteem.
In a small percentage of cases [where the cause of death is NOT identified as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome], there really is someone or something to blame for the death of the baby. For example: An accident occurs which damages the mother's physical health: A medical mistake is made: A mother is exposed to harmful toxins in the environment: Or the pregnant woman takes unprescribed drugs or otherwise knowingly puts her (or her baby's) health in jeopardy. Yes, sometimes identifying blame is in order and having this information might possibly prevent a future loss.
In most cases [and in the case of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome], however, who or what is to blame cannot be defined. It may be better to simply accept that fact rather than continue to search for something that may never be found. Even if you know who or what is to blame, knowing will not back your baby, nor will it remove the pain. That is the difficult challenge that parents may face.
When bad things happen, it's natural for people to try to find reasons for the tragedy. Usually parents seek out answers from the medical community, but often find they run into dead ends. Not enough research has been done on loss in the past to produce all of the answers. But with proper testing, someday physical reasons can be found for repeated losses.
"YOU CAN EASILY PUT THE EXPERIENCE BEHIND YOU AND GET ON WITH LIFE."
To believe that tragic events can be effectively dealt with by wishing them away or by not ever thinking about them again is magical thinking. By deciding you can put the experience "behind you" and get on with life as if nothing particularly important has happened is naive and potentially harmful to a person's mental and physical well being in the long run.
Whether or not we are intellectually willing to acknowledge the loss or emotionally able to feel the subsequent grief, our psyches know that the baby existed, that it was loved, and that it has died. It expects us to experience normal grief and encourages us to do so by reminding us of the loss during both our waking and sleeping times.
For some people, delaying grief is a coping method. Grief can be delayed, but it cannot be denied indefinitely. However, it is possible to "stuff" grief and unpleasant thoughts for a time, but eventually these feelings win surface, perhaps masked as depression, insomnia, or any number of related physical problems. Unresolved grief can resurface at the most unexpected times, forcing us to go back and experience the pain and heartache that we thought at the time of the loss was avoidable or unnecessary.
"YOU ARE BEING PUNISHED FOR SOMETHING YOU DID OR DIDN'T DO."
After a pregnancy or an infant loss, it's common for parents to feel as if they are being punished. Why else would something so terrible happen to them? They begin to wonder if the loss occurred because of some "sins" in their past, such as a prior abortion, an affair, lying, cheating, or stealing. Or perhaps it's because of something they failed to do, such as not attending church services or donating money to charity. Some parents may believe that God is retaliating against them for their sins by taking their baby from them. Although this thought is a common one, it can also be destructive.
You may feel that you are being punished by God or you may believe that a loving merciful God would not kill a baby, but rather is saddened by the death. In our world people get hurt, they get sick, and they die in spite of our advanced medical technology..., not as a punishment.
"TRADGETY HAPPENS TO MAKE YOU A BETTER, STRONGER PERSON."
We live in a society that attempts to find positive in every situation. When a young girl is the victim of an attempted rape, people expound on how lucky she was to have escaped. Little attention is paid to the fact that she was attacked and may live the rest of her life feeling fearful or targeted. We soothe ourselves by finding positive in negative situations and this can be a healthy coping technique as long as it does not minimize the significance of the tragedy.
Unfortunately, it's all too common to have a pregnancy or an infant loss minimized which may be confusing to the bereaved parent. If it wasn't so terrible, then why do I feel so badly? People are telling me how much stronger I'll become, yet I feel so weak and vulnerable.
Rather than seeking out the positives, it might be better to acknowledge to yourself and to others that the loss is a terrible thing. What positive can possibly be found in the death of an innocent baby? It's important to know that it is possible to be a strong, compassionate person without experiencing tragedy. Yes, sometimes we may grow and be strengthened by painful events, but we shouldn't feel as if we have to gloss over reality in an attempt to find the growth or positive aspects.
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