I Can Only Imagine
By Emily, Lena's mom
I delivered my daughter stillborn on January 10th, 2016. In the days and weeks following her death, many people reached out to me and expressed how sorry they were for our loss. “I can’t imagine the pain you are feeling” or “I can’t imagine what you’re going through” were common things said.
But how about, just for a moment, you try to imagine it. Try really hard to put yourself in this situation. Imagine you are lying on the table at a routine OB appointment as your doctor waves the Doppler over your belly, patiently waiting to hear a heartbeat. Minutes pass. No sounds detected. You follow your doctor down the hallway, half knowing that something is terribly wrong but half believing you be proven wrong. You lay on the table in the ultrasound room, and then you hear the words that will break your heart into a million pieces: “I’m afraid something has happened. This is where the heartbeat should be.” Now your reaction may have been different to mine – we react to shocking news in unique ways. But try to imagine what your reaction would have been in that exact moment. Screaming. Crying. Disbelief. Shock. Anger. Sadness. Questions. So many questions. Why? Why? Why?
Imagine having to go back home and wait two days before being induced. Imagine that your baby, who was living inside of you for more than five months, is no longer kicking, her heart is no longer beating. Imagine being at the hospital, in a room similar to where your son was born three years ago, but with the understanding this outcome will be very different. Imagine going through hours of excruciating labor only to know you won’t have a healthy baby at the end to make the pain all worth it. Imagine feeling so scared when it’s time to push – you know this needs to end but you don’t want it to, because then it will be truly real.
Now imagine this – the silence. Deafening silence. And then imagine holding your stillborn baby - examining her features, noticing how even though she is tiny, she looks very similar to her big brother. You want to scream as you hear a newborn cry down the hall while you hold your lifeless baby. Imagine watching your husband sob as he carefully holds your daughter. Nothing in these moments makes sense. You are thinking, “why did this happen to us?” “We’re good people, we don’t deserve this.” “This is so unfair.”
Weeks pass and sympathy cards and gifts arrive. Many struggle with what to say. “At least she wasn’t full-term.” “At least you’re young, you can have more babies.” “At least you have your son.” There is no “at least” when a baby dies. Imagine how hurtful these statements can be. Whether 8 weeks, 38 weeks, or 8 days old...your life changed the moment you saw the positive pregnancy test. Dreams for the future are gone, forever changed.
The next time you are about to say, “I can’t imagine”, I suggest you reconsider. Saying something like “I can ONLY imagine what you are going through” is more sensitive to a bereaved parent and shows you are willing to take on their pain, even if it’s for just a moment.
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