When it’s just not funny

Content Warning: Post contains discussion of perinatal loss, miscarriage, and possibly triggering examples of social media posts.

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*This post was originally featured during the winter holiday season. While the date is different, April Fool’s Day presents us with another excellent opportunity to support friends & family struggling with infertility & loss.*

 

 

It’s the holiday season again! Many of us are knee deep in baking, family gatherings, ugly sweaters, and church services. We’re gazing at lights (or still untangling them!) and trudging through slush and snow. We’re trying to stay cozy and also sane. 

I’d like you to picture something for me. Imagine, in the midst of the hustle and bustle you sit down with your phone or laptop and decide to take a few moments to scroll your social media feed and unwind a bit. Between rants about the weather and heartwarming photos of kids on a red-suited man’s lap, you read something like this…

“We thought about keeping it a secret, but since you’re all friends and family here we decided to share! We’re EXPECTING!….”

Or how about…

“So excited! We’re waiting on a very important arrival. That’s right! Just over 8 weeks. I know, we were shocked too! 1 chubby bundle of joy…”

And you pause. You gather yourself. “This is ok,” you say in your head. “Breathe.  I am happy for them. I am happy for them,” plays like a mantra inside you. You feel the all-too-familiar-punch in your gut of yet another loved one announcing a pregnancy, after you have survived excruciating loss. Or maybe yet another Christmas season has come and you still have empty arms, waiting for a little one you doubt regularly will ever materialize. You acknowledge the stab, you take a deep breath, and you get ready to possibly like or comment congratulations – because you care deeply for the person who posted. And that’s when you see the rest of the status.

“…SANTA CLAUSE! Let’s see how many of you read to the end of my status. Copy and Paste if this got you so you can see who really reads your posts too!”

And suddenly it’s a different kind of pain.

See, when you’ve experienced miscarriage, still birth, and child loss, you are fundamentally changed. While everyone handles their grief differently, an overwhelmingly common thread are what’s known as “trigger dates”. These dates may be different for different women- ranging from the super personal such as dates of conception, dates of specific loss, due dates, and milestones – to the more common, like nationally celebrated holidays. You see, things like Christmas, when you’ve experienced loss, aren’t just holidays anymore. They’re poignant reminders of what’s not there anymore. For every children’s stocking hung, there is a parent staring at an empty space where one should be. For every tot on Santa’s knee, there is a mom seeing the empty knee where her little one should have been.

So when you post what feels like to you a casual joke on Facebook – purely so you can say “gotcha!” to those not reading it carefully, know that there is someone you care for deeply reading it. And all the walls and protective mechanisms they’ve been building to guard the wounds on their heart and scratched at and cracked again. There is someone you love gathering themselves privately because of a joke. The likelihood is, you will probably never know the majority of those around you who are experiencing this. Pregnancy and perinatal loss is still shrouded in this kind of cloud of secrecy. There’s so many layers- fear, shame, embarrassment, besides how raw the loss remains forever. They may never have told you about this experience.

This silly little social media experiment is telling those people around you they can’t trust you with this part of them. 

And you might all still be friends and family and get together and laugh, but the knowing remains. You have become unsafe  for this very real grief in their life.

There is never a good time to joke about perinatal loss, so there is never a good time to fake a pregnancy announcement. Here’s the thing- those of us who have been through this? We WANT to be happy for you if you really are expecting. We don’t want you to hide your pregnancies. We want to wrap you in love and squeeze your little ones and admire you as you glow. Sometimes it will be hard and we’ll take a step back….but in our hearts, we love YOU so we want to celebrate with you. We will push past the personal pain to walk the path of parenthood alongside you. We will often consciously sacrifice our personal comfort to attend your baby shower or buy you a baby gift or hang your birth announcement on our fridge. We will love and support you. Knowing that it may require all the strength a person has on a given day just to wish you congratulations, please don’t be flippant with this subject.

Be a safe place for your friends who are experiencing loss this holiday season, even if you don’t know who they are. Let people know that you will never joke about getting pregnant if you’re not. Instead of another silly chain-letter type social media post, consider being an encourager instead and publicly uplifting those who might be grieving right now. There are some great examples of how to do this at the bottom of this post. Just say no to fake pregnancy announcements. At Christmas, at Easter, on April Fools Day. Choose to be part of a support network for the 1 in 4 women who will experience loss in their lives instead. They’ll love you all the more for it, I promise.

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