The following is a guest post. Have something you'd like to share on my blog? I am ALWAYS open to people sharing their perspectives! As always, guest posts do not necessarily reflect my personal feelings, but I think hearing from others is always helpful.
Kelli Dorschel is originally from Michigan and moved to South Florida 12 years ago, where she met her husband and put down roots. They have a 4-year-old daughter, and after losing two precious babies to miscarriage, are now expecting a baby boy in January 2016. Kelli has her Master's Degree in Environmental Education and works at a nature center where she is fulfilling her passion to teach visitors about nature. This is the first time she is sharing publicly about her losses.
In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I am writing this piece to help bring awareness about a potentially painful question that many pregnant women will hear. Most people are aware they shouldn’t ask women and couples questions regarding their plans for children, but what about women who are clearly pregnant? I am currently in a situation and fielding a question that I never before thought would be painful.
I am currently 26 weeks and noticeably pregnant. At my job, I interact with the visiting public on a regular basis, and many times, people will comment on my pregnancy, and I am routinely being asked, “Is this your first?” The first time this was asked to me, I felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks and my eyes instantly welled with tears because I didn’t know how to respond.
I have a healthy and happy four-year-old daughter who is the light of my life, so this would seemingly be an easy question to answer, but it’s not. No, it isn’t my first, but surprisingly, this simple question by a well-meaning person brought a flood of emotions similar to when people would ask me when I was going to give my daughter a sibling, clearly not knowing about my two miscarriages and the struggles of having another child.
I have heard this question many times now (mostly at work as my daughter is usually with me anywhere else I go) and I’m still torn about how to respond. If I simply say “no” the person will follow-up with “how many do you have?” I could respond that I have a four-year-old daughter and leave it at that, but then I am filled with guilt for intentionally not acknowledging my two other children. However, if I say that this is my fourth child and I’ve lost two, the innocent person asking the question will be immediately uncomfortable, and while at work, I want visitors to leave with a positive and happy experience – not being made to feel bad by a staff member. Some may suggest to just answer “This is my fourth,” and be done with it, but again, there are always follow up questions of, “How old, and are they boys/girls?” Meanwhile, I still have a difficult time talking about my losses, and when the topic arises, tears readily flow.
Any way you cut it, the question is always uncomfortable for me, whether it’s guilt from ignoring two of my children, or becoming emotional in front of strangers, or speaking about something so personal with someone I don’t even know. Maybe someday I’ll get to a point where I can speak about it without getting emotional, but that day has yet to come. Even so, if I am able to speak openly about it, the person asking the question will still be uncomfortable, so either way, it’s really a no-win situation. I would imagine that if someone has experienced loss, they wouldn’t be asking the question in the first place, because they would understand the potential impact of the question.
I then think about women who do not have a living child as I do, but are experiencing pregnancy after loss and being asked this question. I have an “easy” answer if I choose to go that route, but many women do not, and I can’t imagine how they answer, let alone how this question makes them feel! By asking this question, we may be inadvertently prying into a very personal and private area of a woman’s heart. Is it appropriate to ask a stranger about such personal things? I know that is not the intent of the person asking the question – they are just making small talk, but it’s how the question could be perceived and the emotional havoc it can wreak, and that’s what we need to realize.
Please do not misunderstand. I’m not advocating silence about pregnancy and infant loss. I just know that I don’t really want to talk about it with strangers, and I don’t want to lie about my precious babies in Heaven! I feel that the woman should be able to choose when and where and with whom she discusses the most horrific thing that has ever happened to her. I know that the person asking the question isn’t trying to open this can of worms, but their question can do that in the woman’s heart.
Pregnancy and infant loss affects 1 in 4 women. Just think about that for a moment. Twenty-five percent of women have endured the unimaginable. Please, let’s try to be thoughtful when asking people about their plans for children or commenting on pregnancies. I know I can’t speak for everyone who is experiencing pregnancy after loss, but I can speak to my experiences. I never gave a second thought to answering that question when I was pregnant with my daughter, but times have changed.
I’m hoping by sharing my experiences that we can all be a little more aware of the power of words, and that pregnancy and infant loss affects more people than we may realize. My recommendation would be that if you notice that a woman is pregnant and you wish to comment, please just congratulate her and give her your best wishes for a healthy pregnancy and baby. The pregnant woman can then choose to engage or not engage in further conversation with you on her terms, helping to avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation for everyone.