I have anxiety about being home alone. I don't like it, really. I know, I know, I'm an adult and all that, but I've never lived alone--I went from my home to college (lived in a dorm) to teaching at a boarding school (alone?? What's that??) to living with Chris and our roommate, Ken, to being married...I've never lived alone. That said, I'm fine (really) when I am alone. I take the normal precautions--we live in a very safe state and a very safe neighborhood, I lock the doors, double check the windows and we do have a fairly protective dog. Normal precautions. The anxiety I feel stems from reading the newspaper daily, listening to the news and also knowing a handful of people who have had their house broken into (including one family friend whose house was broken into while they were sleeping!). I know the danger is out there--I know this--and it does cause me some anxiety.
A few weeks ago at a conference, I met a woman who was injured and whose husband was killed during a violent home invasion decades ago. Despite the fact that I read the paper and know these things happen, despite the fact that all of us have heard about these things on the news, and despite the fact that I openly admit to being somewhat nervous about being home alone, I know that I don't - I can't - understand the level of this woman's anxiety regarding this issue. Instead, I talked to her about the courage it has taken her to continue on with her life while she talked to me about how truly, deep, deep down, she has an issue with weddings. She hates them. She wants to "shake brides and yell, 'Don't you know what could happen??'" (Sound familiar? Most Babylost Moms have a deep-seated urge to shake pregnant women and yell, "Don't you know what could happen??")
My point here is that everyone has had losses in their lives and everyone has anxieties about things related to their past. I get that. Babylost Moms have a very unique perspective on pregnancy and birth--one that is not and cannot be shared or understood by anyone who has not heard the soul-crushing silence that falls on a room after a doctor announces "Your baby has died." or "Your baby will not live." There is a huge difference between normal "mothering" anxiety and Babylost Mothering anxiety. Most cannot understand, just as I will (hopefully) never understand the anxieties of the woman above.
I know, also, that the vast majority of people who say, "I understand" (when they really don't) are not saying it to be mean. They truly want to help and are completely at a loss as to how to go about it. In fact, the most common question I get at the seminars I lead is, "My friend just lost a baby - what can I do? What will help her?"
Two words: compassion and validation. Saying you understand is not the same as saying "I imagine this must be extremely hard for you." Asking, "Is there something I can do to help you through this holiday?" is helpful. Saying, "I know this would have been your baby's first Christmas," is helpful. Better yet, sending cards on special dates (due dates, birthdays, holidays) and remembering to use the baby's name when everyone else has forgotten. I cannot even tell you how much that would mean to a Babylost Mom. Please, don't try to minimize the loss, belittle it or take the pain away--you can't. And feeling the pain is part of the healing--it is a way to feel closer to that loss--closer to that little being that never was. And when that mom calls you sobbing because everyone in the world has moved on and she feels so left behind, just listen. Tell her you remember. Give her permission to talk about that baby--because that baby is a part of her life, a part of her family, a part of her soul.
No Babylost Mom is expecting you to understand, really. We just want compassion--compassion and validation for the piece of our hearts that will never mend.