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February 23, 2012

This Is What I Want to Hear

Note: I intended to post this weeks ago, in a kind of series with “This Is How I Grieve” and “This Is What Keeps Me Going.” I wrote the majority of it then, but only got myself to finish it today, which is odd because I’m currently in a state of numbness, in which I feel like this never even happened. But it did, and this is important. So here goes.

 

* * *

 

Most people don’t know what to say when someone loses a loved one, and miscarriage is no different. Sometimes people say that there’s nothing at all to say. I thought that was true, until a number of my family and friends showed me differently. As someone who’s been on the other side, here’s my take on what I wanted to hear.

 

We’re coming over. When I told my mom the news over the phone, her instant reaction was “We’re coming.” She and my dad dropped what they were doing and drove to Brooklyn to be with me. We cried a little, but mostly we watched Jacob be silly. They held me up when I was ready to fall.

 

We’re praying for you. John’s family wasn’t able to hop in the car and come over, but they started praying the moment we hung up the phone. I’m trying to keep prayer in my life, continuing daily Mass and the rosary John and I say each night, but letting my personal prayer take a different form. I am quieter with God these days, and I am relying more heavily on the prayers of others to say the words I don’t always have. This, like “We’re coming over,” won’t be right for everyone, but it is for me.

 

You don’t have to call me back. The messages that I appreciated most were the ones that didn’t anticipate a call back. I know all were in my best interest, and asking something like “How are you doing?” is always meant wholeheartedly. But I don’t really want to call people back to tell them how I’m doing. I want to call back the people who will let me talk about Ethan, about our marriage, about boots, or about how phenomenal the film version of The Help is. The best thing for me to hear in a voicemail was “You don’t have to call me back, but if you want to talk about the baby or anything else, you know I’m here.”

 

Let’s get take out. I always love when John says this, but even more so the past week or so. No cooking, no clean up, and if we stack our cards right—lunch the next day.

 

We’ll babysit for a date night. I appreciate when people say, “Let me know what I can do,” and I know they mean it. But it’s tough to figure out what that is and then be sure it’s something people really want to give. A more concrete gesture, like babysitting or bringing food, means that I don’t have to do any more work than say “yes” and “thank you,” which was pretty much all I was capable of doing.

 

Your baby is/was loved.  My greatest comfort is that all Ethan knew of this life was love. His entire earthly existence was spent being held. I am grateful for that peacefulness, for him and me both. It has been such a lift to hear friends and family say, “That little one is so lucky that he had you and John for parents. I know how much you loved him, and he couldn’t ask for two better parents on this earth.” One of John’s brothers even wrote that he figured Jacob is so great that Heaven wanted the first crack at Ethan. That made me laugh, but it also made me recognize again what wonderful gifts our children are. They are ours to care for, ours to nourish, ours to love, but never simply ours.

 

Again, this is something that worked for me now, but might not comfort every woman grieving the loss of a child. Early in my pregnancy with Jacob, I worried about how I would feel if I had a miscarriage. I was experiencing a lot more fear and doubt than joy and anticipation. It was sometimes troubling to have other people remark on how loved he was, because I wasn’t sure what it meant to love him. I knew I wanted to, and I knew I would, but I didn’t feel it. Thank goodness my feelings for Ethan were clear from the start. I told him I loved him right when the test showed a positive result, and I’ve told him every day since.

 

 

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