First, let me say that I am sure I made comments that were inadvertently hurtful to people who miscarried little ones or had their babies die. I think that, unless you have either been through that loss or gone through it with someone (because I have several friends that come to mind who havent dealt with the loss of their own child but went through the loss of ours as though they were their own), it is damn near impossible to know what to say. And, honestly, no matter what you say, you cant say the one thing that those parents need to hear. "This was all a mistake. Your baby is fine. Here you go!"
With my miscarriages, I would have liked to have heard acknowledgement of those babies. I would have liked people to have realized that, regardless of whether or not they were the size of speck of sand, that they were our children. That they were perfect. That we loved them even before we knew they were conceived and that, once we felt their perfect little presences, it just made our hearts love them more. I wish that people would have realized, even though they were so tiny, we were grieving the lives that they had (even in those short weeks) and the lives we saw for them. That we were grieving their futures, and ours. Comments that I hated more than anything else included "There must have been something wrong with "it"", "This was all for the better", "Better you miscarry than have a sick child", "Miscarriages happen- it is better to just move on", "You'll feel better once you are pregnant again". That baby wasnt an IT. It was my son or my daughter. I wouldnt have loved them less had they been born looking like the creature from "Alien". I didnt think it was better than my baby died and I sure as hell didnt feel better about losing my children once I was pregnant again. Words that I would have liked to have heard, "I dont understand what it is like to lose a baby, but I am grieving with you", "I know it hurts and that I cant make it better with whatever I say, but we are thinking of your baby", "No other baby can replace this one and it is okay to miss them and grieve for them", and, as saccharine as it sounds, "I'm sorry."
With Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander, I think that because people had become invested with our pregnancies, people grieved with us, which helped. After they died, they made mention of their lives with their actions. They came to the memorial services. They looked at their photos, even though (I admit) it was probably really hard for them at times. They said their names. That was probably one of the most important things. Simply remembering them... Friends called on their monthly birthdays or to say that they heard/saw something that reminded them of a particular baby and they wanted to check in. They reminded us of our parenthood. They cried with us. They cried on their own and called us to help them through their own grief. One friend came over and sat on the couch with me after the twins died and, as we sat in silence, she reached out and said, simply, "This sucks". And that summed it up. She doesnt have kids and has no desire to have them, but she understood that there was nothing she could say, no glib words to make it better. That she could acknowledge that this was the worst and just be there. Another friend has constantly called or emailed on their special days, not with a "how are you doing" type thing, but to just remember... She doesnt even have to mention why she does this, but she does it and, even when the kids arent mentioned, I know she remembers. She's called me in tears because something triggered thoughts of the kids and her grief overwhelmed her. I could go on and on of stories of a multitude of friends, some parents and some not, who have not been afraid to embrace the short lives of our children and share them with us.
Things that I hated hearing "This was God's will", "I guess it just wasnt meant to be", "Maybe they would have had problems and this was nature's way of "taking care" of the problem", "Your next pregnancy will be better", "It's all for the best", "One day you will really be parents", "Just move on". I dont think that God wills for babies to die. I think that, yes, they have a life beyond this one and that we all have a destiny, but to give the simple "God's will" comment makes God out to be a real jerk who just takes people's children at random. And I dont believe that. I also dont believe it was simply bad luck. I try to believe that life, no matter how long, is a drop in the bucket compared to eternity and that, whether we live a hundred years or only a hundred miliseconds in the womb, our lives are equally short and equally long. It just so happens that my children are living elsewhere while I am living here. As to not being meant to be, I've always wanted to respond, "Maybe your common sense wasnt meant to be" because, really, who ever thinks that is a good response. I dont think my babies were problems, no matter what issues they could have had. Another pregnancy wont replace my children. Who is it best for that they died? Surely not me, their father, or them... And, what am I now, if not their parent? Just because you dont see them doesnt mean they arent children.
And, my personal favorite, "Just move on..." I could write an entire post about that one. What exactly should I be moving on to? You dont move on. You dont get over it. You reinvent yourself as the parent of a dead child. You pick up the pieces of your shattered existence and you try to glue them back together in some semblance of a picture that society can deal with. You look at your family portraits and forever see someone (or several someones) missing. You breathe only because it is the only way that a piece of your child still lives. And you take one step at a time. But never, ever do you move on and forget. Never are you the same person again. And for someone to expect that of you- it's ignorant.
Things I appreciated hearing: "Congratulations", "They are beautiful", "I miss them too" (because, even if you never saw them in life, the fact that you recognize the life they have and didnt have and that you cant be a part of it, is huge). Their names. For people to not dance around the fact that they were a part of our world and always will be. For people to count them.
The hardest thing, right now, is when people say things along the lines of "Finally, you are parents" or "You are a family of four". We've been parents for a long time. Perhaps not to living children, but parents nonetheless. And our family isnt a family of four. There will always be faces missing in the pictures... Faces we see. Faces we hope others see too... Even if they are only in the shadows of our own or in the faces of Bobby and Maya.
One of the most wonderful things I ever heard was from my mom. When I called her to tell her that we were pregnant with Alexander, it was on the cusp of a miscarriage and 6 months after Nicholas and Sophia died. She was excited and made her little happy noise. I actually said "I'm surprised you are so happy". We had been greeted with cautious optimism by Peter's parents (who were happy dont get me wrong but very nervous) and outright upsetness by my dad who couldnt handle the news. My mom's response was "I will be happy every single time you are pregnant. No matter how long the baby is with us. A new grandbaby is wonderful news." I played that comment throughout Alexander's pregnancy and the pregnancies that followed. Sometimes, with Bobby and Maya, it was that comment that helped me breathe when the fear gripped me so tightly.
We have been blessed by people who make our babies a part of their lives. We have friends whose children talk openly about ours. Who draw us family portraits with them included, name characters in their stories after our babies, who talk about them to us and what they think they are doing in heaven. The little girl of a couple we know went up to the pictures one day when they visited and pointed and said "babies", and her mom said, "That's right. Those are babies." This is what I ask of you, those who grieve your own children and those who grieve the children of others. Say their names. Remember their birthdays. Dont wait for their mourning parents to bring them up. Given, some parents may not be ready to talk about their babies with you because their grief is too overwhelming. But knowing that you are there, that you arent afraid of their memories, that will help them when the day comes that they ARE ready. And one day, they will be, and maybe, you will be the person they come to because you have been a part of their healing.
The greatest gift that has come out of my grief is being able to grieve with others. Hearing "I never was able to talk about my baby" or "I was told to just have another and I still remember my first/second/X baby and it hurts", and knowing that those people now have been able to talk and remember... Having people who attended the memorial services that we didnt know come up to us and say "I lost a son/daughter and was never able to have a service; this service was for them to me." There are so many people who have been left orphans by their losses and that we, as a worldly society, have orphaned in their grief because it isnt pretty... Because it doesnt fit into our belief that babies just dont die. But they do die. Every single day. And a parent misses them and grieves them and, most of all, loves them. And without support from those around them, they do so silently and alone and, perhaps one day, they feel they have to put those feelings aside to coexist as a "normal" person.
I'm not sure if this answers exactly what was asked of me, but I hope that it is a start. And I hope that others are able to add to this and continue teaching all of us how to better cope with all of this.