How To Deal With “What Happened To The Baby?” And More Questions After A Miscarriage Or Stillbirth
Friends or family members often mean well when they ask about what happened to the baby, or honestly don’t know what to say after you tell them that the baby is gone. Here’s how to handle such painful conversations.
Common questions and how to talk about miscarriage
Remember: Even though you might be worried about how to talk about miscarriage, you are not obligated to share any details with anyone if you’re not willing to do so. If a high school friend or even your mother asks and you don’t want to share, then don’t.
“What happened, why did you miscarry/have a stillbirth?”
If you do want to talk about it, give the details that you’re okay with sharing Raphael O. Inocencio, RPsy, Managing Director and Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Better Steps Psychology, Inc, suggests, “You don’t have to do something just because other people tell you to go ahead and do it. But always, treat others with respect so that you can show them your boundaries and so they can respect those boundaries. Just say that ‘I’m not comfortable talking about this. I’m still grieving my loss and it’s a big loss, so I hope you can understand why I don’t want to talk about this. I would appreciate it more if we can talk about something else for now.’”
If they ask other follow up questions that make you uncomfortable, you can just simply say, “I’m not comfortable with talking about it, I know you’ll be okay not knowing about it. I’ll talk about it more when I’m ready.”
“Did you do anything that made you miscarry, like drink coffee, too much stress, or what?”
Most people don’t ask this question with the intention of blaming the woman for the miscarriage, sometimes it’s out of curiosity, or plainly just for the sake of asking another question. But for a woman who has just lost a child, you’ve probably already replayed your entire past thinking about what you could have differently so that you maybe would have had a successful pregnancy, and blamed yourself tremendously for what happened. Monica went through this, and she advises, “Don’t waste energy taking this personally because people who ask such questions ultimately come from a place of not knowing. Because they have not experienced it, they are naturally curious or sincerely wanting to talk to you without being very mindful of how it can come across. So, remind yourself that nothing you would have done could have reversed a pregnancy that naturally terminated itself.”
As much as you would want to lash out and give that person a piece of your mind, or cry over how hurt the question made you feel, take a step back and simply answer: “It just happened, and I don’t wish it to happen to anyone.”
“Why don’t you have children yet?” or “When are you going to have another one?”
Mums or women who reach a certain age get these questions all the time, some from family members or friends, some from mere acquaintances. These questions are in no means asked because the person wants to hurt you—they simply don’t know about the miscarriage or the stillbirth. And given that they lack knowing those facts about you, you have two options: You can open up about your loss and your reasons for not having a child or any more children, or you can do what Abi* did when she was asked about when she was going to have children. She shares, “There were many times people would come up to me and ask me why we still don’t have kids, and I would simply smile and say it’s not yet time. Now looking back, I would tell them about my miscarriages, to create awareness that it’s rude to ask these questions because women’s wombs go through different journeys.”
“How’s the baby?”
This question is considered small talk usually opened up by someone who knew you were pregnant, probably through a friend or via social media, and they assume that you’ve already given birth since the last time you saw each other or came across your feed.
There’s no way around avoiding the awkwardness of the conversation, and crying or overreacting won’t help the situation, either. Say what you feel like replying at that moment, but usually a simple, “The baby’s in heaven now,” or if you want a non-religious approach, you can opt to reply, “The baby didn’t make it,” and leave it at that. Real friends would leave it at that, and perhaps give you a hug, to let you know that you’re not alone.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Women often don’t know who to talk to or approach when they suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth, and they’re paralyzed into going through the grief alone. Some women suffer in silence, but opening up about your feelings and your grief to someone might help you come to terms with your sadness. At this point, you actually don’t need someone to tell you what you could have done differently to avoid the miscarriage or stillbirth, or to judge you for what you went through or how you’re feeling. What you need is a sounding board—that could your partner, husband, family member, or a trusted friend who you can open up to, without fear of being reprimanded or judged. Sometimes simply talking about it, releasing what you feel into the world, is what we need to take those first few steps to moving on.
Figuring out how to talk about miscarriage when people ask questions isn’t a science. There isn’t a single right approach, but we hope that with these responses in mind, you’ll be more prepared if it happens to you.