Judging from some of the comments I've read, I'd say hate is the only word to describe some of them. Thinly-veiled at times, yes; but still hate, all the same. Then when I read an article about how they openly shared very touching, heartfelt photos taken after their baby had died, I saw even more hate and disdain.
I've had two people on Facebook tell me that acquaintances actually unfriended them and stopped reading blog posts when they chose to open up about their experiences. Seriously?! I felt chills when I read this and couldn't imagine responding so coldly and callously about something like that.
A few years ago I caught up with my friend Em on Facebook and was delighted to hear from her after so many years. I was equally bummed, and felt sad and guilty, that I had no idea what she had experienced, that I wasn't there for her. I couldn't imagine the pain and grief she went through, in addition to the problems she already manages to deal with in her day-to-day struggles with bipolar disorder. Em also told me that another "friend" told her the same thing two months after her own pregnancy loss - that she was a "dweller" and criticized her for being so open about it. So when that "friend" ended up miscarrying twins, Em thought it would be a good chance to help her be more open with her feelings and emotions. Wrong.
Years ago, before I ever had kids, I was friends with a coworker who ended up giving birth prematurely to a baby that had a severe heart defect. Open heart surgery ensued, and an overbearing mother-in-law who accused her of doing something to cause this didn't help. I was appalled that this woman could be so heartless at a time when her daughter-in-law needed support, love and encouragement the most. In a crazy twist of fate, my coworker's brother and his wife lost their baby when she was six months pregnant to a heart defect as well.
Her hospital decided they weren't sure how staff would handle the birth of this stillborn baby, so they sent her an hour away to another hospital. At the time, and still, really - I can't understand why they did that. It wasn't like she had aborted her child, or done anything wrong to cause this to happen. Once they delivered the child, photos were reluctantly taken, which would appear gruesome to some, but were all she had at the time. I wasn't a mother yet, had no real idea what she was dealing with, when I saw her going about her business one day while the photo of her daughter lay on the table, out in the open. I only caught a glimpse of it, but rather than say something or react, I figured that was her way of dealing with it and just said hello and moved on. What else can you say?
I knew someone else, who, when she gave birth in the 1970s, was not even able to hold or see - or even know the sex of - her baby that was stillborn at around six months. I thought how horrible that was, to not even know, and couldn't imagine what kind of grief process she was still grappling with, several decades later. Who are they to decide how this mother grieves her child?
Several readers shared that they had been unfriended, had people stop reading their blog, even send hate mail - because they had shared their experience and grief so publicly. It's like saying, "I don't want to hear what you have to say about your hurting and loss. Get over it," and giving a big cyber middle finger to someone who is in pain and wants to grieve differently than someone else does. When you want to talk about it, they shut you out, shut you off, and effectively tell you, "You know what? I don't care, I can't care, because it makes me too uncomfortable to deal with this."
Although I've never personally miscarried, I know the words most women who have least like to hear is "It was for the best," or "it just wasn't meant to be." It may be that these people mean well and don't know what else to say, or it just comes out wrong. But at least they're saying something - instead of tuning you out and getting mad when you want to share your feelings. Saying those things could be a lot worse - like simply severing contact with someone who is reaching out. By being shut down like that, it's like you're not allowed to grieve. Like somehow in our minds, it's not really a baby unless it's full term and comes into the world screaming, pink and "healthy."
Jaime miscarried her first child two years ago, and she still finds it difficult to talk about. She says that saying nothing at all is better than "It was for the best," which she thinks kind of trivializes it and makes it sound like "no big deal." She writes, "I totally agree that most people are trying to be supportive and just aren't sure how. My best friend sat with me (over the phone cause she is 1,000 miles away) and let me vent and cry and prayed with and for me without saying 'It will be alright' or anything. That was and is, in my opinion, the best thing you can do for a person."
It certainly turns that "At least you have a healthy baby!" argument on its ear, doesn't it? As if to say, Well, it's supposed to turn out that way, but if it doesn't we don't want to hear about it. People don't seem to be able to handle it if that baby isn't healthy - then what? Well, we can't talk about that. Maybe it's a deeply-seated idea that there must have been something the mom did wrong for it to happen; or that if the pregnancy wasn't far enough along, surely she has nothing to grieve, perhaps.
I honestly wonder sometimes if our culture's in-your-face attitude about abortion is another reason people are often reluctant to talk about pregnancy loss - it puts a face to that ultrasound of a baby that is, often times, fully formed even though they are nowhere near ready to be born. It presents a confusing, dual reality for some, I think, that it definitely is more than a "ball of cells," or the suspension of disbelief that this is, was, a living little person. The idea that for some, if you don't come home with a baby in your hands that somehow, it never happened, isn't worth dwelling on because it is a life prematurely halted and therefore somehow not worthy of celebrating.
While the Duggars are in the spotlight, I think we can all learn from their experiences and trials, and I hope these wonderful photos will be a vehicle for women to open up, should they choose to, about their pregnancy loss. Many women who had suffered losses also attended the funeral - no doubt as a show of support, but perhaps also in a way to acknowledge and memorialize their own lost babies.The Duggars' choice to memorialize their child this way is nothing new - not more than a century ago that's what people did: took pictures of dead relatives (even propped up in a casket) to remember them and celebrate their lives. What people find most grotesque about these pictures is that it puts into perspective the potential for a human life, even one so small, that I think most people would just rather not think about and pretend doesn't exist, doesn't happen.
I think there are many, many silently grieving mothers who would beg to differ.
Duggar pictures of dead baby at memorial raise ridiculous reactions
Becoming Sarah blog - a mother writes about her home, family and healing from loss