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Sensitive - still birth

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thisismypassword Thu 07-Jan-16 19:36:37

I am looking for some insight from people who have been in this position.

I have a friend who had a stillbirth at 6 months and then a miscarriage at about 13 weeks. She went on to have 2 healthy children. this was over 30 years ago but I believe it still affects her to this day which I imagine it would. She is obsessed by babies and talks about how she was never good at making babies. When others are pregnant I've been there when she mentions her stillbirth which I think is a little inappropriate. She is very possessive over her grandchildren too.

I just want to know how to support her. I do listen to her. How is she feeling after all this time. I imagine you never get over it. But do you think it's shaped her into the person she is today? I need help understanding her because I find some of her behaviour a little troubling..

OP’s posts: |
Bubblesbambam12 Fri 08-Jan-16 09:24:20

Poor women, Maybe she needs some counselling so she can let go off some of the pain. Im sure you're doing everything as a friend all you can do is listen really, you don't want to tell her she's being to much it may cause arguments.

BeccaMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 08-Jan-16 12:06:59

Hi thisismypassword - we'll pop this over to the Miscarriage/Pregnancy Loss topic now for you.

ohdearlord Fri 08-Jan-16 12:12:01

With it having been that long ago she may not have been given much help besides being told to get on with trying for the next one. Could you ask her if she ever had anyone, just for her, to talk to?

ChatEnOeuf Fri 08-Jan-16 14:10:55

My son was stillborn only last year, but I think I can say with some certainty that it does change you. That long ago I suspect everything was buried, she possibly wasn't able to talk about it and feels grateful to be able to talk now. She also may not have known then what is known now about the things you can do in pregnancy to reduce the chances of a stillbirth, for example, monitoring movements. Might she be trying to warn others?

If her choice of conversation or the words she uses are upsetting you, it's not necessarily something for her to change. If she is upsetting pregnant people by mentioning the unmentionable, surely that's for them to say to her?

AugustRose Fri 08-Jan-16 14:37:54

My son was stillborn over 6 years ago and yes it does change you, how could it not. He was my 4th baby so I at least had 3 previous positive experiences but the fact that your friend lost her first two children will have had a huge impact on her, and she probably did not have much support afterwards.

Perhaps she could do with some counselling to help her talk through her feelings and understand that she was not to blame, as it sound like that is what she believes. Also being overprotective comes with having had a child die, but it can be managed.

However, as for her comments being inappropriate for pregnant women - no they are not. I will sometimes change my conversation around pregnant women but I will not shy away from having lost me son at full term, babies die every day and I think an increased awareness is not a bad thing, but then I am on the other side of the story sadly.

I agree with ChatEnOeuf that if someone is upset by what she says, it is for them to say.

You say that you want to help support her and that is good, but it sounds as if you are the one upset by her comments. Do you know if she goes on Sands? There are many people on there whose babies died a long time ago and have recently found support through it's forum and helpline - it is an amazing resource, they also have literature for family/friends/work colleagues on how to help.

BipBippadotta Fri 08-Jan-16 18:05:23

I think it's lovely that you are trying to find the best way to support your friend.

My daughter was stillborn at full term 15 months ago. It does change you. It destroys your faith in your body, your confidence as a woman, and can leave you with a lingering sense of shame and guilt and failure. These are all utterly normal, almost textbook, responses to what is a huge physical and emotional trauma as well as a devastating loss.

What can also change you is the responses of people around you when it happens. 30 years ago, when your friend's baby was stillborn, the procedures around perinatal death will have been very different. She may not have seen her baby, or known whether the baby was buried or cremated. She may have been sedated and told to forget it ever happened. This is what happened to a relative of mine whose newborn daughter died on the late 70s, and it's haunted her for her whole life.

One of the particularly hard things for me when I lost my daughter is that it was impossible to talk about it. My poor baby had died, I was beside myself with grief, but after the first few weeks, if I mentioned it people looked terrified, or thought I was being macabre. To this day if I mention something that happened 'when I was pregnant', I get that frightened look from people.

That's where the shame comes in - there's something about my life that is so awful, and makes people so squeamish, that it has to be hidden. And at the same time, saying I don't have children when acquaintances ask me - just to spare them the awkwardness - feels hugely disloyal to my daughter, and I feel guilty that I'm 'erasing' her. It's very hard to work out what to do.

You can spend 30 years feeling ashamed and guilty, or you can decide you're not going to pretend your firstborn child never existed - and that can make others uncomfortable. But it's really no skin off their nose.

If you're worried your friend is being inappropriate, try to think whether it would be inappropriate to mention a parent or grandparent who had died. Probably not. As a culture we're terrible at talking about death in general, but we're even more terrible at talking about the death of babies. It can only be a good thing to get a bit better at talking about it without all the superstition.

If your friend thinks she might want some more support, as August says, Sands is a really amazing resource - though I would not send your friend to the forum first. Some people use photos of their stillborn babies as profile pics; having not been warned about that beforehand I got an awful shock and haven't been back since. Cruse bereavement charity will work with complex bereavement from a long time ago. Your friend may also want to try the Compassionate Friends, who offer counselling for the loss of a baby or child, whenever it happened.

thisismypassword Sat 09-Jan-16 20:43:16

Wow what amazing responses. when she brings it up again I will definitely recommend counselling. You are right, I do feel uncomfortable when she talks about it, but that is my problem. I think she is just desperate to talk about it sometimes.

I feel really sorry for her and I just can't imagine going through what she went through - it's unthinkable and thank you to all of you that have shared your stories with me so that I can better understand her. In all honesty, I don't think she'll do the counselling. It's not really her, but I may be wrong. I think the Internet might be a good start for her.

Thanks again.

OP’s posts: |
3littlebadgers Sat 09-Jan-16 21:01:22

Please let her talk about her babies. Everyone gets to talk about their babies, their births. When your child dies you don't suddenly love them any less, you don't feel any less proud to be their mother, to sit there quietly and say nothing while all around you are saying loads, can be heartbreaking. It can feel like you are betraying that child you hold so dear. It can make your heart scream out 'they were real, they were important, and they are still just as loved.'
I have been on the end of people being uncomfortable around me around the memory of my daughter and it makes you shut down, to pull away from those individuals. The day my little girl was stillborn at 40+5 I lost more than a child, I lost who I used to be, I lost my confidence in the future, I lost the right to talk about birth and I lost a lot of people I used to think we're friends.

ChatEnOeuf Sat 09-Jan-16 22:25:05

Completely agree 3. I too have lost friends and confidence. However, I love to talk about my children. Only one of them is here, but I've had four pregnancies and two births and they were legitimate experiences, not dirty secrets. Let your friend join in.

BipBippadotta Sun 10-Jan-16 08:43:53

Yes, 3littlebadgers, that's exactly it. You're made to feel ashamed of something everyone else gets to be proud of. And it can feel like your baby is lost to you all over again.

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