You know how some people always know what to say? I am not one of those people. I swear, I am the worst person to ever walk the earth at knowing what to say in awkward/delicate situations.
Yesterday, I went to kettlebell conditioning class at my gym. We all knew that the instructor’s wife was pregnant and that they were going to find out the sex at the next ultrasound. (My gym is a small “boutique” type gym, and everyone knows one another and people often socialize together so it’s kind of a different vibe than a big box major chain gym.) Anyway, after the class is over, another girl asked if they had found out yet if the baby was a boy or a girl. The instructor then told us that when they went for the ultrasound, they found out that the baby had died. My heart just broke for him. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a baby, and at 20 weeks it must just be excruciating. Everyone said they were sorry, of course.
Shortly afterwards, most of us (minus our instructor) were standing in the parking lot chatting, and of course our instructor’s terrible loss comes up. And of course, there is a lot of, It’s probably for the best, There was probably something genetically wrong with the baby, It wasn’t meant to be, etc. Then someone brings up this article she read, which interviewed the mother of a little boy born at 24 weeks. Needless to say, the child had a number of developmental delays and issues. Based on what my friend said, the mother in the article said that while she loved her son dearly, in hindsight she wishes she had just held him in her arms at birth and let him go when he was born, rather than having saved him at all costs.
I haven’t read the article, so I obviously have no idea what the medical specifics were in this case or what the mother specifically said, but it makes my heart hurt to think of a mother believing her child would have been better off dying. After my friend shared this, people were talking about how they totally agreed, the child would have been better off, etc etc etc. And of course, I stood there like a bump on a log. On the one hand, here is this perfect opportunity to say something, anything in defense of the sanctity of human life, even if said life suffers from disease or disorder. On the other hand, here I am in a group of women who are only casual acquaintances, and statistically speaking, many of them have likely had a miscarriage or abortion. So one wants to tread lightly and avoid saying something hurtful.
Of course, I avoid saying something hurtful by not saying anything at all, which somewhat misses the point, I think. I wanted to say something that would encompass the sorrow a parent must feel when something is very wrong with their child, an acknowledgement of the real suffering that is inflicted on the family, and yet the fact that this child is still a precious and irreplaceable gift.