Friday, April 12, 2013

What to say: Congratulations

I've decided that rather than write one post full of things that are helpful to hear as a bereaved parent, I'm going to focus on one at a time. That way I can go into detail and not make you sit through a thousand word essay!

If someone has a baby, often the first word out of a person's mouth is "congratulations". And it's a word that parents love to hear. They are proud of the child they created, and love to be congratulated on it. Let me tell you a secret: that doesn't change just because the child has died. Ariella was beautiful. I happen to think that Marcus and I did a fairly awesome job, and hearing others say that makes me smile.

I only know what it's like to lose a baby late in pregnancy, but a dear friend of mine had a miscarriage, and she said the same thing - it's wonderful when someone says congratulations on the baby... it means you have recognised their existence. And for that, we are grateful.

It might seem odd to you, to say congratulations for a baby who has passed away. But a baby is still a baby! It doesn't matter at what stage a baby died, whether it was as late in the pregnancy as Ariella, half way through, or even the very early stages - a mother is still a mother, and someone saying congratulations means that they recognise the miracle that is your child.

We were blessed to receive a number of cards after Ariella's birth. I appreciate every single one of them, and have read all of them numerous times. But among all the sympathy cards were something you may not have expected: a few "baby girl" cards. Cards to say "congratulations on your baby girl, she will always be remembered". And I loved them! It wasn't until I received the first one that I realised how sad I was to not have more of them. In a way, people had acknowledged Ariella's death without acknowledging that she had lived. (I should pause here to reiterate that I loved and appreciated every single card we received, and in no way wish to say that a sympathy card was appreciated less. So please do not feel bad if you sent a sympathy card.)

Losing Ariella has been tough. But I feel like I've missed out on more than just having a living child. I've missed out on getting asked how labour and birth went. I've missed out on getting asked questions about my daughter (things like what colour hair and eyes she had). I've missed out on getting congratulated for the miracle that is my daughter.

So while it may seem strange to congratulate someone after the loss of a baby...consider it. It doesn't have to be the first word out of you mouth, but think about maybe saying it. If it's their first child, congratulate the couple on becoming parents, because that's what they are (even if their child is no longer with them). And be sensitive when you say it. Say something like "congratulations, I'm sorry you didn't have more time with them" or "congratulations, they are a gift from God." Or just say congratulations. It will mean a lot. Trust me.


Kerlie McGerser said...

I hope this doesn't come across as lame after reading your post, but I want to wish you congratulations on becoming Ariella's mother. Congratulations on giving birth to a beautiful baby girl.

I hear you on missing out on getting to talk about all of those things, like labor and what she looked like and what your experience was like. I feel the same way. I won't be a part of those conversations with other women right now because, while we have our stories, they're scary and sad and not the same as everyone else's. I would be happy to ask about and hear all the details of your experience, if you ever want to share.

Larissa said...

Thank you, I appreciate it :)

Mall Beats said...

this is not good advice for everyone some people may see this as being cruel or inappropriate

Larissa said...

I agree that it's not for everyone - only you can know you or your friend's situation and can make a judgement about whether this is appropriate. I just wanted to let people know they should consider it, because many loss mamas that I know have thought the same as me.

Samantha Bode said...

My baby girl was born already in Heaven last week, at 32 weeks gestation. This article means so much. I've watched people go through similar terrible situations and never thought to say congratulations, but now as I go through it all I want is for everything to not be about her death. I want to tell my labor story, and we are parents now... so congratulations and baby cards and all of the things that people say and do when you become parents are still appropriate just because it doesn't come with an outfit or gift for her. She's already got the best present, wings from God :)

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