It has often been said that “silence is golden.” And you know what? It may often be true. That is, until you are the parent of a stillborn baby in a maternity ward. Then, it is not only false, but a most dreadful expression.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote an introductory post about how people can better minister to those who have suffered the loss of a stillborn baby. I would strongly recommend that you take the time to read through the above linked article, so that you are more prepared to understand what I am about to get into here. I listed the 10 things parents of stillborn babies want you to know.
Please understand, this list is not about laying a guilt trip on anyone. It is simply to better inform you on what it is like for parents who go through this tragedy. I am so grateful that I had family, and at least one close friend, show compassion to me when I lost my daughter. And I thank the Lord for that. But I also remember certain things that were very difficult to deal with emotionally, and how the behavior of others intensified those feelings in a negative way. Many people are not prepared to minister in this kind of situation. It is my hope and prayer that this series will help you just a little bit, should you ever encounter someone who has lost their baby to stillbirth. For this post, I want to focus on point #1.
Parents of stillborn babies want you to know…………
#1 We want you to know that we are greatly suffering, and we need you to acknowledge this fact with words of compassion.
Silence Isn’t Always Golden
Most people don’t like the sound of a crying baby. In most cases, it isn’t even because they’re worried about the baby, but because they are bothered by the noise. They find it annoying. They even make some parents feel guilty in public when their babies weep loudly. But parents of stillborn babies recognize the joyful significance of that sound. In fact, the sound of a baby crying is more meaningful to us than most people realize. It is a sound we yearned for in the maternity ward. It is a most precious, but yet at the same time, devastating sound. Why? Because we never had the chance to hear our baby cry. We longed for it. We prayed for it. But it didn’t happen. And the silence was anything but golden.
The Miracle That Happened
We never believed so hard for a miracle as we did on that painstakingly silent day. In one sense, we did witness a miracle. We saw the birth of our beautiful baby boy or girl. We saw their sweet little faces. We saw the shape of their head, and the color of their hair. Their tiny fingers and toes. We experienced the miracle of seeing our baby being born. I described this surreal experience in depth, when I wrote about my baby girl. It was truly a moment of glorious joy and searing pain, all at the same time. Joy because, well, he or she is still yours. But pain because you know you only have a few hours to bond with your weak, bruised, fragile baby. Can you just try to imagine the pain that comes from entering a hospital, going through the admission process, and then entering the dreaded maternity ward? Dreaded? It’s supposed to be a place of life and joy! Yes it is, but not for parents of stillborn babies. We know ahead of time that we are walking into a place of death, not life.
The Miracle That Did Not Happen
Yes, we got to see our babies. But…………..we did not hear them. Or should I say it this way: we did not hear them. We have no memories to cherish of what our babies sound like. You know how you listen to a certain radio station for a long time, and you never see what the DJ looks like. But you try to put a face to them. And then finally, you see them. Either in person or a picture. And they usually don’t look anything like the way you pictured them. Well, it’s kind of the opposite for parents of stillborn babies. We see our baby up close and personal. We hold them and squeeze them tight. But we cannot hear them. They are silent babies. But we try to imagine what they might have sounded like. But unlike finally seeing what the radio DJ looks like, you never finally hear what your baby sounds like. It is a perpetual mystery that we must learn to live with.
Ariana would be 15 on February 20th, 2017. I never got to hear her adorable voice. I just know it would have sounded adorable. Don’t ask me how. I just know. And that makes it all the more painful. And believe me, every parent of a stillborn baby feels the same way I do. They know their baby would have sounded just as precious and cute as mine. If you know the parents of a stillborn baby, remember that we never heard the precious sounds of our little baby. And that is a dreadful silence to be reminded of.
The Hard Questions We Still Ask
We go to the hospital. And if they can’t find a secluded room for us, we will hear other families giving birth to healthy, living, crying babies. We are happy for them. We want them to experience the joy that God has brought into their lives. But then we wonder, “Why us??!!” “Why do we have to hear other babies cry, but not our own?” “Why is my baby’s face bruised?” “Why is the nurse giving my baby her first bath, but also her last bath at the same time?” “Oh Lord Jesus, why is there so much silence??” “Can You let me hear her cry, JUST ONCE?”
We get to see our baby. We get to hold our baby. But we don’t get to hear our baby. And even worse, we don’t get to keep our baby. We don’t change any dirty diapers. We don’t feed them. We don’t cuddle them anymore. The cuddling was short lived, and we knew it. We had to look at their crimson lips and shrunken skull one last time, and then the nurse would say, “I’m sorry, it’s time.” Then they took our baby away. We stagger to our car. We somehow manage to turn the ignition. By God’s grace, we arrive home. Our crib is empty. And now we have to look for a casket.
Helping to Minimize Our Pain
Now that you have a little glimpse into our world, you may be wondering: “What do I say?” What kind of words should you choose? There are no magic phrases here. Be guided by Holy Scripture. Seek God’s Word and pray about the occasion.
Colossians 4:6 states, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
And always go to the book of Proverbs for wisdom in how to bless others with your words.
“A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23)
Timely words? They are so rare, aren’t they? But most of us can relate to an occasion when someone used words in a way that made us feel better. Maybe even when you lost a loved one. I bet you still remember that conversation like it was yesterday. If you want to know what true compassion looks like, please read this incredible testimony.
We Need Your Words
We need to hear words that recognize the reality of our pain. Words that make us feel like you understand that we are suffering, and why we are suffering. Words that make us feel that our babies matter……….not just to us, but to you. Words that recognize the magnificence of our little boy or girl. That he or she is fearfully and wonderfully made by God, created in His image. Words that ease our burden, and help lift just a little of the heaviness off our aching hearts. And words that simply acknowledge that something really horrific just happened to us. They don’t have to be perfect words. There are none.
Remember, we never had the chance to hear our baby cry. We could never have imagined things would happen the way they did. And now, we ask for nothing more than a listening ear and a few compassionate words. They mean more to us than you will ever know.
If you are the parent of a stillborn baby, in what ways has someone richly ministered to you with words of compassion?
Next time I will discuss point #2. “We want you to know that we love our babies as much as any other parent loves their own children.”
Stay tuned for more!
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