“Hey, did you guys hear about Johnny??!!” the proud father excitedly asks his fellow co-workers. “He hit 2 home runs, and he pitched a no hitter in Friday’s game!” “In fact, it was the first no hitter in the schools entire history! I can’t believe it!” The crew gives him a nod of acknowledgement, as if to say “We heard you just mouth a few words in our direction, so we are simply agreeing with what you said.” Then, it’s simply business as usual. No congratulatory words. No excitement. No further questions. Just a simple nod is all little Johnny gets from the crowd. Waiting for any kind of response turns into an agonizing silence. The father waits with annoyance. Nothing. Not a peep. Dead silence. And I mean a dead, awkward, rude, painful, you-gotta-be-kidding-me kind of silence. Apparently, this father’s excitement for his son’s athletic performance is not catchy. He is hurt, but there is nothing he can do about it. He can’t force them to be interested. By not hearing a word of congratulations in response to his son’s great story, the father feels like he was dissed……..treated with contempt. The hurt cuts deep. And the hurt isn’t primarily that he was dissed, but that his son was dissed.
As we continue on with my series on how to minister well to those who have suffered the loss of a stillborn baby, the next two points will be condensed into one overall point.
Parents of stillborn babies want you to know…………….
#6 We want you to become more comfortable in conversation, and not change the subject so quickly whenever we talk about our precious babies.
#7 When we bring up in conversation that we had a stillborn, we want you to know that simply saying “I’m sorry” is a much better option than total, dismissive silence.
Children Deserve Better
The poor, stressed out daddy now figures he can at least brag to the people who attend the same book club meeting he does. He’ll tell them about his son’s amazing performance. “Surely they won’t ignore my own flesh and blood son,” he thinks to himself. “After all the time we’ve spent together. After all the times I listened to their pathetic stories.” This one is a shoe-in, right? After he arrives at the meeting, he goes through the above scenario again. The father repeats, “My son Johnny hit 2 home runs today, and he pitched a no-hitter!!” But this time, things are different. There is a response. As the leader of the discussion group looks toward the others, he says “Oh ok, good for him. Hey, did any of you guys see how many passing yards Brady had last night? He is on my fantasy league ballot, and I missed the box score.” Ouch. The son is dissed yet again. This father may never get over this hurt. And he may hesitate to share anything valuable again. He feels like no one cares about his son. He is feeling the pain of rejection. Not for himself per say, but mostly for his child.
More Than a Baseball Game
As bad as the above example is, imagine that you were talking about more than a performance in a baseball game. Imagine you were talking about the day your child was born. Even more, imagine if you are talking to someone about the day your baby was born……..and died. No parent wants their child to be ignored, either in person or in conversation talking about your child. Especially when you are talking about the painful ordeal of seeing your baby come forth from the womb……….dead. No life. No breath. No smile. No crying. No anything. Then, imagine you try to talk about your baby with others, and instead of being given the gracious liberty to do this, you are shut down because someone had a “more important” topic to discuss. They don’t even give it a second thought. This is so disheartening to parents of stillborn babies. When you ignore our conversation so flippantly, you are communicating to us that our baby is second class. That our baby doesn’t matter. That our baby is too much of an inconvenience to even talk about, or listen to someone else talk about. You communicate to us that you believe that our baby is still born, but not still loved.
Babies Come From God
We all love to talk about things we love. I know……..I’m a genius to figure that out. And since parents love their kids, they also love to talk about their kids. Logical, isn’t it? And parents love for people to listen to them when they talk about their kids. And for good reason. Scripture says, “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3). They are the fruit of a mommy’s womb. They have DNA of both mommy and daddy. They are the miraculous, beautiful result of the one flesh union the Bible talks about (Ephesians 5). And most importantly, babies are human beings created in the image of Almighty God. He has planned for the existence of each and every baby who is ever conceived. Notice I didn’t say born, but conceived. Scripture clearly teaches that life begins at conception, which means that every life of every baby began at conception……..not when the first breath was taken outside the womb.
Could this be why stillborn babies are ignored so much? Is it because he or she never breathed outside the womb? Is it because some people don’t consider them to have ever been fully human? I don’t want to get too far into the abortion issue on this post, but my point is worth considering. Here’s what the Scripture says about personhood in the womb……
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).
King David’s personhood is spoken about long before he ever emerges from the womb. Notice the personal pronoun “my” repeated twice in the above verse. If you are the parent of a stillborn baby, remember that God says they were a person from the very moment of conception. It is a good thing to remind the people in your life of this fact as well.
Love Comes From God
God is the one who implants the love within us that we have for our babies.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).
And even those who don’t know God savingly still have that parental instinct to love and care for their children, and to be zealous for their well-being and their reputation. No matter what the circumstances are of a baby being conceived, or what kind of physical and mental defects the baby may have, or what kind of problems they are born into, they are precious, beautiful, and always a gift from God. He gives the gift of children with the responsibility for parents to love them. And He is the One who empowers us to love them. The fact that parents of stillborns continue to love their babies many years after their death is a God-given emotion. And despite how painful it is sometimes to love a baby you never had the chance to play with, I still wouldn’t trade this pain in for anything. And I’m sure other parents would agree. The pain is evidence of the love we have for them. The memories are even more evidence. Dealing with the pain keeps our eyes focused on Jesus. He dealt with much worse pain. He can handle ours. And one day, He will completely heal our pain.
God knows His precious little ones. And the Bible clearly teaches that personhood begins the moment sperm and egg unite together. Remember, God is sovereign over this baby being conceived. He knows and loves the stillborn baby more than even the parents ever will. God is certainly not responsible for sins anyone commits in the conception of a baby, but He does decree the baby’s conception. In fact, He decrees all things that come to pass. No baby is ever a “mistake.” I was not a Christian when my precious Ariana was conceived. Having sex outside of marriage is clearly forbidden by God. But her birth was still known and decreed by Almighty God. This is a great mystery, of course. But it is the truth of Scripture. So, when a parent of a stillborn baby starts talking about how they had a baby who died during the birth process (or shortly before), remember that God knit this stillborn baby together in mommy’s womb (Psalm 139). Please regard this conversation highly. Not only to minister and show compassion to parents who are deeply hurting, but because the baby is the handiwork of the Almighty. When you listen to someone speak of how much they love and miss their own child, and how much pain they are suffering, you are standing on sacred ground.
We Sympathize With You
It may be uncomfortable for you (we know this). You may not know exactly what to say (and it’s ok, we understand). But other times, you may be thinking about that job promotion, or the fact that you really just want to go home and get something to eat. These things may be true to one degree or another. After all, we are all human and have needs. Conversational skill takes time, education, and effort. Ministering to others effectively takes lifetimes to learn. We don’t expect you to be perfect. But we want you to know that it is hurtful when you remain silent when we just want you to ask a question. Just one question about our baby. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just some type of acknowledgement would be worlds better than total silence, or changing the subject altogether. Little things like that mean so much to hurting people.
Saying “I’m Sorry”
If we bring it up in conversation, you can be absolutely certain that we want to talk about our babies. And we do not desire to have a one-way conversation. We are talking to you. We want you to be a part of the conversation. We are inviting you into our world to bear a little of the burden we have experienced, a tiny piece of our suffering in having a stillborn baby. At that moment, we are giving our hearts to you. We are sharing some of the most intimate, painful details of our life with you. It is a golden opportunity for us to vent our hurts, to take joy in bragging about our baby, to remember and cherish those moments we had with them. Please let us have that experience by listening and speaking words of compassion.
And if you don’t have a clue what to say, just look at us in the eyes softly with compassion and say “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” That’s all. Nothing more is needed. But anything less might be taken as dismissive silence. And that is not good either. As grieving parents, we do want some type of response. And if you simply make eye contact and say “I’m sorry”, you will minister more to us in those few seconds than you will ever know. We certainly don’t expect you to have the same raw emotions as we do. And we don’t even want you to pretend to have the same emotions either. We just want your ears, your eyes, your mouth, and most of all………..your heart. Even if only for a few moments.
We Can’t Help It
Parents of stillborn babies can’t help being hurt and upset when their baby is treated like a second rate conversational topic. No matter who you are, whether your children are living or dead, God has given parents such an immense love for them that we simply cannot help how we feel. We make no apologies for our hurts. Parents of stillborn babies cannot help the fact that blogs like this one have to be written. Everyone else in the world may change the topic, or remain silent. But you can bet your bottom dollar that’ll never be us. We will never stop talking about our babies. Despite all the awkwardness, we will keep trying………always. Our babies are worth it. They may have been stillborn, but they are still loved. And they always will be. So everyone might as well get used to it. Stillborn babies never had the chance to enter a human conversation. Hopefully, the parents are doing their best to make up for lost time.
David Platt once said……..
There is a unique pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a child that never comes.
Platt is right. And since the stillborn child never comes, the parents will work tirelessly to bring that child to others. And they do it through conversation. It is the only way for them to give others a glimpse into a life that ended way too soon. Don’t make parents regret that moment of opening themselves up to you. It is much too precious to them.
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