I first met Andi and her husband 6 years ago, before kids, before T1D. She is a wonderful woman full of meaningful life experiences. She has an amazing story, one I would like to share with you today. She is not a mother of a T1D, but she is a mother putting on a brave face... something I can relate to. I thought her words expressed perfectly what I have been trying to say for a few months now. October was declared Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in the United States. So please read her story and share.
When I was first diagnosed with uterine cancer, I received a barrage of sentiments from friends and family. Some were very encouraging. Others were a bit backhanded - sure, they said that they were sorry to hear of my situation but then wondered if it was my lifestyle that contributed to the cancer. And yet others - even people I've known for years and years - said absolutely nothing.
I suppose I'm a bit of a romantic at heart. I had this image in my mind that my girlfriends would gather at my home and surround me with love. I pictured them having t-shirts made that said "Team Andi! Screw Cancer!" I pictured them rooting me on and being at the hospital for my major procedures. I pictured them all shaving their heads when I started to lose my own hair.
Thankfully, my cancer was caught in time and I never lost hair. Those movie scene moments never really happened - except for one night when my girlfriends came over for a girls' night and we talked about the diagnosis a bit.
Even though I had an amazing circle of support and love around me, it still hurt me that several people never acknowledged my situation. Never said a word. They acted as if my life was normal when it was far from it.
Fast forward a few years. My cancer is in remission and I'm the proud mother of a beautiful baby boy we adopted in the summer of 2011.
In early 2012, we were told by our son's birth mother that she was once again pregnant and that she was considering placing the baby for adoption. She wasn't sure what she was going to do but wanted us to know as the baby was our son's full sibling. If she decided to place her baby, she'd wanted him or her to be with us.
Several months passed and before long it was our son's first birthday. It was after his party that his birth mother told us that she had decided that she wanted us to adopt the baby. We were overjoyed and thrilled that our son would grow up with his full sibling. We'd been informed by his birth mother that she was most likely having a boy. We decided on the name Jace.
As time went on, things seemed to take a turn. Ultimately, the birth mother was having trouble with her decision. She finally decided to keep the baby. I was heartbroken.
Weeks passed and we heard nothing from the birth mother. We battled on and continued on with life as we knew it. The baby was due September 18th. When the first day of September rolled around, my sadness deepened and I was consumed with a darkness I was not prepared for. I was sad for my son. He has two half-siblings and has met one of them. But this...this was his full sibling. How do I explain to my son that 15 months after he was born that his birth mother had another baby, his full brother, and had chosen to keep him? I did not look forward to that conversation. My heart ached for my baby boy.
On September 7th, 2012, I received word that the birth mother was hospitalized and that she had lost the baby. He was stillborn on September 6th, 2012. My world crumbled around me and my heart shattered into a million pieces. I ached for her. I ached for my son. I ached for her family and mine. I ached for all the people impacted by this tragic loss.
Even though she had chosen to keep the baby, she gave him the name we'd chosen for him. I can't begin to describe this pain, this heartache, this overwhelming sadness that consumed me. I had loved Jace from the moment I knew he existed.
When we made the announcement of his passing, many people gave their condolences. Once again, several said nothing at all. Since my cancer diagnosis, I have been told by some that they never said anything because they did not know what to say. I'm sure this situation was even more awkward to those around us.
I know it's difficult for people to understand why I feel this way. He was not "my" baby. He was not in my belly for 9 months. I never felt him kicking inside me. Why should I be in so much pain when she had changed her mind? These are all the questions that people privately wondered. It's an adoption thing, I suppose. Unless you'd been there, perhaps you'd not understand.
Some people around me acted as if things were fine. Normal. Business as usual. But life for us was far from that.
I wanted to scream: "I'm hurting. I'm not okay. My life has been turned upside down!"
What can you say? Say anything. Say SOMETHING. Just say SOMETHING. Please. I just want to know that you hear me. I just want to know that you understand that I am in pain. I just want to know that I'm not alone in this. Even as a Christian, who believes that my God is always with me and can and will turn tragedies into blessings, I still desire and appreciate comfort and encouragement from my friends and family.
Generally, when there is a situation when I am at a loss for words, I tend to say, "I'm sorry. I'm here. Is there anything I can do? Whatever you need, whenever you need it. Just know that you are not alone. I love you."
I found something on Pinterest that really hit home and I suppose if I am ever in a situation where I do not know what to say, I'll likely say something similar to this:
"To be honest with you, I don't have the words to make you feel better, but I do have the arms to give you a hug; ears to listen to whatever you want to talk about; and I have a heart - heart that's aching to see you smile again."
I am grateful to my friends who have been so supportive during our time of mourning. While the pain still lingers, the encouragement, prayers, and love from the people around us has helped a great deal. Some shared our tears. Others shared our heartbreak. Yet others simply offered a quiet squeeze or hug.
Sometimes, that's all it takes to make these difficult times a bit easier to bear. Acknowledgement and support and follow-up acknowledgement and support. It doesn't matter how close we may be - the kindness of strangers can mean so much, too.
So, the next time someone is going through a rough patch, acknowledge it and if you feel so inclined, offer an ear, a shoulder, or say, "I don't know what to say but I am so sorry that you are going through this" or "I know you're not okay, so I won't ask how you are. I will ask, what can I do to help?" or "Are there any updates? What do you think I should know?" or "Do you want to talk about it?"
It'll make a difference. Trust me.