I am normally not a big fan of the general advice column. I mean, how can one person offer advice on such a diverse range of issues—from relationships to divorce to fighting with in-laws to infertility? I know that while I could probably dole out some advice when it comes to certain areas of infertility (treatments--but not adoption or third party reproduction), raising twins, or just being a fantabulous woman-about-town (by the way--that's how fantastic and fabulous I am--the words just merge when they describe me), most other issues in life are just a guess. I don't know for certain how to help someone through a divorce because I have never experienced divorce. My fallback is just to sit and listen. But that's not really...advice.
But I was pleasantly impressed with Ms. Hax this morning and her recent Tell Me About It column.
TELL ME ABOUT IT
By Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff WriterFriday, October 20, 2006; Page C02
My wife had a string of first-trimester miscarriages over the past two years. Devastated us both. Now she's five months pregnant, gorgeous, glowing, healthy (according to a new doctor we both trust). I am overwhelmed with my excitement; she is numb with fear. She hasn't told anyone but me, and won't even let me be happy for us. I know our baby will be okay and I feel like we're missing out on being the happiest we've ever been. What should I do now that it turns out my excitement isn't as contagious as I thought it was?
Carolyn's Answer: Consider your wife, whose fear hasn't been as contagious as she had probably hoped. This is not a gratuitous downer, it's the truth: You don't "know" your baby will be okay. Nobody does. Most babies are okay but some aren't.
And, someone who has internalized bad news, especially recently, won't buy into a mood that's built on a belief that bad news won't happen. Not only does it directly contradict what she has felt in her own body, it minimizes it. It's like you're saying, "Okay, the fetus is healthy, we're all better now!"
You don't mean to do this, you mean well, I think that's clear. But you're essentially denying her grief, which is no doubt still fresh. In fact, the joy of a healthy pregnancy can actually exacerbate grief by underscoring what she lost in those first babies.
It can also make the specter of loss loom even larger: If she feels she barely made it through those early miscarriages, how will she endure a loss now, or, unthinkably, later on, when the love for her baby grows with each passing day?
This probably sounds like a primer for how you don't want to think right now. But I'm willing to guarantee she's thinking it already, so nothing you say will be persuasive until it sounds like the truth and not just wishful thinking. She might even benefit from talking to others who have been through similar losses, so she can work these things out at her own pace; your obstetrician should have a ready supply of resources.
I think your optimism will help, too -- once she hears that you get it. You get the risks, and you're excited and unafraid to love your baby anyway. Maybe because you're not denying life is tenuous, you're accepting it -- and so you take your joy where you can.
Not sure if Carolyn ever experienced a pregnancy loss or pregnancy after infertility/loss, but I was duly impressed with her advice.
What's your take?