March 12, 2010
There is a woman in my mom’s group whose 3rd (of 4) child died at age 3.5 last summer due to a drowning accident. She is now pregnant with child number 5 and is hesitant to tell extended family. She is worried about people referring to the new baby as a “replacement child” – as though there is such a thing.
People say a lot of dumb things when they don’t know what else to say and when they are afraid of the silence of saying nothing.
I do not pretend to know what it’s like to lose a child like she did, but I do relate a little bit to the fear of people saying something that would be unintentionally hurtful.
People, on occasion, still say dumb things to me. I’m not sensitive about it, so it doesn’t hurt me, but it does annoy me. There are a few tactics that I used when we were starting down the adoption path to try to avoid what I was sensitive about then:
- I did major announcements via email. This eliminated anyone feeling the need to say something when they haven’t had ample processing time and allowed me to give plenty of thought to what I wanted to say and not get interrupted or flustered.
- I told people how to feel. I did a lot of “We are excited about this and hope you are too…” In my mind, that eliminated anyone feeling the need to feel sorry for us because we were choosing something a little “different”. I left no room for people to wonder if we were sad even the littlest bit because we weren’t and we didn’t think anyone else needed to be either.
- If there was a question as to the reaction, I let other people do the dirty work. I asked my parents to tell my grandmother than the baby we were going to be adopting would be half black. She is 94 and prone to a level of racism that was acceptable in her day, but is certainly not acceptable (nor should it have been then). If she was going to say something negative, I didn’t want to hear it. I don’t know how she handled the news when she first heard it, but I’ve not ever had an inkling of any kind of issue from her toward Baby Swiss.
- I tried to treat everything as normal as possible. Taking a “no big deal” approach, seems to leave everyone else more comfortable with asking questions and getting more involved in the process. For me, this involved (and still does) a bit of humor here and there.
I remember typing those emails and it feels like a lifetime ago. I suppose it was a lifetime ago. A Baby Swiss lifetime.
Anyone else have good tips?