There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about how mothers who lose their babies to stillbirth, miscarriage or neonatal death, feel and behave. It is almost all nonsense and very misleading and patronising, not only for the mums themselves, but also for those trying to support and interact with them. When your child dies as a baby, it really really messes with your sense of reality and with your ability to trust your own instincts and retain your identity, (something which is hard enough for any new mum!) and these myths exacerbate the problem.
One good example, is the ridiculous idea that a mother whose baby has died might want to just replace it with someone else’s baby instead. In fact, very soon after Liberty died, there was an extended plotline on Eastenders where this exact thing happened. The way the women were portrayed was moving and the actresses were brilliant. However, this is so unrepresentative of the feelings and behaviour experienced by parents of stillborn babies, and supports the insulting cliché that a baby is not a human being, but just a thing that women want to have, one being interchangeable with another.
Let me ask you something; if your mother died, would you be quite happy just to take mine instead? Not really a sensible question is it. The problem is, that this misconception, like many others, feed lots of difficult interactions with friends when your baby has died. Most new mothers will have friends who are also having or have just had their own new babies, and this is difficult territory for all concerned – in my view, this is in great part because of this stupid myth. Here is another question; if your friend’s husband had just died, would you meet your widowed friend for lunch and bring your husband and cuddle him at the table? Thought not. Does that mean that your friend wants to replace her husband with yours? .. You see babies are actually human beings, not possessions or dolls that women want to own. I can honestly say that I never particularly liked anyone else’s newborn baby other than my own, and I certainly didn’t want to take someone else’s home on any day of my life. Especially not when I was grieving.
You do not struggle to spend time with your friends and their newborns when your own baby has died because you want their baby. But you might not want to. Here’s why –
1. When you are grieving for your child, you need your friend’s full attention and sympathy.
2. Being with a newborn who is not your child, is something a person only does either through necessity when they are a new mum and need company, as a favour to friends and family, or because they are being paid. It is hard work, boring and annoying. You should not be expected to do people favours when you are grieving. It’s as simple as that.