When your journey is filled over and over again with roadblocks, those around you want to do something, to say something that will make the whole thing better, and so many people end up relying on platitudes.

But, the problem I have found throughout our journey and that I am now experiencing again is that they do nothing except minimize your feelings, worries, panic and instead tell you that person is not a safe person to talk to, give you false hopes, lull you into some false security, anger you, or place blame and even more stress on an already stressful situation.

Mother and son on couch - Parenting After Loss: Living in the Land of Worst-Case Scenario

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I have been thinking a lot more about these platitudes and the feelings that naturally come up and seem to be backed by evidence from our experiences in parenthood.

When we could not conceive, everyone had a story, a tip, a platitude that ultimately told us we were not doing it the right way. When we struggled with loss, again the platitudes came so quickly. After I was hospitalized at 21 weeks pregnant with our daughter Colette, the stories of how many successful pregnancies came after long bed rests flooded my inboxes and my head. When Colette was born at 24 weeks, I was lulled into thinking things would be okay largely based on the lack of real knowledge I had about NICU and prematurity as well as the stories of how years ago, some baby was in an even worse situation and now was a healthy child or adult. Once we redirected again after losing Colette and used a gestational carrier who was having a healthy, normal pregnancy, Covid struck in the second half of the pregnancy, and again, we were told over and over again how it was just going to be okay.

And now, I find myself in a different spot in parenting, but the same feelings are still there. Our LL Cool T is turning three in July and is not talking much. He has a handful of words and sounds, but nothing more. He’s been in speech therapy for a year now, and while he certainly has improved communication, the fact remains that he is delayed, and we do not know why.

It is difficult to see your child grow and develop and yet lack the verbal skills, to miss the milestones, and for me, as a loss mom, it is difficult to not go to the worst-case scenario. It feels like all we get are platitudes, stories, and more feelings. But, in the recesses of my mind, all of the worst-case scenarios play out and I cannot seem to escape them.

So, in light of my feelings and that I cannot escape these platitudes, I thought I would take this opportunity to shed light on specific statements and offerings that should be removed from our vocabularies.

“Let’s not go there yet.”

Go where? The very worst situation? Yeah, my journey so far has taught me that I live there, in the land of worst-case scenario. Telling me not to go there when that is often what feels the most comfortable, the most familiar, is in direct conflict with everything we have experienced.

  • Have I endlessly googled to find out the cause behind Elliott’s speech delays? Yes.
  • Have I sometimes convinced myself he suffers from a disease or condition that scares me? Yes.
  • Do I fear that there is something wrong? Yes.
  • Do I have faith things will be all right? Not even slightly.
  • Does information like the chances of x are less than this percentage help alleviate my worries? Can I get a hell no?
  • Do I have some PTSD and concern that we need to act fast and does that in fact make me feel even more isolated? YES!!!!!

“Don’t jump to the worst-case scenario.”

See above. I live here. Every experience has taught me that whatever that narrow percentage of it happening will happen to me and to our family. Plus, likely whatever worries and panic I have built up in my head are probably way worse than the reality. Not to mention that every time someone else says this or something similar, my immediate thought is well, I guess that’s another person I can take off the list, and then that leads to more isolation and more worry.

“Enjoy this right now.” 

I hate this part. When we couldn’t conceive, they would tell us to enjoy the time without kids, and it always irritated me. We definitely loved being just the two of us and did enjoy that time, but it’s also because we loved each other so much that we wanted to grow our family.

When we first started noticing the speech delays, other parents would tell us, well, enjoy this time because once they start talking, you’ll wish they would stop. Time goes on, and it just continues to hit harder because it’s like, okay, so we enjoyed some of that time, but now we would love nothing more than to have a kid who talks too much.

“Let me tell you what happened with [insert name/relationship here].”  

Oh, the stories. I have heard about them all, from the kid who just didn’t feel like talking until one day someone asked, so why haven’t you talked and the kid responded clear as day, “I just didn’t feel like it,” to the stories of a kid who did not speak until age seven and then just started talking one day out of the blue and in complete, correct sentences with no issues.

And that’s great for all of those kids and their parents. But, the thing is, there is absolutely no guarantee on anything, so while it may have happened one way for a kid you know, there is nothing to say that my son will be the same. Plus, I am willing to bet that all the parents in these stories still dealt with frustration and worry and second-guessing everything until their kids spoke, and perhaps even after they did. The feelings of struggle, failures, being knocked down, and getting back up don’t ever really go away. I know this because when it comes to our infertility struggles, even though it has been years and even though we have a child at home, I am still traumatized by all that we went through, and I am sure that when this is behind us, I will still be vigilant and worried. The bottom line is that even if this all turns out to be okay, it still is tough right now, and I want others to support my feelings or at least not try to minimize them.

“Just stay positive.”

Oh, this makes me want to scream. Want to know what I am positive about? I am positive that whatever that small percentage of risk is, we will find ourselves in there. Why do I feel this way? Because I have a ton of evidence showing that when there is a small chance, it is bound to happen to us.

At the end of the day, I am always grateful that we have a happy, healthy, creative, and fun kid.

I know that he is communicating and that he is just a good kid, but I also worry about him constantly just like every parent does about their kids. Add to that the traumas and stress of loss, and it’s enough for me to just want to stick him in a bubble and keep him safe. So, the next time you feel yourself thinking of one of these platitudes, please think of me and maybe choose different words.

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