I read this somewhere recently, and I think it's important, so I wanted to muse on it a bit.
When women like me experience the death of a child in this way, one of the first questions people ask is, "How far along were you?" This is a relatively natural question, and the answer is almost irrelevant. 9 weeks. 13 weeks. 20 weeks. Two months. Seven months. Unfortunately, unless women go to full term, they always put in a pesky little word that always causes miscommunication: "only"
I was only 13 weeks.
I was only five months.
I was only half way through.
Here's the problem: When we say "only", we're minimizing our experience. The word choice implies that it's not that important, that we didn't see our pregnancies (not babies, the word choice connotes a reference to the pregnancy, not the child) as being real yet. It's as though, by not going to full term, the death of a child is more acceptable. Clearly it's not.
This also opens the door for the person to say things like, "Thank goodness it didn't happen later." Yes, you're right, I'm so thankful that I didn't get to spend more time with my child. "At least you didn't go to full term." Absolutely; I'm so glad that I my child didn't live longer.
There are added pieces about having an early stillbirth that are actually harder than going full term. Some people don't see my experience as being as valid...like I wasn't that pregnant yet. As such, I don't get as much support and understanding. People don't get why it's so hard, weeks later. Some don't see Charlotte as a baby...to them she was a lost pregnancy, a fetus, not a child. The pictures I have of my time with Charlotte are more controversial since she was so little; she wasn't fully developed and some people can't handle it. I can't share my beautiful little girl with everyone because I worry they will have a bad reaction which will hurt or offend me.
Are there added complications when a full term baby dies that didn't happen to me? Absolutely. I have no empty cradle, because I didn't buy a cradle yet. I thought I had time. I hadn't told the world yet, so I don't have to share my grief with people I don't want to include. I hadn't reached that point yet where the new life is so imminent that my life had already tangibly changed.
Still, I carried, nurtured, and loved my daughter for five months. Then she died. My heartache and grief are valid. If I say I was "only" five months, I'm implying that my and love sadness are not deep. I imply that I lost a pregnancy, not a daughter. Charlotte was and is my daughter, and I mourn her loss to me, to my family, and to the world. I miss her every day.
The person to whom I'm speaking, if I use the word "only", has no chance of understanding Charlotte's impact on my life. If I say I "only" carried her for five months, I'd be lying. It's not true. I was ABLE to love her for five months. I TREASURED my daughter for five months. I spent five months with a little girl I LOVED and LOVE beyond measure.
The word "only" has no place in this conversation....save to say that she was taken from me "only" a month ago.