Born Still

I’ve been lurking on this for the past few days. It’s written by a fellow World Moms Blogger, but not someone I actually know.

Anyway, to make a long story short, this lady was expecting twins when her water suddenly broke at 18 weeks. Against the advice of her doctors, she decided against being induced. She wanted to fight for her babies, and the doctors didn’t seem to understand that.

I don’t know all the details, but the babies didn’t make it.

There’s been a big outpouring of love for this family. Her blog posts are chocked full of comments, first of support and encouragement, then of comfort and understanding. Some are well written, a couple made me cringe. But still people were at least trying to comfort.

It’s made me think about someone else I know, here in Japan, who had a stillbirth.

Our older children are about the same age, and she used to live right across the street from my old apartment. When the boys were little, three or four of us with little ones the same age in the neighborhood used to gather at a little park in the late afternoon. We weren’t friends, really, and didn’t have much in common besides being in the same place at the same time.

Two of the moms found out they were expecting baby #2 around the same time. Their friendship seemed to deepen over night. A few weeks later, I also found out I was pregnant again. Shortly after that, we moved across the neighborhood and lost contact with that little group.

About six months later, I ran into the mommy in question at the doctor’s office. I was swollen like a watermelon by this time, and she, being a few weeks ahead of me, should have been as well. But she obviously wasn’t pregnant anymore.

I didn’t know if I should say anything or not, and in that moment of awkwardness all I could think of was to ask her if everyone was well.

Tears welled up in her eyes, and she told me how just a few weeks earlier she had found out the child she was carrying was a boy. When she went back two weeks later, they told her the baby was dead.

They induced her, without pain medication, and the nurses and midwives pretty much just left her on her own.

“They were so cold,” she said. She was heartbroken, and had stayed at her parents’ house for several weeks, just returning home a few days before.

I patted her arm, and told her how sorry I was, and if she needed anything to give me a call.

Then I went home and e-mailed the one person from the group whose address I know. I wanted to know if they were sending flowers or something, and if I could help.

Her response shocked me.

Basically she said something to the effect that she didn’t know how to deal with her friend, and was ignoring her.


If I’d been better friends with this person, perhaps I would have advised her to do something differently. As it was, I knew then and there that this was not a person I wanted to be close to.

But since then, I’ve heard other Japanese people express similar opinions. Is it a cultural thing, perhaps?

MIL has an acquaintance who lost her arm in a traffic accident twenty years ago. They used to be on friendly terms, but after the accident MIL didn’t know what to say and ignored her.

“She stopped being friendly to me after that,” MIL explained.

Well, duh.

I understand, truly, that awkward feeling, I do. There are lots of times when I don’t know what to say, either. I got an e-mail recently that I didn’t know how to reply to, and after thinking about it for a long time, I decided not to reply. Nothing I could say would make the situation better.

When Dad was dying, his phone was ringing off the hook. Some people wanted to clear the air, or be forgiven or whatever. And Dad wouldn’t take their calls. “Those people want to talk to me for them, and I don’t have time for that.”

And he didn’t.

Maybe in the past I have been guilty of doing the same thing as my acquaintance, or as my MIL. I don’t know for sure. But from now on when I don’t know what to say, I’m just gonna say that. Because it isn’t always what you say that is important, just saying something can be enough.

So I guess I should try to write that e-mail. If it bites me on the butt, so be it.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lipstickrhetoric
    May 04, 2012 @ 16:54:33

    There is nothing more unfeeling as just ignoring those awkward issues, many times just acknowledging the event or issue is enough. I am with you in the idea if it bites then so be it but in my experience it hasn’t todate, mostly i have been greeted with relief and gratitude that I do acknowledge and discuss the hard things.


    • hamakkomommy
      May 04, 2012 @ 19:07:59

      I’m not good at addressing the hard things, that’s for sure. Most times I seem to manage to smooth the situation over without getting “into” it.

      When Dad died, the two things that aggravated me most were the ignorers and the “God’s will”-ers. These days I tend to just say “I don’t know what to say” and give a hug.

      Two people I’m close to are constantly struggling with this. One is an ignorer, the other is a tackle-it-head-on type. It’s hard to watch, and most of the time I end up dealing with it by being the comedian. Hey- it worked in grade school, right?


  2. gaijinwife
    May 04, 2012 @ 18:38:51

    I am torn between wanting to somehow contact my friend (who I wrote about on my blog and who is currently in custody – I think) but hub not wanting me too. I was/am her friend. She must be going through hell and yet its a ‘just ignore everything / head in the sand situation. I’m hoping I have the courage soon to walk up to her parents house and ask how I can get in touch. I doubt her Japanese girlfriends are doing anything. Wishing you the courage to write that email and not ignore too :) ganbaro.


  3. Kym (@kymmytha)
    May 05, 2012 @ 16:31:53

    Cultural thing… lack of script for given situation… one of those cases where a lot of people here are a bit behind the times and younger ones will probably catch up soon, maybe? Last time I was back home I saw my mum (in her 60s) do the ignoring thing because…. she didn’t know what to say I guess. A kiss or a hug or pat on the arm has got to be better than nothing, hasn’t it? I think I’d feel very isolated and bitter if everyone avoided me after a tragedy. :(
    I really feel for women giving birth here – why is the system so cruel? My midwife cousin told me they’ll do double shifts in Australia if a woman is having a still birth, so that the same nurse is there to give support to the mother until she goes home.


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