No One Told Me I Could Cry
"Sorrow makes us all children again." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Post-Abortion Review
Vol. 7, No. 1, Jan-Mar 1999
by Connie Nykiel, RN
The Elliot Institute
Reproduced with Permission

I teach childbirth education to pregnant teenagers. My job is to prepare young parents for parenthood. This includes the possibility of parenting a baby with a birth defect or being the parent of a baby that is miscarried, stillborn, or dies soon after birth.

This is the hardest class for me to teach. Young mothers don't want to talk or think about it. It is their worst fear. I usually end up telling them that if it is too painful to think about their own babies dying, then listen and learn how to help others who have lost a baby.

We talk about the stages of grief, the feelings of those who are mourning, what to say and what not to say. We read poems and letters that mothers have written to their babies.

When I held this class during the fall of 1993, the girls, like all the girls in the classes before them, put their hands over their ears and said they didn't want to hear about it.

Despite their protests I taught the class and before I knew it, the girls were talking about an aunt, cousin or friend who had lost a baby. They said they wished they would have known what to do and say before. They realized that they had said and done some of the things that hurt these parents.

One of the young mothers-to-be, Maria, bravely told us how her little boy died only a few hours after birth. I do not know how or why her little boy died because it seems no one ever told Maria. She didn't get much sympathy and the only way she new how to cope was by becoming pregnant again. She thought that would make the pain go away, but it didn't.

The girls in the class hugged her, comforted her and said all the right things. They had listened well and I was proud of what they did for Maria. They decided to have a memorial service for Maria's baby.

There were four girls in the class who had miscarriages. They were slow to mention their miscarriages at first. It seemed they weren't even sure that it was normal for them to mourn for their babies. We listened with horror as they told about some of the cruel things that were said to them.

They received little comfort. They were told to get on with their lives. They were told that their baby's death was for the best, that they shouldn't have been pregnant anyway, and that their baby's death was a punishment from God. Few felt comfortable crying in front of family and friends. They had learned to hide their feelings and hold back their tears.

By the end of the class we all had stuffy red noses from crying. We were tired. We had shared and grown closer. At the end of class I casually mentioned that girls who have abortions or make adoption plans for their babies can also grieve deeply. Little did I know what that one statement would do.

Three girls came to my office that afternoon. Every one of them had had an abortion. Each one had a story that tore at my heart. They were all mourning for their babies and didn't know it. Their trust in me led me to love them even more than I already did.

Tiffany's Story

Tiffany was a young girl whose face full of tears I will always remember.

You couldn't help but notice her. She was a troublemaker. She was large and loud. She caused fights wherever she went. She questioned everything her teachers said. Her own mother, brothers, and sisters didn't want to be around her. She complained about the teachers, lousy food, being poor, stupid boys, stuck-up girls, an unfair world, and the color of the walls.

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