This month is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
This month, many moons ago, I had the naive belief that I was going to become a mother for the first time. October 4, 2004 I was to give birth to my first child, a boy. He was to be our family’s first grandchild and nephew. However, he was born prematurely and while he still filled all those spots in our family, he did so in name only. He did not survive and while I had given birth, I was not quite sure if he was real.
I did not quite know how to navigate this journey as I was the first of all my friends to start a family, and they were all watching my pregnancy to see how we were supposed to do The Mommy Thing. But like so many other pregnancies, one in four (or potentially more), this was not meant to be. Statistics were not on my side. However, at that time I did not realize that so many of those I saw walking at Wal-Mart with swollen, pregnant bellies would not go on to bring their baby home either. Or the new mom who doesn’t even know she is pregnant yet, and finds out when she miscarries a few days later. And those new couples that did everything right, I see them too. They went to college, graduated, got good jobs and bought a house. They did it all “right”. And soon even they will have a baby born that does not live, and they will be in this club too.
But it wasn’t spoken of, so I passed numerous women suffering just like myself. With nesting instincts that had nowhere to go, hearing crying sounds that I knew couldn’t be there but oh my gosh how I wished so hard for them to be my son. I could not know how many of my grandmother’s friends would comfort me and remind me how lucky I was that I got to hold my son and see him, in their day they never saw their child or even were told the gender. Many of them imagined their child as a boy, or could envision blonde hair and curls, each had a connection still. No matter how many years it had been. A child is a child is a child. There is no time stamp on beginning or end.
After all these years I’m still meeting people around the world that have buried a child. I met a woman last year in Iceland. She was traveling with her adult daughter and son-in-law. The couple were exasperated from traveling with her and I offered to sit with her on the long bus ride to our destination: a glacier to have a two hour hike. The woman had a very thick German accent and was proud to be 78. During this drive I found out this woman loved traveling with her daughter but didn’t understand why her daughter got so crabby with her. She explained how she was very European and would often be naked in her hotel room and that seemed to bother her daughter. Which confused her, they are both grown women, what’s the problem?! I also learned that this woman had more than that woman across from me as a child. She’d had another child when she was 22, that did not survive and was her first. We were immediately bonded and talked for another hour with ease. We shared a bond that two humans should never have to share; a bond that connects you on an island that neither are native to, that is inhospitable in numerous ways but connects humans across The Pond in a way that neither of us will ever forget.
I remember the woman in the make-up aisle with her miracle baby screaming, her being unapologetic and me being able to sense why. We met and talked, shared our stories of earning our Rainbow Babies, and the loss of self that goes with that triumph. I remember the woman who asked me at the mall to do a survey for her, I declined and said it was a bad day for me, “sorry”. I decided to tell her why, out of vulnerability and desperation to talk about my son. She listened and told me how in the early ‘70’s she had a child, she’s fairly certain she heard the nurse say it was a girl, and she loves that girl to this day. She named her, thought of her each year on her birthday, and always will.
So please know, if you’re the 1 in 4, so am I. So are so many women you pass in traffic, at the store, work with, sit by in church, dance with, live near, or hug daily. Please know that it is normal to think of your child every day, to not think of your child daily, to go to the cemetery constantly, or rarely go to the cemetery. It is normal to dread baby showers and birth announcements, it is normal to feel jealousy and anger over others getting to be parents but feeling as if you don’t get to be one or even speak of being one.
You are NOT ALONE. Please know there are groups, resources, books, and events that will support you in this journey. It is just that, a journey. There are frustrations, crazy thoughts and feelings, isolation, cold comments, loss of friends and family. There are also gains of new friends that have shared the same experience, a richer understanding of life, and a chance for us to decide our child’s long lasting effect on this world like we could not control otherwise.
Please join us, or find other support groups in the community, to aid you in grieving the loss of your child everyday, not just during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
If you are interested in joining us for a free event honoring the lives of our babies on October 15, please considering attending Tulsa's National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day at Floral Haven Rose Chapel at 6:00 p.m. Get more details on the event here.