Crisp cool air. Boots. Pumpkin flavored everything. Death. Heartache. Love. Hope. Remembrance. Oh wait…these aren’t the things you think of when someone says October? Maybe not all of them anyway…unless you are 1 in 4.
Before the spring of 2010 fall was a season of transition for me. My birthday is in October so maybe I’m a bit partial to the smell of people burning leaves, or the way it feels to step on a crunchy red or yellow leaf. That crunch is one of the most satisfying sounds! Summer had turned to fall and it’s like you can feel the earth getting sleepy. Pulling the cozy quilt up to it’s chin in preparation of the wintertime slumber. I always had the best time enjoying the sights and smells of fall until that year. In 2010 I learned of a new thing people celebrate in October; Pregnancy and Infant loss awareness. Because in April of that year I heard the sentence no 35 week pregnant mother wants to hear; We can’t find his heartbeat. I can’t even type it out without tears silently running ribbons down my cheeks. The little boy who was so loved and wanted had gained his angel wings and flown home before I could even say good bye. Our lives are forever defined as “before” and “after” from that point forward.
Losing a child is a pain that is almost indescribable to others. I don’t care if you were 4-5 weeks along, 35-40 weeks, or your baby was in his/her adulthood. There is just something inherently wrong with burying your child. It’s not the way things should go. The parents are supposed to go to heaven first after spending a long life loving on and raising their babies, not the other way around. But that’s not the reality of the broken world we live in. In reality parents sometime lose many many children. I personally know parents who have lost more than 5 babies. It’s not fair and we don’t understand it at all. The family and friends are there for us for awhile, maybe a year or two if you are especially lucky. Then they stop asking how you are. They stop sending cards on the baby’s “angelversary” (the day the baby went to heaven.) and wonder why you aren’t the same old you that you used to be. It doesn’t matter if you are moving forward, or have gone to counseling, joined a support group, or gotten on some antidepressants. You are never the same and people see it. Maybe you worry more than before. Or you don’t find the same jokes funny. People don’t understand that you will never be “over it” because the “it” they are referring to was a child who was wanted and loved. They don’t understand so they walk away.
This is why I’m so thankful for pregnancy and infant loss awareness! 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in loss. Did you know that? Almost 50% of pregnancies will end not in a baby coming home to be loved on, but heartbreak as the parents come home with empty arms. You may think you don’t know anyone who has lost a child but people are told to not talk about their baby/loss. It makes everyone else sad so just pretend it didn’t happen. Parents aren’t getting the support they need and are suffering silently because of the stigma that is talking about their baby. When a grandparent dies or another adult relative, don’t we remember the good times we shared and tell the stories of times past? We don’t pretend that person never lived a life or take down the pictures that have been on the walls for years. Yes it’s sad, and the parents may cry when you bring up their child’s name, but I promise you it’s OK to see someone cry. The crying is part of the healing. When you remember the child with the parents you are helping to keep that baby’s memory alive. You are giving the parents an outlet for their grief so they can process it and keep going forward. We never “get over” the pain of a loss but we can learn to smile again. We just can’t do it alone. We need the love and support of family and friends not just those first few days but for all days.
Different things will trigger the pain once again so we may avoid things that seem like no big deal to others…baby showers, hospitals, maybe just a specific hospital, visiting other parents with newborns, etc. Others need to give us grace and accept that we are never the same, but we are not damaged goods either. We still want to be involved with the outside world. We still want to be a part of life, we just have to figure out how to do that again.
So this October please remember the babies that have gone before us that we are missing so much. Send a card to the parents you know who are hurting. If a certain animal reminds them of their child, find a memento with that animal and give it to them in memory of the child. Text or call and say that you are thinking of them and their baby. Even visit the grave site if there is one or light a candle and send the parents a picture. I know that when friends go visit my son’s grave and leave a little toy or flower or balloon it makes me feel so loved. These are such simple things that mean SO much to parents who will always have that empty chair glaring at them from across the dinner table.
Help me erase the stigma that surrounds pregnancy and infant loss. Share this with someone. Maybe they will find a resource they have been desperately looking for, or someone will finally know what to do to comfort their loved one in a time of deep sadness. I will never stop being a voice for those babies who don’t have one, and their parents who don’t know how to ask for help. I’ll never stop being the best mother I can be to not only my living daughter but also my angel son, because I’ll never stop being 1 in 4.
Visit http://nationalshare.org to find more info on support for grieving parents and those who love them.