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Wake Up

If the children don’t grow up,
our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We’re just a million little gods causin’ rain storms,
turnin’ every good thing to rust.
I guess we’ll just have to adjust.

Candles

It’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. We will be lighting three candles at 7 p.m., joining in the ‘wave of light’ spanning the globe.

I don’t think I can say much more about the hows — sharing this experience has been a large part of my healing, and there are only so many angles one can take. But it occurs to me that maybe I should explain the why. Why do I keep talking about this? Isn’t it a private thing? Doesn’t exploring grief and remembrance keep people locked into that sadness? Shouldn’t I have moved on? Why does this even matter? Don’t I know that I’m making people feel uncomfortable?

I keep talking about this because, when we lost three pregnancies in the span of several months, I rarely felt alone. And I rarely felt alone because there were people around me who were willing to share, to talk, to say, I have been there and you will get through this.

I do not know why many people consider pregnancy and infant loss (and infertility, for that matter) a private thing. I understand it on a personal level — not everyone wants to broadly share and that is of course a personal decision that we all make. But as a society? Many of us can agree that it takes a village to raise a child, but where is that village when the child, or the potential for a child, is lost? We understand grief when we lose mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers — even pets. But pregnancies are supposed to be hidden away until that mythical time when you’re out of the ‘danger zone’ because people don’t like to address the fact that pregnancies fail and babies die. Women, men, families — we need that village, that support, that collective strength and understanding, whether our children are living or gone or still a hoped-for dream.

Does exploring grief make me sad? No. Pregnancy loss is a thing that happened to me, and to my family. It had very real effects. It has spilled over into navigating pregnancy after loss, which has been in many ways, even more challenging. Exploring those impacts has helped me work to overcome anxiety and sadness and fear. It has opened up new friendships and deepened those that already exist, as we cover shared ground. It has allowed me to, in turn, extend my own support to others dealing with fresh grief, because I have, so very much, been there. If turmoil is thrown into my life I am damn well determined to learn from it.

I’m not sure there’s such a thing as moving on from loss — at least for me. Everyone’s experience is different. Mine, thus far, appears to have left an indelible mark. At first it was harsh and angry and very visible. It is fading with time and conscious effort and the understanding that it’s okay to let it fade, and it’s also okay to acknowledge that, when one’s life is altered by an event or series of events, it’s nearly impossible to completely let that go.

Why does this even matter? Because the stats say that around one in four women experience miscarriage. But people don’t talk about it. And when they do, they often say diminishing things — At least it wasn’t a real baby. At least you know you can get pregnant. It’s probably a good thing; it wouldn’t have worked anyway. God has other plans. It’ll happen when you relax. 

Maybe it’s a misguided attempt at empathy. Maybe it’s old attitudes that still stick around, because loss is not a part of our conversations as a society. But what that means, for the women and families in the middle of these experiences… It meant I lost three pregnancies in a row and still had to find a new doctor to get someone to finally give me a referral to a specialist. It meant being told that stress causes miscarriages so really, it was kind of my fault that it happened. It meant hiding tears when confronted with yet another comment about how we should really have a second child because in the meantime my body was actively fighting against me while I tried to do just that — and some of those people knew about it while still asking me.

So maybe hearing about loss makes you uncomfortable. Maybe you think that it’s silly that we mark this day, because they weren’t real babies, anyway (I encourage you to read this). Maybe we should just be grateful for what we have, and forget about what we lost.

But I will tell you this — there are countless women around you, women you know, and their partners, and their children, whose lives have been forever altered by loss. We need better research into pregnancy and infant loss. We need to adjust the way the medical system treats people dealing with infertility and loss. We need to make it a topic that is not taboo, because how does it even make sense to stigmatize something that happens to a quarter of all families? We need to tell people that we are here, that they are not alone, that we have their backs, instead of telling them that their feelings and experiences don’t matter.

And you can do that, by simply being there, by listening, by acknowledging.

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