Sunday, October 14, 2012

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day

In 1988, Ronald Reagan designated October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. October 15th, in particular, is the day set aside to remember all the babies who had to leave us too soon—and to raise awareness for miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss.

It happens more often than people realize because it's still such a taboo subject. I hate that people choose to suffer in silence. I hate that people feel ashamed of something horrendous that happened to them. Our babies died! This day of remembrance gives people a reason to talk about their babies. Many survivors of loss choose tomorrow to come out of the closet about their losses.

I'm part of the 1 in 4 who knows the devastation of having to say goodbye to a baby, to a future. Three babies, actually. Three futures. I know what it's like to hurt so badly—to be so afraid of never being able to hold a baby of my own—that I literally bawled until I threw up. I know what it's like to watch my husband fall to his knees and sob uncontrollably. I know the isolation, the desperation. I know what it's like to be this close to giving up.

In the beginning, when I'd "only" had one miscarriage, I planned on keeping it to myself. After my second loss, though, I realized I owed it to my babies to talk about them—and to never stop talking about them. I don't want the world to forget my babies existed—if only for a short while. I want everybody to realize that lots of people (not just 60-year-olds or 500-pound people or crack addicts) lose babies. I want people suffering their own losses to know I'm here for them, and maybe the only thing I'll be able to do is swear and cry, and be pissed and sad right along with them... but I'm here.

If I have any advice for somebody who hasn't experienced pregnancy or infant lossbut whose loved one has, it's this:
  • Just let them know you're there for them. Don't try to relate to what they're going through because either you've lost a baby or you haven't; there's nothing else in the world like it. I'm not saying you haven't experienced pain or suffering, but losing a baby, a part of yourself, is its own kind of hell.
  • If you're pregnant, try to wait more than 5 seconds after their loss to break the news to them. This sounds harsh, but their own heartache overshadows any joy they can muster up for you, no matter how much they love you. There was a time in my life when you couldn't have paid me a million dollars to intentionally associate with a pregnant woman. If your grieving friend needs space, give it to them, and don't take it personally. They'll come around.
  • I'm stealing this line from one of my fellow loss mamas: Sometimes a simple "I'm sorry" goes a long way. It's true—sometimes, that's really all there is to say. If you attempt to say much more than that, you run the risk of accidentally saying something stupid. (I could share countless offensive things people have said to me, but I'll refrain.)
  • Lastly, for the love of God, don't pretend the loss didn't happen. I'd rather be asked a thousand dumb questions, or deal with a thousand stupid comments than have somebody who loves me not acknowledge my babies. I brought my miscarriages up when I was out with a friend who was clearly avoiding the subject once (I'd just come out about my losses), and she said she didn't think I'd want to talk about them. Why would I not want to talk about my babies?
I'm sure people wonder what's wrong with me, how a 28-year-old could possibly have 3 miscarriages—and here's the answer:  nothing. After seeing a specialist and having several painful and invasive procedures done, over 50 vials of blood drawn, and testing on Danny and me to make sure we're compatible, we learned that there's nothing "wrong" with either of us.

I hated not having any answers. I prayed so hard that the doctor would tell us, "This is what's wrong with you, and here's the cure!" Instead, our official "diagnosis" was bad luck, and we were told to keep trying. I hated treating making a baby like a game of trial and error, but it was our only choice—and I'm so glad we didn't give up. I found a quote by Galileo, of all people—"I've loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night."—that helped me soldier on. I remember chanting it in my head over and over and over again.  

I have this tremendous fear that people will assume that since this current pregnancy is going well, I'm cured—that I must be all better now. The truth is, while the fear of never becoming a mother has subsided, I think about the babies I lost several times every day. I love them so, so much. I'll always wonder who they would have been, what they would have looked like, what their favorite colors would have been, what their laughs would have sounded like. I'll always feel robbed and jaded, and jealous of the people who get to naively skate through their pregnancies. I don't cry as often as I used to—but the tears still sneak up on me every couple of weeks. I constantly still think about what should be.

I should have a 3.5-month-old baby, or I should be giving birth in 2 weeks, or I should be pregnant with twins right now. (Just hearing the word "twins" is enough to make my stomach turn.) This should be my first Halloween, first Thanksgiving, first birthday, first Christmas as a mommy. Should, should, should, should.

I hate it. I hate being part of this sad club, and I'd do anything to get out of it. I hate that anybody has to be part of this 1 in 4. However, I've met wonderful people who have helped see me through my darkest hour. I'm going to a remembrance service with one of them tomorrow night, and I can't wait to hug somebody who understands—and bawl our eyes out together as we remember our sweet babies that we'll never get to hold.

If anything good has come of this whole ordeal, it's that it's brought Danny and me closer together than two people have ever been. We've seen each other at our most vulnerable, and we love each other, respect each other, and "get" each other in a way that many couples never will. There's no shoulder I'd rather cry on, no tears I'd rather wipe away, nobody I'd rather have by my side.

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