10.19.2015

october is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month

October is Prengancy and Infant Loss awareness month. Of course, I feel that I must recognize that October also brings awareness to several great causes (there is no competition here). I have tried to sit down and put together a post on why awareness is important but between time constraints, the stomach flu and, well, my general tendency to be rambly (I do that, you know), nothing has really come out the way I intended.

So I decided to start over.

After Wylie had died and as I waited for labor to begin, the word stillbirth was thrown around and it knocked the wind out of me each time. I'd heard the term before, of course, but I never understood the magnitude. Wylie was born silently into this world. I tried so hard, even knowing that she was gone, to hear the screams that her big brother had let out at his birth a few years prior. In the days, weeks and months following life without Wylie, I didn't know how to try the term stillbirth on for size. To me, it felt awkward and trivial, or at least that is how it was perceived. "I know how you feel. I had a miscarriage, too" people said to me. "I know how you feel. When my grandmother died, it was the worst day of my life," they would insist. "Hey, at least you can get pregnant," people would celebrate before my post delivery bleeding even stopped. I felt as if I was pieced back together incorrectly at this point, and I never knew what to make of anyone's words. Everyone would assure me that everyone else meant well. It isn't as if losing a child is natural, of course, and so everyone was doing the best that they could, I was reminded. Everyone. In the days, weeks, months following Wylie's death, it very quickly became about everyone else and their level of comfort and grief. In an attempt to not drum up an unnecessary game of my loss is greater than your loss, I bit my lip and said nothing.

But that's the thing. That's why awareness is so important.

Each time I see a carefully planned pregnancy announcement appear on Facebook at the start of the second trimester, the safe zone, I cringe. And each time I get another private message from a friend's cousin's neighbor's co-worker's sister mentioning that they were told I would be a safe place to turn to after their child receives a fatal diagnosis in utero, I cringe. "It's too sad," people remark on Facebook, and I cringe. This isn't about fear. It isn't about pessimism or terror or emotional warfare. It's about equipping people with the tools they need to comfort those around them, to make this world a gentler place.

There is no shame in loss. There is no shame in Wylie's diagnosis. Her congenital heart defects were not caused by anything I did or didn't do. For far too many years, women who delivered stillborn babies or who miscarried were made to feel shame. They were told to keep quiet. I see this trickling down into 2015 in each "grieve in private" plea left on a Facebook comments section. Grieve in private. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the screams I let out into the night on the evening Wylie was born. I can still feel the body shakes and the terror that pulsed through my veins as I watched the doctor hold my dead daughter close, my body equally frozen and on fire, engulfed in flames of loneliness. I can still feel the numbness of returning home no longer pregnant, but with only a certificate of stillbirth to show for her existence. That numbness is forever a part of me, even on days when I feel particularly thawed. I won't use the world normal, because nothing will ever really be normal again. After all, like I said earlier, there is nothing normal about a parent losing a child.

It is 2015 and women in their 50's, 60's are finally giving names to the stillborn children they were made to forget about, forced to get over at face value because of shame, because of stigma. We need to do better. And, in many ways, we continue to do better as time goes on. Still, I've seen far too many comments of "that's private," "get over it," "what sick person wants to see their dead baby" and so on (and so on and so on). Somewhere out there, someone is receiving a fatal diagnosis. Someone is miscarrying. Someone is choosing to induce an incompatible with life pregnancy. Someone is choosing to terminate a fatal diagnosis pregnancy. Someone is making the decision to carry to term knowing their baby won't make it. Someone is reeling in pain at the unexpected stillbirth of their beautiful newborn. And we need to be there for all of the someones. We need to hold their hand. We need to throw platitudes in the trash and offer our true, raw selves because that is what friendship is all about. That is what being human is all about. We need to keep an open dialogue. We need to remember that these are wanted pregnancies and babies, not a political tool. We need to remember what it means to be human, what it means to be kind, what it means to be aware. We need to stop burying our heads in the sand and hushing anyone who dares tell a pregnant woman anything other than that a lack of fetal movement is nothing a little orange juice can't fix.

On May 12th, 2014, the day after Mother's Day, I learned that my beautiful baby girl was going to die. On May 23rd, 2014, my wedding anniversary, she was born silently into the darkness. I will never stop remembering her. I will never stop speaking her name. I will never stop pouring myself into being there for other women who are faced with the same soul crushing pain. I will never stop honoring my daughter, nor will her honor ever stop making this world a kinder, gentler place. Congenital heart disease will go on. Stillbirth will go on. And I go on, despite it all, honoring her with every move that I make.

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