Today is October 1st and it marks the beginning of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
This is a topic that is close to my heart because I have experienced that type of loss, many times over. The most eye-opening loss came when I lost my son, Samuel, who was born sleeping in 2015.
I am 1 in 4. That’s the statistic, they say it’s probably more but a lot of women don’t go to the doctor. I’ve been there, too. You know what is happening when your positive pregnancy tests become fainter and fainter. Why subject yourself to the agony of waiting to confirm what you already know: you have lost a child.
1 in 4 means you probably know a woman, or a few women, who have experienced pregnancy loss in some form. They most likely kept to this information to themselves, having to mourn the loss of a future in silence. Some will only open up and reveal this information to their doctors at annual appointments and hide it even from their partners or spouse, not wanting to break their heart, too.
Others will open up and openly grieve the loss of their baby, only to be tolerated for a month or so and then expected to move on.
I’ll share a secret about grief, especially the heart-wrenching grief involved with losing a child:
You don’t move on.
It never leaves you. It may come and go but it never truly leaves. It’s part of every season now. Every holiday it’s lurking in the background, reminding you that there is someone who isn’t here that should be. With every new school year, its there and with every pregnancy announcement, its there.
The awful thing about grief is that it can be compounded with guilt. Guilt for feeling happy for once. Guilt for feeling sad when everyone else is happy or wondering what you could’ve done differently to have avoided this entirely.
This Is My Reality Now
The raw, intense grief has subsided. I still have days where I don’t know how to go on without him. First days of Kindergarten, baseball games, and randomly hearing a child with the same name being called bothers me.
Pregnancy loss is unique in some ways. You not only lose a person you love, but you also lose an entire future. You lose first steps and first words. There will be no Kindergarten graduation or college graduation. You won’t watch them land their first job or become a parent. All of that is lost now and you’re left with broken what-ifs?
The only fond memories you can look upon are what you have of the pregnancy and depending on how long the pregnancy was or if it was complicated, it may not be much.
Watching him being lowered into the ground was like watching my entire life being buried. That void has never seemed darker than it did that day. I changed, as a person. Which I later found out in an unrelated form, trauma will do that. The trauma from losing my child actually turned me into a different person.
I’m more conscientious now. I fight harder for things I care about but I’m also more empathetic. Functions of my personality that had been permanent for years actually evolved because of my grief. That is a pretty powerful statement, I think.
If You Are 1 in 4, Too
You are not alone. You did nothing wrong. Let yourself grieve your loss, it’s okay.
People think grief is linear, something that happens in steps or levels that once you pass level 2, it’s time to get to level 3 and that’s it! You’re healed now! But that’s not how it works. I talked some about the stages of grief in my last post about pregnancy loss and it’s just not that simple. You may feel resolved one day but a memory or a smell brings every emotion rushing back.
I made a promise to my son the day I said my final goodbye that he could still make an impact on people’s lives. I promised him that I would not let him be forgotten and I’m going to uphold that promise.
This is a deeply personal topic for me and it is difficult and cathartic to write about at the same time.
Pregnancy and infant loss is a topic that everyone hates but no one wants to speak about. I get it. It’s uncomfortable and unnerving but we are doing a disservice to people who are struggling the most by ignoring it. We think if you don’t bring up the topic, it won’t bring back any bad memories but I assure you, those bad memories exist anyways. What is more painful is watching the years pass and the mentions of your child’s name become less and less. It’s the feeling that you HAVE to force them into a conversation somehow because no one but you visits their grave anymore and what if they forget about them?
Even if everyone else forgets about them or there are no more utterances of their name anymore, YOU remember them. You know what it felt like to get that positive test or to feel those little flutters. You hold the memory of holding them, even if it was for a short time. And that’s all that matters because, in their short lives, all they felt was love:
Please join me in bringing awareness this month to Pregnancy and Infant Loss. If you have a story you feel comfortable sharing, please do. It may help others not feel so alone.