October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. As I started gathering my thoughts for this post I couldn’t help but think how odd that is… as though the only month that a couple who has lost a baby is aware of it is the month dedicated to it. Obviously that’s not really what it’s about… this month is about raising awareness in others. Letting people know just how many people are impacted by this heart wrenching loss. To add faces to an idea. To allow people to be seen and maybe heard for the first time.
I’ve very briefly talked about our loss in the past. There’s a lot of complexities in it for me. We had no proof we were pregnant – no pregnancy test or ultrasound. It happened so early that there would have been no way for us to know. So I simultaneously realized I was pregnant and no longer pregnant at the same time. I hadn’t had the opportunity for excitement or joy or hope. Our baby was gone before we even know he or she was there. And many may feel that our baby did not exist because we had no way to KNOW, no way to prove that we were pregnant. At least I had that fear… I feared (and even a little bit still do) claiming something without definitive proof.
So my coping mechanism for our loss was to focus on what came next in our infertility journey and to allow those doubts to reign – to defer to the unknown – to deny to myself that we had experienced a loss. Because it’s easier to pretend like it didn’t happen than to live in the firm knowledge of losing a child… and I know that because I’ve watched so many of my friends walk that road.
1 in 4. If you’re in a room with four other women… one of them has probably experienced pregnancy or infant loss. Do you realize what a staggering statistic that is?! And the reality is researchers believe that number is low… Due to the number of miscarriages that may occur without a woman realizing it, they believe the number should be closer to 1 in 2! That’s 50%! If that’s not sinking in… let’s talk about big numbers. Every year, there are nearly 6 million pregnancies in the US. Of those, nearly 2 million end up in a loss whether that’s miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, or stillbirth. That’s 2 million little lives lost!
So we went big… let’s go small again… based on those numbers you very likely know someone who has experienced this… someone who is still living in that loss. I know I do. I know quite a few actually. And can I tell you a secret. Their hearts hurt. Their hearts grieve for those precious little ones. Whether they were pregnant briefly or carried their baby to term – that little life IS loved, longed for, and dearly missed. There is no replacing that baby. There will always be someone missing. That hole will never fully heal. Losing a child (at any time), the grief doesn’t go away… it just changes.
And I think that’s what I really wanted to talk about today is just how that can impact a person. Because I think people are often quick to write it off, to forget your loss, to rush a person through their healing. And that’s the last thing a grieving parent needs.
So what do they need? First please don’t write off the loss. I don’t care how far into someone is into their pregnancy , if they feel the pain of their loss – it’s a loss. As I said before, another baby won’t replace the one lost. So phrases like “you can just get pregnant again” aren’t helpful because it not only invalidates the pain but implies that one child could replace another. Put simply, if you have a friend or loved one who’s hurting – don’t belittle their pain and don’t rush their grieving process. We all grieve differently. Some people are more resilient. Some people may have experienced some trauma with their loss. Some people simply need time to grieve. AND THAT’S OKAY! There is no agenda or timetable for grief and it is likely something that will shift and morph over time. (However that being said, if you feel your friend or loved one is not coping with their grief healthily and needs additional help – please don’t hesitate to reach out to their spouse or loved one.)
Parents of loss also want and need you to remember their children! When you have a child in heaven it feels like part of your job as a parent is to keep their memory alive. That can be hard to do in a world where we often only acknowledge what we see. A mother of three children here and one in heaven is a mother of four. Just because that child is no longer here doesn’t mean the love for her child is gone. Recognizing all her child when it makes sense to do so and saying her baby’s name is so appreciated by parents of loss because it lets them know that you remember all of their children too.
If you or someone you know is struggling to grow their family or coping with loss – we do have a support group that meets on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays (so today) of every month in Mt. Zion at 6 pm. If you’re interested in joining a group of amazing women who love, support, encourage, and pray for one another – we’d love to have you. Shoot me a message and I’ll send you the details!