October is an awesome month. It’s one I have spent my life looking forward to each year since I was a child. It’s full of fall weddings, jack-o-lanterns, all things in my favorite shades of orange, golden, red and pumpkin spice fills the world with autumnal magic. There are pumpkins on the hillsides, a delicious haze that hangs in the air making all things a mysterious, slightly unfocused shade of gold.
There is another tradition this month is known for, however – a lesser known event, a day of awareness that inspires a month of education.
Tomorrow, the 15th of this month, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day and we honor this by calling the entire month “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month”.
It’s also the anniversary of the month I lost two babies to miscarriage, one year after the other. Most moms call their little growing babies a cute pet name like “bean”, “nugget”, “spud” or “sprout”. I didn’t have cute names for my growing baby after that first loss. Even with my first child, until he was born and Liam had a name, he was simply known as, “the one who stayed longest”. I was too afraid to claim him, worried if I did… he would leave me, too.
Now, I’ve written about this before. I’ve shared my story in another entry a few years ago, but there are pieces that were missing from that story and, frankly, I wasn’t ready to tell all of it. That and I’m a better writer now, so I can articulate these darker parts more clearly. Speaking now as a mother of two healthy children, the world- my world, is still deeply colored by the losses I have experienced.
I often wonder if I’m the only one who thinks this way… it certainly seems so in this age of apathetic parenting.
While other parents complain about the hardships of raising children, the irritations, the frustrations, the “I can never get anything done” moments and the “she made this giant mess again” issues – I’m over here rejoicing in my gift of these two, amazing beings who stayed.
Sure, things get hard. Sure, my children are frustrating when they don’t feel like eating their food or putting their shoes on after the 30th time I ask. When my son breaks things or my daughter knocks something over because she did exactly the very thing I told her not to do two minutes before, of COURSE it gets me upset. But I have never taken a single breath they take for granted and every moment, every experience, every first, eighth and hundredth moment is cherished. Yes, even the very loud ones. Because you never know how much time you’ll get. If a baby can be taken at two months, she can be taken at 4 years. If he only thrives for five weeks in the womb, he can just as easily be hit by a car or taken by SIDS, or stolen or choke at 5 years. Someone I know just lost her healthy, athletic, 18 year old son to an aneurysm. So, every moment is like the last in my mind. Every minute is honored, savored and sacred as though I may never get another because none of us ever know for sure.
I never want to look back on these few years and wish I’d done more, loved more, been there more. I want to know I’d been there as much as I could, loved as much as I was capable and did everything I could to make sure they knew that 100% of every second of every day and night, I tried my best to do things right.
Becuase I know what it means to feel like you have a wasteland womb- a toxic, dead space with ovaries full of sand and good for nothing but a monthly week of misery and migraines. I know what it feels to fail at creation. I know how precious these beings are because it took my body so many times to get it right, I’d almost given up.
Have you ever looked at your child and just stopped to marvel at the wonder of their being alive? Have you ever held them close in the dark of night, secretly praying they never leave you, begging God to give you more days, so many more… because you cannot bear the thought of them not being in your world? Have you ever held their hand and felt so grateful you could do nothing but cry? I have. Almost daily.
I’ve also sobbed like a hot mess when the thought crosses my mind that I sometimes still don’t feel like I deserve them, and I worry that they’ll be taken from me too soon. I sometimes think to myself – I hope that my story doesn’t end before I’m ready to say goodbye or before they are ready, too. I hope my babies grow into fine adults who never question whether or not I loved them and I hope they always know that I valued them enough to put them first.
Having babies after you lose a child creates this magical experience where every moment most mothers find terrible, is transformed into a gift. Even the hardest times, I find myself making it clear to my children how important they are, how valued they are, how deeply, powerfully loved they are.
Even when I’m annoyed, I hold them. Even when I feel like I need ‘me time’, I nurse them. Even when I am so exhausted I just need a quiet bed to myself, I’ll welcome them to my pillow and hold them tight. When they cry for no reason when I am trying to get things done or asking me to play with them instead of work on my computer, I force myself to stop and listen. Stop and participate. Stop and be there with them, in that moment.
Because I chose them. They didn’t just happen. I made them on purpose because I wanted them to be here. I honor that by continuing to choose them every day of their lives.
Pregnancy loss taught me the value of life in all it’s various pieces in a way I had never expected. It made me love every single minute of every hour of every day I get to be with them. I left behind an awesome job in the corporate world to be with them because I couldn’t imagine having to choose between a job and the needs of a being I chose to create.
See, I’m not a mother who could ever flippantly call my child a derogatory name or even speak to them in a condescending way. I’ve watched as friends call their children idiots, a$$holes or worse. I can’t even fathom wanting to say these things to or about my children and I am nearly certain it is because the beauty of the lives lost before them taught me just how precious the ones who chose to stay really are.
I am a better mother because I was terrible at pregnancy before my two children stayed. I am a better human because they are my children.
So, yeah, that’s it. I felt it was time to say some of these things “out loud”.
The more we can say out loud the better, really – so many women experience pregnancy and infant loss silently and it’s just not fair. The more we can talk about it and share our experiences, the more we can talk about it, share and be open about our own experiences, the better.
If you have suffered an infant or pregnancy loss, please consider sharing your story. Not only am I certain it will help others who are silently trying to cope with their own grief, it might be amazing catharsis for you, too.