Tonight is the International Wave of Light where the world pauses to acknowledge all those babies who have been lost through miscarriage, still birth, and in infancy. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss are terrifying and also terrifyingly common. Yet we, as a society, seem to think if we just don’t acknowledge it, it will go away. If we don’t acknowledge it, it won’t hurt us. Tonight is one of the only times during the year when society as a whole will look up and acknowledge loss. The silence that surrounds miscarriage causes real pain to those who have gone through it. Our refusal to acknowledge miscarriage as a real loss heaps additional shame upon loss parents in their grief and causes them to keep their pain inside.
The numbers are staggering- 1 in 4 couples will lose their child to miscarriage.
Many have had to go through this more than once. Infertility has made me more aware of the statistics of pregnancy loss because repeat pregnancy loss (a diagnosis that 1 in 100 women face) classifies a couple as technically infertile. And yet even within the infertility community we whisper about miscarriage. That terrifying reminder that you can get so close to the dream and still not have it become reality. The fear shakes us and we feel the need to distance ourselves from that hurt. So we do what society has shown us we should do, we ignore the losses and pretend our friends aren’t hurting. We offer platitudes and move on.
Until recently, I have only been in the supporting role through these losses.
I’ve helped many dear friends through loss at different stages of their pregnancy. I like to hope that I played my role well and offered as much comfort as is possible under the circumstance. But I had never experienced loss myself so I could only grapple with what they’d need theoretically. Until this year. Now I have unfortunately joined the ranks of loss mamas before me, my experiences this year might actually move my diagnosis from that of simple Diminished Ovarian Reserve to DOR with repeat loss. Between January and May 2020 I experienced 3 losses. One at 6 weeks and two chemical pregnancies. And even though I have helped many friends through their immense grief I was unprepared for just how wholly these losses would shake me. Especially the first one. I don’t know if that loss hurt more because I was naïve having never lost a pregnancy before or because I was the furthest along, but it plunged me into a grief so powerful that I am still dealing with it 10 months later. I will probably never stop wondering who that child would have been, imagining my life with them in it.
One of the hardest parts of this kind of grieving was that no one wanted to talk about it.
This can make it really hard to grieve because you KNOW that no one wants to hear that news. Even knowing how badly I needed to discuss my baby, the loss, and the pain I struggled to open up about it. I shared with a small circle of other warriors who had been through it themselves. Because I could trust them. Outside of this cherished support network when I did open up about my loss no one knew what to say, so they said nothing. Or worse than that they offered up meaningless platitudes- “At least you know you can get pregnant naturally” “It was still so early, so at least that’s good” “It wasn’t a baby yet.”
While these discussions made everyone uncomfortable they were excruciatingly painful for me in my tender grieving space. Many of these comments still sting, even writing them mad me tear up. This is a space where societal training has failed us. We shouldn’t be making our discomfort the grieving parent’s burden to carry. They have enough to endure without adding societal terror onto it. In the past I know I also tried to distance myself from loss. Avoiding talking about it hoping that would keep me safe. It didn’t, and I now understand how much I may have hurt others in the process.
I want to take this opportunity to apologize and draw attention to the things we do when responding to other’s pain that can be hurtful.
I’m so sorry for:
-Not talking about your loss earlier, my silence doesn’t make it go away.
-Not talking about it because I hoped it wouldn’t affect me. For letting my fear override my compassion.
-Not looking you in your eyes when I tell you I’m sorry your pregnancy has ended. Not seeing you doesn’t somehow protect me from your grief.
-For not just telling you that I don’t know how to help or what to say. For forgetting that sometimes admitting that I don’t have the answer and offering my shoulder is all you need.
You know, sometimes a person going through this kind of loss just needs to know that you know their baby was real. And loved.
None of us should cringe away from their name or their memory. It is horrible that we live in a society that whispers miscarriage and avoids people who have suffered it as if it’s catching. Tonight during the International Wave of Light I encourage you to look loss full in the face so that the stigma is lessened for those who are suffering. At 7 pm in your local time zones I encourage you to light a candle for your friend’s losses, your sisters, maybe even your own. Tonight is the night when those in the loss community feel free to express their grief in a way that society allows us. Watch on your social media for those who are talking about loss today and reach out to them. Tell them you’re sorry. Just let them talk. You don’t have to try to make their pain better, nothing you say will dull it, but your willingness to listen can make it all the more bearable.
I hope that if you have undergone the loss of your child that you have had support, and that you know your child was valued. Whether they lived hours, days, weeks, or months. Whether they breathed air or not. Your child matters.
I am so sorry for your loss.