October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Many of us are all too aware of the face of pregnancy loss and the 1 in 4 women who will have this experience as part of their journey through the childbearing year. When my third baby died during my second trimester of pregnancy in 2009, I found the image of tiny footprints on my heart to be a very significant symbol. Since that time, I always keep footprints charms on hand to share with other mothers. I’d hoped to create a new sculpture in honor of this year’s awareness month, but didn’t manage to do so. Instead, in honor, we created a new memorial bracelet for mothers impacted by babyloss. A portion of the proceeds goes to benefit the local pregnancy loss support group in making jewelry items for memory boxes.
I’ve also shared the link to my friend’s miscarriage-birth story in a past post. It is one of the most powerfully written miscarriage stories I’ve ever read. October also marks her due date with that baby and so I want to honor her memory by sharing the link to their birth story again today:
…Three words. It only took me three words to tell you, friend, acquaintance, or stranger, what happened to me. I wonder how many more words it will take to tell myself — the MAMA, the bearer of lost life — what happened.
11 weeks. Saturday night. Walgreens bathroom. By myself. Cabernet Sauvignon in the public toilet. Doughnut-sized clots of tissue that just kept coming. The sensation of birthing jellyfish. Sticky red hands from trying to clean myself up, pulling red chunks out of my underwear. Staring into the toilet and wondering how in the world I could possibly flush it I did, after a long time and many tears. Drips running down my legs and polka-dotting my feet. Telling an employee there was a bloody mess in the bathroom. Walking out of Walgreens in blood-stained jeans.
Did you like it better when I had only said three words? I liked it better when I was still pregnant.
I did note in an article I just read this week via a different friend who recently experienced miscarriage, that personal stories can also be unhelpful to others though, especially when they redirect from the woman in front of us to our own experiences (though, I would venture to say that is because so many of us feel as if we have to hold our own stories close to our hearts, and therefore somewhat unresolved, because of a lack of cultural permission to talk about them normally):
I am left feeling more alone than I ever thought possible. Solicited or not, countless women say to me, “Why is no one talking about miscarriage. No one talks about postpartum depression either. All of these things women go through that nobody talks about. Why are we not talking about it if everyone is going through it?” It’s only now that I realize why I don’t want to share my experience as openly anymore. The more I talked about it, the less understood I felt.
All I yearn for is the simplest of engagement, “How are you feeling?” Four words. Nothing more.
Instead, I am bombarded by horror stories of women losing their longed for dream in a pool of blood or heroic war stories of women whose histories in no my way resemble mine and go on to have healthy children. Are the details of someone’s sister’s friend’s friends’ 4 consecutive miscarriages supposed to be heartening?Women use my openness about my loss as a springboard to delve into their reproductive aches and pains, recent or decades old. The sharing feels tinged — needing to be less this, more that, better than, more than, and most definitely triumphant in achieving their desired family size. I propose that we simply listen to one another, with presence of mind and heart, no matter the level of uncomfortability.
This article is extremely powerful and I highly recommend it. The author goes on to explore how women blame themselves for their reproductive losses:
Miscarriage is simpler than all of that. It is loss of life that wasn’t sustainable.
I have fantasies of shouting this from rooftops and tweeting random cryptic notes containing the facts about pregnancy loss in the hopes of galvanizing women’s perceptions of themselves. I daydream about pleading with women not to blame their beautiful bodies for their reproductive devastations. I wish I could dare every woman who has at some point or another wondered if they were somehow the root cause of a reproductive disappointment to turn that question on its head. “What if you are not the reason that this happened to you? What if it just is?” I can’t help but wonder if this would illicit more anger, more grief, more relief, and/or more hope. Or maybe something else completely. I am confident that it would engender less competitiveness, less perfectionistic strivings, and more self-love.
Related past posts: