I found my first online community for parents who have lost children during or after pregnancy eight years and three months ago. That community of people was a lifeline for me just one month after Wyatt died. It was a safe place to share scary feelings that didn't seem acceptable and probably wouldn't have been accepted among those who had not lived through similar tragedies as mine. In that place I found families who had lost babies to Potter's Syndrome as I did, women who had carried their babies to term knowing that the child would not survive. I also encountered families who had suffered miscarriage, some suffering a heartbreaking number of miscarriages. I met families who had suffered stillbirths and losses due to SIDS. Families with babies diagnosed with chromosome disorders or organ defects. Those were just the ones with names, and only a fraction of them. There were so many more without explanation, almost without words to describe the tragic loss. It was in that place that we all worked through whatever stage we were in. I witnessed anger, extreme sadness, jealousy, the immediate whirlwind after loss and the relative calm that comes years after. I also witnessed the births of many many rainbow babies and the shattered trust which happened when those rainbow pregnancies were sometimes lost as well. I will never forget the mother who literally died of heartbreak after her daughter's death and her devastated husband's words to let us know that her suffering had come to an end.
I remember how important October of that year became to me. I wore ribbons of pink and blue and gave them to family members. It was important to me to not only have Wyatt recognized, but to have my husband and my suffering recognized too and to be able to share that suffering with a larger group. October of this year, even though we lost our second son Eli just seven months ago, is different. Things have changed and it didn't just happen this year. October 15th of each year, a day of remembrance for pregnancy and infant loss, is always a special day for me. But I chose to write this on October 17th for a reason. To illustrate where I am in my grief and how things can change. I no longer wear awareness pins during October or ever for that matter, I honestly haven't for years. Instead I wear a men's silver tungsten wedding band which is engraved, on the outside, with the names of all of my children.
I am fiercely proud and fiercely private about my children. For a long time I wondered if my sister-in-law even knew that we had a son named Wyatt.
I understand why Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness is lost in a sea of pink Breast Cancer Awareness ribbons this month. Breast cancer is specific. It is about the health of one or both breasts which is being attacked by a specific disease, or strain within, which scientists can isolate, study and attempt to cure and effectively treat. Pregnancy and Infant Loss is everything that breast cancer isn't. It doesn't have hopeful survival rates or survivors to run races or wear pink for the cause. It has mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents who had survived without a baby - that pink and blue ribbon was created and is displayed because a baby, or babies, died. The pregnancies and infants lost are due to so many different causes: clotting disorders, hormone imbalances, pregnancy reactions, cord accidents, complications of existing conditions, organ defects, lack of oxygen, slowed intrauterine growth, premature birth, diseases contracted during pregnancy and/or labor, labor accidents, medical malpractice, chromosome disorders, syndromes and the list goes on ... and ... on ... and .... on. There is no one enemy to fight here, no one banner to wave, no one cause to throw money and research at. It is instead a celebration of survival in the saddest of circumstances. A recognition that even though parents are not supposed to outlive their children that too often they do and that those parents are left to live without them. That is where October has changed for me. In the last eight years I have accepted Wyatt's death and made my survival without him a part of me. For me it no longer warrants recognition, I no longer need, but always appreciate nonetheless, the recognition that I'm a survivor, that I have two sons. Two sons who are loved more than the moon loves the stars.
"There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle.” Robert Alden.
I am that small candle and even if I am the only one who remembers, they still live on. For me this October, that's enough.