Remembering Pregnancy and Infant Loss

Family Matters on 10.17.11
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This blog celebrates life, rejoices in the process of bringing a new person into the world and raising them to join the human race. But we must also accept the imperfections of nature's delicate process. Most of us know October as Breast Cancer Awareness month, but did you know that it is Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness month too?

I have been struggling with how to approach this issue since my sister-in-law recently lost her little girl to an umbilical cord accident only weeks before she was due to give birth. The loss re-opened the wounds of my mother's loss of my little brother, only 24 hours after giving birth.

My sister-in-law points out that the grief of those who have lost their children before the rest of the world got to know them remains unique: "A person that loses a partner is called a widow. A child who loses a parent is called an orphan. But there is no word to describe a parent that loses a child, because the loss is like no other."

Once upon a time, talking about breast cancer was taboo. Now everyone sports a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness month. Promoters of Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness want to help parents who grieve the loss of their unborn or newborn infants to be able to share their loss with friends and community more openly, for example with the I am the Face campaign.

They are fighting the myth that another child can simply fill the gap. They are helping us learn how to offer empathetic support when there is little to remember about the short life of the child who was not known outside of the womb or the cradle. And they are networking people who want to share their story.

Let us therefore remember the families who experience the 25% of pregnancies that result in miscarriage or stillbirth or who mourn one of the 20,000 infants lost in their first month of life every year in the USA alone. Let us feel for the women who have lost their tiny seed before they have even had a chance to spread the word, those who are delaying the announcement because they fear that loss, and those who knew their child's kicks and wiggles and maybe even their smiles before silence marked the end. Let us empathize with the fathers, who celebrate each tiny step in the progress of their partner's pregnancies before sharing the terrible loss.

Perhaps you know or join some of the many bereaved parents who are honoring their "angel children" this month or who campaign for better visibility of this unspoken topic. If so, reach out with a hug. Let their parents speak of Madeline, and Louis, and the others who left so soon.

Perhaps you have recently experienced the loss of a pregnancy or infant child yourself. You are not alone. Reach out and you will find a community to share your pain and help you heal. Do not be shy; you offer an opportunity for those who have found their path back to normalcy to share the memories of their lost child as well.

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