October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This is my first time being a member of the loss community during this time, and I have spent a great deal of time wondering why this awareness is important to me.
To explain my thought process, I probably should back up a bit.
We lost our son, Carter, on October 27th, 2016. He was the first grandbaby on both sides of our families, and was the only grandbaby for a few months. In March of this year, we found out that my younger brother and his wife were pregnant. We were pregnant for the second time then as well, but lost our daughter in May. A month before we lost her, we found out that my husband’s brother and his wife were pregnant, and due just two days before our son’s birthday. We lost a third baby at the beginning of August, and roughly a month later, were told that the third and final sister-in-law is pregnant as well. Each of these babies is the first for each couple.
As I think about pregnancy and infant loss awareness, I think of my brother’s sweet wife, who, up until she delivered their baby, lived in a world of fear. To see us experience three losses in less than a year is enough to make any expecting mother panic. It can cause those that are trying for a baby to somewhat give up hope before they even have a reason to. Babies aren’t supposed to die, but mine did, and theirs could too. Bringing this realization to light is terrifying for these parents, and honestly, it’s unfair. It’s unfair that we had to lose our children, and suddenly live in a world of fear. It’s not fair that everyone close to us is affected by this fear too. It was so hard to hear my mom tell me that my brother’s wife was in tears every other week because she was afraid she was going to lose the baby. It sucks. And I wish I could take that fear away from myself and everyone I know.
When I think about awareness month like that, I think that maybe people had it right, not discussing child loss. I don’t want people to live in fear and not enjoy their pregnancy. Maybe if I hadn’t shared our stories, maybe my sister-in-laws wouldn’t be so afraid every single day.
But then, if I hadn’t shared our stories, people wouldn’t say our children’s name.
I realized that Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness is not about making sure that other people know that this could happen to them too. It’s not about forcing them to realize how precious their situation is, and how much we hate to hear them complain (though we do hate it; oh boy do we hate it). It’s not about showing our disdain for those who are able to have a happy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. It’s about our children being remembered.
I have had very different experiences with each of my sister-in-law’s as they have been pregnant. My brother’s wife has been very receptive to my labor story, validating it, and making me feel like, even though I did lose my son, my pregnancy and labor experience are still very real. The sister-in-law due close to our son’s birthday, has not given me the same courtesy. She avoids talking about my pregnancy, does not mention my son, and has compared our 39-week loss to her 9-week miscarriage many, many times. A loss is a loss, but our losses are not the same, and it hurts me that she thinks they are. I have had a much harder time being around that sister-in-law than my own brother’s wife.
My mom has asked me why I have been able to handle one sister-in-law’s pregnancy better than the others, and the simple answer is that one acknowledges that I am a mother, the other does not. My brother’s wife says Carter’s name. She took my labor advice like I actually knew what I was talking about. She has made mention that their son is the second grandbaby. The other sister-in-law treats the situation like they are the first and only couple in our family to get pregnant and have a baby. Any notion that we have done the same is gone. She doesn’t care.
I don’t need Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness to tell that sister-in-law that she should understand just how special this is for her. I don’t need her to understand that she could lose this baby at any second. That she should value the pregnancy and not complain about every little thing. I need Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness so that she remembers that I, like her, am a mother. That those nine months I carried my son were and are still very real. That the empty nursery is not just some oversight. That it, like all the other prep work we did, had a grand purpose. A purpose that was not fulfilled.
I don’t need people to be aware that we lost our baby. I need them to be aware that we have a son, that we are parents, and that our lives, like the lives of those with living children, have been changed forever. We are parents in the most heartbreaking of ways, but we are still parents nonetheless.