Every year in October, my family celebrates Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. I use the word celebrate very loosely. There is nothing at all joyous about that month.
We lost our first daughter when she was 37 weeks and one day old. She was alive and kicking one minute and then not. There was no reason that the doctors could discover.
“These things just happen sometimes” was something I heard over and over again. Those words did not bring me comfort.
What did bring me comfort was learning to be able to celebrate the time we did have with our daughter as opposed to the gut-wrenching grieving of not having her here. So when I get sad or mad or angry or sad again, I try to remember what it was like to have her move inside of my body and how I felt when I could feel her grow. I try to remember how elated I felt during that time that she was a part of me and focus on the miracle that was her everything.
October 15th was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Friends from all over the world are invited to light a candle in their time zone at 7 pm so that a continuous “wave of light” is seen in every city, state, country, and continent.
Before the arrival of my second daughter, October was grueling for me. It was hard to see past myself in my grief and I did not care much about anything else. That changed when I became a mom for the second time and wanted to display a good example for my living daughter. I wanted her to see how you can work through grief and sadness.
While loss is not something I will ever “get over,” it is something I can “get through.”
This year, we gathered at a public park about 55 miles from our house. We arrived in time to have our daughter explore the playground and be silly and goofy. At four-and-a-half years old, the world is still a big giant game for her, and we do our best to let her be a kid as often as possible.
As the sun started to set, we used water-soluble markers to write the names of our children on little floating candles. We then gathered our candles together and gave them to the organizer.
With live music playing softly in the background, each child’s name was read, and a candle was placed into a stream. Loved ones stood on either side of the stream and watched the wave of light float by while the names of the children dissolved into the water and became a part of the earth.
Our daughter’s name was called in the very beginning. I felt tears spring to my eyes. I looked at my husband, and his face reflected the same pain. Then I glanced at my other daughter. She looked nervous, and she said, ““Mommy, why are you crying?”
“It’s ok,” I replied. “I am just sad. I miss your sister.”
“Well turn off your sad face and put your happy face back on,” she said.
If only it were that simple!
I allowed myself another few minutes of reflection, and then I lifted my daughter up, sat her on my lap, and watched as all the candles made their way down the stream.
The cuddling seemed to make her feel better for a few minutes later, she whispered to me, “They called my sister’s name first!” In that moment, she was proud to be a little sister, even though she doesn’t quite understand why she has a sister that she never once got to see.
Shortly afterward, we got up to leave. We thanked the organizers for a beautiful event. Our hearts were heavy but full.
I love both of my daughters very much, and I am still learning how also to love them equally. It’s so hard when one of them only lives in my heart and my memory.
To all the babies gone too soon, we remember you. Each and every day of each and every month. You are not forgotten.