To my three,
According to statistics, one out of every four pregnant women endures miscarriage.
Like an anthem call, many of us who have endured pregnancy and infant loss refer to ourselves as “I am 1 in 4” in our memes, graphics, and posts, particularly in the month of October.
Somewhere, in the magical, invisible world of statistics, I am grouped with three other women. Like schoolgirls after counting ourselves into groups by fours, here we are, the four of us, huddled together at the shiny round school table that smells of Windex and is so smooth on the top yet underneath is draped in wads of chewed up bubble gum.
Here we are. You three and me.
I stir in my chair. I look down. I wish I could fit in, and I know that I don’t.
It’s my turn to speak. To tell you what it’s like in the world that you’ve always been so very close to.
How it feels to be the mother of a baby who is not alive.
The word “shame” has almost lost its luster with its overuse. Startled disappointment, devastating sorrow…
I was that awkward schoolchild. I didn’t fit in and though eventually, I learned who I was in spite of my peers, it would have been nice to have had childhood friendships. But I was an orphan, and that meant that I didn’t belong anywhere.
Becoming a mother was to me, a chance to make things right. A chance to “break the chain” as they say. My drug addicted biological mother had already experienced stillbirth before I was born.
Becoming an adult was my right of passage, my blank slate to write my own manuscript. My life was to be a poem, and the beauty of it would be motherhood.
I was off to a great start. I was going to have 30 kids and breastfeed them all until they were 30 (I joke!). But I belonged. I grew in my confidence that I was on a fresh new chapter of my life.
And then, my baby died. The inkwell spilled out, bleeding through the manuscript of hope.
Having a miscarriage isn’t to me, a past-tense experience that gets boxed back up in storage like the files in my memory of the many foster homes I lived in. I am aware of the social rule that grants me permission to fit anything I’d like for my child into this memory box but anything that I just can’t cram in has to be left behind. As a girl, every six months I had a new mom and dad. It didn’t matter what I’d get for Christmas because if it didn’t fit into my trash bag, it wasn’t coming with me anyway. I am aware of how dramatic that sounds because I’ve seen the reactions when I tell my story. It wasn’t shocking to me as a girl, though, because I didn’t know what I was missing. I was surrounded by normal little girls, they were everywhere around me, but I didn’t see life the way they did.
And I offer to you that there are mothers all around you who’ve experienced pregnancy and infant loss and that you have an opportunity to see them, to ask them to convey to you how they see life. I will tell you that I never minded stuffing my life into a trash bag, but my child’s existence doesn’t and never will fit into a box.
For me, the death of my child blemished my perfect motherhood. For me, the death of my child while he was yet growing in my womb meant inherently that even my womanhood was broken. What’s more, that I am to blame.
I could hide my embarrassment. Don’t you think a seasoned foster kid would learn how to? A rejected, unadoptable orphan? But my child is not a blemish. He is worth sharing, worth loving, worth mourning, worth celebrating.
I experienced the death of my baby and you only know this because I choose to share it with you.
So go ahead, and ask me why I do – ask me why I share it with you, that my child died.
I’ll tell you that I gave life, gave birth, gave love to my child.
And that my life is richer, deeper, greater because I am on a journey I never would have chosen for myself.
And then, ladies, three I share this space with, I would have a question for you.
How can I best convey my child’s life in a way that is impactful to you?
Because they say that I’ve “lost a pregnancy” but, my child matters, and if you don’t understand that, I grieve for what you’ve lost.
I don’t want you to groan at the change of the calendar – October is not that “dead baby month” when your friend sinks into a gloomy, dark place because she just hasn’t quite gotten over it yet.
We bereaved mothers wait all year-long for October, for our turn at show-and-tell, where we dare to open our boxes and try to convey in trinkets, in memes, and in soft lullaby colors how very real our children are.
My concern is that “breaking the silence” as we call it, does little good if you aren’t listening.
To the three, I can’t go back to being you. And the fact is, I’d never undo his existence just to undo my pain. So here we are.
If you have never experienced pregnancy and infant loss, be brave.
Say it. “I’ve never endured pregnancy and infant loss… and, I want to know about your children, I want to know about your journey. I want to know.”
Because we bereaved mothers have been given an audience of three…. and yet I feel totally alone.
If I am “one in four” – where are the other three?