"You may think of Fall as the season to carve pumpkins, drink cider and rake leaves; however, it is also a significant time of reflection for bereaved families across the country. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month to recognize the nearly one million families annually who experience perinatal loss.
In the years since, the number affected by this tragic experience has
not significantly declined and little attention is drawn to the issue.
Did you know the death of a baby during pregnancy or shortly after birth
is over twenty-five times more common than that of breast cancer and
twice as common as heart-disease related deaths? Today, one in four
pregnancies ends in loss. Many bereaved parents find the help they need,
but thousands remain shattered by the death of their baby."
-Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support, Inc.
It seems like with all the advanced, life saving medical care we have these days, that there should be no little babies lost, no children dying before their parents, no need to have a National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. But people do lose their pregnancies, there are many miscarriages, stillbirths, SIDS, cancer, tumors, accidents, baby deaths, toddler deaths, children's deaths.
It's scary. It makes people hold their children tight and hope they never have to know first hand what it is like. It makes people do crazy things when they do experience it. It makes people scared to get pregnant in the first place.
This October month of awareness isn't about scaring people. It's about raising awareness for an unspeakable topic. Too many people keep it to themselves because it can be awkward to tell their story.
We always have a dilemma when asked how many kids we have. There's a quick fleet of thoughts, "Should I say one or two? Should I tell them two and not mention the first one died? Do they look like they can handle the information? Do I feel comfortable enough with this person to tell them my personal pain? Are they asking in passing or do they really want to know?" It creates a little pause that makes the asker sense something isn't quite right.
If we tell them two kids and all they see is our little girl, they ask where the other one is. If we tell them one, we feel like we're leaving out a big part of our lives, our stillborn son. If we tell them the story, they don't know what to say and feel awkward.
But sometimes, after a quick debate we feel we should tell our story, and it's a good thing. The other person has experienced loss themselves, whether it be their own child or a loved one's child. There's an understanding there that helps heal and support.
My philosophy is to tell people on a need-to-know basis. Do I think they need to know? Some people I'll never see again and they are only asking to be polite, so they don't need to know. Some people are potential friends or strangers that actually seem to care, so they can know, if I feel like telling them.
We are going to tell our daughter that if she is asked, she can say she's the oldest or say she has a brother that died before her. She is the oldest living child and she also has an older brother. We'll tell her that it's up to her to say what she wants to say, what she feels comfortable saying. I'm sure there will be some bad experiences for her because of this, people saying mean or insensitive comments. We'll take each experience as it comes and talk it over together, drawing closer to each other and our little baby boy.
Sometimes I worry that our kids won't care that they had an older brother because they never knew him, never saw him, talked to him, or held his tiny little body. But I do have hope that they will care and love him because I have a good friend who has always held her older twin brothers in her heart though she never knew them. She cares about them and loves them. I know they will love their big brother because we love him and make sure he is important in our lives.
Remember the little ones that are not with us, and the families that are.