Today marks a special day for me. It’s my first day to ever blog anything, and I’m close to 61 years old! I’ve thought about it, even created a link on our non profit web site (www.mybabyangel.org) last month so that I would start one. A busy schedule and a hesitation to say what I think kept me from sitting down and writing. The invitation on Facebook from Tara Mohr to write a Grandmother Power Post overwhelmingly interested me. It called to me to join with others in speaking out about issues that are important, sharing Grandmother wisdom and stories.
My Grandmother story begins with the death of 2 of my grandchildren, in 2008 & 2009. I remember the happiness I felt when my son called to tell us they were expecting. My heart smiled, thinking of the magic moments they would have waiting for their baby to be born. I remembered my own pregnancy with my son and the excitement of carrying life inside of me for 9 months. A life which would live on someday separate from me. It was a miracle to watch and be part of. A holy journey of creation and birth.
I envisioned that for my son and his wife until his call came at 22 weeks gestation telling me that she would be born shortly and not survive. Living in another state I could not be there. I rocked, prayed, moaned and cried as I faced the inevitable, my 4th grandchild will die. Twenty minutes of breath, too small to survive, she expired. Numb with resistance to a story I did not want to be mine, I grieved. My world no longer made the same sense. I had entered a hidden door where only secret passwords are used. Months later, still walking in the shadows of grief, my son phoned me. I remember how sunny the day was. I had just parked the car and took his call. He told me he had good news, they were pregnant again. I stopped in the doorway to our home, sensing his words with my entire body and feeling the fear. My smile inside was ever so small, my breath shallow. Would it really be okay?
Five months later, at 24 weeks gestation, water broken, my grandson delivered breech, breath lost in the birth canal. From knees to all fours, I wept for dreams shattered and the ache of longing. My 5th grandchild is gone and the days are now darker than ever. Stories from mothers & grandmothers begin to surround me. I thought I was so alone in this painful loss. No…. many others shared with me their secret losses and tragic pain. I couldn’t see it on their faces, there were no visible signs, only their stories of love and courage. Often in isolation they suffered, leaving them with feelings of guilt and shame.
Something was terribly wrong. Why did a life/death issue that impacted 1 out of 4 women remain a secret for so many? It was disturbing, haunting and NOT OKAY.
My journey these last 3 years has brought me to a deeper understanding and compassion for women/men/families that face a pregnancy or infant loss. Hundreds of emails and phone calls later I understand that our society is still developing social transparency for pregnancy/infant loss. I watched the subject of Cancer, AIDS, Domestic Abuse, Suicide, Special Needs and many others all evolve to support with compassion those facing distress and disease. We stopped hiding what wasn’t perfect/healthy/normal in our society in the dark closet of our consciousness. Today, people facing these issues find support, resources, research, funding and societal recognition that we did not have 30 years ago. It transforms their pain and suffering into integration and healing. This compassionate action is what I (and many others) want for pregnancy/infant loss and will continue working towards. Change is happening everyday and the light is growing brighter. We are on the right road but have not yet arrived.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day, a day of honoring and remembering. How many mothers who have suffered a loss did not stand up in places of worship when mothers were honored? When asked how many children they have, what do they say? The American Heritage Dictionary defines Mother as “ A woman who conceives, gives birth, or raises and nurtures a child.” These mothers of loss conceived and delivered. They are mothers who faced trauma and tragedy, enduring disappointment and pain.
In my life time, before the loss of my grandchildren, I had no idea how large the baby loss community was and the many wonderful organizations out there working to support this population. How many of you know that October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, and has been since 1988 when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed it? I’ve yet to meet anyone (not working in this area) that knows.
The Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Movement is growing in collaboration, empowerment, advocacy and awareness. If this touches your life in some way you too may want to “help in transforming society’s response to pregnancy and infant loss. No woman/man should have to leave a doctor’s office or hospital after the loss of their baby with little to no follow up support. We should be able to talk about all of our children and be compassionately heard by others.
Here are a few ways you can “help transform society’s response to pregnancy and infant loss.”
Be willing to share your story. So many of these stories are “secrets” for fear that no one will understand. Some may not, but there will be others that will share their stories with you. Talking about the subject slowly changes the taboo and it becomes our “normal.” Look at the example of breast cancer. In my childhood we never mentioned the “C” word and it was not proper to say “breast” in public!
Educate your community by creating awareness campaigns through city proclamations, awareness/advocacy walks, and remembrance/memorial celebrations.
Check in with your local hospital labor & delivery to see what they provide and remember the emergency rooms. Talk to local OB/GYN and Pediatrician offices. Find out what they need to support these women/families.
Start a local support group or find someone professional who can help you do this.
I am a Grandmother of 6, 4 of them are living. I am blessed to connect daily with courageous women (and men) who grace our world with a deep and profound love. Let us give them the respect and compassion they deserve.