Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Silent Epidemic

Did you know that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death in the first year? That is 2,000 every day, 700,000 a year. These are NOT women choosing to end their baby’s lives, these are women who (for the most part) prayed for, dreamed of, and desperately wanted to have this little person to love and hold. It just makes me wonder how this can be so common and yet be seen as a taboo subject that makes people uncomfortable.

I have mostly been very open about the details of my own loss. My blog has received almost 1,000 hits since I posted about losing Landyn. People are very curious and yet I have very few people who have wanted to be on the inner circle.

When my dear friend lost her daughter at the 37th week of pregnancy I was at the hospital. I saw her daughter, I held her, I cried. Later as I explained to others about this they would immediately get all squirmy and be astonished that I had held this little lifeless baby. Makes me wonder how these people can even pretend to be supportive of ME. I felt like the member of a secret club during those first few weeks after Landyn died. I couldn’t believe how many women told me they too had lost babies. Some of them asked me not to tell anyone.

How many people have lost someone close? A grandparent, a spouse, maybe a dear aunt, or even a sibling? Many of you, I’m sure, took the opportunity before the casket was closed to give that person one last kiss or at the very least pat their hand. Why is it ok to say goodbye to someone you’ve known for years yet no one seems to understand how very important it is to say goodbye to someone you’ve just met or only dreamed of.

When a wanted pregnancy ends, whether through miscarriage or stillbirth, you are not just losing a child but also all those dreams you had planned. You will never hear them laugh, teach them to ride a bike, see them have babies of their own. In my opinion there is no one more in need of time to say goodbye then a mother who loses a baby. There are many women who miscarry and will not get to hold their child or know whether it’s a boy or girl. They will have no tiny footprints, no pictures, and no grave to cry at. And since pregnancy loss is seemingly deemed hush hush by society these women go home with empty arms, broken hearts, and cry alone.

To me it doesn’t matter what week you are at. It hurts.

So what can we do differently then? No two situations are the same so there is no one size fits all solution. Not all women will feel the same so some tact is needed here. From reading posts on my baby loss support group it seems most women are in the same place though.

Please do not avoid us or refrain from talking to us because you just don’t know what to say. There are NO right words. We know that. A tight hug and a sincere, “I hate that this happened.” is good enough. Please do, though, use your brain when talking to us. Do not say you are having the worst day ever because your kid spilled juice in your car. I just roll my eyes and hope that you will never know that a real worst day really is, but others might not be able to handle that at all. Also, just be there. If you are close to the mom then continue to be close unless asked for some space. If you are not so close then drop off a meal ready for the freezer. Don’t just offer “call me if you need anything”, just do it. For me personally I have never been so lonely as I was in recent weeks. Having 200 facebook “friends” does not make you feel better when you cry alone every day. Continue to call or send cards, the pain doesn’t stop after the funeral.

We want our babies to be acknowledged. Whether they lost the baby days after a positive pregnancy test or were within days of delivery this was their child. Please treat it as such. If their baby was given a name please refer to it by name. Don’t be afraid to bring the baby up, you don’t need to always change the subject or be worried you will remind us of our loss. We like to talk about our babies and we did NOT forget.

Understand that this is not a thing you get over. My baby will always be gone. I will always miss her. Over time my grief will change and it won’t always be quite so sharp but know it will always be there. Do not in any way pressure a grieving mom to move on. Grief is personal, treat it as such.

So what do you do if you don’t personally know anyone who is experiencing a loss? You can donate money. There are multitudes of organizations that offer free things to grieving parents. I know of one that will send the mom a stuffed heart the exact weight of her baby. There is another that sends engraved necklaces. You can offer your time. I came home from the hospital with a beautiful memory box and one of the blankets that Landyn was in. She was buried wrapped in another tiny blanket. These were all made by volunteers and donated to the hospital. I know they also get donations of small clothes and hats. I saw another organization that has volunteers make teeny flannel diapers for babies to be buried in because they are just too small for the smallest manufactured diapers. You can use your talents. There is a group called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and they have professional photographers volunteer their time to take pictures.

Above all, though, just make a point to adjust your thinking. A baby is a baby, no matter the size or gestational week. YOU may not be personally affected but a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss changes a mommy forever. Remember, it’s 1 in 4. Even if we can’t stop it the least we can do is stop pretending it is not a big deal.

1 comment:

  1. Sharing on Barrett's Blankets facebook page :)