October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, in case you haven’t read the captions under the candles in your Facebook newsfeed. I have ached, reading some of my friends’ stories, acknowledging the grief they have carried for years. Even as they have rejoiced in rainbow babies and minivans full of laughing children, sorrow lingers. Death does that to a heart.
Fifteen and a half years and four healthy babies after the fact, I still recall the unexpected ending of my first pregnancy. It happened so early I’m sure many would wonder how I mustered the tears to cry. But cry I did. It felt like my entire world had crashed in on me.
I’m not lighting any candles (except to cover the inescapable dog scent inherent in owning a Great Dane), in part because I have this weird thing where I try not to acknowledge holidays on social media, in part because I don’t want anyone grieving for me over something I made peace with fourteen and a half years ago, when my second pregnancy ended infinitely more happily than the first. My personal grief, though intense at the time, passed gently away, thanks to grace and four beautiful babies who survived to fill our lives with joy and wonder (and ample snark, just to prove they are ours).
Like many women, I look back on miscarriage with only the slightest twinge of wondering what might have been and a whole lot of gratitude for what is. Other mothers suffer acutely, even decades afterward.
I’m not lighting candles on Facebook, but I do speak with my children about what was lost before any of them were born.
I tell them that life is fragile,
That up to 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage,
That often, there’s no way to predict, prevent, or explain it.
I tell them that life is fragile, but love is not,
That parents love their children long before birth,
Long before conception, even.
I tell them that death happens,
That it hurts.
But you go on.
Sometimes the hurt remains sharp,
Sometimes it doesn’t.
We need to talk about these things.
Really, we need to talk. When I experienced miscarriage at the age of twenty-three, I didn’t know any of the above. It came as a shock – a life’s worth of dreams forming only to disintegrate in the space of a week.
I want better for my daughter, better for my future daughters-in-law, better even for my sons. I hope none of them experience miscarriage or stillbirth, but statistics aren’t in our favor.
I want my daughter and daughters-in-law to know, should they experience pregnancy loss, that they are not alone. I want them to know that more women than they possibly imagine have been through this grief. I want them to see the childless mother’s strength, a strength that says to someone she never knew, “I loved you before you were born and love you still.”
I want my sons to understand the aching of their wives’ hearts and perhaps of their own. I want them to know that many, many grieve with them.
In lieu of candles, I’ll talk with my children now and hope that, if ever death steals so cruelly from them, they will find some small solace in knowing their grief is shared – and a whole lot of strength in the examples set by those who have endured.