One week ago, I logged into Facebook to check on my friends for the day. After spending only five seconds on the page, I logged out with the realization that I would be unable to cope with myself if I stayed online. While that sounds a bit over the top, I had forgotten that it was a day of observance, and status messages and articles about the day took me by surprise. It was either get off the computer, or begin flogging myself over events that were beyond my control.
In the United States, October 15th marks ‘National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day,’ and it’s the one-day that everyone is cordially required to come forward, and share their stories and feelings about it. Last week, however, I had no interest in remembering, sharing, or even commiserating with anyone. I have survived multiple miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy, and a complicated pregnancy that resulted in a traumatic emergency cesarean section procedure- one that could have been prevented if my doctor hadn’t jumped the gun. The whole ordeal of pregnancy and loss hits where it counts already. I don’t want a designated day of observance to remind me of every detail yet again.
Don’t get me wrong. Loss is a very serious issue that affects over 10% of women trying to conceive, or carry a pregnancy to term. Miscarriage is more common than you think. More, despite advances in medicine, thousands of babies die unexpectedly in the first year. As for healthy babies, we are in the middle of a spectacular boom, and there’s no sign of it slowing any time soon. So a day like October 15th should be a call for solidarity to those celebrating life, those mourning a loss, and those undergoing fertility treatments.
But what happens on October 16th? Or January 1st? Or on the day your best friend gives birth to a healthy baby? When your cousin’s son dies from SIDS? Or the fourth time you miscarry? If it’s not on October 15th, or not during Infertility Awareness Week, which occurs in April, no one wants to discuss any of it.
When I came to the conclusion that I would no longer try for another child a few months ago, I was saddened by the decision at first. I felt angry at my infertility. Then I realized that I was okay with that decision, and my heart felt lighter. I was no longer angry when people announced pregnancies, but genuinely happy for them. When I met my sister’s newborn last month, I was relaxed, because the baton had been passed to someone else. I was happy about joining the “No more kids” club, and I began to remember that I am more than a parent, more than a statistic, and much more than what I represented to the medical establishment. I felt empowered and ready to move on with life.
Yet when October 15th arrived, I suddenly became reminded of the complete loser I was for suffering those many miscarriages. Worse, I felt like a jerk for not wanting to feel like a loser anymore. I felt like a bad person for wanting to focus on parenting the child I have, rather than grieve the loss of the children I didn’t have. Then it hit me. What was supposed to be a day of solidarity and awareness had become a spectacle. It was as if the world had decided to single us out to point out our shortcomings, our imperfections, our losses, and we were on parade. Like it or not, it’s ‘Happy Look At Your Faults’ Day! Step right up, and give us a show!
I get the idea that women everywhere should bond. However, limiting that show of solidarity to one day, week or month can do more harm than good overall. While the rest of the world moves on to observe other “National Days” without so much as a blink, the rest of us have to pick up the pieces and start the healing process again.
My little epiphany from months earlier? It’s actually somewhat in tact, but only because I decided that self-preservation was better than reopening old wounds. Logging off and shutting my computer down was the best way for coping that day. Because of that decision, things hurt a whole lot less on the 16th, 17th, and 18th.
Perhaps instead of remaining tacit about pregnancy, and infant loss, save for one day, we should consider moving beyond reserving that token day of observance in favor of just talking about it whenever we need to. For those of us who have lost, let us commiserate when we’re sad, and let’s applaud when we move forward toward acceptance. For those who celebrate their pregnancy? Celebrate it daily! Why not?
Let’s talk about these things on October 16th, January 1st, whenever! Let us be happy for those who have healed from their loss, and let us offer support to those who haven’t. Let’s do it any day, any time. Not just when we’re obliged to on October 15th.
Jill Redding blogs at Pianissamma.