When people say that pregnancy and childbirth are “a miracle,” I think most of them say it because they’ve heard someone else say it–someone older, with more life experience, and likely much closer to an era where infant loss was more common.
When you lose a baby (miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death), you understand why pregnancy and childbirth are so miraculous. They are life-creating, but that brand new little life could just as quickly be snatched away as it began. Somehow a new little human starts existing, a new soul is formed, and somehow he grows. A tiny little thing can go wrong during the developing phases in the womb and end his life suddenly, or he can be born too soon and not have the means to live outside of his mother’s safe haven. Millions of things can go wrong. The fact that you ever had a living child is a miracle; the fact that your child keeps living at birth and beyond is a miracle.
I wish people thought about this A LOT more often.
October is infant loss awareness month (specifically, October 15, but widely acknowledged as a month, not a day)–something that has existed since the year I was born but that no one talks about. No one wants to think about babies dying.
“Miscarriage? Infant mortality? Didn’t we eradicate those along with the black plague and smallpox?”
It’s a lot more common than anyone wants to think about. And those who suffer losses are usually told to “get over it” or to “forget” or to “just have another baby.” You can’t replace a life with a life.
I have to admit I long for the days when infant mortality was common. I want to talk to those women, understand their perspectives on childbirthing and pregnancy. I think they would have a more sacred view towards it.
Today folks post on Facebook five minutes after a positive pregnancy test and start their baby registries about two days after that, as if a + on a stick guarantees them a child that will be born in 8.5 months, as if that guarantees that in 18 years they’ll be shipping that kid off to college. I so often hear complaining about those next 18 years within moments of even knowing that baby exists. Life is a fragile thing we shouldn’t take for granted. A pregnancy doesn’t guarantee anything except that you currently have a little being inside of you who depends entirely on you for sustenance. I doubt anyone except those of us who have seen the trials of infant death will recognise the process of pregnancy as truly miraculous, but just for one day or even one month, I challenge you to think about it a little more seriously. Maybe even make the effort to say something that sounds like something a friend would say to someone you know who has experienced loss. NOT “It’s better this way,” or “God knows best,” or “You’ll have other kids.” There are so many comforting things to say and do without minimising or ridiculing the ache that others feel.
I guarantee if you look around, you’ll realise a LARGE number of your friends have experience infant loss at some stage. Unlike those of you with children who mention them in every post, drag them to every event, show them off to the world whether the world likes it or not, you don’t know who around you have children that aren’t living any more. You can’t go to the grocery store and point out the babyloss parents. You may never hear them talk about their deceased children because there are no new stories to share, and no complaints to be made. And many people consider it “morbid” to talk about a deceased child and will silence the parent by saying things like, “I don’t want to hear about things that make you sad.” Our children made us happy, and knowing that we had them, and knowing that others are willing to acknowledge their existence makes us happy.
I know I am getting preachier all the time, but that’s because as time passes, YOUR children keep growing up, and YOUR lives keep going on. Those of us who have lost our babies don’t experience those things. It’s like waking up one day and finding out you are a statue doomed to watch everyone around you parade through life and you are frozen in a moment.