Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I Am The Face

Today, October 15, my Facebook newsfeed is full of graphics supporting and links to various miscarriage, stillbirth, and pregnancy loss websites. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and today is the official day for the I Am the Face campaign. For women who have experienced this kind of loss (and 25% of women have), every day is a day of remembrance, but it's beautiful and uplifting to see society as a whole embracing this often unacknowledged part of a women's journey.

Having experienced several losses myself, it's amazing to me the culture of silence surrounding miscarriage and pregnancy loss. The loss of a child, either early or late in the pregnancy, is one of the most painful things a woman, a family, will endure. The fact that our society very rarely talks about it is really sad. This is a time in life when a woman needs the support of her sisters and the understanding and compassion of society at large.

Both my children are rainbow babies, a term used to describe a baby who is conceived after a miscarriage. I am the lucky woman, the woman who had little trouble picking up and trying again, who was able to find the rainbow in the storm that is pregnancy loss. Many women suffer in silence, losing pregnancy after pregnancy, and losing hope right along with those little souls.

Both my losses were early losses, but that didn't make them any less painful. I remember cycling through the stages of grief with each of my losses. Did I do something to cause this? Is this punishment for something I've done in the past? Why me? I felt alone after my first loss, just before my pregnancy with E, and it was an experience we shared with very few people. DH and I walked the healing path alone, and it was a few short months later that we were expecting again. I was still feeling sorrow for the little spirit I never got to know, and I still feel occasional sadness for that child.


Women who experience early losses often feel very alone. Most people don't know just how common early loss in pregnancy is, and partners have often barely gotten their heads wrapped around the idea that the baby is coming. A woman feels the reality much sooner in the pregnancy, and it can be very isolating to feel like you're mourning that loss alone. In our case, DH was so wrapped up in supporting me that he never acknowledged his own grief.

When I experienced my second pregnancy loss, less than a year ago, I was devastated. Having just fought my way through the hardest season of my life, I thought I deserved happiness, and never imagined the universe would lay a loss at my feet. I was caught completely off guard, and both DH and I were standing there, dazed and hurting, trying to understand how this could happen again.

This time, I had many more women in my life who had suffered losses. The curtain of silence surrounding miscarriage seemed to have lifted for me, and I was able to talk with my sisters about my feelings. DH and I are in a totally different place in our relationship, and our improved communication meant that we were able to talk about the hurt, the disappointment, the road to healing, more freely.

The silence can be one of the most painful parts of pregnancy loss. Just a few days after my recent loss, a relative stranger approached me and gave me a five minute "lecture" on why we should have more children. Holding back tears and angry words, I nodded politely and walked away, but inside me was an angry woman who wanted to shout and cry and shame her for being so insensitive. In our society, though, it's the woman bearing the pain who must be the sensitive one.

It's absurd that, as a survivor of miscarriage, I must be the one to bite my tongue, to have the self control not to shout "I'm trying! I WANT another baby, but the universe isn't cooperating!" It's absurd that I've felt ashamed of what I had no control over. I remember being in the hospital, about to give birth to E, and feeling shame when a nurse spoke my pregnancy statistics aloud - "grava 3, para 1" is a terrible thing for a mother to hear just as she's about to welcome her first full term baby into the world.

It's time to break the silence. It's time for society to stop hushing up and covering up miscarriage just because it's associated with the mysterious (and in society's eyes, threatening) rhythm of women's reproduction. It's time for sisters to speak out and support one another. It's so comforting to know you aren't the first to mourn a spirit you never got to know, to feel sadness about a promise that won't come to fruition.

It's time to break the silence, and I see it happening all the time. There are many resources for women and families who are dealing with, or have dealt with, pregnancy loss, miscarriage, and still birth. There are groups out there, but the local support is often sparse, unfortunately. At playgroup a few months ago, I was with a group of women and we started chatting about pregnancy loss. Nearly every woman there had been touched by miscarriage in some way. It was very eye opening. It's my hope that any woman going through that will realize she's not alone, and will reach out to the sisterhood, the ones who have been there before.

I am the face of pregnancy loss, and I am the face of hope. I am there for my sisters in loss and in joy, and I am not afraid of what I've experienced.





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