Friday, October 12, 2012

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

In 1988, one of my favorite presidents, Ronald Reagan, determined that October would forever be known as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

Pregnancy and Infant loss is still so prevalent in our society, yet it's still something we do not talk about nearly enough.  I do, however, believe we've made progress over the last few decades.  Thanks to the internet, there are communities that have been created to support families as they go through the loss of a pregnancy or an infant.  There are books galore available, and out in public in most places.

We've been watching Boardwalk Empire and ever since the first season, I've been fixated on how premature babies were cared for less than 100 years ago.  I found the way women were treated with regards to prenatal care and the loss of a pregnancy appalling.  While I know it is a dramatization on television for "entertainment" purposes, it did lead me to research more about how far we have come.

Just 2 generations ago, when a woman delivered a baby, their spouse was not allowed in the room.  If a baby was born still, the mother NEVER had the opportunity to see their baby.  They did not have pictures taken to keep of their child, they did not have the opportunity to have a service for their baby.  While there were exceptions to this rule, they are not that common.

I find myself forever grateful for the medical care we received during my pregnancy with Matthew.  I remain forever thankful for the photos that we have of Matthew, the lock of hair the funeral home was able to give us, the footprint we have hanging on the wall that reminds me of just how tiny he was and the fact that we are able to remember him publicly. 

I do believe that the stigma over baby loss has lifted by leaps and bounds when compared to the shame of miscarriages.  It is becoming less and less common to be questioned about what you did wrong to cause your baby to die.  Typically, when people learn that we lost our son to SIDS, they will either offer their condolences, or lecture on the causes of SIDS.  In nearly 5 years, I've learned that you can do everything absolutely right and it can still go terribly wrong.  Normally that's a lesson I tell the lecturers. 

1 in 4 of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.  And we know of so many more of them now that you can test for pregnancy just a week after you ovulate and just days after the egg is fertilized.  You can literally find out if you are pregnant at 3 weeks now, when just a couple years ago that wasn't even remotely possible. 

When becoming pregnant, one of the most common questions is "when is it safe to tell everyone."  And the truth of the matter is, there isn't a safe time.  I've seen so many follow up with "I don't want to have to 'untell' everyone about a pregnancy."

That, to me, is disheartening.  For starters, there isn't anything to untell.  You were pregnant.  A life was beginning to form inside of you.  Even if you suffered a miscarriage, you were still pregnant.  There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.  Nothing.  In 99% of cases, there is nothing you could have done differently.  And you are not alone.

Those are lessons that I hope are taught through the month.  I would like to see fewer angry political ads and more awareness that a miscarriage is not something to be ashamed of.  It does not make you less of a mother.  It does not make you less of a woman.  It is sadly something that continues to happen no matter how much we do not want it to. 

We've suffered 3 miscarriages.  Kaitlyn knows of 1.  After the first one, I did not want to put her through even more heartache than she'd been through.  And while that miscarriage was nearly 4 years ago, Kaitlyn still asks about it.  She wants to know what we all want to know: Why.  Why do babies die? 

One day, I hope we not only have that answer, but also a solution.

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