Saturday, March 10, 2012

There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.

Over the course of the last seven months, my husband and I have lost two pregnancies.

I have wanted to write those words for ages now, but I have struggled to find the courage- and the medium- to do so. What finally turned the tide for me? Per usual, anger. And a staunch refusal to be anything but completely open and honest with my friends. Ever the Moulin Rouge fan, I cannot exist if I do not adhere to my belief in, above all else, truth and beauty. With that said, I have been living a lie, forced to do so by a society at large made uncomfortable with mine and my husband's personal tragedies. You see, it has recently come to my attention that polite society cannot handle perinatal loss. When grandparents, parents, cousins and other "terrestrial" beings die, it is considered right and proper for those left behind to grieve. Cultures establish elaborate rituals to honor the dead; bodies are anointed and ceremonies held. But when an unborn baby dies, there are no time-honored rituals, no societally acceptable ways for the bereaved to mourn their loss. There is merely the fathomless aching that comes with the knowledge that those lives will never be; the deeply held sense of being somehow broken or incomplete; and the cold comfort of the clinician, who at best tries to offer encouragement: "You're young! And healthy! You can try again." What they and countless others fail to realize (and what all perinatal loss survivors keenly understand) is that you don't just want "a" baby- you wanted THAT baby. THOSE babies. You grieve not for a life well lived, but for the life that never was. You mourn for the birth not to be, for the negation of all the promise and excitement that comes with bringing new life into the world.

I can no longer force my grief into silence and darkness and pretend my life is all rainbows, kittens and smiles, especially not for the so-called comfort of those ill-equipped to handle such tragedy, or those rendered squirming and speechless by my insistence to talk about my very real pain. This is our life. Those were our babies. They were real to us, if only for such a short time; I will not keep silent just to politely accommodate for others. Many of my closest friends on here were already aware of our reality, and I truly can never express in words my thanks for your kindness and support. I honestly believe that if I lose friends for what some small-minded people believe to be "over-sharing," then they were never my true friends to begin with, and I am happy to cut free the dead weight. In addition, I pray they never have to experience the pain so unique to this type of loss.

One of the biggest reasons for writing this is because, when I lost my first pregnancy, I had never felt so alone in all my life. Until I started to talk about it. And soon I realized how tragically common this type of loss is, and just how many women have suffered through the death of their unborn children. A very dear friend described it as a type of sorority, a sisterhood (and brotherhood) of parents who have been dealt some of the worst that life has to offer. Not a club you would choose to be a member of, but a pretty special group of people nonetheless. And ever since, there is comfort for me in knowing I have others to whom I can turn in times of suffering, grief and remembrance. Others who can truly relate, because regardless of how supportive or sympathetic they are trying to be, I have had so many well-intentioned friends over the course of the last few months say such spectacularly stupid and unintentionally hurtful things, all for a lack of understanding.

About that anger I mentioned earlier. What really hurts those of us who have experienced perinatal loss is having to read articles (and especially comments) from those who have clearly not experienced loss and yet feel the need to judge us for how we choose to mourn. Case in point: Rick Santorum and his wife, who were recently pilloried for their decision to bring home the body of their stillborn child. Not that I remotely agree with his politics, but my blood absolutely boiled when the media attempted to question the sanity of a couple who had LOST. THEIR. CHILD., and needed a chance to bond with the baby they would never again have a chance to hold. I seethed when I read comments from so many heartless parents who can go home to hug their selfsame tactless spawn, and yet coldly pass judgement for what they believe to be "weird" and "twisted."

Likewise, I could only cry when I recently encountered an article on Gawker discussing the Duggars and how they chose to honor the loss of Jubilee Shalom, their second miscarried child. Regardless of how you feel about the Duggars and their "quiverfull" mentality, they lost a CHILD. Ignoring this completely, the monstrous author chose to cruelly mock the couple for handing out memorial cards with tender post-mortem photographs (please Google "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" if you are not already familiar) of Jubilee's tiny hands and feet, which the author referred to as "mouse-like appendages." What I fail to understand is how others who have no frame of reference are so comfortable mocking and denigrating those of us who have lost pregnancies for grieving however we see fit. If it makes you uncomfortable, then look away. That is your right as an American citizen, just as it is mine to grieve the loss of my first two children in any way that finally brings me peace and comfort.

So I would like to set the record straight. My husband and I are not objects of pity, nor do we need yours. We also do not need platitudes or empty condolences, words of encouragement or statements like "God's ways are not ours!" Frankly, the big guy and I are on the outs for the time being, and if his ways involve stealing away unborn babies, then the guy is a pretty large-scale douchecanoe that I'd rather not pray to anyways. We also don't need you to remind us that we can "try again," that we now have two (albeit tiny) "guardian angels looking out for us," or (and ESPECIALLY) "it was for the best." Really?! Best for whom?

What do we need? That's simple: a hand to hold when need be, a shoulder to cry on if available, and above all, the knowledge that you love and support us no matter what. That's all. We also want you to listen- really listen- when we want to talk about it. You get your children for a lifetime. Our first two were only with us for a very short time. As such, our desire to remember those children how we see fit should be honored and respected, not met with uncomfortable stares or attempts to quickly change the subject. If you truly love us, you will sit shiva and vigil alongside us while we try to piece together the maelstrom that was the last seven months of our lives.

Some may question my decision to share this in such a public forum. I choose to do so in a way to help others who may have experienced- or, God forbid, go on to experience- this type of loss, and who feel just as alone and ashamed of their loss as I once did about my losses. I want them to know that I am here, I am listening, and I understand. You are not alone.