Saturday, October 15, 2016

national pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day

my neighbours are landscaping their front yard, and it's currently a childrens' paradise, with huge piles of stones and dirt everywhere. they have a daughter only a few months older than my son, and a few evenings ago, they were happily playing together in their makeshift "construction zone." L drove his bulldozer up and down a dirt hill, loading piles of fragrant soil into his friend's little cement mixer.  her mom and i stood nearby, contentedly watching our kids play and enjoying the last moments of daylight.
we first became friends when we both had huge pregnant bellies and no real idea what to expect.   we shared maternity clothes, nursing shirts, baby food gear, kids' books and toys, and each others' yards.  after awhile, we also discovered that we shared the experience of three prior miscarriages previous to our fourth child's live birth.  and recently, we've also shared the grief of letting go of the dream of a family of four, as she also has experienced secondary infertility.
as the sunlight began its steady autumn-evening fade, she turned and asked me, hauntedly, "how do you let go of what you never had? how do you deal with the guilt of wanting another child when you already have one against the odds? how do you move on?"
i listened. i breathed deeply. i was silent. the sound of our kids laughing made me wonder if she also sometimes thinks about how it would be to hear her child's laughter mixed with that of a brother or sister that never was.

at this time last year, i was aching and so angry, hollow and raging, fresh from the loss of Tummymuffin V and full of unanswered useless questions, most of them starting (and ending) with the word WHY? in this year's span, i've healed a lot; i've let go more, but i have done so mostly quietly.  i have yet to write about the unexpected laying to rest and naming of my last lost baby; perhaps my silence is evidence of how soul-weary i am from these sorts of thoughts.
you see, i don't have an easy answer to her question.  it's really asking: how do you balance feeling unbelievably blessed and unbelievably cheated? can you? should you? i don't really know. what i do know is that i still don't think you really "move on" or "get over" pregnancy loss and infertility. you have to move with it; accept its presence in your life, and make it an acknowledged companion so it doesn't become some parasitic vampire of your actual identity. 
recently i have noticed that perhaps the lack of peace i feel is possibly -- dare i say -- feminist in nature: that pregnancy loss, and the insidious culture of silence that society imposes around it, is part of the acceptance of the idea that a woman's worth is measured by being someone's wife (you attracted and caught someone! you win!) and someone's mother (your ladyparts all work! good job!). i'm astonished by how often i hear comments that imply that i'm cheating my son, or i'm being irresponsible or selfish, or even that i "have it so easy" because i have only one living child and i do not (actually cannot) plan to have another.  i can rationally reject these comments, just as i can and have rationally rejected the many unintentionally devastating comments regarding my pregnancy losses and infertility.  but they take their toll.
so on this Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, or as we call it here, Tummymuffin Day, i lovingly and humbly make this request: please don't ask the couple "so when are you going to have a baby?". don't say to the parents " oh but (s)he needs a brother/sister!".  and for the love of all that is holy, please do not ever say to any woman, "you better hurry up and have a/more kid(s); your clock is ticking!".  and if you are privy to the details of someone's family-making journey, and you know there has been tragedy and roadblocks, just saying "i love you and support you" goes a long, long way.

as the sun became a red-orange glow, and the outlines of our precious children's beautiful, vital, innocent bodies showed against the pink-tinged sky, i turned to my friend, put my arm around her shoulder, and said, "you know, some moments are better than others. in the best, i am simply grateful. and i let THOSE moments define my life. this is one of them."  
tonight, i shall light my candles and speak the names of my own lost children, and then love my friends by speaking the names of theirs, and i will hear my own life taking shape. and i will be grateful.

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