A woman who loses a spouse? A widow
What about a couple who loses a child or pregnancy? There isn't a word to describe them.
In case you didn't know, October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. President Ronald Reagan actually declared this in 1988. Later on in 2006, the US House of Representatives named October 15th National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day. The purpose of this month is to recognize any parent who has lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, SIDS, and many other causes. Infertility Awareness Month actually falls in April, but I want to touch on a couple things regarding that as well.
3 times now, I've had the fleeting dream of motherhood come close to being realized, only to have it taken right back away. I do not pretend to know what it's like to lose a child at 10 years old, or 1 year old, or later on in pregnancy. My short-lived pregnancies have all been doomed almost immediately upon getting a positive blood result. My suspected ectopic lasted 10.5 weeks, but I knew it was over at 5.5 wks. Still, that doesn't mean that the intense hurt and pain we've experienced as a couple throughout each loss is not real.
Learning to handle the comments from others who don't understand what we're going through has been something we've had to work on, and I've definitely not yet mastered it. The other thing I haven't mastered are the feelings left in the wake of the idiotic...I mean, well-meaning but extremely misguided comments we hear. We've had supposed "friends" enthusiastically announce their baby's gender publicly front and center less than 24 hours after we told them we were miscarrying. I've had people tell me horrific stories of children born with deformities or special needs as if to say, "At least yours took care of itself!" I've heard "Have you considered adoption, surrogacy, or taking a vacation?" more times than I can even count. I am surprised I haven't bitten off my own tongue by now. I try to take in the actions and comments as graciously as humanly possible, but it's hard. And while I do feel compelled to gently "educate" others from time to time, even doing that just becomes sooooo exhausting.
The fact is that there are two types of misguided comments: 1) Those that come from a flat out selfish & non-caring place, and 2) Those which truly just come from a place of wanting to help. Unfortunately, even people who genuinely care can say some incredibly hurtful things without even realizing it. If there is one thing I've learned the past couple years, it's that people tend to be solution oriented when it comes to someone else's problems. It's made me more aware myself of being a more supportive listener.
Let me be clear. I don't want anyone reading to think this post is intended to gain sympathy. It's not. It's also not directed at anyone specifically. Believe me, the lack of knowledge in the general public runs rampant. Most of those who comment here on my blog are fellow mom's in the making, but I do get readers from across the globe surprisingly enough...at least that's what my blog stats say. Who knew?
Anyways, I wanted to share some Infertility & Pregnancy Loss Resources with you all. Maybe you can use some education yourself to better help someone experiencing infertility or loss. Or, maybe you need something to share with others to help them understand your own journey more. Wherever you fall in the spectrum, I think these can benefit everyone....
Seleni: Infertility Etiquette 101
Seleni: 11 Things You Should Know About Grief
Dancing Upon Barren Land: for Family & Friends
Dancing Upon Barren Land: Miscarriage or Stillbirth
Resolve: Infertility Etiquette
Resolve: Facts vs. Myths About Infertility
Orthodox Church: Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness
There are oodles and oodles of resources on these topics online. If you aren't sure what to say to someone experiencing infertility or pregnancy/child loss get some guidance by doing an online search. Sometimes saying less IS more. Think carefully about what you say BEFORE you say it please.
If you are someone needing more support from those around you, don't be afraid to share resources with people who can use them. It can be a balancing act to handle comments graciously, set boundaries and have our own experiences validated in an appropriate way. One thing is certain though...No one should have to go through this alone. You deserve to be supported in the way that you need to be.
Anyone who wants to participate in Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day is invited to light a candle on October 15th at 7 PM to show their solidarity. I will be lighting a candle at home and praying for all of the mothers and fathers out there that have endured the heartache that comes with pregnancy or child loss. If you have any other resources you've found helpful to deal with loss OR infertility, please feel free to share them here. We can all learn from each other!