October 15th always takes me by surprise. As a recurrent miscarrier – 7 pregnancies, but only 1 live birth – I’m prepped for Mothers’ Day and all the feelings that can evoke. I’m used to putting on a brave face for pregnancy announcements and baby showers. But October 15th gets me every year.
You see, October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and the 15th is designated as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day – the day when you are supposed to light a candle at 7pm to help create a wave of light around the world. I love that this day exists. Oh, I don’t love the reason it exists, but I love that there is acknowledgement of the loss – the loss of hope; the loss of the future you envisioned; the loss of a child, whether or not you got to hold that child in your arms.
Yet, did I participate last Oct 15th? When all of my lovely friends – my fierce mama tribe – were posting infographics like the brilliant one from Australia on Facebook and tweeting reminders to light a candle at 7pm, did I also post? Did I light my candle? No, I didn’t.
I’ve never been a good public griever. I don’t usually cry at funerals (though I bawl like a baby at weddings). I learned early not to calculate due dates until I was past the first trimester and grew more numb with each miscarriage, instead throwing myself into becoming pregnant again, parenting my daughter and, ultimately, the adoption of my son. The shame and secret nature of the loss became internalized – I wasn’t really infertile, as a colleague oh-so-helpfully pointed out, I was just subfertile. Acknowledging or memorializing my body’s failures seemed like a waste of time.
Some of the hardest things about miscarriage, particularly recurrent miscarriage, are the isolation – isolation from your family, your peers who are successfully bearing children, your community supports, including church, and even isolation from God – and the loss of the illusion of control. Friends and family checking in, bearing witness to the frustration and grief, showing Christ’s love through care, meals, transportation, etc. for the women and men facing these losses can help. Openness from clergy, such as Rev. Andrews-Weckerly’s offer to “journey with folks through the darkness” of infertility and loss, can help. Praying for those who are suffering pregnancy losses – both publicly in church and privately at home – can help.
October 15th comes around again tomorrow. This time, I’ve got my candle ready.