In a month full of pink, some mothers want us to remember that October is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and I’m one of them.
November 2009, all I knew about October was that it was all about breast cancer. My mother died of breast cancer in 2003, and we were very familiar with all the ‘pink’ organizations and events in the month of October.
But I had no idea that the month actually had a presidential proclamation in October 1988 deeming it Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. My first son died the day after he was born at the end of November, and from that point on, the month of October was never the same.
Every year, approximately one in four women lose a child to miscarriage, stillbirth or postnatal death, and the month of October is one in which pregnancy/infant loss organizations raise awareness and honor the children we’ve lost too soon. To ensure awareness and compassion for families, President Reagan wanted a designated month of honoring and remembrance and in 2002, three mothers petitioned the government (local and federal) to have Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day be October 15.
On October 15, mothers in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Italy honor and remember their children with walks, campaigns and most notably, world-wide candle-lighting ceremonies called Lights of Love International Wave of Light. This vigil takes place at 7:00 p.m. local time, wherever mothers are. On this day, social media is flooded with photos of loved children bathed in lights of remembrance.
October is hard for me. I want to raise awareness about breast cancer because it took my mother, and there’s no guarantee it won’t take me one day. I’ve had several surgeons recommend a preventative mastectomy, and my risk rates for breast cancer are almost five times as high as the average woman. Just this year, I had some pretty significant complications from two breast biopsies and again was reminded repeatedly that I risk leaving my living son motherless by keeping my breasts. It’s easy to say, “I’d just take them off,” until that’s actually not just an option, but a recommendation, and I know all too well about breast cancer. Cancer in general is ugly; breast cancer is so traumatic for a woman and her family. I don’t have to wear pink to support the cause; still, I do.
But I also wear pink and blue — most often in a remembrance ribbon, to honor and remember all the babies my sisters-in-loss and I have lost all over the world. It’s not a popular thing to say, but I think it’s one that bears saying anyway for all of us who wish that there was more awareness of pregnancy and infant loss and more research into how to keep all babies alive.
Sometimes, for those of us who have lost children, it’s a taboo subject that rarely gets talked about on a typical day, much less when it’s overshadowed by the pink that floods October.
I know…I know…October is not only about Pregnancy and Infant Loss. President Reagan also decreed October as AIDS awareness month, and a slew of other awareness months fall in. Down Syndrome Awareness, SIDS, Lupus to name just a few important ones.
But child loss is often a topic no one wants to talk about because the reality makes too many uncomfortable.
And that’s exactly why *we* need October. We who’ve lost know every day, but at least October gives us a few more ears.
If you don’t believe that, just look at what chaos ensued on the Internet when Chrissy Teigen had the gall to show how raw and intense the feelings of child loss are. When she lost her son Jack, she shared pictures that went viral.
And while many supported not only her right to grieve and share the traumatic images, many did not.
“No one wants to see that grotesque thing.”
“She should keep that private; who wants to see that downer?”
Yes, people really said those things.
The world in which we live is full of hard things. People die, and there’s just no way of eradicating death, no matter how hard we may try.
It’s an unpopular opinion but it’s still one mothers share over and over and over again:
You expect you may bury your parents. Aunts and Uncles. Even your spouse or your siblings. Those losses are sad but fall in with somewhat of a natural order of life. You’re born, you expect there’s some living of life you get to do, and most of the time, that’s what happens.
But losing your child? Burying your child? Your child dying before you? Before they’ve even had a chance to breathe, much less live sometimes?
It’s unnatural anyway you look at it.
So, no, forgive me if I don’t round my change up at the register to ‘support breast cancer’ or buy into the cute pink socks because they ‘support breast cancer.’ The reality is many of those ‘big breast cancer supporters’ pay way more to their staff members than they do to actual research and funding for breast cancer treatment and cure.
Indulge me instead in remembering that October isn’t just about the pink…it’s about the pink and the blue…the girls and the boys…the hopes and the dreams that are lost every single day. Today, light a candle for those mothers and remember their children and their losses.