When October crept in… I was filled with desires to take part in so many projects, and events that were taking place all over the web. But after being totally caught off guard in the first 3 or 4 days and finding myself in a deeper depression than I anticipated, I stopped dead in my tracks. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of not being able to do anything “right”. I didn’t feel at all prepared, or inspired by myself. I wanted to do so much, but I didn’t know how to jump in. I saw Carly’s Capture your Grief project pop up on my reader, as BLM’s I follow were participating this year. I felt so behind, and having already missed the sunrise on October 1st (and having several days of overcast skies following), I felt I missed my chance. I know there were no rules, and any which way one wanted to go about participating would be absolutely fine – but I felt like I couldn’t even be a good BLM after all is said and done.
This weekend, I talked to Daniel about what to do on October 15th. I told him I wanted to email everyone we knew… and ask them to light a candle. Not only for us, but for ALL the children gone too soon and for the families that miss them every day. I talked to him about how lonely and isolated I feel, and it’s becoming somewhat my fault because I keep myself so far removed from everyone else’s life. I talked to him about how I didn’t, and don’t feel any support from his extended family. (He has 30 cousins, and just as many aunts and uncles living within a 1 hour radius… and the most we got were a few phone calls the week after we lost our son). I told him how I felt his family didn’t know how to deal with tragedy, and in typical Italian fashion – you go to church, pray for who you love, and then mind your own business but talk about it all behind closed doors. I’m sure our loss went through so many circles of inner family gossip, and it all doesn’t even compare to the lack there of that actually made its way to our reality.
I thought maybe I sort of caused this. Initially I tried to not have anyone outside of a few very close family members find out about our loss, as I felt so embarrassed, and heartbroken – and I only expected everyone to down play our loss – so I didn’t invite any sort of support to our door.
Everyone was having children left and right. As often as someone would sneeze, anew pregnancy was announced and without fail – a new baby would arrive in 9 months. One of Daniel’s cousins had a baby girl on February 15, 2012… another cousin had delivered her first in late October 2011. His sister was due with her third in June of 2012…and here we were, announcing our son was stillborn. Because I wasn’t able to carry on as everyone so easily did with their new babies, and have everyone pour over our new arrival on FB… I felt no one would validate me as a mother. No one would see Alexander as a part of our family forever. I hid away for months, and had Daniel do all the talking. Any time a phone call would come in… I’d get cross with Daniel, and say, “stop telling everyone I’m ok!”
But that’s what they did in his family. Bad things happen. People call and ask if you’re OK. And you say you are. End of story. Didn’t seem as if anyone was willing to venture deeper into what this loss actually meant in our lives.
Looking back, I thought, maybe I didn’t give anyone a chance. Maybe they were too ill equipped to deal with such a monumental loss in someone’s life. Maybe it’s time I tell them, and invite them in, and let them know it’s OK to say sorry, and to let us know they are thinking of us.
And ask them, to please think of our son.
After procrastinating the entire Saturday away, last night I decided the time was now or never.
So I wrote this…
Dear Family and Friends,
Please bear with me as I stumble through this email. This isn’t easy for me to talk about, and address large groups while doing so.
October is Pregnancy and Infant loss awareness month. I will be the first to admit, had I not had a baby, or lost a baby, I probably would not know this fact. It was sometime in the late 1980’s that October was declared pregnancy and infant loss awareness month to honor this very sad and tragic subject matter. Many countries around the world, England and Australia to name a few, have since taken this month under their wing as well.
Lots of rituals and ceremonies around the world take place for grieving families to take part in, to give them the space and support to honor their children. October 15thspecifically is the day when most ceremonies take place. Families release balloons, butterflies, lanterns or just gather to light a candle and say a prayer. And you don’t have to venture far on the world wide web to catch a glimpse of said ceremonies.
Daniel and I are still “new” at this. It has been 7 and a half months since we had to say good bye to our first born son after a horrible twist at the end of my pregnancy lead him to his demise while I was 41 weeks pregnant. We still miss him. We are quite certain that no matter how many months, years, or decades go by…the missing will still be there. It gets softer, yes. It becomes more bearable to take part in everyday activities and celebrations, yes. But he will always be the missing part of our family.
I have met hundreds of women and families as I’ve made my way through this post loss journey. There are literally THOUSANDS of people who have had stillborn babies that are somehow plugging along, doing “life” as best they can. These people are not from your grandmother’s generation. These people didn’t lose their babies because they were denied proper health care or come from third world countries. These people didn’t smoke, or drink, or practice any type of risky lifestyle. These are just normal people, in real time, who lost their children for the same reason I did. And no matter how you look at it, it’s no good reason at all.
I don’t think the average person thinks about how many people actually lose children. I for sure didn’t! I knew that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage…. But I did not know that 1 in 150 pregnancies end in stillbirth or neonatal death. That seems like a small percentage. It’s less than 1%! Most people will go unscathed by those odds. But… imagine how any people you pass in your day. At the bank, in the grocery store, driving to work, walking to school. It’s possible that at least one person you’ve brushed shoulders with on a weekly basis has lost a child. Nearly every day, dozens of people brush shoulders with me…
It’s a taboo subject. It’s unheard of in this day in age. People don’t talk about it… but let me tell you when it happens to you (and I truly hope it does NOT ever) the stories come out of the wood work. It still happens. Just because the statistics have gone down significantly in the past century and you only ever hear about it in movie plot lines, and from your brother’s co-workers friends grandmother and it almost seems too unreal to be true…the pain is still real. The unimaginable life that has to be lived after your child dies is still someone’s reality. EVERY DAY. And I wish with my all my wishes that when it does happen, they do not feel as if they’re alone.
Women and families that experience stillbirths or neonatal deaths do go on to have more children. But the ones we have lost do not in some way disappear. They do not vanish from our heart space, or fall off our motherly radar. We need them, miss them, and want to mother/parent them as much as any child we will ever bring into this world.
On this October 15th, mothers and families around the world come together in a special way to honor their lost children. They will light candles and say prayers. We release love and light up into the heavens. We say their names, and think of all the families whose hearts have now been constructed to love a child that they cannot hold.
Many ask for their friends and family to participate in this celebration of remembrance to strengthen the “Wave of Light” around the world for the lost children. And that is why you are finding my email in your inbox tonight.
Tomorrow is October 15th. And at 7pm, families around the world will be lighting a candle for their children, gone too soon. I ask that you not only think of our son, but all the babies gone too soon. And send healing prayers, and love to all the families suffering this unthinkable loss.
I cannot send you updates of my 7 and a half month old son…I cannot tell you how he is standing or babbling all day long… I cannot tell you that he is sleeping through the night, or keeping us up and that’s why the bags under our eyes are so heavy these days. I cannot parent him as my heart begs to do so every minute of every day. But I can ask you to remember him.
If possible, any time tomorrow, please light a candle for our son, Alexander David. And remember that he was here, born into this world on February 27th, 2012… and he will always be our first born beloved son.
And to ask for a step further… for my own contribution to spread the “wave of light” around the world… I ask that you take a picture (cell phone camera, pocket cam... anything or any quality) of your candle with a simple message across the bottom – whether it be photo shopped on or actually included physically with the candle – “Love. From (your [first]name[s])" or "Remembering Alexander. Love, from (your [first]name[s])". I may not be the only person you know that has lost a child to stillbirth or neonatal death. Please include any names or children you are lighting the candle for.
I would love to share your wave of light with all the grieving families I’ve come in contact with over the past 7 months.
I try to break free from this isolating and lonely space that losing a child can put you in. I encourage you to tell my story to those who are in need. To those who too, have lost a child. I ask that you forward this email to ANYONE (your family and friends) you feel would want to take part in the “Wave Of Light” to honor and remember all the babies gone too soon. And please, if you know anyone that has lost a child to stillbirth or neonatal death (or to anything for that matter), tomorrow, please let them know you are thinking of them and remembering their babes – gone way too soon.
Thanking you for taking the time to read this email – and if possible, for lighting a candle tomorrow. And thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your continued love and support in this very trying time.
Veronica and Daniel
I did the best I could with what I have.
I have received a few responses… and someone has already sent me a picture of the candle they lit to honor all the babies gone too soon.
I think one of Daniels sisters forwarded our message off to a bunch of his extended family… and the “Wave of Light” might have been over looked. In her message, she said, “if you can’t light a candle, please say a prayer for them tonight”.
(often times, people don’t read “forwards” in detail…and just take the gist from the sender – oh well…)I’ve since got a few responses saying that Daniel and I will be in their prayers tonight. So the wave of light will be from within. And my hopes to posts a bunch of pictures of lit candles from my friends and family might fall a little flat.
But I did what I could.
***There’s an amazing energy I feel today. I feel a tremendous sense of loss, but the energy of togetherness and always remembering gives me a sense of peace.
Remembering all of our children today.
Alexander David. We think of you every day – but today especially as we honor your life, gone way too soon.