October 15: Why Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day?

Today is October 15.  In the global babyloss community, this is an important day.  Today, many of us gather in remembrance of our babies gone too soon, celebrating and grieving together.  We speak the names of our babies aloud to ourselves and to one another, and we light a candle at seven o'clock in the evening to represent the brief but brilliant light of our babies' lives.

To one who has not been touched in some way by the death of a child before, during, or soon after birth, this day might seem a bit odd, or even silly.  Why designate a day to hold such a somber weight?  Can't we all just get on with things already?

And I find myself wondering, too, on my second October 15 babyloss remembrance day -- why?  Why do we do this?  Are we masochistically opening old wounds that should have healed by now when we commemorate our babies on this day?

I cannot speak for everyone in the babyloss community, obviously.  We all grieve and remember and heal in our own ways and out our speeds.  But here are some of the reasons I think celebrating October 15 is important for those who have been affected by babyloss, be it as a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt or uncle, cousin, clergy, medical staff, or friend.

Because October 15 makes the invisible visible.  I think that one of the hardest challenges after Eve died and was born was how invisible her death was.  My body, other than no longer being pregnant, did not look any different.  I had no scars, no gaping wounds, no cast or stitches or bruises or anything.  And I found myself longing for some physical marker that would tell people that she'd lived and that she'd died, and that I would never, ever be the same.  And shockingly, very few people know how often babyloss occurs.  October 15 helps to spread awareness of this very real fact.

Because our culture does not embrace healthy grieving.  We westerners are afraid of pain, I think, and of death.  Which is a bit odd, because both of which are inevitable in this life.  Eventually, we will hurt.  Eventually, we will lose and mourn and grieve.  And yet, when those around us are going through grief, we try to either ignore them or hurry them along.  We are not comfortable with the uncomfortable, and we do our best to make it go away fast.  But grief exists for a reason.  It is helpful, and normal, and healthy, and needed.  October 15 reminds us that is is okay to hurt and long for one that death has taken from us, even years and years later.  Because grief?  It is evidence of love.  And love is nothing but good.

Because our pain matters.  It does.  This pain, for many of us (perhaps most or even all of us) in the babyloss community, it has changed us forever.  The people we were?  Babyloss took them away forever.  We look the same, but we are not the same.  And in my opinion, that's not a bad thing.  Moreover, pain is pain.  That the fact that many others in this world are enduring worse pain does not make our own pain illegitimate.  October 15 invites us to abandon useless comparison and support each other in our hurting places.

Because our babies lived.  I suppose that October 15 is a day that commemorates the too-soon deaths of countless babies claimed by miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, SIDS, chromosomal abnormalities, and more.  But I think that October 15 is so much more.  On October 15, I remember that no only did my sweet Eve die, but I remember that she lived.  I remember that she moved strong within me.  I remember how her kicks were the sweetest thing that I had ever felt.  I remember how the fact that my body could house such a miracle as new and growing life made every day into a sacred in-between place of magic and profound mystery.  I remember that knowing her made me a mother, even though my arms will never be filled with her life-filled body as they are with her brother's.  I remember that she mattered.  That she matters still.  And that I am not the same because of her.  My daughter, as brief a flicker as her life was, gave me countless gifts that I treasure today and forever.  

Today is October 15.  Tonight, I will light a candle at seven o'clock PM.  I will sit with my memories and with my missing-of-her, because those things are little more distant now that it's been nearly two years since Eve's stillbirth.  But just because there is a little more space does not mean that the grief does not linger still.  I will never and can never forget my daughter.  Today, she will feel a little more near, and while that will be hard it will also be beautiful.  

If you are the mother or father of a baby gone too soon, may your October 15 be gentle.  And if you are the friend or family member of a baby who is loved and wanted and no longer here, thank you for remembering with us -- it means more than words can say.  And if you are new to the knowledge that 25% of all babies don't make it out of pregnancy alive, I thank you for bearing witness to the reality of babyloss.  

I am grateful that we can do this grief thing together.  I'm not sure that I could have survived if it was any other way.  

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