Monday, October 15, 2012

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness

This is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and today was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. To commemorate our lost babies, many in the community participate in the Wave of Light, lighting candles at 7 PM in our own time zones. Here is mine:

I am the mother of three lost babies, Athanasios, Barbara, and Cecilia. So I light three candles, one for each. They are on our household altar, an Orthodox Christian tradition. Here's another picture so you can see the Icons a little better:

We have an Icon for the patron saint of each of our babies. the largest one, in the center, is Saint Barbara. The smaller one to the left is Saint Athanasios, and the tiny one to the right is Saint Cecilia. There is also a glass Icon of Jesus, and part of our Icon of King David in this photo (David is the Wacky Wicketeer's patron saint.) We have others on our household altar and in our home, but these are the ones the help us grieve our babies. Each saint has a name/feast day, and it's on these days that we memorialize that lost child and all that happened or didn't happen centering on their part in our lives. In this way, we can remember them and pray for them once a year, without obssessing over the exact dates of events.

My first two losses, Athanasios and Barbara, were "missed miscarriages". This means that fetal death was diagnosed while they were still in the womb. I then waited for my body to push them out. Athanasios took a week. Barbara took two and a half weeks. When people ask what date I had the miscarriage, or I have to fill it out on a form, this always befuddles me. What date do I pick? The date when I had that eight-week ultrasound done and the heartbeat that had been there two weeks before was gone? Or the date I went into my mini-labor? Or the date I passed the fetal tissue? Having one day each year to grieve these events, and the term milestones and due date that were never reached, and the day of my BFP, helps me cope. It helps to keep my life focused on living.

I want to note here that in our theology, humans do not become Angels. Angels are another type of being entirely. So, though I may occasionally use the term to describe my babies in Heaven, I use it loosely, not under the belief that they are actually Angels. The more accurate term to me is "Lost Babies". I prefer to be called a "Baby loss mother" or "Mommy of a lost baby" than "Mommy of an angel". But, for my loss to be acknowledged at all is both an honor and a rarity, so I really don't mind the use of the term angel in doing so.

Thanks for reading this post. And to those that go so far as to acknowledge my losses, a big thank you for your compassion and respect. One in four women of childbearing age experience pregnancy or infant loss, yet it is still a taboo subject. This means many parents are left to grieve alone. I hope you'll help me change that.

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