It’s strange, this issuing of proclamations and setting of months and days. “Let’s raise awareness,” they say, and sports teams play in pink and children find themselves in trouble in a school for “I love boobies” bracelets, all in the name of support for those with breast cancer.
This month is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month; today, October 15, is the official Day of Remembrance. Families are releasing balloons; lighting candles tonight; trying for one day to make the world remember a life they never – or only briefly – knew.
I change my profile picture on Facebook, feel my stomach clench at tiny feet, the way it always clenches when I see her footprints dark in ink stamped on the pink card, and pretend it means something, that it will do something, that it will make a difference.
Today, my personal sorrow is recognized.
But it’s every other day that I live in her memory. And it’s every other day that I remember the minutes we shared; and I remember that, legally, she wasn’t really a person, not yet.
I lost a pregnancy. I lost what would have been. I lost organs and tissues and cells growing toward life.
I did not loose a baby girl.
How can we light candles and issue proclamations and take time out of our lives to remember and mourn the dead when they never existed?
No one says that, of course. No one would be so cruel. I don’t even really believe that anyone thinks that. My grief is justified. I held her, I wanted her, I’m right to mourn her.
But is it the wanting of her that makes her real, that makes her human? Lynn stopped growing at 16 weeks. I don’t know when she died. I delivered her at 20 weeks, but she’d been gone a while by then.
It would have been completely legal to terminate the pregnancy for another month.
And so I carry her memory close. I dread the question every stranger trying to make conversation asks me: Do you have any children? Some days, when I’m strong, I tell the truth. I have a daughter, but she was stillborn.
Others, I lie. I don’t have any children living with me, I reason. That’s what they’re really asking. It’s an awful conversation stopper, too. “Yeah, my baby died two years ago. So do you have any plans this weekend?” It doesn’t really work.
My loss has become a silent one.
I don’t want you to think that I’m still walking in this haze of grief that was that first year. I laugh. I tell jokes. I’m truly happy and looking forward to a future with my daughter’s father and with her siblings not yet conceived. I think of her always, but wistfully, not anguished. Life goes on and so do I, and to my own surprise, it’s still a good life.
But today, the official Day of Remembrance however inconsistent it may be, I guess I’m wishing we could all stop and think and honestly, politics and wrangling aside, ask ourselves what constitutes a life.
Those of us mourning one cut oh-so-short would appreciate it.